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A recreational motorboat with an outboard motor Motorboat at Kankaria lake.JPG
A recreational motorboat with an outboard motor

A boat is a watercraft of a large range of types and sizes, but generally smaller than a ship, which is distinguished by its larger size, shape, cargo or passenger capacity, or its ability to carry boats.


Small boats are typically found on inland waterways such as rivers and lakes, or in protected coastal areas. However, some boats, such as the whaleboat, were intended for use in an offshore environment. In modern naval terms, a boat is a vessel small enough to be carried aboard a ship. [1]

Boats vary in proportion and construction methods with their intended purpose, available materials, or local traditions. Canoes have been used since prehistoric times and remain in use throughout the world for transportation, fishing, and sport. Fishing boats vary widely in style partly to match local conditions. Pleasure craft used in recreational boating include ski boats, pontoon boats, and sailboats. House boats may be used for vacationing or long-term residence. Lighters are used to move cargo to and from large ships unable to get close to shore. Lifeboats have rescue and safety functions.

Boats can be propelled by manpower (e.g. rowboats and paddle boats), wind (e.g. sailboats), and inboard/outboard motors (including gasoline, diesel, and electric).


Silver model of a boat, tomb PG 789, Royal Cemetery of Ur, 2600-2500 BCE Silver model of a boat, tomb PG 789, Royal Cemetery of UR, 2600-2500 BCE.jpg
Silver model of a boat, tomb PG 789, Royal Cemetery of Ur, 2600–2500 BCE

Differentiation from other prehistoric watercraft

The earliest watercraft are considered to have been rafts. These would have been used for voyages such as the settlement of Australia sometime between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.

A boat differs from a raft by obtaining its buoyancy by having most of its structure exclude water with a waterproof layer, e.g. the planks of a wooden hull, the hide covering (or tarred canvas) of a currach. In contrast, a raft is buoyant because it joins together components that are themselves buoyant, for example, logs, bamboo poles, bundles of reeds, floats (such as inflated hides, sealed pottery containers or, in a modern context, empty oil drums). The key difference between a raft and a boat is that the former is a "flow through" structure, with waves able to pass up through it. Consequently, except for short river crossings, a raft is not a practical means of transport in colder regions of the world as the users would be at risk of hypothermia. Today that climatic limitation restricts rafts to between 40° north and 40° south, with, in the past, similar boundaries that have moved as the world's climate has varied. [2] :11


The earliest boats may have been either dugouts or hide boats. [2] :11 The oldest recovered boat in the world, the Pesse canoe, found in the Netherlands, is a dugout made from the hollowed tree trunk of a Pinus sylvestris that was constructed somewhere between 8200 and 7600 BC. This canoe is exhibited in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands. [3] [4] Other very old dugout boats have also been recovered. [5] [6] [7] Hide boats, made from covering a framework with animal skins, could be equally as old as logboats, but such a structure is much less likely to survive in an archaeological context. [8] :ch 4 Northern Europe

Plank-built boats are considered, in most cases, to have developed from the logboat. There are examples of logboats that have been expanded: by deforming the hull under the influence of heat, by raising up the sides with added planks, or by splitting down the middle and adding a central plank to make it wider. (Some of these methods have been in quite recent use there is no simple developmental sequence). The earliest known plank-built boats are from the Nile, dating to the third millennium BC. Outside Egypt, the next earliest are from England. The Ferriby boats are dated to the early part of the second millennium BC and the end of the third millennium. [8] :ch 4 Northern Europe; Mediterranean Region Plank-built boats require a level of woodworking technology that was first available in the neolithic with more complex versions only becoming achievable in the Bronze Age. [9] :59


Boats with sails in Bangladesh saari saari paal tolaa naukaa.jpg
Boats with sails in Bangladesh

Boats can be categorized by their means of propulsion. These divide into:

  1. Unpowered. This involves drifting with the tide or a river current.
  2. Powered by the crew-members on board, using oars, paddles or a punting pole or quant.
  3. Powered by sail.
  4. Towed either by humans or animals from a river or canal bank (or in very shallow water, by walking on the sea or river bed) or by another vessel.
  5. Powered by machinery, such as internal combustion engines, steam engines or by batteries and an electric motor.
    Any one vessel may use more than one of these methods at different times or in combination. [10] :33

A number of large vessels are usually referred to as boats. Submarines are a prime example. [11] Other types of large vessels which are traditionally called boats include Great Lakes freighters, riverboats, and ferryboats. [12] Though large enough to carry their own boats and heavy cargo, these vessels are designed for operation on inland or protected coastal waters.


The hull is the main, and in some cases only, structural component of a boat. It provides both capacity and buoyancy. The keel is a boat's "backbone", a lengthwise structural member to which the perpendicular frames are fixed. On some boats, a deck covers the hull, in part or whole. While a ship often has several decks, a boat is unlikely to have more than one. Above the deck are often lifelines connected to stanchions, bulwarks perhaps topped by gunnels, or some combination of the two. A cabin may protrude above the deck forward, aft, along the centerline, or cover much of the length of the boat. Vertical structures dividing the internal spaces are known as bulkheads.

The forward end of a boat is called the bow, the aft end the stern. Facing forward the right side is referred to as starboard and the left side as port.

Building materials

Traditional Toba Batak boat (c. 1870), photograph by Kristen Feilberg COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Een Toba Batak prauw met houtsnijwerk op de voorsteven TMnr 60011149.jpg
Traditional Toba Batak boat (c.1870), photograph by Kristen Feilberg
Fishing boats in Visakhapatnam, India Boats at Bhimili beach in Visakhapatnam.jpg
Fishing boats in Visakhapatnam, India

Until the mid-19th century, most boats were made of natural materials, primarily wood, although bark and animal skins were also used. Early boats include the birch bark canoe, the animal hide-covered kayak [13] and coracle and the dugout canoe made from a single log.

By the mid-19th century, some boats had been built with iron or steel frames but still planked in wood. In 1855 ferro-cement boat construction was patented by the French, who coined the name "ferciment". This is a system by which a steel or iron wire framework is built in the shape of a boat's hull and covered over with cement. Reinforced with bulkheads and other internal structures it is strong but heavy, easily repaired, and, if sealed properly, will not leak or corrode. [14] [15]

As the forests of Britain and Europe continued to be over-harvested to supply the keels of larger wooden boats, and the Bessemer process (patented in 1855) cheapened the cost of steel, steel ships and boats began to be more common. By the 1930s boats built entirely of steel from frames to plating were seen replacing wooden boats in many industrial uses and fishing fleets. Private recreational boats of steel remain uncommon. In 1895 WH Mullins produced steel boats of galvanized iron and by 1930 became the world's largest producer of pleasure boats.

Mullins also offered boats in aluminum from 1895 through 1899 and once again in the 1920s, [16] but it was not until the mid-20th century that aluminium gained widespread popularity. Though much more expensive than steel, aluminum alloys exist that do not corrode in salt water, allowing a similar load carrying capacity to steel at much less weight.

Around the mid-1960s, boats made of fiberglass (aka "glass fiber") became popular, especially for recreational boats. Fiberglass is also known as "GRP" (glass-reinforced plastic) in the UK, and "FRP" (for fiber-reinforced plastic) in the US. Fiberglass boats are strong and do not rust, corrode, or rot. Instead, they are susceptible to structural degradation from sunlight and extremes in temperature over their lifespan. Fiberglass structures can be made stiffer with sandwich panels, where the fiberglass encloses a lightweight core such as balsa [17] or foam.

Cold molding is a modern construction method, using wood as the structural component. In one cold molding process, very thin strips of wood are layered over a form. Each layer is coated with resin, followed by another directionally alternating layer laid on top. Subsequent layers may be stapled or otherwise mechanically fastened to the previous, or weighted or vacuum bagged to provide compression and stabilization until the resin sets. An alternative process uses thin sheets of plywood shaped over a disposable male mold, and coated with epoxy.


The most common means of boat propulsion are as follows:


A boat displaces its weight in water, regardless whether it is made of wood, steel, fiberglass, or even concrete. If weight is added to the boat, the volume of the hull drawn below the waterline will increase to keep the balance above and below the surface equal. Boats have a natural or designed level of buoyancy. Exceeding it will cause the boat first to ride lower in the water, second to take on water more readily than when properly loaded, and ultimately, if overloaded by any combination of structure, cargo, and water, sink.

As commercial vessels must be correctly loaded to be safe, and as the sea becomes less buoyant in brackish areas such as the Baltic, the Plimsoll line was introduced to prevent overloading.

European Union classification

Since 1998 all new leisure boats and barges built in Europe between 2.5m and 24m must comply with the EU's Recreational Craft Directive (RCD). The Directive establishes four categories that permit the allowable wind and wave conditions for vessels in each class: [18]

Europe is the main producer of recreational boats (the second production in the world is located in Poland). European brands are known all over the world - in fact, these are the brands that created RCD and set the standard for shipyards around the world. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kayak</span> Light boat that is paddled

A kayak is a small, narrow human-powered watercraft typically propelled by means of a long, double-bladed paddle. The word kayak originates from the Greenlandic word qajaq.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yacht</span> Recreational boat or ship

A yacht is a sailing or power vessel used for pleasure, cruising, or racing. There is no standard definition, though the term generally applies to vessels with a cabin intended for overnight use. To be termed a yacht, as opposed to a boat, such a pleasure vessel is likely to be at least 33 feet (10 m) in length and may have been judged to have good aesthetic qualities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kayaking</span> Use of a kayak on water

Kayaking is the use of a kayak for moving over water. It is distinguished from canoeing by the sitting position of the paddler and the number of blades on the paddle. A kayak is a low-to-the-water, canoe-like boat in which the paddler sits facing forward, legs in front, using a double-bladed paddle to pull front-to-back on one side and then the other in rotation. Most kayaks have closed decks, although sit-on-top and inflatable kayaks are growing in popularity as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canoe</span> Light boat that is paddled

A canoe is a lightweight narrow water vessel, typically pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel and using paddles. In British English, the term canoe can also refer to a kayak, while canoes are then called Canadian or open canoes to distinguish them from kayaks. However, for official competition purposes, the American distinction between a kayak and a canoe is almost always adopted.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Watercraft</span> Water-borne conveyance

A watercraft or waterborne vessel is any vehicle designed for travel across or through water bodies, such as a boat, ship, hovercraft, submersible or submarine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dugout canoe</span> Boat made from a hollowed tree

A dugout canoe or simply dugout is a boat made from a hollowed-out tree. Other names for this type of boat are logboat and monoxylon. Monoxylon (μονόξυλον) is Greek – mono- (single) + ξύλον xylon (tree) – and is mostly used in classic Greek texts. In German, they are called Einbaum. Some, but not all, pirogues are also constructed in this manner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Inflatable boat</span> Lightweight boat constructed with flexible tubes containing pressurized gas

An inflatable boat is a lightweight boat constructed with its sides and bow made of flexible tubes containing pressurised gas. For smaller boats, the floor and hull are often flexible, while for boats longer than 3 metres (9.8 ft), the floor typically consists of three to five rigid plywood or aluminium sheets fixed between the tubes, but not joined rigidly together. Often the transom is rigid, providing a location and structure for mounting an outboard motor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boat building</span> Design and construction of floating vessels

Boat building is the design and construction of boats and their systems. This includes at a minimum a hull, with propulsion, mechanical, navigation, safety and other systems as a craft requires.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deck (ship)</span> Part of a ship or boat

A deck is a permanent covering over a compartment or a hull of a ship. On a boat or ship, the primary or upper deck is the horizontal structure that forms the "roof" of the hull, strengthening it and serving as the primary working surface. Vessels often have more than one level both within the hull and in the superstructure above the primary deck, similar to the floors of a multi-storey building, that are also referred to as decks, as are certain compartments and decks built over specific areas of the superstructure. Decks for some purposes have specific names.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outrigger boat</span> Boat with one or more lateral support floats

Outrigger boats are various watercraft featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull. They can range from small dugout canoes to large plank-built vessels. Outrigger boats can also vary in their configuration, from the ancestral double-hull configuration (catamarans), to single-outrigger vessels prevalent in the Pacific Islands and Madagascar, to the double-outrigger vessels (trimarans) prevalent in Island Southeast Asia. They are traditionally fitted with Austronesian sails, like the crab claw sails and tanja sails, but in modern times are often fitted with petrol engines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tepukei</span>

A tepukei, tepuke or TePuke is a Polynesian boat type, characterized by its elaborate decking, its submerged hulls and symmetrical "crab claw" sail slender foil or radically extended tips claw sail. Tepukei boats are produced primarily by the Polynesian-speaking inhabitants of Taumako, and have been occasionally borrowed by other Polynesian and Melanesian societies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hjortspring boat</span> Large canoe type vessel dated to 350 found in Hjortspring Mose at Als, Denmark

The Hjortspring boat is a vessel designed as a large canoe, from the Scandinavian Pre-Roman Iron Age. It was built circa 400–300 BC. The hull and remains were rediscovered and excavated in 1921–1922 from the bog of Hjortspring Mose on the island of Als in Sønderjylland, southern Denmark. The boat is the oldest find of a wooden plank ship in Scandinavia and it closely resembles the thousands of petroglyph images of Nordic Bronze Age ships found throughout Scandinavia. The vessel is a clinker-built wooden boat of more than 19 metres length overall, 13.6 metres long inside, and 2 metres wide. Ten thwarts that could have served as seats, span the boat with room for two persons each; this suggests space for a crew of at least 20 who propelled the boat with paddles. The boat would have weighed an estimated 530 kilograms, making it easily portable by its crew.

Hasholme Logboat Late Iron Age boat (750–390 BC)

Hasholme logboat is a late Iron Age boat discovered at Hasholme, an area of civil parish of Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in the East Riding of the English county of Yorkshire. It is now on display in the Hull and East Riding Museum, in Hull.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fishing vessel</span> Boat or ship used to catch fish

A fishing vessel is a boat or ship used to catch fish and other valuable nektonic aquatic animals in the sea, lake or river. Humans have used different kinds of surface vessels in commercial, artisanal and recreational fishing.

Ancient boat building methods can be categorized as one of hide, log, sewn, lashed-plank, clinker, shell-first, and frame-first. While the frame-first technique dominates the modern ship construction industry, the ancients relied primarily on the other techniques to build their watercraft. In many cases, these techniques were very labor-intensive and/or inefficient in their use of raw materials. Regardless of differences in ship construction techniques, the vessels of the ancient world, particularly those that plied the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the islands of Southeast Asia were seaworthy craft, capable of allowing people to engage in large-scale maritime trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional fishing boat</span>

Traditionally, many different kinds of boats have been used as fishing boats to catch fish in the sea, or on a lake or river. Even today, many traditional fishing boats are still in use. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the end of 2004, the world fishing fleet consisted of about 4 million vessels, of which 2.7 million were undecked (open) boats. While nearly all decked vessels were mechanised, only one-third of the undecked fishing boats were powered, usually with outboard engines. The remaining 1.8 million boats were traditional craft of various types, operated by sail and oars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of canoeing and kayaking</span> Overview of and topical guide to canoeing and kayaking

Canoeing – recreational boating activity or paddle sport in which you kneel or sit facing forward in an open or closed-decked canoe, and propel yourself with a single-bladed paddle, under your own power.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human-powered watercraft</span>

Human-powered watercraft are watercraft propelled only by human power, instead of being propelled by wind power or an engine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lashed-lug boat</span> Boat construction method from Maritime Southeast Asia

Lashed-lug boats are ancient boat-building techniques of the Austronesian peoples. It is characterized by the use of raised lugs on the inner face of hull planks. These lugs have holes drilled in them so that other hull components such as ribs, thwarts or other structural components can be tied to them with natural fiber ropes. This allows a structure to be put together without any metal fastenings. The planks are further stitched together edge-to-edge by sewing or using dowels ("treenails") unto a dugout keel and the solid carved wood pieces that form the caps for the prow and stern. Characteristically, the shell of the boat is created first, prior to being lashed unto ribs. The seams between planks are also sealed with absorbent tapa bark and fiber that expands when wet or caulked with resin-based preparations.


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  17. .. as in the Iroqois catamaran
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