Where onboard a boat are the gunwales located?

where onboard a boat are the gunwales located

Where onboard a boat are the gunwales located? Gunwales are the rails on a boat that encircle the deck. They are the horizontal beams that run on both sides of a boat’s hull. They’re typically located at the top of the boat’s side.

Gunwales serve as handholds and to help prevent water from washing over the side of the boat. The gunwale is also traditionally used by sailors for mounting their weapons, providing a protective barrier against enemy borders, and in some cases doubling as storage compartments. Nearly all boats have two gunwales running parallel to each other with one located near the bow (front) end of the boat and another at its stern (back). 

It is not recommended to stand on them, as they may break under your weight. The gunwales keep you from falling overboard.

Gunwale is an old English word that means “Guard rail”, which refers to its original use as a barrier for barrels on ships.

gunwale on a boat
Gunwale on a boat

What purpose does the gunwale of a boat serve?

The gunwale serves the main purpose of supporting the upper area of the hull of the boat and maintaining the shape of the hull. It keeps the hull of the boat from collapsing in on itself. It helps to add support where the sides of the boat begin. The gunwale also provides stability as it prevents the boat from rolling over on its side as well.

It provides a decorative look. Gunwales are traditionally where the captain of the boat displays their family coat of arms or other symbols. They can also be where the name of the ship is written out. It makes it easy for people to know what boat they’re looking at without having to read everything on it. 

The gunwale provides protection from people falling overboard. All boats have a gunwale where the passenger can hold on to it and then get pulled back in by the crew member if needed. The more elaborate ones are where there is an actual railing that keeps you from accidentally falling overboard.

Gunwales can also be where custom rails are added to help the captain navigate the boat better.

They also serve an additional purpose in that they can be used to support sailing hardware such as sails, where they may act as a brace.

Gunwale vs Bulwark

The difference between a gunwale and a bulwark is where they are located on the boat. Bulwark refers to a vertical, or near-vertical, structure extending from the side of a ship or boat to shelter something such as cannon. A Gunwale, however, refers to the top edge of the deck where most boats have a rail to prevent people from falling overboard.

Are gunnel and gunwale the same?

The answer to this question is yes. Gunnel and gunwale are the same things. It’s just where these words are used in a sentence. Gunwale is the correct word where they are talking about the side of the boat.


The gunwales are located at the upper edges of a boat’s hull. They provide support for people who are on board and offer protection from waves that potentially could spill over the side. On some boats, they also function as handrails or steps to help with boarding. Where on a boat do you find the gunwales?

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Mr. KRP is the founder of sailorsknowit.com, he has a great experience about life at sea. You can get in touch with him by email at info@sailorsknowit.com

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