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Is it a yacht, ship, or boat?

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What is the difference between a yacht, a ship, and a boat?

What is the difference between a yacht, boat, and a ship?

One naval recruit said that it is common lore that a ship rolls outward in a turn, while a boat rolls inward.

Other definitions:

  • You can fit a boat inside a ship, but you cannot fit a ship inside a boat.
  • A ship is a commercial vessel such as a passenger ship, a freighter, or a tanker. A boat is smaller – could be a fishing boat, a dinghy, a sailboat, a row boat, a charteryacht tender, etc., and could actually be fairly large.
  • Jana Sheeder, President of 1-800 Yacht Charters and 1-800 BAREBOAT says that a yacht is a personally-owned pleasure “boat,” often used for super yacht charters or crewed catamaran charters, and is either a sail boat or a power boat or both — but it is not a ship.
  • A ship is used for commercial purposes, whereas a yacht is used purely for recreational purposes, like yacht charter vacations. Size does not matter.
  • The distinction between a ship and a boat varies depending on regional definitions, but as a general rule, a boat can fit onto a ship, but a ship cannot fit onto a boat. A ship, in other words, is a very large ocean-going vessel, while a boat tends to be much smaller. Additionally, a ship usually is defined as having a displacement larger than 500 tons. During the age of sailing, a craft with three or more rigged masts was considered to be a ship, but this definition has been superseded, as different methods of power generation are used on modern ships.
  • Watercraft that we typically associate with the category of “ship” include cruiseships, container ships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, tall ships, and frigates. All of these ships are extremely large and are designed to endure potentially long ocean voyages. Traditionally, they required a very large crew of skilled sailors to manage them, although some ships, especially container ships, are growing increasingly easier to run with only a small crew. This is thanks to the development of sophisticated computer systems and improved mechanization, among other things. These ships are also capable of carrying a large volume of cargo, people, or a combination of both.
  • Typical examples of boats include powerboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, umiaks, and tugboats. Boats tend to be easier to maneuver than ships, but they are not capable of carrying as much cargo. Boats are also not equipped for long voyage, and some boats will not fare well on the open ocean.
  • A ship requires a crew of people to run smoothly, while a boat can often be handled by one person, alone. The system of authority on board a ship is also very clear-cut, with crew members organized into ranks. When a boat is large enough to have a crew, the members of the crew often work together under the captain. Depending upon the size of the yacht and the amenities and lifestyle promoted aboard, private luxury yacht charter vessels can carry as few as 2 crewmembers to as many as 40, with crew members including captain, first mate, mate, chef, hostesses, masseuse, and others.
  • Ships also usually carry boats on board, in the form of life rafts and rescue boats. These boats are also sometimes used to transport people and supplies between the ship and the shore, since very large ships cannot fit into some harbors, due to their draft or inability to fit under a particular bridge. [Thanks, wisegeek!] 


Many articles have been written about 1-800 Yacht Charters (aka SailAway Yacht Charters), crewmembers, celebrity clients, and yachting vacations.

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