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Where Onboard a Boat Are the Gunwales Located?

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

where onboard a boat are the gunwales located

Where onboard a boat are the gunwales located? The word gunwale refers to the upper edge of the side of your boat. Besides this word, we assume you may not be familiar with other boat terms if you’re not one of those old salts.

Knowing the basic vessel parts is essential for efficient communication on a boat, whether you’re a passenger or a crew member.

Without further ado, let’s get started on today’s article.

Where Onboard a Boat Are the Gunwales Located?


So, where is the gunwale on a boat? The gunwale of a boat or some may call it, gunnel, is the part located right on top of the hull. The word originates from 700 years ago, and it has an interesting back story to its name.

Back then, the word wale was used to refer to the upper plank on combat ships where soldiers mounted their artillery. This strengthened part provided troopers a stance to support their firearms; at the same time, it reduced the recoil they produced.

The plank used for the wale was a lot thicker than any regular planking as it was there to lessen the damage to the vessel and people. The wale on some boats was also reinforced with metal or plastic instead of mere wood.

The word gonne, an old English word which means gun, was added later on, making the term gonne wale. Over time, gonne wale became gunwale. And that’s where gunwales located on a boat.

In the present, military ships have better protection for the gunwale than just a bare wood plank like before; however, the term remains the same.

On regular boats, gunwales are not used to hang guns but rather for adding structure and strength to the overall design of a boat. Some designs favor this raised siding as it poses a more vintage feel, which makes a perfect stylistic element. As for smaller boats, the gunwale of a ship is where people hang their oars.

Other Boat Parts


It can be quite overwhelming for you if we list down all the boat parts from the bow to the stern. So, find below the major parts of a boat that can be found on most vessels.

  1. Bow: The front of the vessel.
  2. Stern: The back of the vessel.
  3. Hull: The body of the vessel.
  4. Keel: The bottom part that makes up most of the hull; the keel is considered the backbone of a boat as it keeps the boat from capsizing.
  5. Transom: The aft part that connects the two sides of the hull.
  6. Deck: The part on top of the hull that allows passengers to walk on.
  7. Helm: The control station of the vessel.
  8. Bilge: The part found at the bottom of the hull that collects water.

Take a look at this boat terminology diagram for better insight.

What’s the Difference Between a Gunwale and Gunnel?

The word gunnel actually resembles how the word gunwale is pronounced, since the w is muted. Even though gunnel is also a type of fish, the number of uses for this alternative spelling has still increased over time, causing quite some confusion for novice boaters.

Nevertheless, there is basically no difference between the two. Some people are more familiar with gunnel, whereas others follow a traditional way of writing gunwale.


Where onboard a boat are the gunwales located? We assume you must know the answer by now!

There is still a lot more to learn, and knowing where the boat’s gunwale located is just scratching the surface of boating terminology. Once you’re familiar with these nautical terms, taking boating courses will be a piece of cake.

Good luck!

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