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Where Onboard a Boat is the Transom Located? – Answered

Fact checked by William Hart

where onboard a boat is the transom located

There are numerous intricate boat terminologies. New boaters must memorize at least thirty nautical terms for boat parts alone. In this article, we’ll discuss the transom.

Where onboard a boat is the transom located? What is the back of the boat called? A transom is the flat vertical section at the rear part of a boat. You might see outboard motors, transducers, antennas, and the rudder on it. Some people call this boat part a stern, but that is incorrect. Why so? Keep reading for detailed explanations.

Table of Contents

Where is the Transom on a Boat?


1. Location and usage

A transom is a boat terminology that indicates the flat vertical section at the very end of a boat. It is an integral part of the hull, helping to strengthen the stern and aft sections.

Transoms are available in multiple shapes and sizes. They are quadrangles that can be small, large, thick, or thin. Their edges can be sharp or rounded, depending on the vessel’s designs and purposes.

They are also handy platforms for installing fish finders, depth finders, antennas, and outboard motors.

Many people use the term stern to refer to the transom, but that is only half correct. The boat stern definition includes the tiller, steering devices, transom, propellers, and outboard motors. A transom is only one part of the stern.

2. Why do manufacturers use transoms?

Traditionally, shipbuilders use wooden lines to seal the rear parts of a boat. Though these lines add a decorative element, they are not efficient. The lines are expensive to build, require highly-skillful workers, and demand regular maintenance.

The flat and vertical transom design was only introduced in the 20th century and has remained popular until now. One-piece transoms are more cost-effective, simpler to construct, and easier to maintain.

3. What kinds of boats need transoms?

Most modern vessels use transoms instead of lines, from speedboats and cargo ships to houseboats and fishing boats. An advantage of transoms is that the owner can have the vessel’s name and home port on it.

Other Common Terminologies for Parts of a Boat

Apart from the transom, you should learn other common terms for parts of a boat. If the crew members say, “turn on the port sidelight” or “check the topsides for any cracks”, you need to understand the words and act accordingly. On wide and open waters, precise communication is critical.

1. Hull

The hull is the body of the boat. You might be familiar with the phrase “airplane hull”, which refers to the body of an aircraft.

A boat hull can be entirely covered by the deck. At the top of the deck, builders might install a deckhouse, funnel, or derrick.

2. Topsides

As you look at a boat diagram, the topside is the hull section above the waterline (where the hull meets the water surface).

Topsides require different paints and sealers than under-the-waterline sections. Thus, it’s normal for boats to have distinctive colors on the topside and bottom.

3. Sterndrive

There are three types of boat engines: inboard, outboard, and sterndrive (which is a combination of the formers). So, sterndrive doesn’t imply a boat part.

In sterndrive motors, the engine is installed at the rear under the transom while the drive unit is underneath the swim deck. They are faster and more fuel-saving than inboard motors. However, inboards are more stable and can maintain speed better.

4. Gunwales

Where onboard a boat are the gunwales located? They lie on the top edges of the boat hull. The parts of gunwales inside the hull are called Inwales, and the parts outside are Outwales.

Gunwales are reinforced with plastic, wood, resin, or aluminum to strengthen the hull and offset any stresses along the boat’s body.

5. Bow

The bow indicates the front of a boat. It is an extension of the hull and often has a V shape. As vessel operators look towards the bow, their left side is the port side, and their right side is the starboard side.

A boat’s bow helps to reduce wave pressure on the vessel and eliminate drag. A well-designed bow can increase the speed and stability of a boat.

6. Helm

Helm refers to the steering system. It can be the wheel or tiller, depending on the boat’s design. When crew members tell you to take the helm, they mean you should drive the vessel.

7. Cleats

Cleats are metal fittings that are usually installed on the gunwales. They also show up at boat docks or slips.

When mooring your vessel, you must fasten onboard cleats with on-land ones to secure the boat.

8. Sidelights

Most powerboats come with navigational lights on their sides, back, and front. The red and green ones on the sides are called sidelights. They are visible to vessels approaching from the sides or head-on.

Red lights indicate the port side while green lights signify the starboard side. There is also an all-around white light. You are required to turn on the all-around light and sidelights at night so other vessel operators can spot you from afar.

By changing the display of these lights, you can communicate with other vessels. Telling them whether you are anchoring or the side you will pass on.

Related Q&As

1. What is a transom made of?

Transoms usually have the same material as the hull. For example, wooden boats will have wooden transoms. Builders might combine a few layers of plywood, resin, and other reinforcements so the transoms can be more sturdy.

Most modern boats use reinforced fiberglass transoms, whose core might be incorporated with composite materials or plywood. Such high-quality transoms are highly durable and can support more weight.

2. Are all transoms flat?

While some boat transoms are flat, some have slight outward curves. A curved end adds an elegant touch but makes it impossible to mount hardware onto. This depends on the purpose of the vessel.

In addition, transoms are not completely 90 degrees vertical. They tilt forwards or backward with the average angle being around 14 degrees. This assists in better control of the vessel.

3. How do I know if my transom is rotten?

Spotting rot at its early stage is key to maintaining your transom. When a rotten transom has to support heavy loads, it will soon deteriorate and become unusable.

If you are dealing with sterndrive or inboard engines, you can easily inspect the transom for cracks and stressed areas. Defects usually happen between the bilge drain and the bottom of the outdrive.

If you own an outboard motor, use a piece of stiff wire. Poke around the screw holes to look for any severe softness.


Where onboard a boat is the transom located? It is the flat vertical section at the back of your boat. Besides bracing the entire structure, it enhances the boat’s flexibility and trimming abilities.

Understanding the terminology and function of each boat part will help increase your boating skills and knowledge. We hope this article answered all you need to know. But if you have any further questions, send us a message via the contact page. We will reply promptly. Thank you for reading.

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