What Is an Afterdeck?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

On a boat, an afterdeck is the area of the amidships decking located toward the stern, at the rear of the boat. Ships are divided into fore and aft, meaning forward and to the rear, lengthwise; the corresponding foredeck is closer to the bow at the front of the ship. Various activities can take place on an afterdeck, depending on the type of ship and how it is used. On a very small ship like a personal sailboat, this area may be quite small and not very useful for complex activities or large groups.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The use of standardized terminology to refer to different parts of a ship can be important for communicating clear, understandable orders to sailors. Even if a sailor is not familiar with a specific craft, it is possible to determine where the afterdeck is if ordered to report there or escort someone to that part of the ship. The afterdeck is also divided into port and starboard sides for left and right.

It is common to use the midships area for loading, unloading, and other activities, using access hatches to reach cargo holds, cabins, and other locations on board a ship. The deck is left clear while the ship is underway for safety, as loose items could injure sailors and passengers. The open space on areas like the afterdeck can be useful for events as well as activities like exercise. On some ships it may be covered or partially enclosed to protect people on board.

For scientific research and exploratory sailing, the afterdeck can sometimes house a temporary structure that holds extra equipment and personnel, like a command center for remotely operated vehicles. If a ship lacks the internal infrastructure to support additional operations, the use of a temporary structure can make it more flexible. This can allow people to take advantage of speed or other advantages that may make a particular ship desirable.

This part of the ship also tends to hold lifeboats, davits, and other safety equipment, as it provides a large launch and loading area in the event of an emergency. Other locations across the ship's deck contain additional lifeboats and supplies like life rings. It is important for passengers to know where to go in a crisis; usually the rally points are located close to cabins, so people aft in the boat can expect to gather around the afterdeck if they need to evacuate or prepare for a possible evacuation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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