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BoatWiki - Definitions.
A boat is broadly defined in nautical terms as any watercraft capable of navigating a body of water. This includes a wide variety of designs and configurations that may or may not accommodate a means of propulsion. In theory then, any watercraft from an inflatable raft to a sea going oil tanker may be referred to as a boat. There is however, another term known as a "vessel" which fits this same description. In addition, there are two sub-categories that are defined as "yacht" and "ship". Reference to all these various terms is subject to the context in which invoked.
Recreational boaters typically consider a boat as any watercraft that can be easily hauled or trailered. This may include such things as bass boats, ski boats, pontoon boats, dinghies, and tenders. Anything beyond this, whether sail or power driven, would be proudly referred to as a yacht. Jet-skis, scuba jets, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are simply considered as personal watercraft. Although the depictions here are a general rule, it is not uncommon for one to be conflated with another.
In a commercial environment such as fishing, processing, cargo hauling, or transportation; the master watercraft is typically referred to as a vessel and any tenders or ship-to-shore dinghies are viewed as boats. Use of the term vessel is in keeping with the Coast Guard's vernacular which applies to most commercially documented watercraft. Large sea-going commercial boats and vessels are usually defined as ships.
The interpretation of what constitutes a boat can vary widely when it comes to maritime professionals, builders, boatyards, marinas, suppliers, and other related services. This can be attributed to issues of duplicity with respect to the conflated definitions of boats, vessels, yachts, and ships. As a rule however, such usage falls in line with that of recreational and commercial sectors.
Usage of the terms boat, vessel, and watercraft can vary widely among state level registration agencies. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for such diversity. The U.S. Coast Guard adheres reliably to the term vessel with regard to most of their administrative procedures and regulations. Flag registrars in foreign countries will mostly adhere to the use of ship as a reference to all watercraft although yacht is frequently utilized.
In general law practice, usage of either boat or vessel is frequently invoked when it comes to legal documents. With regard to the practice of admiralty or maritime law however, usage of the term vessel or ship usually takes precedent. As with all contextual points of reference however, an interchangeable usage of all such terms related to watercraft can be found.
In reality, it's just a matter of semantics when it comes to the term "boat" as compared to "vessel", "yacht", "ship", or any other "watercraft" for that matter. They are all used interchangeably without any substantial repercussions.
Credits and References
12/16/2021 - This page was initiated by Team BoatWiki.