What Is a Pulpit on a Boat?

by Will Charpentier
The pulpit is a walkway over a boat's bow.

The pulpit is a walkway over a boat's bow.

A boat's pulpit is radically different from a church's pulpit. Prominent features in different contexts, one protrudes from the front of a boat while the other rises above the congregation of a church. In one, there's a man preaching. In the other, you might find a fisherman stalking a bonefish, parts of a boat's ground tackle -- it's anchoring system -- or a sunbathing passenger.

Pulpits in the Age of Sail

In sailing ships, the pulpit was a set of planks laid atop of the bowsprit, the spear-like part at the front of a ship. The bowsprit provided a place to anchor the forward-most sails, the jibs; the pulpit provided access for crew that worked with and on these sails. It also provided access to the head -- the ship's toilet.

Pulpits Today

Today, the pulpit is an extension of the deck. Usually encircled by a U-shaped handrail that opens to the deck, the pulpit might house a combination red-green navigation light, cleats for securing a mooring or anchor line, or even the rollers and the anchor chute, the down-hole through which the anchor rope and chain pass when the anchor is lowered.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

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