The Beginner’s Guide To Boats and Watercraft

Children often dreamed of being an astronaut and reaching space or a pilot to see the sky. But before that, voyages and expeditions had fascinated children before their bedtime. Who hasn’t heard the story of Peter Pan and the adventure of British explorer Captain Cook? And here comes the blockbuster film series Pirate of the Caribbean that follows the story of a pirate named Jack Sparrow.

Like planes and rockets, boats and other watercraft have already evolved, from being the primary means of transportation to circumnavigate the globe to now being an anticipated sporting event.

Learn more about the types of watercraft and the latest advancement, like marine electrification that is changing maritime technology.

The Different Types of Boats

We often hear the word ships, sailboats, maritime vessels, and kayaks. The watercraft produces different images in our brains. For example, ships are large boats that are used for voyages and expeditions. Meanwhile, a kayak is a small watercraft that could fit two people who use paddles to move the kayak.

Every type of watercraft has a unique appearance, use, and technology. Some require using paddles, while others have boat propulsion systems.

The Three Primary Classifications of Boats

There are many types of watercraft, from bamboo rafts to humongous submarines. When it comes to boats, we can divide them into three main classifications based on how they are operated.

Human-powered Boats

Man-powered boats are watercraft that use human power to run and operate. Compared to modern electric thrusters for boats, man-powered boats use tools like paddles, poles, or pedals to propel themselves.

Examples of human-powered boats are kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and rowboats. Human-powered watercraft are usually used for recreational activities, such as fishing in lakes and snorkelling.

Dragon boat racing is a canoe sport that uses human-powered canoe boats.


Sailboats are watercraft that use the sail to propel themselves. Compared to boat propulsion systems of modern maritime vessels and paddle tools of man-powered boats, sailboats heavily rely on the blow of the wind to propel themselves. Sailboats use the sail to manoeuvre the watercraft and change the speed.

Examples of sailboats are catamarans, hull crafts, and sailing ships. People also refer to yachts as sailboats; however, not all yachts are sailboats. There are motor yachts that use boat propulsion systems and sailing yachts.

Yacht race is a popular sport that uses sailing yachts. One of the most anticipated sailing events in the world is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race that is held every year in Australia.

Motor-powered boats

Motor-powered boats, also known as motorboats, powerboats, and speedboats, are watercraft that use engines to propel themselves. The mechanisms of motorboats can be installed inside and outside the craft.

The engines of the motorboats use fuel, including diesel, for power. However, modern engines today can use electricity to power up the mechanism, thanks to marine electrification.

Apart from the boat propulsion systems, marine electrification also powers electric thrusters for boats.

Most boats and watercraft today are motor-powered boats. Fishing boats, motor yachts, ferries, and cargo ships are examples of motor-powered boats.

Powerboat racing is a water sport that uses motor-powered boats. Powerboating has few safety requirements and restrictions for the competition, mainly because of the high-speed boats.

Now that we know the three main classifications of boats and watercraft, here are the most common types of boats.

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Dinghy Boats

Dinghy boats are probably the most common and accessible type of boat. Dinghy boats are small watercraft made of wood or rubber. Depending on the size, a dinghy boat can carry up to eight people.

Dinghy boats can be man-powered, motor-powered, and sailed. Motor-powered dinghy boats use diesel engines, while man-powered dinghy boats use poles or paddles. Motor-powered dinghy boats can also use marine electrification.

Smaller fishermen use motor-powered dinghy boats for cruising rivers, lakes, bays, and swamps. The inflatable rubber boat that rescued Rose from the movie Titanic is also an example of a dingy boat.

Larger ships also carry dinghy boats to access narrow areas in the sea.


A catamaran is a watercraft that has equal-sized hulls on both of its sides and has a sail. A catamaran can carry up to 12 people on board.

There are two types of catamarans: sailing catamaran and power catamaran.

Sailing catamarans are usually small and usually used for simple cruising in some tourist spots and resorts. On the other hand, larger sailing catamarans are used for yacht charter races and handled by more professional sailors.

Meanwhile, power catamaran boats are powered by engines, boat propulsion systems and have no sail. Powered catamarans are faster than sailing catamarans as well. They are marketed as fishing hulls, cruising boats, and ferry passenger carriers.

Fishing Boats

Compared to dinghy boats of smaller fishermen and powered catamarans of sports anglers, fishing boats are more durable, more stable, and stronger watercraft. It can withstand great ocean waves and saltwater and has greater weight capacity.

Fishing boats come in different sizes, but the majority are engine-powered. Advanced fishing boats use marine electrification.

Passenger Ships

Passenger boats and ships are watercraft mainly used to carry and transport passengers.

Most passenger ships and boats can carry a hundred or up to a thousand people on board. Most passenger boats are diesel-powered engines; however, newer models have marine electrification. Older passenger liners use steamed-powered engines.

Examples of passenger boats and ships are ferry boats, Ro-Ro ships, and cruise ships.

Cargo ships

Cargo or freighter and container ships are watercraft exclusively used for transporting goods via maritime routes. Tankers are cargo ships that carry liquid goods, such as fuel.

An average cargo ship can be 700-feet long and can carry up to 25,000 tons. Cargo ships are highly durable and stable. It can withstand strong waves and even storms.

Cargo ships are usually engine-powered; however, some use marine electrification.


Boats and ships have been a great mode of transport. Ships and boats are used to transport passengers, goods and are now used for sports. Are you ready to buy your dinghy boat? Or perhaps onboard a cruise ship? It is time to explore the boating world!


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