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Severn class lifeboat in Poole Harbour, Dorset, England. This is the largest class of UK lifeboat at 17 metres long

A boat is a watercraft of modest size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland (lakes) or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed to be operated from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is something small enough to be carried aboard another vessel (a ship). Strictly speaking and uniquely a submarine is a boat as defined by the Royal Navy. Some boats too large for the naval definition include the Great Lakes freighter, riverboat, narrowboat and ferryboat.



A boat in an Egyptian tomb painting from about 1450 BCE

Boats have served as short distance transportation since early times.[1] Circumstantial evidence, such as the early settlement of Australia over 40,000 years ago, suggests that boats have been used since very ancient times. The earliest boats have been predicted[2] to be logboats. The oldest boats to be found by archaeological excavation are logboats from around 7,000-10,000 years ago. The oldest recovered boat in the world is the canoe of Pesse; it is a dugout or hollowed tree trunk from a Pinus sylvestris. According to C14 dating analysis it has been constructed somewhere between 8200 and 7600 B.C. This canoe is exhibited in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.[3] [4] Also other very old dugout boats have been recovered.[5] [6] [7] [8] though a 7,000 year-old seagoing boat made from reeds and tar has been found in Kuwait.[9]

Boats were used between 4000BCE-3000BCE in Sumer,[1] ancient Egypt[10] and in the Indian Ocean.[1]

Boats played a very important part in the commerce between the Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotamia.[11] Evidence of varying models of boats has also been discovered in various Indus Valley sites.[12]

The accounts of historians Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, and Strabo suggest that boats were being used for commerce and traveling.[12]

A country boat in river Ganges in India


A tug boat, used for towing or pushing other, larger, vessels.

Boats can be categorized into three types:

  • unpowered or human-powered boats (Unpowered boats include rafts and floats meant for one-way downstream travel. Human-powered boats include canoes, kayaks, gondolas and boats propelled by poles like a punt.)
  • sailing boats (Sailing boats are boats which are propelled solely by means of sails.)
  • motorboats (Motorboats are boats which are propelled by mechanical means, such as engines.)

Parts and terminology

Aluminum flat-bottomed boats ashore for storage.

Several key components make up the main structure of most boats. The hull is the main structural component of the boat which actually provides buoyancy for the boat. The roughly horizontal, but chambered structures spanning the hull of the boat are referred to as the deck. In a ship there are often several decks, but a boat is unlikely to have more than one, if any at all. Above the deck are the superstructures. The underside of a deck is the deck head.

An enclosed space on a boat is referred to as a cabin. Several structures make up a cabin: the similar but usually lighter structure which spans a raised cabin is a coach-roof. The "floor" of a cabin is properly known as the sole, but is more likely to be called the floor (a floor is properly, a structural member which ties a frame to the keelson and keel). The vertical surfaces dividing the internal space are bulkheads.

The keel is a lengthwise structural member to which the frames are fixed (sometimes referred to as a backbone).

The front (or forward end) of a boat is called the bow. Boats of earlier times often featured a figurehead protruding from the front of the bows. The rear (or aft end) of the boat is called the stern. The right side (facing forward) is starboard and the left side is port.

Building materials

A ship's lifeboat, built of steel, rusting away in the wetlands of Folly Island, South Carolina, United States.

Until the mid 19th century most boats were of all natural materials; primarily wood although reed, bark and animal skins were also used. Early boats include the bound-reed style of boat seen in Ancient Egypt, the birch bark canoe, the animal hide-covered kayak and coracle and the dugout canoe made from a single log. By the mid 19th century, many 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. They called it 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 (troweled) over with cement. Reinforced with bulkheads and other internal structure it is strong but heavy, easily repaired, and, if sealed properly, will not leak or corrode. These materials and methods were copied all over the world, and have faded in and out of popularity to the present. 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 of all steel from frames to plating were seen replacing wooden boats in many industrial uses, even the fishing fleets. Private recreational boats in steel are uncommon. In the mid 20th century aluminium gained popularity. Though much more expensive than steel, there are now aluminium alloys available that will not corrode in salt water, and an aluminium boat built to similar load carrying standards could be built lighter than steel.

A wooden boat operating near shore.

Around the mid 1960s, boats made out of glass-reinforced plastic, more commonly known as fibreglass, became popular, especially for recreational boats. The United States Coast Guard refers to such boats as 'FRP' (for Fibre Reinforced Plastic) boats.

Fibreglass boats are extremely strong, and do not rust (iron oxide), corrode, or rot. They are, however susceptible to structural degradation from sunlight and extremes in temperature over their lifespan. Fibreglass provides structural strength, especially when long woven strands are laid, sometimes from bow to stern, and then soaked in epoxy or polyester resin to form the hull of the boat. Whether hand laid or built in a mold, FRP boats usually have an outer coating of gelcoat which is a thin solid colored layer of polyester resin that adds no structural strength, but does create a smooth surface which can be buffed to a high shine and also acts as a protective layer against sunlight. FRP structures can be made stiffer with sandwich panels, where the FRP encloses a lightweight core such as balsa or foam. Cored FRP is most often found in decking which helps keep down weight that will be carried above the waterline. The addition of wood makes the cored structure of the boat susceptible to rotting which puts a greater emphasis on not allowing damaged sandwich structures to go unrepaired. Plastic based foam cores are less vulnerable. The phrase 'advanced composites' in FRP construction may indicate the addition of carbon fibre, kevlar(tm) or other similar materials, but it may also indicate other methods designed to introduce less expensive and, by at least one yacht surveyor's eyewitness accounts[13], less structurally sound materials.

Cold molding is similar to FRP in as much as it involves the use of epoxy or polyester resins, but the structural component is wood instead of fibreglass. In cold molding very thin strips of wood are laid over a form or mold in layers. This layer is then coated with resin and another directionally alternating layer is laid on top. In some processes the subsequent layers are stapled or otherwise mechanically fastened to the previous layers, but in other processes the layers are weighted or even vacuum bagged to hold layers together while the resin sets. Layers are built up thus to create the required thickness of hull.

People have even made their own boats or watercraft out of materials such as foam or plastic, but most homebuilts today are built of plywood and either painted or covered in a layer of fibreglass and resin.


The most common means are:

The Wanli Emperor enjoying a boat ride on a river with an entourage of guards and courtiers in this Ming Dynasty Chinese painting.

Track-driven propulsion

The water caterpillar boat propulsion system (Popular Science Monthly, December 1918, p68)

An early uncommon means of boat propulsion was referred to as the water caterpillar which is similar in construction to paddles on a conveyor belt and preceded the development of tracked vehicles such as military tanks and earth moving equipment. A series of paddles on chains moved across the bottom of the boat to propel it across the water.[14]

The first water caterpillar was developed by Desblancs in 1782 and propelled by a steam engine. In the United States the first water caterpillar was patented in 1839 by William Leavenworth of New York.


A boat stays afloat because its weight is equal to that of the water it displaces. The material of the boat itself may be heavier than water (per volume), but it forms only the outer layer. Inside it is air, which is negligible in weight. But it does add to the volume. The central term here is density, which is mass per volume. The mass of the boat (plus contents) as a whole has to be divided by the volume below the waterline. If the boat floats, then that is equal to the density of water (1 kg/l). To the water it is as if there is water there because the average density is the same. If weight is added to the boat, the volume below the waterline will have to increase too, to keep the mass/weight balance equal, so the boat sinks a little to compensate.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Denemark 2000, page 208
  2. ^ McGrail, Sean (2001). Boats of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 11. ISBN 0-19-814468-7. 
  3. ^ Van der Heide, G.D. (1974). Scheepsarcheologie in Nederland (Archeology of Ships in the Netherlands).. Naarden, Netherlands: Strengholt. pp. 507. 
  4. ^ "Worlds oldest boat". Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  5. ^ "Oldest Boat Unearthed". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  6. ^ McGrail, Sean (2001). Boats of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 431. ISBN 0-19-814468-7. 
  7. ^ "Africa's Oldest Known Boat". Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  8. ^ "8,000-year-old dug out canoe on show in Italy". Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  9. ^ Lawler, Andrew (June 7, 2002). "Report of Oldest Boat Hints at Early Trade Routes". Science (AAAS) 296 (5574): 1791–1792. doi:10.1126/science.296.5574.1791. PMID 12052936. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  10. ^ McGrail, Sean (2001). Boats of the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-19-814468-7. 
  11. ^ McGrail 2004, page 251
  12. ^ a b McGrail 2004, pages 50-51
  13. ^ Are They Fiberglass Boats Anymore? by David Pascoe, Marine Surveyor
  14. ^ The Caterpillar Is Now Being Applied to Ships, Popular Science monthly, December 1918, page 68, Scanned by Google Books:


  • Denemark, Robert Allen; el al. (2000). World System History: The Social Science of Long-Term Change. Routledge :3 . ISBN 0415232767.
  • McGrail, Sean (2004). Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times :3. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199271860.

External links

Study guide

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BOAT (0. Eng. bat; the true etymological connexion with Dutch and Ger. boot, Fr. bateau, Ital. battello presents great difficulties; Celtic forms are from O. Eng.), a comparatively small open craft for conveyance on water, usually propelled by some form of oar or sail.

The origin of the word " boat " is probably to be looked for in the A. S. bat = a stem, a stick, a piece of wood. If this be so, the term in its inception referred to the material of which the primitive vessel was constructed, and in this respect may well be contrasted with the word " ship," of which the primary idea was the process by which the material was fashioned and adapted for the use of man.

We may assume that primitive man, in his earliest efforts to achieve the feat of conveying himself and his belongings by water, succeeded in doing so - (1) by fastening together a quantity of material of sufficient buoyancy to float and carry him above the level of the water; (2) by scooping out a fallen tree so as to obtain buoyancy enough for the same purpose. In these two processes is to be found the genesis of both boat and ship, of which, though often used as convertible terms, the former is generally restricted to the smaller type of vessel such as is dealt with in this article. For the larger type the reader is referred to Ship.

Great must have been the triumph of the man who first discovered that the rushes or the trunks he had managed to tie together would, propelled by a stick or a branch (cf. ramus and remiss) used as pole or paddle, convey him safely across the river or lake, which had hitherto been his barrier. But use multiplies wants, discovers deficiencies, suggests improvements. Man soon found out that he wanted to go faster than the raft would move, that the water washed over and up through it, and this need of speed, and of dry carrying power, which we find operative throughout the history of the boat down to the present day, drove him to devise other modes of flotation as well as to try to improve his first invention.

The invention of the hollowed trunk, of the " dug-out " (monoxylon), however it came about, whenever and wherever it came into comparison with the raft, must have superseded the latter for some purposes, though not by any means for all. It was superior to the raft in speed, and was, to a certain extent, water-tight. On the other hand it was inferior in carrying power and stability. But the two types once conceived had come to stay, and to them severally, or to attempts to combine the useful properties of both, may be traced all the varieties of vessel to which the name of boat may be applied.

The development of the raft is admirably illustrated in the description, given us by Homer in the Odyssey, of the construction by the hero Ulysses of a vessel of the kind. Floating timber is cut down and carefully shaped and planed with axe and adze, and the timbers are then exactly fitted face to face and compacted with trenails and dowels, just as the flat floor of a lump or lighter might be fashioned and fitted nowadays. A platform is raised upon the floor and a bulwark of osiers contrived to keep out the wash of the waves (cf. infra, Malay boats). It seems as if the poet, who was intimately acquainted with the sea ways of his time, intended to convey the idea of progress in construction, as illustrated by the technical skill of his hero, and the use of the various tools with which he supplies him.

On the other hand the dug-out had its limitations. The largest tree that could be thrown and scooped out afforded but a narrow space for carrying goods, and presented problems as to stability which must have been very difficult to solve. The shaping of bow and stern, the bulging out of the sides, the flattening of the bottom, the invention of a keel piece, the attempt to raise the sides by building up with planks, all led on towards the idea of constructing a boat properly so called, or perhaps to the invention of the canoe, which in some ways may be regarded as the intermediate stage between dug-out and boat.

Meanwhile the raft had undergone improvements such as those which Homer indicates. It had arrived at a floor composed of timbers squared and shaped. It had risen to a platform, the prototype of a deck. It was but a step to build up the sides and turn up the ends, and at this point we reach the genesis of ark and punt, of sanpan and junk, or, in other words, of all the many varieties of flat-bottomed craft.

When once we have reached the point at which the improvements in the construction of the raft and dug-out bring them, as it were, within sight of each other, we can enter upon the history of the development of boats properly so called, which, in accordance with the uses and the circumstances that dictated their build, may be said to be descended from the raft or the dug-out, or from the attempt to combine the respective advantages of the two original types.

Uses and circumstances are infinite in variety and have produced an infinite variety of boats. But we may safely say that in all cases the need to be satisfied, the nature of the material available, and the character of the difficulties to be overcome have governed the reason and tested the reasonableness of the architecture of the craft in use.

It is not proposed in this article to enter at any length into the details of the construction of boats, but it is desirable, for the sake of clearness, to indicate certain broad distinctions in the method of building, which, though they run back into the far past, in some form or other survive and are in use at the present day.

The tying of trunks together to form a raft is still not unknown in the lumber trade of the Danube or of North America, nor was it in early days confined to the raft. It extended to many boats properly so called, even to many of those built by the Vikings of old. It may still be seen in the Madras surf boats, and in those constructed out of driftwood by the inhabitants of Easter Island in the south Pacific. Virgil, who was an archaeologist, represents Charon's boat on the Styx as of this construction, and notes the defect, which still survives, in the craft of the kind when loaded " Gemuit sub pondere cymba Sutilis, et multam accepit rimosa paludem!" Aen. vi. 303.

Next to the raft, and to be counted in direct descent from it, comes the whole class of flat-bottomed boats including punts and lighters. As soon as the method of constructing a solid floor, with trenails and dowels, had been discovered, the method of converting it into a water-tight box was pursued, sides were attached plank fashion, with strong knees to stiffen them, and cross pieces to yoke or key (cf. "iryor, KAnts) them together. These thwarts once fixed naturally suggested seats for those that plied the paddle or the oar. The ends of the vessel were shaped into bow or stern, either turned up, or with the side planking convergent in stem or stern post, or joined together fore and aft by bulkheads fitted in, while interstices were made water-tight by caulking, and by smearing with bitumen or some resinous material.

The evolution of the boat as distinct from the punt, or flatbottomed type, and following the configuration of the dug-out in its length and rounded bottom, must have taxed the inventive art and skill of constructors much more severely than that of the raft. It is possible that the coracle or the canoe ma.y have suggested the construction of a framework of sufficient stiffness to carry a water-tight wooden skin, such as would successfully resist the pressure of wind and water. And in this regard two methods were open to the builder, both of which have survived to the present day: (1) the construction first of the shell of the boat, into which the stiffening ribs and cross ties were subsequently fitted; (2) the construction first of a framework of requisite size and shape, on to which the outer skin of the boat was subsequently attached.

Further, besides the primitive mode of tying the parts together, two main types of build must be noticed, in accordance with which a boat is said to be either aarvel-built or clinker-built. (r) A boat is carvel-built when the planks are laid edge to edge so that they present a smooth surface without. (2) A boat is clinker-built when each plank is laid on so as to overlap the one below it, thus presenting a series of ledges running longitudinally.

The former method is said to be of Mediterranean, or perhaps of Eastern origin. The latter was probably invented by the old Scandinavian builders, and from them handed down through the fishing boats of the northern nations to our own time.

The accounts of vessels used by the Egyptians and Phoenicians generally refer to larger craft which naturally fall under the head of Ship (q.v.). The Nile boats, however, Ancient described by Herodotus (ii. 60 built of acacia wood, S' ()> > were no doubt of various sizes, some of them quite small, but all following the same type of construction, built up brick fashion, the blocks being fastened internally to long poles secured by cross pieces, and the interstices caulked with papyrus. The ends rose high above the water, and to prevent hogging were often attached by a truss running longitudinally over crutches from stem to stern.

The Assyrian and Babylonian vessels described by Herodotus (i. 194), built up of twigs and boughs, and covered with skins smeared with bitumen, were really more like huge coracles and hardly deserve the name of boats.

The use of boats by the Greeks and Romans is attested by the frequent reference to them in Greek and Latin literature, though, as regards such small craft, the details given are hardly enough to form the basis of an accurate classification.

We hear of small boats attendant on a fleet (KEX'iTCov, Thuc.

i. 53), and of similar craft employed in piracy (Thuc. iv. 9), and in one case of a sculling boat, or pair oar (iLK6.Ttov it puK v, Thuc. iv. 67), which was carted up and down between the town of Megara and the sea, being used for the purpose of marauding at night. We are also familiar with the passage in the Acts (xxvii.) where in the storm they had hard work "to come by the boat"; which same boat the sailors afterwards "let down into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship," and would have escaped to land in her themselves, leaving the passengers to drown, if the centurion and soldiers acting upon St Paul's advice had not cut off the ropes of the boat and let her fall off.

There can be little doubt that boat races were in vogue among the Greeks (see Prof. Gardner, Journal of Hellenic Studies, ii. 91 ff.), and probably formed part of the Panathenaic and Isthmian festivals. It is, however, difficult to prove that small boats took part in these races, though it is not unlikely that they may have done so. The testimony of the coins, such as it is, points to galleys, and the descriptive term (ve&v ci aX?a) leads to the same conclusion.

It is hardly possible now to define the differences which separated tiKaros, iKartov, from 'cans, KEV i rtov, or from MktOos, or Klipa f30s. They seem all to have been rowing boats, probably carvel-built, some with keels (acatii modo carinata, Plin. ix. 19), and to have varied in size, some being simply sculling boats, and others running up to as many as thirty oars.

Similarly in Latin authors we have frequent mention of boats accompanying ships of war. Of this there is a well-known instance in the account of Caesar's invasion of Britain (B.G. iv. 26), when the boats of the fleet, and the pinnaces, were filled with soldiers and sent to assist the Legionaries who were being fiercely attacked as they waded on to the shore. There is also an instance in the civil war, which is a prototype of a modern attack of torpedo boats upon men of war, when Antonius manned the pinnaces of his large ships to the number of sixty, and with them attacked and defeated an imprudent squadron of Quadriremes (B.C. iii. 2 4). The class of boats so frequently mentioned as actuariae seems to have contained craft of all sizes, and to have been used for all purposes, whether as pleasure boats or as despatch vessels, or for piracy. In fact the term was employed vaguely just as we speak of craft in general.

The lembus, which is often referred to in Livy and Polybius, seems to have been of Illyrian origin, with fine lines and sharp bows. The class contained boats of various sizes and with a variable number of oars (biremis, Livy xxiv. 40, sexdecim, Livy xxxiv. 35); and it is interesting to note the origin in this case, as the invention of the light Liburnian galleys, which won the battle of Actium, and altered the whole system of naval construction, came from the same seaboard.

Besides these, the piratical myoparones (see Cic. In Verrem), and the poetical phaselus, deserve mention, but here again we are met with the difficulty of distinguishing boats from ships. There is also an interesting notice in Tacitus (Hist. iii. 47) of boats hastily constructed by the natives of the northern coast of Asia Minor, which he describes as of broad beam with narrow sides (probably meaning that the sides "tumbled home"), joined together without any fastenings of brass or iron. In a sea-way the sides were raised with planks added till they were cased in as with a roof, whence their name camarae, and so they rolled about in the waves, having prow and stern alike and convertible rowlocks, so that it was a matter of indifference and equally safe, or perhaps unsafe, whichever way they rowed.

Similar vessels were constructed by Germanicus in his north German campaign (Ann. ii. 6) and by the Suiones (Ger. 44) These also had stem and stern alike, and remind us of the old Norse construction, being rowed either way, having the oars loose in the rowlock, and not, as was usual in the south, attached by a thong to the thowl pin.

Lastly, as a class of boat directly descended from the raft, we may notice the flat-bottomed boats or punts or lighters which plied on the Tiber as ferry-boats, or carrying goods, which were called codicariae from caudex, the old word for a plank.

It is difficult to trace any order of development in the construction of boats during the Byzantine period, or the middle ages. Sea-going vessels according to their size carried one or more boats, some of them small boats with two or four oars, others boats of a larger size fitted with masts and sail as well as with oars. We find lembus and phaselus as generic names in the earlier period, but the indications as to size and character are vague and variable. The same may be said of the batelli, coquets, chaloupes, chalans, gattes, &c., of which, in almost endless number and variety, the nautical erudition of M. Jal has collected the names in his monumental works, Archeologie navale and the Glossaire nautique. It is clear, however, that in many instances the names, originally applied to boats properly so called, gradually attached themselves to larger vessels, as in the case of chaloupe and others, a fact which leads to the conclusion that the type of build followed originally in smaller vessels was often developed on a larger scale, according as it was found useful and convenient, while the name remained the same. Many of these types still survive and may be found in the Eastern seas, or in the Mediterranean or in the northern waters, each of which has its own peculiarities of build and rig.

It would be impossible within our limits to do justice to the number and variety of existing types in sea-going boats, and for more detailed information concerning them the reader would do well to consult Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia, by H. Warington Smyth, an excellent and exhaustive work, from which much of the information which follows regarding them has been derived.

In the Eastern seas the Chinese sanpan is ubiquitous. Originally a small raft of three timbers with fore end upturned, it grew into a boat in very early times, and has given its name to a very large class of vessels. With flat bottom, and considerable width in proportion to its length, the normal sanpan runs out into two tails astern, the timbers rounding up, and the end being built in like a bulkhead, with room for the rudder to work between it and the transom which connects the two projecting upper timbers of .the stern. Some of them are as much as 30 f t. in Iv. 4 length and 8 to ro ft. in beam. They are good carriers and speedy under sail.

The Chinese in all probability were the earliest of all peoples to solve the chief problems of boat building, and after their own fashion to work out the art of navigation, which for them has now been set and unchanged for thousands of years. They appear to have used the lee-board and centre-board in junks and sanpans, and to have extended their trade to India and even beyond, centuries before anything like maritime enterprise is heard of in the north of Europe.

As regards the practice of long boat racing on rivers or tidal waters the Chinese are easily antecedent in time to the rest of the world. On great festivals in certain places the Dragon boat race forms part of the ceremony. The Dragon boats are just over 73 ft. long, with 4 ft. beam, and depth 21 in. The rowing or paddling space is about 63 ft. and the number of thwarts 27, thus giving exactly the same number of rowers as that of the Zygites in the Greek trireme. The two extremities of the boat are much cambered and rise to about 2 ft. above the water. At about 15 ft. from each end the single plank gives place to three, so as to offer a concave surface to the water. The paddle blade is spade-like in form and about 62 in. broad.

Both in Siam and Burma there is a very large river population, and boat racing is on festival days a common amusement. The typical craft, however, is the Duck-boat, which in the shape of hull is in direct contrast to the dug-out form, and primarily intended for sailing. It is interesting to note that the Siamese method of slinging and using quarter rudders is the oldest used by men in sailing craft, being in fact the earliest development from the simple paddle rudder, which has in all ages been the first method of steering boats. The king of Siam's state barge, we are told, is steered by long paddles, precisely in the same way as is figured in the case of the Egyptian boats of the 3rd dynasty (6000 B.C.). On the other hand the slung quarter rudders are the same in fashion as those used by Roman and Greek merchantmen, by Norsemen and Anglo-Saxons, and by medieval seamen down to about the 14th century.

The Malays have generally the credit of being expert boatbuilders, but the local conditions are not such as to favour the construction of a good type of boat. " Small displacement, hollow lines, V-shaped sections, shallow draught and lack of beam " result in want of stability and weatherliness. But it is among them that the ancient process of dug-out building still survives and flourishes, preserving all the primitive and ingenious methods of hollowing the tree trunk, of forcing its sides outwards, and in many cases building them up with added planks, so that from the dug-out a regular boat is formed, with increased though limited carrying power, increased though still hardly sufficient stability.

To ensure this last very necessary quality many devices and contrivances are resorted to.

In some cases (just as Ulysses is described as doing by Homer, Od. v. 256) the boatman fastens bundles of reeds or of bamboos all along the sides of his boat. These being very buoyant not only act as a defence against the wash of the waves, but are sufficient to keep the boat afloat in any sea.

But the most characteristic device is the outrigger, a piece of floating wood sharpened at both ends, which is fixed parallel to the longer axis of the boat, at a distance of two or three beams, by two or more poles laid at right angles to it. This, while not interfering materially with the speed of the boat, acts as a counterpoise to any pressure on it which would tend, owing to its lack of stability, to upset it, and makes it possible for the long narrow dug-out to face even the open sea. It is remarkable that this invention, which must have been seen by the Egyptians and Phoenicians in very early times, was not introduced by them into the Mediterranean. Possibly this was owing to the lack of large timber suitable for dug-outs, and the consequent evolution by them of boat from raft, with sufficient beam to rely upon for stability.

On the other hand in the boats of India the influence of Egyptian and Arab types of build is apparent, and the dinghy of the Hugli is cited as being in form strangely like the ancient Egyptian model still preserved in the Ghizeh museum. Coming westward the dominant type of build is that of the Arab dhow, the boat class of which has all the characteristics of the larger vessel developed from it, plenty of beam, overhanging stem and transom stern. The planking of the shell over the wooden frame has a double thickness which conduces to dryness and durability in the craft.

On the Nile it is interesting to find the naggar preserving, in its construction out of blocks of acacia wood pinned together, the old-world fashion of building described by Herodotus. The gaiassa and dahabiah are too large to be classed as boats, but they and their smaller sisters follow the Arab type in build and rig.

It is noteworthy that nothing apparently of the ancient Egyptian or classical methods of build survives in the Mediterranean, while the records of the development of boat-building in the middle ages are meagre and confusing. The best illustrations of ancient methods of construction, and of ancient seamanship, are to be found, if anywhere, in the East, that conservative storehouse of types and fashions, to which they were either communicated, or from which they were borrowed, by Egyptians or Phoenicians, from whom they were afterwards copied by Greeks and Romans.

In the Mediterranean the chief characteristics of the types belonging to it are " carvel-build, high bow, round stern and deep rudder hung on stern post outside the vessel." In the eastern basin the long-bowed wide-sterned calque of the Bosporus is perhaps the type of boat best known, but both Greek and Italian waters abound with an unnumbered variety of boats of " beautiful lines and great carrying power." In the Adriatic, the Venetian gondola, and the light craft generally, are of the type developed from the raft, flat-bottomed, and capable of navigating shallow waters with minimum of draught and maximum of load.

In the western basin the majority of the smaller vessels are of the sharp-sterned build. Upon the boats of the felucca class, long vessels with easy lines and low free-board, suitable for rowing as well as sailing, the influence of the long galley of the middle ages was apparent. In Genoese waters at the beginning of the 19th century there were single-decked rowing vessels, which preserved the name of galley, and were said to be the descendants of the Liburnians that defeated the many-banked vessels of Antonius at Actium. But the introduction of steam vessels has already relegated into obscurity these memorials of the past.

Along the Riviera and the Spanish coast a type of boat is noticeable which is peculiar for the inward curve of both stem and stern from a keel which has considerable camber, enabling them to be beached in a heavy surf.

On the Douro, in Portugal, it is said that the boats which may be seen laden with casks of wine, trailing behind them an enormously long steering paddle, are of Phoenician ancestry, and that the curious signs, which many of them have painted on the cross board over the cabin, are of Semitic origin though now undecipherable.

Coming to the northern waters, as with men, so with boats, we meet with a totally different type. Instead of the smooth exterior of the carvel-build, we have the more rugged form of clinker-built craft with great beam, and raking sterns and stems, and a wide flare forward. In the most northern waters the strakes of the sea-going boats are wide and of considerable thickness, of oak or fir, often compacted with wooden trenails, strong and fit to do battle with the rough seas and rough usage which they have to endure.

In most of these the origin of form and character is to be sought for in the old Viking vessels or long keeles of the 5th century A.D., with curved and elevated stem and stern posts, and without decks or, at the most, half decked.

In the Baltic and the North Sea most of the fishing boats follow this type, with, however, considerable variety in details. It is noticeable that here also, as in other parts of the world, and at other times, the pressing demand for speed and carrying power has increased the size in almost all classes of boats till they pass into the category of ships. At the same time the carvel-build is becoming more common, while, in the struggle for life, steam and motor power are threatening to obliterate the old types of rowing and sailing boats altogether.

Next to the Norse skiff and its descendants, perhaps the oldest type of boat in northern waters is to be found in Holland, where the conditions of navigation have hardly altered for centuries. It is to the Dutch that we chiefly owe the original of our pleasure craft, but, though we have developed these enormously, the Dutch boats have remained pretty much the same. The clinker-build and the wide rounded bow are now very much of the same character as they are represented in the old pictures of the r 7th and 18th centuries.

The development of boat-building in the British Isles during the 19th century has been unceasing and would need a treatise to itself to do it justice. The expansion of the fishing industry and the pressure of competition have stimulated constant improvement in the craft engaged, and here also are observable the same tendencies to substitute carvel, though it is more expensive, for clinker build, and to increase the length and size of the boats, and the gradual supersession of sail and oar by steam power. Under these influences we hear of the fifie and the ska, e classes, old favourites in northern waters, being superseded by the more modern Zulu, which is supposed to unite the good qualities of both; and these in turn running to such a size as to take them outside the category of boats. But even in the case of smaller boats the Zulu model is widely followed, so that they have actually been imported to the Irish coast for the use of the crofter fishermen in the congested districts.

For the Shetland sexern and the broad boats of the Orkneys, and the nabbies of the west coast of Scotland, the curious will do well to refer to H. Warington Smyth's most excellent account.

On the eastern coast of England the influence of the Dutch type of build is manifest in many of the flat-bottomed and mostly round-ended craft, such as the Yorkshire Billyboy, and partly in the coble, which latter is interesting as built for launching off beaches against heavy seas, and as containing relics of Norse influence, though in the main of Dutch origin.

The life-boats of the eastern coast are in themselves an admirable class of boat, with fine lines, great length, and shallow draught, wonderful in their daring work in foul weather and. heavy seas, in which as a rule their services are required. Here, however, as in the fishing boats, the size is increasing, and steam is appropriating to itself the provinces of the sail and the oar.

The wherry of the Norfolk Broads has a type of its own, and is often fitted out as a pleasure boat. It is safe and comfortable for inland waters, but not the sort of boat to live in a sea-way in anything but good weather.

The Thames and its estuary rejoice in a great variety of boats, of which the old Peter boat (so called after the legend of the foundation of the abbey on Thorney Island) preserved a very ancient type of build, shorter and broader than the old Thames pleasure wherry. But these and the old hatch boat have now almost disappeared. Possibly survivors may still be seen on the upper part of the tidal river. Round the English coast from the mouth of the Thames southwards the conditions of landing and of hauling up boats above high-water mark affect the type, demanding strong clinker-build and stout timbers. Hence there is a strong family resemblance in most of the short boats in use from the North Foreland round to Brighton. Among these are the life-boats of Deal and the other Channel ports, which have done and are still doing heroic work in saving life from wrecks upon the Goodwins and the other dangerous shoals that beset the narrowing sleeve of the English Channel.

Farther down, along the southern coast, and to the west, where harbours are more frequent, a finer and deeper class of boats, chiefly of carvel-build, is to be found. The Cornish ports are the home of a great boat-building industry, and from them a large number of the finest fishing boats in the world are turned out annually. Most of them are built with stem and stern alike, with full and bold quarters, and ample floor.

It is not possible here to enumerate, much less to describe in detail, the variety of types in sea-going boats which have been elaborated in England and in America. For this purpose reference should be made to the list of works given at the end of the article.

The following is a list of the boats at present used in the royal navy. They have all of them a deep fore foot, and with the exception of the whalers and Berthon boats, upright stems and transom sterns. The whalers have a raking stem and a sharp stern, and a certain amount of sheer in the bows.

Length. Beam. Depth.

Feet. Ft. In. Ft. In.

Ia. Dinghy. Freeboard about 9 in. Weight 3 cwt. 2 qr. Between thwarts 2 ft. 9 in. Elm Ib. Skiff dinghy for torpedo boats. Freeboard about 9 in. Carry about ten men in moderate weather. Between thwarts 2 ft. 72 in. Weight 3 cwt. 41b. Yellow pine .

2a. Whaler for destroyers. 5 in. sheer. Yellow pine .

2b. Whaler. Between thwarts 2 ft. to in. Freeboard about 12 in. Weight, 8 cwt. Strakes No. 13. Lap 4 in. Elm (All have bilge strakes with hand-holes.) 3. Gig. Between thwarts 2 ft. 92 in. Weight 8 cwt. 2 qr. 15 lb. 13 Strakes. Elm. .

4. Cutter. Between thwarts 3 ft. r in.

5. Pinnace. Between thwarts 3 ft. Carvel-built. Elm. .. 36 10' 2" 6. Launch. Between thwarts 3 ft. I in. To carry 140 men. Double skin diagonal. Teak. .. 42 I I' 6" 7. Berthon collapsible boats weighing 7 cwt. for destroyers.

With the exception of the larger classes, viz. cutters, pinnaces and launches, the V-shape of bottom is still preserved, which does not tend to stability, and it is difficult to see why the smaller classes have not followed the improvement made in their larger sisters.

Though the number and variety of sea-going boats is of much greater importance, no account of boats in general would be complete without reference to the development of pleasure craft upon rivers and inland waters, especially in England, during the past century. There is a legend, dating from Saxon times, which tells of King Edgar the Peaceable being rowed on the Dee from his palace in Chester to the church of St John, by eight kings, himself the ninth, steering this ancient 8-oar; but not much is heard of rowing in England until 1453, when John Norman, lord mayor of London, set the example of going by water to Westminster, which, we are told, made him popular with the watermen of his day, as in consequence the use of pleasure boats by the citizens became common. Thus it was that the old Thames pleasure wherry, with its high bows and low sharp stern and V-shaped section, and the old skiff came into vogue, both of which have now given way to boats, mostly of clinker-build, but with rounder bottoms and greater depth, safer and more comfortable to row in.

In 1715 Thomas Doggett founded a race which is still rowed in peculiar sculling boats, straked, and with sides flaring up to the sill of the rowlock. Strutt tells us of a regatta in 1775 in which watermen contended in pair-oared boats or skiffs.

At the beginning of the 19th century numerous rowing clubs flourished on the upper tidal waters of the Thames, and we hear of four-oared races from Westminster to Putney, and from Putney to Kew, in what we should now consider large and heavy boats, clinker-built, with bluff entry.


4' 8"


4' 6"


5' 6"


5' 6"


5' 6"

Longer boats, 8-oars, and 10-oars, seem to have been existent at the end of the 18th century. Eton certainly had one I o-oar, and three 8-oars, and two 6-oars, before 1811. The record of 8-oar races at Oxford begins in 1815, at Cambridge in 3/ 5" 4' 6" 2' 2" I' I o" 2' 2' 2" 2' 2" To carry 49 men. Carvel built 30 8' I" 2' 82" 1827. Pair-oar and sculling races in lighter boats seem to have come in soon after 1820, and the first Oxford and Cambridge eight-oared race was rowed in 2829, in which year also Eton and Westminster contended at Putney.

Henley regatta was founded in 1839, and since that date the building of racing boats, eights, fours, pairs, and sculling boats, has made great progress. The products of the present time are such, in lightness of build and swiftness of propulsion, as would have been thought impossible between 1810 and 1830.

In the middle of the 19th century the long boats in use were mostly clinker-built with a keel. At Oxford the torpids were rowed, as now, in clinker-built craft, but the summer races were rowed in carvel-built boats, which also had a keel.

In 1855 the first keelless 8-oar made its appearance at Henley, built by Mat Taylor for the Royal Chester Rowing Club. The new type was constructed on moulds, bottom upwards, a cedar skin bent and fitted on to the moulds, and the ribs built in after the boat had been turned over.

In 1857 Oxford rowed in a similar boat at Putney, 55 ft. long, 25 in. beam. From that time the keelless racing boat has held its own, fours and pairs and sculling boats all following suit. But with the introduction of sliding seats racing eights have developed in length to 63 ft. or more, with considerable camber, and a beam of 23-24 in. There are, however, still advocates of the shorter type with broader beam, and it is noticeable that the Belgian boat that won the Grand Challenge at Henley in 1906 did not exceed 60 ft. The boat in which Oxford won the University race in 1901 was 56 ft. long with 27 in. of beam.

In sculling boats the acceptance of the Australian type of build has led to the construction of a much shorter boat with broader beam than that which was in vogue twenty years ago. The same tendency has not shown itself so pronouncedly in pair oars, but will no doubt be manifest in time as the build improves. In fact we may expect the controversy between long and short racing boats, and the proper method of propelling them respectively, to be carried a step farther. The tendency, with the long slide, and long type of boat, is to try to avoid " pinch " by adopting the scullers' method of easy beginning, and strong drive with the legs, and sharp finish to follow, but it remains to be seen whether superior pace is not to be obtained in a shorter boat by sharp beginning at a reasonable angle to the boat's side, and a continuous drive right out to the finish of the stroke.

Appended is a list of pleasure boats in use (1909) on the Thames, with their measurements (in feet and inches).

Class of Boat.




Racing eight .

56' to 63'

23" to 27"

9" to 10"

Clinker eight .

56' to 60'

24" to 27"

9" to 10"

Clinker four .

38' to 42'

23" to 24"

8" to 9"

Tub fours

30' to 32'

3' 8"-3' 10"

13" from keel to

top of stem

Outrigger pair

30' to 34'

14" to 16"

7" to 8"

Outrigger sculls

25' to 30'

10" to 13"

52" to 6"

Coaching gigs .

26' to 28'

3' to 3' 4"

102" to 14"

Skiffs (Thames)

24' to 26'

3' 9" to 4'


Skiffs (Eton)





Gigs (pleasure) .

24' to 26'


15" to 16"

Randans. .

27' to 30'

4' to 4' 6"

13" from keel to

top of stem

Whiffs .

20' to 23'

I' 4" to I' 6"

6" from keel to

top of stem

Whiff Gigs .

19' to 20'

2' 8" to 2' 10"

12" over all

Punts racers .

. 30' to 34'

I' 3" to I' 6"

6" to 7"

„ semi racers

28' to 30'


9" to 102"

„ pleasure

26' to 28'

2' 9" to 3'

12" to 13"

Authorities. - For ancient boats: Dict. Ant.," Navis "; C. Torr, Ancient Ships; Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul; Graser, De re navali; Breusing, Die Nautik der Alten; Contre-amiral Serre, La Marine des anciens; Jules Var, L' Art nautique dans l'antiquite. Medieval: Jal, Archeologie navale, and Glossaire nautique; Marquis de Folin, Bateaux et navires, progres de la construction navale; W. S. Lindsay, History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce. Modern: H. Warington Smyth, Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia; Dixon Kempe, Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing; H. C. Folkhard, The Sailing Boat; F. G. Aflalo, The Sea Fishing Industry of England and Wales; R. C. Leslie, Old Sea Wings, &c. (E. WA.)

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|A boat with a sail]] [[File:|thumb|A police boat in Venice]] A boat is a vehicle used to travel on water. It is smaller than a ship. Some boats have sails, some are powered by rowing with oars, and some use motors.

These boats are usually made of wood. However, some parts are made of metals like steel and aluminium. Expensive boats may have parts from fiberglass or composite materials.

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