With Sea of Thieves around the corner on March 20th, it’s time to brush up on your sailing terms. You don’t want to sound like a landlubber — and you might actually get matchmade with someone who expects you to work the jib for a starboard tack.
Did you catch all that, sailor? Let’s start with the basics.
Mariners use different terms for directions based on the orientation of the ship, so there’s no confusion if two people are facing different ways.
You can use these instead:
- Bow means the front of the ship
- Stern means the back of the ship
- Port is the left side
- Starboard is the right side
These aren’t absolutely necessary. They’re born of half-dated practicality. Right-handed sailors would place a steering oar over the right of the stern. The Old English word for steer (“steor”) combined with the old word for the side of a ship (“bord”), to make Starboard.
With that side being known as the steer side, the other side was used to park the ship in port — eventually leading to it becoming known as the Port side.
In our experience, lots of people will still use “left” and “right” online, and that’s fine. Usually everyone understands that when saying “left,” they mean “to the left of the boat.” It might be something to keep in mind, though, if you’re calling out an enemy sail “to your left” or something similar. You never know when someone might be looking backwards.
In Sea of Thieves, the direction your boat is travelling and the direction of the wind matter. Whether you’re wanting to hunt other ships or escape them, speed is important.
When you’re sailing not-quite-directly into the wind, if you turn to the other side of the wind — i.e. changing the wind from your 10 o’clock to your 2 o’clock — that’s called tacking. The opposite of this is called gybing (or jibing), which is a similar change of direction but with the wind more towards your back.
Play around with how these moves affect your speed as opposed to heading directly into the wind, but remember to keep an eye on your sails. Keep them fully billowed if your goal is speed.
Parts of the Boat
The helm is where you steer the boat, and the crow’s nest is the bit with rails at the top of the mast. These two stations need to communicate on the larger ship in Sea of Thieves, as when the sails are fully dropped, whoever is steering the boat won’t have vision of what they’re sailing towards.
The Mainsail is unsurprisingly the largest and most important sail on the ship. In Sea of Thieves, the larger ship has two other sails as well. The forward sail is called the Jib.
In Sea of Thieves, you can consider the Map as another fixed part of the boat. This is within easy walking distance of the helm on the smaller Sloop, but on the larger Galleon it can be annoying to head downstairs just to see where you’re travelling.
There’s a grill on the top deck though, and it gives you limited vision of the map. It’s enough to see if you’re going in the general direction of your target island.
Readying the Anchor
You’ll hear people saying this online, because as soon as you come up to an island or if you’re in ship-to-ship combat, you might need to do the naval equivalent of a handbrake turn.
This requires someone standing right next to the anchor, and when someone gives you the signal, you drop it. But since this takes a few seconds, there’s an even better way to do it.
If you drop the anchor but catch it before it hits the bottom, you can hold it around what you feel is 90% dropped. That way, when the time comes, the anchor drop will be a lot more responsive.
Use the opportunity to get creative with your insults. Instead of your usual fare, why not call someone a salty dog? Or a filthy cur?
What about a bilge rat? A picaroon is synonymous with scoundrel, as is rapscallion, and scallywag. A knave could be a servant boy or dishonourable man, while a swab could be used as an insult as well as a verb for washing the decks.
To say someone is “swinging the lead” is to call them a slacker, one who takes the easy work over the hard.
All in good spirits, of course. Speaking of which, don’t forget to drink your spirits!
The Pirate Code
Of course, it’d be remiss of us exclude the code of conduct that was decided on by Sea of Thieves‘ own community. It very much falls under the category of things you need to know when starting a game.
Follow it do be decent human, but also follow it so you don’t get voted into the brig until either you convince them to let you out or you quit the game.
We hope some of that helps you in a practical sense, or at least with role play. And don’t forget to “Yarrrrrrr.”
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.