Boating is the leisurely activity of travelling by boat
A boat is a watercraft of any size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland 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 a...

, or the recreation
Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The "need to do something for recreation" is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be "fun"...

al use of a boat whether powerboat
A powerboat is another name for a motorboat. Powerboat may also refer to:* Powerboating* F1 Powerboat World Championship* Offshore powerboat racing...

s, sailboats
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

, or man-powered vessels (such as rowing and paddle boats), focused on the travel itself, as well as sports activities, such as fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 or water skiing
Water skiing
thumb|right|A slalom skier making a turn on a slalom waterski.Waterskiing is a sport where an individual is pulled behind a boat or a cable ski installation on a body of water, skimming the surface.-History:...

. It is a popular activity, and there are millions of boaters worldwide.

Types of boats

Recreational boats (sometimes called pleasure craft
Pleasure craft
A pleasure craft is a boat used for personal, family, and sometimes sportsmanlike recreation. Typically such watercraft are motorized and are used for holidays, for example on a river, lake, canal or waterway. Pleasure craft are normally kept at a marina...

, especially for less sporting activities) fall into several broad categories, and additional subcategories. Broad categories include dinghies
A dinghy is a type of small boat, often carried or towed for use as a ship's boat by a larger vessel. It is a loanword from either Bengali or Urdu. The term can also refer to small racing yachts or recreational open sailing boats. Utility dinghies are usually rowboats or have an outboard motor,...

(generally under 16 feet powered by sail, small engines, or muscle power), paddlesports boats (kayak
A kayak is a small, relatively narrow, human-powered boat primarily designed to be manually propelled by means of a double blade paddle.The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler...

s, rowing shells, canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

s), runabouts (15-25' powerboats with either outboard, sterndrive
A sterndrive or inboard/outboard drive is a form of marine propulsion. The engine is located inboard just forward of the transom and provides power to the drive unit located outside the hull.-Operation:...

, or inboard engines), daysailers (14–25-foot sailboats, frequently with a small auxiliary engine), cruisers (25–65' powerboats with cabins), and cruising and racing sailboats (25–65-foot sailboats with auxiliary engines).

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the organization that establishes several of the standards that are commonly used in the marine industry in the United States, defines 32 types of boats, demonstrating the diversity of boat types and their specialization. In addition to those standards all boats employ the same basic principles of hydrodynamics.

Boating activities

Boating activities are as varied as the boats and boaters who participate, and new ways of enjoying the water are constantly being discovered. Broad categories include the following:
  • Paddlesports include ears(lakes), swiftwater (rivers), and ocean going types, usually covered-cockpit kayak
    A kayak is a small, relatively narrow, human-powered boat primarily designed to be manually propelled by means of a double blade paddle.The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler...

    • Canoes are popular on lake
      A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

      s and river
      A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

      s due to their carrying capacity and efficiency on the water. They are also easy to portage, or carry overland around obstructions like rapids, or just down to the water from a car or cabin.
    • Kayaks can be found on calm inland waters, whitewater rivers, and along the coasts in the oceans. Known for their maneuverability and seaworthiness, kayaks take many shapes depending on their desired use. Rowing craft are also popular for fishing, as a tender to a larger vessel, or as a competitive sport.
    • Rowing shells are extremely long and narrow, and are intended to convert as much of the rower's muscle power as possible into speed. The ratio of length of waterline to beam has much importance in marine mechanics
      Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

       and design.
    • Row boats or dinghies
      A dinghy is a type of small boat, often carried or towed for use as a ship's boat by a larger vessel. It is a loanword from either Bengali or Urdu. The term can also refer to small racing yachts or recreational open sailing boats. Utility dinghies are usually rowboats or have an outboard motor,...

      are oar
      An oar is an implement used for water-borne propulsion. Oars have a flat blade at one end. Oarsmen grasp the oar at the other end. The difference between oars and paddles are that paddles are held by the paddler, and are not connected with the vessel. Oars generally are connected to the vessel by...

       powered, and generally restricted to protected waters. Rowboats are generally heavy craft compared to other has
  • Sailing
    Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

    can be either competitive, as in collegiate dinghy racing, or purely recreational as when sailing on a lake with family or friends.
    • Small sailboats are commonly made from fiberglass, and will have wood, aluminum, or carbon-fiber spars, and generally a sloop rig (two sails: a mainsail and a jib, commonly include 3rd sail the spinnaker for going downwind). Racing dinghies and skiffs tend to be lighter, have more sail area, and may use a trapeze to allow one or both crewmembers to suspend themselves over the water for additional stability.
    • Daysailers tend to be wider across the beam and have greater accommodation space at the expense of speed.
    • Cruising sailboats have more width, but performance climbs as they tend to be much longer starting Length Over All of at least 25 feet (six metres) re-balancing the dynamic ratio between length of waterline (aiding speed) and beam width (adding cargo and people space).
  • Freshwater fishing boats account for approximately 1/3 of all registered boats in the U.S., and most all other types of boats end up being used as fishing boats
    Recreational boat fishing
    Recreational fishermen usually fish either from a boat or from a shoreline or river bank. When fishing from a boat, or fishing vessel, pretty much any fishing technique can be used, from nets to fish traps, but some form of angling is by far the most common...

     on occasion. The boating industry has developed freshwater fishing boat designs that are species-specific to allow angler
    Angling is a method of fishing by means of an "angle" . The hook is usually attached to a fishing line and the line is often attached to a fishing rod. Fishing rods are usually fitted with a fishing reel that functions as a mechanism for storing, retrieving and paying out the line. The hook itself...

    s the greatest advantage when fishing for walleye, salmon, trout, bass, etcetera, as well as generic fishing craft.

  • Watersport Boats or skiboats are high-powered Go-Fast boats (specialized towboats in fact) is designed for activities where a participant is towed behind the boat such as waterskiing and parasailing
    Parasailing, also known as parascending, or "parakiting" is a recreational kiting activity where a person is towed behind a vehicle while attached to a specially designed canopy wing that reminds one of a parachute, known as a parasail wing...

    • Variations on the ubiqutous waterski include wakeboards, water-skiing, kneeboarding, inflatable towables, and wake surfing. To some degree, the nature of these boating activities has an impact on boat design. Waterski boats are intended to hold a precise course at an accurate speed with a flat wake for slalom skiing runs. Wakeboard boats run at slower speeds, and have various methods including ballast and negative lift foils to force the stern in the water, thereby creating a large and "jumpable" wake.
    • Saltwater fishing boats vary widely in length and are once again specialized for various species of fish. Flats boats, for example, are used in protected, shallow waters, and have shallow draft. Sportfishing boats range from 25' to 80' or more, and can be powered by large outboard engines or inboard diesels. Fishing boats in colder climates may have more space dedicated to cuddy cabins and wheelhouses, while boats in warmer climates are likely to be entirely open.
    • Cruising boats applies to both power and sailboats, and refers to trips from local weekend passages to lengthy voyages, and is a lifestyle. While faster "express cruisers" can be used for multiple day trips, long voyages generally require a slower displacement boat (trawler) with diesel power and greater stability and efficiency. Cruising sailboats range from 20' to 70' and more, and have easily managed sailplans to allow relatively small crews to sail them long distances. Some cruising sailboats will have two masts (ketch, yawl, or schooner rigs) to further reduce the size of individual sails and make it possible for a couple to handle larger boats. Diesel- (now sometimes electric-) powered Narrowboats are a very popular mode of travel (and accommodation) on the inland waterways of England
      England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

  • Racing and Regatta
    A regatta is a series of boat races. The term typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas...

    are common group activities in the sub-culture of boaters owning larger (twenty-five foot plus) small boats and larger Yachts, and are frequently organized around a Yacht club
    Yacht club
    A yacht club is a sports club specifically related to sailing and yachting.-Description:Yacht Clubs are mostly located by the sea, although there are some that have been established at a lake or riverside locations...

     or Marina
    A marina is a dock or basin with moorings and supplies for yachts and small boats.A marina differs from a port in that a marina does not handle large passenger ships or cargo from freighters....

    • Sailboat racing can be done on conventional family sailboats racing under one of the simpler handicap formulas (PHRF, or Performance Handicap Rating Formula is one such rule), or can be done on specialized boats with virtually no accommodation or compromises for comfort. Racing is generally either one design, where the boats are close to identical, or handicapped where the boats' finishing times are adjusted based on their predicted speed potential. Racing is further broken down into ocean racing, where boats start at one port and race in the ocean and back to the same port or a new destination, or buoy racing where boats race around prescribed courses and return to port at night. Several famous races cross oceans, like the biennial Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, or the Newport-Bermuda Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda. Other races actually circumnavigate the globe, like the Volvo Ocean Race or Vendee Globe race.


An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, that is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives from Latin ancora, which itself comes from the Greek ἄγκυρα .Anchors can either be temporary or permanent...

a boat is essential to recreational boaters by giving them the ability to park their boat in the water. Anchoring is helpful to boaters who fish or swim off of their boat and provides a stable and established site to achieve whatever activity is being done. Anchoring a boat is also critical in emergency situations and is a good safety measure whenever a vessel becomes disabled. There are three types of anchors, the Plow-style, the Fluke-style, and the Mushroom anchor.
  • Plow-style is the most effective for most boats especially larger boats (over 26 feet). It receives its holding power by plowing into the bottom sediments using the boats mass to drag it underneath the soil.
  • Fluke-style or Danforth anchor is similar to the plow anchor but is more lightweight. This anchor is commonly used on boats smaller than 30 feet but is very effective by using its pointed flukes to bury into the sediment below.
  • Mushroom anchors are designed for situations which require a permanent anchor with strong holding power. The weight of a mushroom anchor causes it to be slowly buried under soft sediment, giving significant holding power and are typically used for moorings, buoys, and other permanent anchoring needs. Mushroom anchors are not carried on a boat for use as a temporary or short term anchor. Initially there is no holding power due to the significant amount of time required for the anchor to settle and bury itself in the sediment
    Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....


A rope anchor line should be at least seven times longer than the depth of the water in the anchorage. A seven to eight foot chain should also be attached between the rope and the anchor in order to reduce the angle of the pull on the anchor facilitated by the chain sinking and lying on the bottom. This is important because in order for the anchor to be effective, the pull must be at a shallow angle rather than vertically. A vertical pull on the anchor will result in the anchor breaking out of the bottom sediment and is used as a technique to break the anchor's hold allowing the anchor to be raised in order to leave the anchorage.

The anchor should never be dragged behind a boat or dropped at the stern
The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...

. This could result in the boat being swamped or filled with water. Tie off the anchor to a bow cleat and pull on it to make sure that the knot is secure. After that make sure the vessel is down wind or down current of the anchor. After anchoring it is important to check visual sightings and onshore objects or buoys to let the driver know if his boat is secure by the anchor.


Since it's a recreational activity, most boating is done in calm protected waters and during good weather. Even so, conditions can change rapidly, and a small vessel can get into life-threatening difficulties. It's important to keep an inventory of safety gear on board every boat, which is prescribed by the U.S. Coast Guard as well as state boating law administrators in the U.S. Depending on the size of the boat and how it is powered, required equipment may include:
  • personal flotation devices (PFDs or life jackets) for everyone on board
  • a throwable flotation device (in the U.S., a Type IV PFD)
  • navigation lights suitable for the type of boat operation
  • visual distress signals (VSDs) which are effective both day and night
  • sound-making devices including horns and bells
  • fire extinguisher(s)
  • a copy of the Inland Rules of the Road

Other items might seem obvious but are not actually required by law. They include a flashlight, first aid kit, paddles, whistles, anchor and rope, engine spare parts, bilge pumps, a VHF radio or mobile phone, etc.

In addition to these safety items listed above, the Code of Federal Regulations lists some additional required items that may not fall into the common definition of "safety" items:
  • backfire arresters on gasoline-powered vessels
  • ventilation systems on gasoline-powered vessels
  • plaques which list the penalties associated with pollution due to oil discharge, or dumping trash overboard.
  • a marine sanitation system (MSD) which prevents water pollution from sewage

State laws may add to this list of requirements. Most of the differences fall into a few categories:
  • laws requiring life jackets to be worn in specific activities or by children
  • upgraded life jackets for specific activities or by children
  • restrictions on the types of MSDs that are allowed within state borders

PFD use

Recreational boating deaths could be dramatically reduced with increased use of PFD
Personal flotation device
A personal flotation device is a device designed to assist a wearer, either conscious or unconscious, to keep afloat.Devices designed and approved by authorities for use by...

s or life vest
Personal flotation device
A personal flotation device is a device designed to assist a wearer, either conscious or unconscious, to keep afloat.Devices designed and approved by authorities for use by...

s. Wear rates in 2003 were around 22.4%, although state and federal laws requiring children to wear flotation were more common, and therefore children's wear rates were much higher than those for adults. Relatively few children die in boating accidents; the more likely victim is an adult male in the mid-afternoon in a boat (under 20 feet (6.1 m) length over all) who is not wearing a PFD.

Not surprisingly, that also describes a typical boater under normal conditions.

While various strategies have been devised in the last few decades to increase PFD wear rates, the observed rate has been relatively constant. This has led to the possibility of legislation requiring PFD usage on boats under a specified length when underway.

The percentage of deaths due to drowning has declined (from 80% to 70%) in the last decade for a peculiar reason. Personal watercraft, or PWCs, have increased in popularity for the last 15 years, and account for about 70 fatalities per year (2002). However, PWC operators commonly wear PFDs, and therefore have a relatively low incidence of drowning. Trauma, largely due to collisions with other vessels and the shoreline, accounts for 70% of PWC fatalities while drowning accounts for about 30%.

PFD types as defined by the U.S. Coast Guard such as Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, and Type V can be found at the U.S. Coast Guard. In the U.S., one PFD MUST be available for everyone on board. Life jacket definitions for Great Britain's Coast Guard can be found here.


In the U.S., approximately 700 people die per year as a result of recreational boating accidents. These accidents are tabulated in the B.A.R.D., or Boating Accident Reporting Database, which is published each year by the U.S. Coast Guard based on the cumulative records of the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Since 1970, when recreational boating deaths peaked at about 1700 per year, the annual rate of fatalities has been declining at a rate of about 2% per year. The majority of these deaths (70%) occur due to drowning, and are frequently associated with small powerboat accidents. Other causes of death include trauma (especially with small powerboats), fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and hypothermia.

The cause of the reduction of deaths is subject to some debate, but the Federal Boat Safety Act in the 1970s required that boats under 20 feet be equipped with level flotation. This change in boat construction meant that boaters who found themselves in the water next to a swamped boat could climb back into the boat and both reduce their likelihood of drowning, while increasing the size of a search target and reducing hypothermia
Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

. Other frequently named causes include improved boater safety education, increased use of life jackets, and improved boating safety gear.

Another potential cause for drowning is the presence of stray electrical power from a boat leaking into the water. This is known as electric shock drowning. Metal surfaces of a boat leaking power into the water can create zones of high-energy potential. Stray current entering salt water is less of a problem than the same situation in fresh water. Salt water is a good conductor and it carries current away to ground quickly. Fresh water is a poor conductor and when alternating current forms an electrical potential near a boat, the current can paralyze a swimmer. Stray electrical current has caused many drownings, but post-mortem examinations will not link this problem to the death. The problem can be reduced by prohibiting swimming near boats connected to shore power and ensuring marinas comply with National Fire Protection Association Standard 303 for marinas.

Carbon monoxide

In the early 2000s, several high-profile deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after enough inhalation of carbon monoxide . Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but, being colorless, odorless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect...

 (CO) led to increased scrutiny of boating habits (especially the practice of towing participants immediately behind a boat, known as "teak surfing" or "platform towing") and the implementation of various warning placards to educate boaters of the hazards arising from these activities. Other CO-related deaths were attributed to high concentrations of CO gas from houseboat generator exhaust, where swimmers were able to access an area near the stern of the boats that collected the exhaust. This has led to improved pollution controls on modern generator sets, and changes in the designs of houseboats so that they discharge exhaust gases in a way that they can dissipate. The increased use of CO detectors, especially in boats with enclosed accommodation spaces, and a proper assessment of boat manufacturers, would help reduce the risk of CO poisoning.


Depending on the country, boating on coastal waters and inland waters may require a license. Usually, commercially boating on coastal waters almost always requires a license, while recreational boating on coastal waters only requires a license when a certain boat size is exceeded (e.g. a length of 20 meters), or when passenger ships, ferries or tugboats are steered. Boating on international waters does not require any license, due to the absence of any laws or restrictions in this area. Some of the member states of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe was established in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among its member states. It is one of five regional commissions under the administrative direction of United Nations headquarters. It has 56 member states, and reports to the UN Economic and...

 issues the International Certificate of Competence
International Certificate of Competence
An International Certificate of Competence is a certificate, which may be issued to anyone who has successfully completed certain national boating licenses or has successfully passed an examination to prove the necessary competence for pleasure craft operation.Although only guaranteed to be...


External links

  • Boating - Australian boating guides and information.
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