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Types of Boats

Updated on August 19, 2014

The sport of boating can be traced back to the use of pleasure boats by royalty in ancient times. Lavishly decorated "flower boats" were built and sailed by the Chinese. The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra enjoyed boating in a magnificent state barge. Classic Greek and Roman history tells of royal galleys used for racing as well as for transportation. Such vessels, however, were similar to the naval craft of the period.

The first boats built exclusively for sport were probably the small, fast sailing craft built for wealthy Dutch merchants and nobles during the Renaissance. In 1660, King Charles II sailed on the Thames in a yacht named Mary, a gift from the Dutch people.

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a marked increase in the number of yachts built for racing and cruising. Improved combustion engines accelerated the development of motorboats for pleasure. With the improvement of outboard motors, smaller and less expensive powerboats have multiplied. Local boating and racing associations were formed, often sponsoring annual or special competitive events. A sport formerly limited to the wealthy is now available to millions, within an expense range that makes it as feasible as owning and operating the family car.


Types of Boats

The most popular type of pleasure boat today is the runabout, an extremely versatile craft used for racing, fishing, picnicking, water skiing, aquaplaning, and limited cruising. Ranging from 10 to 22 feet in length, the runabout (and its popular cousin, the utility) may be powered by an outboard motor or by an inboard engine.

A cabin cruiser may range in length from 20 feet up to yachts of more than 60 feet. The cabins of such boats include facilities for cooking, eating, sleeping, and relaxation. The cockpit, or open area, of a cruiser is ideal for lounging, fishing, and sunbathing. Most cabin cruisers are equipped with inboard engines and are suitable for travel in both open and sheltered waters.

A sailboat offers the excitement and challenge of contending with winds, tides, waves, and currents. By skillful use of these variable forces, the skipper controls the speed and direction of his craft.

On protected inland lakes and rivers, thousands of houseboats provide apartment-like facilities for summer living, vacations, or weekends. Most houseboats are propelled by their own inboard or outboard engines, while others are towed from place to place.

Canoes, kayaks, and rowboats offer the most inexpensive forms of boating. They are preferred by many fishermen for inland waters, and they may be powered by small outboard motors or by oars.

Most motorboats are driven by gasoline engines that turn an underwater propeller. Larger boats often use diesel engines.

Outboard Motors

An outboard motor is a self-contained unit consisting of a gasoline engine and a propeller joined by a connecting shaft. It is usually fastened to the transom of the boat with a hinged mounting, so that the propeller may be raised when not in use or in shallow water. It also may be lifted out of the water by a guard immediately in front of the propeller as it strikes a submerged object. Outboard engines range from 1 1/2 horsepower, for light rowboats or canoes, to more than 100 horsepower, for heavier boats.

Steering is accomplished by rotating the engine either directly or by cables connected to a steering wheel. Remote controls enable the operator to shift gears and control the speed of the boat from some distance forward of the engine. Larger outboard units are sometimes equipped with electric starters.

Air Propulsion

Some special-purpose craft are driven by an airplane propeller mounted above the boat and connected to a gasoline engine in the stern. These boats are capable of very high speeds and they are especially useful in swamps and in channels that are impassable to conventional boats.

Jet Propulsion

In this method of propulsion, the boat is moved forward by a stream of water ejected at the rear of the boat. Power is generally supplied by an inboard gasoline engine, which operates a high-pressure pump. Steering is accomplished by rotating the jet nozzle from one side to the other. Jet propulsion enables a boat to operate at full speed in very shallow water.

Inboard-Outboard Motors

In these units an inboard engine in the stern of the boat drives the propeller by means of a mechanism that resembles an outboard motor. The connecting shaft passes through the transom above the waterline, and the propelling unit is usually hinged so that it may be lifted out of the water. The boat is steered by controls that rotate the shaft and propeller, rather than by a rudder.

Inboard Motors

Inboard engines are usually placed amidships and are connected to the propeller by a slanting shaft that passes through the bottom of the boat. These engines are similar to, but heavier than, automobile engines. They range from 5 horsepower to 250 horsepower, depending on the weight of the boat and the speed desired. The boat is steered by a rudder, located immediately behind the propeller.


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