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Yacht, Ship, or Boat? Watercraft Terminology by Joshua Kerrigan by Lizelle Tyler

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Yacht, Ship, or Boat? Watercraft Terminology by Joshua Kerrigan by
Article Posted: 02/10/2013
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Yacht, Ship, or Boat? Watercraft Terminology by Joshua Kerrigan

Travel & Tourism
For those who are not sailing aficionados or members of a navy, watercraft terminology can be a somewhat mysterious topic. Joshua Kerrigan, a captain and owner of Yacht Management, raises some of the fog by tackling a frequent question: what’s the difference between a boat, a yacht, and a ship?

While these words are frequently used interchangeably, they in fact have far more specific meanings than those they are normally given in colloquial conversation. These distinctions mostly rely on issues of size and purpose, rather than more intricate distinctions of whether or not they have an engine, their shape, or any other attributes one would need to have a deeper grasp on sailing to understand. Here’s the general rundown:


Boats are generally smaller watercrafts (meaning a vessel that floats or otherwise operates on top of the water) shorter than 60 meters in length overall. They can be used for a variety of purposes, from business to military use to use as a living quarters to pleasure. Some sources may highlight that boats tend to be used for shallow-water travel, but again, this is a result of their size - you wouldn’t want to try to traverse an ocean with an 8-meter craft!


In contrast to boats, ships are larger vessels, generally 60 meters and up. A common way to remember which is which states that you could fit a boat on a ship, but you couldn’t fit a ship on a boat! Among non-motorized vessels in particular, the definition of ship sometimes includes the requirement for three masts. Typically, ships sail deeper waters than boats, as they are more equipped for these types of journeys based on size. Like boats, ships may be used for a wide variety of purposes.


What separates yachts from ships and boats is their purpose. Unlike ships and boats, yachts are used only for pleasure and recreation, either by their owners or a third party.

Yachts come in a wide variety of sizes, which of course fall into “ship” and “boat” categories. However, for yachts, these sizes have alternate names. These designations are somewhat flexible but mostly when talking about yachts, you will find that a day yacht is under 6 meters, a weekender yacht is between 6 and 9.5 meters, a cruising yacht ranges from 7-14 meters, and a luxury yacht is at least 25 meters. Furthermore, a mega yacht is generally at least 30.5 meters, and a super yacht is over 47.5 meters.

Therefore, while most yachts could be classified as “boats,” super yachts and luxury yachts can frequently fall into the “ship” category.


Joshua Kerrigan is the owner of Florida Yacht Management. As a motivated entrepreneur, Josh is always looking for ways to grow his business and earn new clientele.

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