noun Nautical.
the upper edge of the side or bulwark of a vessel.
the sheer strake of a wooden vessel; the uppermost strake beneath the plank-sheer.
Also, gunnel.

1325–75; Middle English. See gun1, wale1; a plank so called because guns were set upon it Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
gunwale or gunnel (ˈɡʌnəl)
1.  nautical the top of the side of a boat or the topmost plank of a wooden vessel
2.  full to the gunwales completely full; full to overflowing
gunnel or gunnel

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1466, gonne walle, from gun + wale "plank." Originally a platform on the deck of a ship to support the mounted guns.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
No riding on the bow, gunwale or transom of any vessel.
Sitting in any position that is above the gunwale or cap of a vessel while
  moving above idle speed.
Boats had eight willow ribs and a gunwale of willow pole along each side.
The line was deployed by stretching it along the vessel's gunwale with weights
  attached at the end of the line.
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