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yacht as in ship

Boat vs. Ship vs Yacht: What’s the Difference?

A couple looking at the sunset as they ride on their sailboat | Sebastus Sailing

Language is a tricky thing, and picking out the differences between similar terms can be confusing. This is especially true when some of the definitions overlap. This is the case with the case of boat vs. ship vs. yacht . What’s the difference? We know in our gut that there are differences between these three seafaring vessels, but unless you’re a harbor master do you really know what counts as what?

Let’s get into some definitions, and we’re going to start with the easiest to explain: What is a yacht? What is a ship? And what is a boat?

Yacht vs. Ship vs. Boat

What is a yacht.

A yacht, I think everyone would agree, is fancier than a ship or a boat. “Yacht” infers some amount of luxury , and definitely recreation. There’s also something to be said about size. A yacht tends to be anywhere between 35 feet up to 160 feet. And some yachts, known as superyachts, go even beyond that. (Jeff Bezos just built a 417 foot yacht, but that’s really breaking yacht records.)

Because of the size, yachts tend to operate in larger bodies of water–generally the ocean. Yachts are able to handle rougher ocean waves, and they are also equipped with more advanced navigation and guidance instruments than smaller boats. Likewise, a yacht tends to have a full crew to help with the navigation, engineering, repairs, as well as having stewards that serve the yacht’s guests. This can be anywhere from a crew of four or five up to a crew of a few dozen on large yachts. 

One interesting thing to note is that outside of the United States, a yacht refers to a sailboat , and a motorized yacht is called a “motor yacht”. 

So, is a yacht a boat? Yes, technically a yacht is a boat. But a yacht is a very specific kind of boat.

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Luxury motor yacht anchored at the sea

What is a Ship?

The term ship is most commonly associated with a very large boat, and something that is not as fancy as a yacht (one exception is that cruise ships can still be very fancy, but are referred to as ships because of their size and power.)

Ships are generally so large that they would never be found in a lake, with some exceptions for the Great Lakes, and are made for navigating the high seas of the open ocean. An ship can refer to a cruise ship, a naval ship, a tanker, a container ship, and many other commercial vessels.

Ships tend to have advanced navigation and technology, but much more advanced than that of a yacht due to the size, the speed, and the routes that a ship will take. They are meant to be traversing the open ocean for very long periods of time, from one continent to the next, while a yacht may only rarely set across the ocean and most often stays somewhat near land. 

A ship will also have a much larger crew than a yacht or a boat. Ships are typically so large that they need not only one trained navigator but a set of navigators, plus an entire engineering team, and includes many more positions. 

Finally, a ship is meant to carry things. This may be passengers, yes (in reference to cruise ships and some navy ships) but most ships are for carrying cargo–or even carrying equipment to do work on other ships including repair work or refueling. 

What is a Boat?

Well, a boat is harder to define, because a yacht is technically a boat, and a ship is technically a boat. But when people refer to boats, they are almost always referring to something smaller than either a yacht or a ship. Boats may be motorized, like a speed boat, or they may sail, or they may be man-powered, like a rowboat or a kayak. Really, anything up to and including a liferaft, can be called a boat.

(As a side note that will just muddy the waters even further, submarine captains are adamant that their subs are boats. They are not ships.)

motor boat cruising

So, Boat vs. Ship Vs. Yacht?

Ultimately it comes down to this: all three of them are boats, but yachts are fancier, larger, and used for recreation, and ships are even larger, used commercially or by the navy, and are meant to cross oceans. The dividing line is sometimes thin, but generally speaking, when it comes to boats vs. ships.vs. yachts you can go by the adage “ I know it when I see it .”

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“Boat” vs. “Ship”: Chart A Course To Understand The Difference

  • Boat Vs. Ship
  • Yacht Vs. Boat

Ahoy, me hearties! A true seadog worth their salt would never let aboard a landlubber who calls their ship a boat . That kind of mixup is the talk that gets you walking the plank!

In this article, we’ll sail the seven seas of nautical knowledge to define the difference between the words ship and boat , explain what they refer to in technical and casual use, provide examples of different kinds of both ships and boats , and we’ll even clear up the meaning of the word yacht .

🚢 Quick summary

In casual use, the word boat is often used to refer to any watergoing vessel, regardless of its size or how it’s powered. However, large oceanfaring watercraft—those that use multiple sails or engines—are more properly called ships . In contrast, the word ship isn’t commonly applied to smaller craft. The word yacht is typically used to refer to any larger noncommercial vessel—one used for sailing or other recreation, as opposed to business.

What’s the difference between a boat and a ship ?

By definition, a boat is “a vessel for transport by water,” “a small ship,” or “a vessel of any size built for navigation of rivers or inland bodies of water.” In casual use, the word boat is used to refer to any vehicle used to travel on the water—anything from a canoe to an ocean liner.

In this kind of casual and general usage, the word boat is often used to refer to watercraft of all sizes and types, as you can see in the variety of terms that include the word, such as sailboat , motorboat , fishing boat , rowboat , tugboat , paddleboat , and lifeboat .

In contrast, the word ship is typically reserved to refer to a large, ocean-faring vessel propelled by multiple sails or engines.

(Of course, the word ship is also used to refer to large, nonwater craft, such as airship and spaceship .)

In technical, nautical contexts, the word ship sometimes specifically refers to a sailing vessel that has three or more square masts. As is the case with boat , though, the word ship is applied in the name of a variety of large watercrafts, including cruise ship , cargo ship , pirate ship , battleship , longship , and steamship .

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In contexts where it’s important to distinguish the difference, the distinction made between ship and boat is typically based on the size of the craft being discussed and if it is used only for ocean or sea travel. Additionally, the word boat can refer to vessels that don’t have any sails or engines, such as a kayak or a rowboat, whereas the word ship usually refers to vessels with many sails or large engines. Even in casual usage, it’s very uncommon for someone to call a small craft a ship , unless they’re doing so jokingly.

One distinction made in nautical contexts is that the word ship often refers to vessels too large to fit inside other vessels. By contrast, the word boat is often used to refer to smaller craft that can fit inside larger ones. For example, a massive cruise ship may have a large number of lifeboats inside it.

What are you sailing? An ocean or a sea ? Learn the difference here.

Yacht vs. boat

The word yacht typically refers to a vessel used for private, noncommercial reasons (those other than business), such as sailing or racing. As a general term, the word yacht can refer to any watercraft that isn’t intended to be used to make money, which includes anything from racing sailboats to billionaires’ floating ultra-luxury mansions.

The word yacht is not used to refer to small vessels, such as row boats or canoes. In casual usage, a yacht may be referred to with the more general terms boat or ship , but certainly not all ships and boats are yachts .

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Marine Insight

  • 7 Differences Between a Ship and a Boat

Although everyone knows the difference between a ship and a boat, there are quite a few who often get confused between the two terms. Technically, there is a thin line between them and this often leads to major confusion.

While talking about the difference between a ship and a boat, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is their sizes. Traditionally people consider a ship as a large ocean-going vessel, whereas boats are comparatively quite smaller in size.

To understand the differences between ships and boats, a number of aspects need to be taken into consideration.

Mentioned below are seven main aspects which are taken into account to differentiate between a ship and a boat.

Ship and boat

1.  Size of Ship and Boat

The most important aspect that is considered while stating the difference between a ship and a boat is the size. It is said that the best way to differentiate between a ship and a boat is to remember that “A ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship.”

  Technically speaking, a mode of water transport that weighs at least 500 tonnes or above is categorised as a ship. In comparison, boats are stipulated to be quite compact in their structural size and displacement.

2. Operational Areas

A major difference between ship and boat is that of their areas of operation. Ships are vessels that are operated in oceanic areas and high seas. They usually include cruise vessels , naval ships, tankers , container ships , RoRo ships , and offshore vessels . They are mainly built for cargo/ passenger transportation across oceans.

Boats, in contrast, are operable in smaller/ restricted water areas and include ferrying and towing vessels, sail vessels, paddle vessels, kayaks , canoe , patrolling vessels etc.  Boats are mainly used for smaller purposes and mainly ply in areas near to the coast.

 3 . Navigation and Technology

Technologically, boats are simple vessels with less complicated equipment, systems and operational maintenance requirements.  Since ships are required to be operable for longer time-duration and travel across oceans, they are manned using advanced engineering, heavy machinery, and navigational systems .

This is one of the major differences between a ship and a boat.

Ships are huge in size and therefore they are operated by professionally trained navigators and engineers . A ship requires a captain to operate the ship and guide the crew.

On the other hand, the size of the crew on a boat depends on the size of the boat. It can be one person or a full-fledged crew depending on the size and purpose of the boat.

5. Cargo Capacity

A boat is small to the mid-sized vessel, which has a much lesser cargo-carrying capability as compared to a ship.

Ships are specifically made to carry cargo or passengers or boats, whereas boat is a generic term used for a variety of watercraft.

Mainly boats are used for recreational purposes, fishing, or ferry people.

6. Construction and Design

When it comes to construction and design, ships are complicated structures having a variety of machinery systems and designing aspects for the safety and stability of the ship.

A boat is much simple in construction and build, and has lesser machines and design complexities.

7. Propulsion

A boat can be powered by sails, motor, or human force, whereas a ship has dedicated engines to propel them . (Ships can also be propelled by sails or other advanced propulsion technologies)

Even though all vessels operating in the high seas are referred to as ships, submersible vessels are categorically termed as ‘boats.’

This is mainly because of the fact that in the earlier centuries, submersible vessels could be hoisted on ships till they were required to be used in naval operations.

However, while talking about differences between a ship and a boat, vessels floating on the water surface is mainly considered.

shipyard maersk

The usage of the term ‘ship’ or ‘boat’ also depends on the region it is being used in. People from several countries often refer a medium-sized fishing vessel as a boat, or a medium-sized ferry or a recreational boat as a ship. As can be seen, people have a tendency to generalise a vessel on the basis of its size.

However, it is to note that the difference between a ship and a boat depends on a number of factors as discussed above.

You might also like to read:

  • Types of Sailboats: A Comprehensive Classification
  • A Guide to Different Types of Boats
  • A Guide To Types of Ships
  • Types of Fishing Vessels

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yacht as in ship

About Author

Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.

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46 comments.

Please i am a National Diploma student of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron studying nautical science, i want to know more about the course

Hi.thank its so good and sufficient

As a profesional mariner of over 25 years I would like to “weigh in” on this subject. What I will say is not about the currently accepted distinction between ship and boats, but rather historical. When ships (powered by sails) began to start losing trade to vessels powered by engines (boats) they as an industry attempted to associate these vessels with unplesant attributes like noise, soot, vibration, and in some cases slower speed. The sailoing industry (both cargo and passanger) would say that you could SAIL on a quiet, clean, calm, fast ship or go one of those dirty loud vibrating slow BOATS with an engine. The concept a ship being superior and a boat being inferior was sucessfully instituted. The engine powered vessels simply side stepped the ridicule bestowed on the term “boat” and made bigger, faster, clean, quiet vessels and took the market from the sail powered vessels along with the defination of SHIP for themselves. i wont step into the curret debate of what constitutes a boat or a ship but the origins of the debate stem from new technology (steam engines) fighting over market share.

A large freighter (1000′ x 85′, think of the Edmund Fitzgerald) hauling iron ore on the great lakes is referred to by her crew and company as a boat, never as a ship!

“Boats in contrast, are operable in smaller/ restricted water areas and include ferrying and towing vessels, sail vessels, paddle vessels, kayaks, canoe, patrolling vessels etc. Boats are mainly used for smaller purposes and mainly ply in areas near to the coast.” “Technologically, boats are simple vessels with less complicated equipment, systems and operational maintenance requirements.”

Correct me if I am wrong but, isn’t a submarine classed as a boat? That kind of contradicts what you have stated above.

comment:the any where abroad/indian officers you can any time call me on 30 year’s on merchant officers

You can put a boat on a ship but not visa versa eg life boats…

What is the difference between a boat and a ship?

1. The boat leans to the right when turning right

2. The ship leans to the left when turning right.

This is what I have been told by a old (90 Year old boat capt)

Great reply’s. some years ago while on the QE 2 a passenger asked one of the officers when does this boat dock? The young officer replied. “Madam, this is a Ship not a boat, a boat is those you get into when this ship is sinking!

Hello. May I please ask for some assistance from the forum?

I am writing a blog/journal on the differences between ships and yachts. What has prompted this conversation is the plethora of ‘superyachts’ now plying the international oceans and performing well on deep water passages.

Surely some of these can come under the category of ‘ship’, and not yacht, since many are being built on a larger scale than anything we’ve seen in past years. My understanding of the determination of a ‘ship’ is : Length, Tonnage, Draft and Displacement.

I have read your forum discussion regarding use, but I am still unclear as to where the line is drawn for this category. Many of the ‘superyachts’ carry cars, helicopters, pools, and require very advanced equipment, captain and crew. Perhaps we will soon see this as a real conversation in the industry.

Appreciatively, Rosanne Allen-Hewlett For ‘The LUXE Report’ ( Sailor, racer of only boats and yachts )

I was told that the difference between a ship and a boat is that a ship has a funnel and a boat doesn’t, no matter it’s size….

David Musselwhwite’s comment is the best way to determine a boat of a ship. This holds true for submarines (boats). If it leans into the turn, it is a boat. If it leans out on a turn, it is a ship.

In response to comments about the Edmund Fitzgerald, when you spend your life on one you can call it whatever you want. I am sure they all knew it was a ship, I served 20 years in the Navy and always said I was heading back to the boat even though I knew it was a ship.

While in Boot camp in 1964, US Coast Guard, we were told that a ship is 95 feet or longer and a boat is 94 feet and under. That makes it pretty simple.

With over 30 years in the marine industry including working at sea, ship building and ship repair, I would offer my comments.

Yes all above is true. My understanding is that the bottom line is ” a Ship carries boats ie Lifeboats”. If it doesn’t have a proper lifeboat, it is not a ship.

The best a boat has is dinghies or liferafts etc. Consequently a submarine does NOT carry life boats. There are many broader requirements Size and the ability to navigate very heavy seas, such as those whipped up by a tropical Revolving storm (TRS). It must be designed to travel in the open sea in all weather conditions and have lifeboats that can do the same. They carry cargo or passengers and have a substantial crew to operate it including engineers.

As far as the Edmund Fitzgerald is concerned, these vessels are an enigma. They were large and qualify in most areas, but – was it capable of going to sea and did it have sea-going lifeboats? Ironically it suffered probably as bad a storm as it would have done at sea. The problem is that in fresh water the waters are more treacherous than salt water as they rise up far more quickly.

But then again it sank meaning that it couldn’t handle it. Yes it was a large vessel but was it a Ship – ?

What is difference among?

Marine Boat Marine Ship Marine Craft Ship Boat

What is difference between Marina and Marine?

Being the son of a WW II submariner. My dad cruised the Atlantic of the east coast of US and in many conversations about the war he always called his boat a boat never a ship.Thats it!!

The simplest and most accurate definition I stay with is that a ship can carry a boat but a boat cannot carry a ship . SIZE MATTERS !

Captain chalga: try to form a coherent sentence.

I asked a friend of mine, “What is the difference between a boat and a ship?” He said, “About 100 feet . . .”

Thank you for the information. My husband won this discussion. God Bless all who are bravely floating on/in one. I am terrified of the ocean or even a small lake. You have my utmost respect for your sacrifice. I love seafood but would never know the pleasure of eating it without you brave souls. Thank you.

As a proud Submariner I have to disagree and will always say that I serve on a boat.

There is the Boat of Millions of years,which is a very advanced spacecraft able to.travel the millions of light years betwen Galaxies.

And you have vessels such as the Motor Vessel Arlene out of Port Arthur.

I was once told that a ship had multiple decks and a boat had only one.

When I queried sailing yachts that had berths under part of the deck, it was modified to the deck on a yacht is as much structural as deck, but if a vessel has 2 or more non structural “floors” it is a ship.

Then I mentioned tug boats and fishing boats and it all got confused.

It’s a bit like the difference between horse and pony. Despite every one saying it’s size, the falabella is a horse and polo ponies are ponies.

A naval architect (constructors) view is that to be a ‘ship’ a vessel must have at least one continuous internal deck running the length of the vessel. Large Submarines may have complete decks forward however, going aft, it is normal to have to descend a ladder onto a lower ‘engine room’ deck-level or platform. Some large freighters have a similar construction with internal split deck levels and that is why they are correctly known as boats, although in some cases the term ‘ship’ feels more appropriate because of their large displacement. The argument regarding leaning into or out of a turn is an interesting idea, however this may have more to do with hull and propulsion characteristics than vessel construction. In reality, as with most nautical expressions, whatever feels best to use is probably best and relying on the opinion of a sailor, with regards to an explanation of nautical expressions, puts you at the mercy of a sharp sense of humour.

It might be worth mentioning that some might refer to a ship as “boat” as a diminutive term of endearment, similar to the personification of a car or a pet by assigning the human pronouns to them.

I was once told a SHIP sails the oceans, a BOAT sails on rivers and lakes.

IT SEEMS WE HAVE VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE SEA MEN IN THE HOUSE . BUT I AGREE TOTALLY WITH JEREMY MEYER

It’s always been my info is that a boat can be up to 197’ whereas a ship is over that length. As with anything, I’m sure there are exceptions.

some of the people got it spot on. Tilt away from direction of turn = ship. Tilt towards the direction of turn = boat.

There are two points on every vessel. Center of buoyancy and center of gravity. A ship’s center of gravity is above its center of buoyancy. A boat’s center of gravity is below its center of gravity.

Anyone can answer me why we only know the bareboat charter for any size of the ship? It never mentions bareship charter?

“some of the people got it spot on. Tilt away from direction of turn = ship. Tilt towards the direction of turn = boat. There are two points on every vessel. Center of buoyancy and center of gravity. A ship’s center of gravity is above its center of buoyancy. A boat’s center of gravity is below its center of gravity.”

Except a kayak (or canoe) is like a ship – cg is above cb. If you get a ruddered kayak up to speed and hit the rudder hard it will heel outward like a ship. Since the paddler can easily influence heel, if you want to make a hard turn you heel the ‘boat” outward (to lessen the ends in the water) and sweep stroke on the outward side to spin the “boat”. Is a kayak then a “ship”? Hardly. This is exactly the problem with trying to make one pithy statement to define a ship or boat. It is far more complex than that.

I completely agree with you that the difference between a ship and a boat is the size. One of my friends have a boat, she bought it from Boat Lagoon Yachting. Thanks for sharing!

If you can haul it on the back of truck (even trailered), it’s likely a boat…but if the anchor weighs in like a truck it’s definitely a ship. Obviously, some subs are one or the other regardless of whether you can stuff a (non-inflatable) life boat inside. [Army logic from qualified ex-boat commander, combat support boats, bridge section, Corps of Engineers.]

I grew up near the Welland Canal, and it’s true: vessels which plied the Great Lakes were called “lake boats”, or more commonly, “Lakers”. Oceangoing vessels a were always and reflexively called “ships”..

I am wondering if the naval architect”s comment about internal decks makes the difference, as even a non-engineer can see that a deck extending stem to stern would provide more stability to a vessel’s structure.

The lake boats are always longer than the ocean-going ships, so it’s not size.And we occasionally get a visit from “tall ships”, which are oceangoing sailing vessels, but relatively short.

That’s really informative post. I appreciate your skills, Thanks for sharing.

I will take a shot at this. The word marine is redundant before ship and boat. The word “marine” relates to the sea and one of the conditions of being a ship is that it is ocean going. This does leave the possibility of not being a river boat but a marine boat. I would use the expression sea-going boat.

Marine craft is a useful expression when there is a need to make it cleat that you are not referring an aircraft, space craft etc.

On a general note there are no absolute rules or definition. All we can do is give examples of how the words are used. Companies, governments, navies and anyone else are free to make gheir own definitions but nobody else is bound by them.

I served on the U.S.S. CG-19 ‘THE DZLE & U.S.S. CV-63 KITTY HAWK FOR THE US NAVY in the 80’s. So what about the placement of the helm being center of Bridge on a ship & on starboard side usually on a boat?

With many years of sailing lakes to blue water sailing and large power yachts I can offer this for abot of levity. Afterall,the SeaView had the ‘Flying Sub” flown or driven undersea,on the surface and flown by Captain,Admirals and sadly Polititians and insane quasi research criminals. The Flying Sub also had an inflatable Zodiac,so both could be considered Life saving vessels. Plus,it was really cool!

Can be as difficult as we want. My training was as a NCO (enlisted man in the USN. As others have stated, A ship will lean away from its turn. A boat will lean into the turn. This is naturally due to there the center line of gravity is located. Cargo ships mass above that line. A boat can be loaded onto a ship (lifeboats). Regarding Submarines, they are affectionately referee to , by the crew, as boats and that goes back to WWI /II, the ELB. Electric Boat Div of General Dynamics, located Groton Connecticut .

This design is wicked! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

More importantly… are they all “She’s” ?

I’ve been wondering about this since I was younger and saw The Hunt for Red October. The COB (Chief of the Boat) was an interesting character, and I wondered by a Sub Chief was called Chief of the Boat, if a sub was a naval ship. Some very interesting and fascinating answers in here! I like the one about how a ship turns, leaning into it or not. That makes sense to me. As for the tiny kayak/canoe exceptions to this, I’d guess that if a human weighs more than the ‘vessel’ and can manipulate it’s attributes of buoyancy or center of gravity whichever, with their own body, then it doesn’t really count as either a boat or a ship. It really has no deck, nor propulsion other than human muscle, no anchor, etc. I don’t see it as much more than a modern design for what used to be termed a ‘raft.’ But I am just spit-balling here, don’t blast me! lol

That’s really nice post. I appreciate your skills. Thanks for sharing.

All the information that you shared with us is very useful for us. Thank you for sharing with us.

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yacht as in ship

  • The Inventory

When Is a Ship a Yacht, and When Is It Not?

The difference between the two broad categories is determined by one key factor..

A render of the Pangeos, the massive turtle-shaped ship.

Yachts have been in the news a lot more frequently in recent years. There have been stories like when a Dutch yacht builder requested to temporarily dismantle an iconic bridge in Rotterdam to get a 417-foot-long sailing yacht commissioned by Jeff Bezos out to sea, or when authorities around the world seized the yachts of Russian oligarchs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Usually, the most notable yachts have the prefixes super-, mega- and even giga- attached to convey their truly enormous sizes relative to most other privately-owned vessels.

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As a result, ‘yacht’ as a term has basically become meaningless just by the sheer proliferation of private ships in recent years that defy all potential superlatives. It’s like when you say a word so often that it loses all its meaning. Why are there so many more huge luxury maritime vessels in the world? Rising levels of global wealth inequality? Technical innovation? I don’t know. The Pangeos is the latest planned monument to ostentatious wealth. The 1970-foot-long turtle-shaped ship is the brainchild of Italian designer Pierpaolo Lazzarini. However, this self-declared terayacht is not a yacht by definition.

The only distinction between a yacht and a ship is simple: It is the vessel’s intended purpose. When you enter a foreign country, every customs agent will ask, “What is the purpose of your trip, business or pleasure?” It is the same when categorizing large water vehicles. The sole purpose of a yacht is recreation. If the craft has any other intended purpose, such as naval warfare or maritime commerce, it’s a ship. The U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford , a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, and the Carnival Celebration, a 5,280-passenger Carnival cruise ship , are both ships.

The Pangeos as viewed from above.

The plans for the Pangeos might feature private vacation villas and apartments. However, the absurd craft would also include also shopping malls and a hotel resort, making the Pangeos a ship. The Pangeos, named after the prehistoric supercontinent of Pangea, will likely never be built due to the ship’s $8 billion price tag.

Besides ship and yacht, boat is another commonly used term. The definition of a boat is much more vague and open to interpretation. Boats tend to be small personal craft and only carry a few people. Though, it’s common for sailors to refer to vessels of any size or purpose as a boat.

What's the difference between a 'boat' and a 'ship'?

All dictionaries try to avoid the dread lexicographic condition known as circular defining . This is when one looks up a word such as dictionary , sees that it is defined as “a lexicon ,” and, when looking up lexicon , finds that it is defined as “a dictionary.” Given that we spend a considerable amount of time avoiding this sort of defining, it may come to a surprise to some users to discover that one of the definitions for boat is “ship,” and vice versa.

alt-5cc8a0aa86fb5

Take to the sea.

This is not actually a case of circular defining, as these seeming examples of synonymy are but one of a number of possible meanings for each word. And we do not define the words in this manner out of a desire to annoy people who love to observe the distinction between these two kinds of vessels. The reason we offer the definitions of “ship” for boat and “boat” for ship is that this is the manner in which a large number of people use the words.

‘What is the difference between a ship and a boat?’ has a good number of answers, but unfortunately most of these are not couched in the type of precise language a dictionary aims for. Sample responses to this question include ‘You can put a boat onto a ship, but you can’t put a ship onto a boat,’ ‘a boat is what you get into when the ship sinks,’ and ‘a boat is the thing you put gravy in.’

If you were to look for precision by asking this question of ten nautically-inclined people in ten different areas it is possible that you would get a wide range of answers, for the exact moment at which a boat becomes a ship varies considerably. We define ship in the following ways: “a large seagoing vessel,” “a sailing vessel having a bowsprit and usually three masts each composed of a lower mast, a topmast, and a topgallant mast,” and “boat (especially one propelled by power or sail)”. Boat has a slightly narrower semantic range, including “a small vessel for travel on water,” and “ship.”

Usage writers appear to have been warning people about these words since the late 19th century; boat appears on James Gordon Bennett’s “Don’t List” in the New York Herald , with instruction to avoid “except in describing a small craft propelled by oars.” However, the distinction between boat and ship had been observed by others well before this.

Mr. Barnes then proceeded to state the distinction between a boat and a ship, and contended that all vessels above a certain tonnage, and which were registered, came under the denomination of “ships,” inasmuch as boats had no register. — The Essex County Standard (Colchester, Eng.), 29 Oct. 1841 ”What do you think, William, is the next gradation?” ”Why, father, is there any thing between a boat and a ship?” ”We are not come to a ship yet, William; we have only spoken of such sorts of vessels as are moved by paddles or oars.” — Isaac Taylor, The Ship, or Sketches of the Vessels of Various Countries , 1834

Despite the fact that we’ve been receiving admonitions about boat and ship for over a century now, many people cheerfully insist on using boat for waterborne vessels of any size. However, few, if any, use ship to refer to small crafts. If you find that you are unable to remember the which is the larger between ship and boat it may help to sing the children’s song Row Your Boat (“row, row, row your ship ” sounds decidedly odd — small oared crafts are almost always referred to as boats ). No matter how many aphorisms we come up with, it seems unlikely that we are going to get much more specific than 'ships are bigger than boats.'

Considering that our language has hundreds of words for different kinds of things that float on the water it is somewhat odd that we should focus exclusively on the difference between only these two. Should you find yourself beset by an angry sailor who calls you out for using boat when you should have used ship you may turn and ask if they know the difference between a xebec and an umiak , a corvette and a wherry , or an argosy and a garvey (the first ones are all ships and the second ones all boats).

The fact that English usage is messy, and has contributed to a use of boat that is somewhat vague, does not mean that there aren't settings where precision is called for. For instance, when you are sailing on someone else's vessel it is polite to always employ the correct terminology. And if you find yourself at a loss about when a boat becomes a ship you should contact your local maritime authority.

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Boat vs. ship: What's the difference? The annoying mistake some cruisers keep making

Ashley Kosciolek

Vacationing on a cruise ship? That's great, but for the love of all that is nautical, please don't call it a boat.

Modern-day cruise behemoths have earned the right to be called ships. The name is grand, it implies stature, and it lets everyone know that there's some sort of official larger purpose, whether it's the transportation of goods or of people.

What's the official difference between a boat and a ship? Technically, there isn't one that's universally accepted. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about what defines each, with no final verdict. Some say it has to do with size or tonnage, while others argue it's about how many masts the vessel has or whether it's a submarine (which, I'm told, is always a boat). Still others claim it's more about the bodies of water on which a vessel is designed to spend its days.

Regardless, the one certainty is that you'll sound like you have no idea what you're talking about if you refer to a cruise vessel — except maybe a riverboat — as a boat instead of a ship. In that vein, to help you understand the differences, let's take a look at some of the most popular differentiators, depending on whom you ask.

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Vessel size

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When you ask the average person what makes a vessel a ship versus a boat, they'll often tell you that it comes down to size. A ship is big; a boat is small. That seems to be the most common consensus, but those terms are arbitrary. What constitutes large and small?

In researching, I've discovered there's no official length at which a vessel becomes a ship. Sources cite everything from 100 feet to 200 feet in length and everything in between.

In terms of height, some seafarers insist that any vessel with more than one deck is a ship, and anything with only a single deck is a boat, as presented by The Guardian via a reader in the paper's Semantic Enigmas section.

Another common size-related refrain — one that's used by the United States Naval Institute — is that if a vessel is large enough to carry other vessels, it's a ship.

"In general, a boat is a watercraft ... that is small enough to be carried on board a larger one, and that larger one is a ship," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas J. Cutler in a blog post on the USNI's website . "This is sometimes expressed this way: 'A ship can carry a boat, but a boat can never carry a ship.'"

Vessel tonnage

Tonnage is another determinant some entities use to qualify vessels as ships instead of boats. In fact, the maritime information website Marine Insight claims it's one of the most important factors to consider.

Vessels of more than 500 tons, regardless of size, are ships, according to the site.

Where the vessel sails

yacht as in ship

I recently sailed on my first U.S. river cruise, during which a lecturer explained that boats are specifically built for inland waterways, such as lakes and rivers. "This is a boat, despite its size," she said, also noting that it carries lifeboats (which would make it a ship by some definitions).

Supporting this theory is Scientific American , which quotes The Straight Dope (Cecil Adams, the self-proclaimed smartest man in the world) as saying, "With regard to motorized craft, a ship is a large vessel intended for oceangoing or at least deep-water transport, and a boat is anything else."

How the vessel corners

A handful of online query results say another way to tell a ship from a boat is by observing the direction in which it leans when it turns.

"A U.S. Navy rule of thumb is that ships lean towards the outside of a sharp turn, while boats lean towards the inside," The Maritime Post said. For a more relatable visual, think about a motorcycle versus a car. The former leans in as you go around a turn; the latter leans away from the center of the turn.

Vessel propulsion and design

yacht as in ship

As you might expect from a larger vessel, ships often have more complex construction than boats. They also have more machinery on board than boats do, whether that's in the way of navigation or engine room accouterments.

Further, how they're propelled might differ. Most modern-day ships are powered by engines, whereas boats can be moved by anything from oars or sails to engines, according to Marine Insight .

Number of masts on the vessel

In terms of sailing vessels, if a rig has three masts or more, it's considered a ship, per the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts. To qualify, it must also have square sails on all masts.

Obviously, most modern-day cruise ships don't have masts. (Exceptions are ships from Windstar and Star Clippers.) Although this rule is less relevant today, it does come up frequently in maritime circles when discussing the difference between a ship and a boat.

Bottom line

There's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to determining whether a vessel is a ship or a boat. Generally, the most common ideas about this seem to revolve around size: tonnage, number of decks or whether or not the vessel can carry other boats.

Lots of people will have opinions about the "correct" criteria, but the bottom line is that you should never refer to a cruise ship as a boat if it carries travelers on the ocean for vacation.

Got more cruise questions? TPG has answers:

  • Man overboard: Why do people fall off cruise ships?
  • What is baked Alaska, and why is it paraded around cruise ships?
  • What are the largest cruise ships in the world?
  • What is a lido deck on a cruise ship?
  • What is tendering on a cruise ship?
  • What's the difference between a cruise concierge and a butler?
  • What is a gentleman host on a cruise?
  • What is the Jones Act and how does it affect cruise ships?
  • What's a cruise cabin guarantee and will it save you money?

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Louisa Beckett is the former editor of Motor Boating, ShowBoats International, and Southern Boating magazines, and a longtime contributor to Dockwalk. Over her career, she has written about a wide variety of vessels ranging from Sea-Doos to superyachts, and has had many adventures on the water, including riding in a U.S. Coast Guard “rollover” boat in heavy surf off Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Even now, in the third year of the pandemic, we’re seeing headlines about global supply chain disruptions caused by worker shortages and other factors related to COVID-19. In particular, the maritime shipping industry has been affected, with long lines of cargo ships frequently sitting idle as they wait to be unloaded in port.

“It’s a very difficult marketplace at the moment. The freight rates are higher than they’ve been in decades. Congestion in ports is at an all-time high, all these things are affecting our ability to get ships where they need to be on time, and space on ships is at a massive premium,” says Simon Judson, CEO of global logistics firm Peters & May , which organizes passage for yachts on board a wide variety of commercial cargo ships.

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Right from the start, the pandemic dramatically transformed the yacht transportation industry. In early 2020, the number of bookings by the usual clients, including owners and captains wanting to move their yachts to seasonal cruising grounds and sailing yacht owners and captains following the regatta circuit, fell off dramatically. At the same time, bookings increased from yacht owners who were unable to travel to their vessels and wanted to have them shipped home instead. Then, as COVID-related lockdowns and sheltering began to fuel the demand for new and brokerage boats, yacht manufacturers, dealers, and brokers around the world began to use yacht transport companies to ship boats to clients who couldn’t get to the vessels or send crew to pick them up. “I think COVID has changed everybody’s way of doing business,” says General Manager Laura Tempest of DYT , which owns and operates semi-submersible yacht-transport ships.

Port closures and travel restrictions also made it difficult for yacht transport companies to move their loadmasters into position around the world in order to supervise loading and unloading. In addition, “We have had a shortage of loadmasters at times when they came down with COVID,” said Uta Scarlata, who handles transatlantic and Caribbean sales for Sevenstar Yacht Transport , which operates its own fleet of 120 cargo vessels.

“Everything about the logistics of shipping a yacht from A to B is ten times harder,” Judson says, but he adds, “As we moved through the pandemic, we learned a little bit about how to adapt. Today we are using what we’ve learned to be better placed. That means making sure we’ve got the right people in the right places a lot further in advance [and] thinking about relocating our cradling and lifting equipment and everything we need to load the boats a lot further in advance.”

While internal logistics such as these typically are handled by a yacht transportation company behind the scenes without affecting its clients, industry experts agree that this year, yacht captains are going to have to act earlier than usual in order to secure transportation for their yachts.

If you do need to ship a yacht overseas, there are two basic means of transport: on the deck of a commercial ship or inside a semi-submersible vessel.

“It’s kind of going back to old days when if you didn’t book well in advance, you are not going to have a space…. People are done [with sheltering]. They are going to start using their yachts whether it be in the Med or in the Caribbean,” says Tempest. “We are seeing all of our repeat customers coming back, and the ones we met in the last year and a half that we didn’t know before are coming back.”

“Every ship that we’ve put on from the middle of last year has been fully booked probably a month before it comes to port. That was never the case before. We would always have some space a week before,” says Judson, who also predicts that demand for yacht transportation will increase in 2022 as owners return to pre-pandemic levels of cruising and racing. “If there’s a reason to book early, it would be to avoid disappointment in the fact that there may not be space,” he says. “To be safe, you should be thinking at least two months out.”

Cargo Ship vs. Semi-Submersible

There are a variety of reasons why an owner or captain would want to arrange to have a yacht transported from one location to another. It might be to change cruising grounds with the seasons, or to take the yacht to an event. Some yachts are able to make the voyage on their own bottom, but others must be shipped because they may be too small or have an insufficient fuel capacity to make the trip, their owner wants to avoid wear and tear on the vessel, or the yacht is booked for a charter in the new destination and the timing is just too tight.

Booking space on a cargo ship gives you the advantage of being able to transport a yacht pretty much anywhere around the globe where that vessel is scheduled to deliver freight.

If you do need to ship a yacht overseas, there are two basic means of transport: on the deck of a commercial ship or inside a semi-submersible vessel. Which method to pick depends on a variety of considerations, including the location where you want to ship the yacht, the flexibility of your schedule, whether or not you want to use the transit time to get work done on board, and the price.

In the most common scenario, the yacht is lifted by crane onto a commercial ship and secured in a custom-built cradle on its deck, where it shares space with other cargo for the duration of the passage. Since cargo ships typically make multiple stops and can experience delays in loading and unloading cargo, it’s important to have a flexible schedule. “Shipping is not an exact science. You can’t expect to ship on a certain day and unload on a certain day. You have to give yourself flexibility,” Judson says.

On the other hand, booking space on a cargo ship gives you the advantage of being able to transport a yacht pretty much anywhere around the globe where that vessel is scheduled to deliver freight.

The other yacht-transport method, pioneered by Dockwise Yacht Transport (now DYT) in the 1980s, is “float on/float off.” DYT’s semi-submersible ships are partially submerged in the water; the yacht floats into it and is secured in a cradle on the deck by divers. Then, the water is drained from the hold. At the end of the voyage, the process is reversed and the yacht floats out.

“When the world woke up with a bang, the amount of consumer goods to be shipped outweighed the space available to ship them. That will take some time to stabilize,” he says.

DYT offers a limited number of routes designed to match typical yacht-shipping patterns, such as from the Mediterranean to Fort Lauderdale and the Caribbean and back. “What I think sets us apart from anyone else is that we have a set schedule — there is no deviation; there is no change. That is why charter yachts depend on us,” Tempest says.

When clients want to ship their yachts off the beaten path, DYT will refer them to its sister company, Sevenstar Yacht Transport, for bookings on board its cargo ships.

DYT recently launched a third ship, Yacht Servant , which was built in China and is scheduled to start transporting yachts in May. For a short window in 2022, DYT will have three semi-submersible vessels in operation, which should help to meet the rising demand for yacht transportation.

Riding Along

Before the pandemic, captains typically could send one or two crewmembers along with the yacht during either type of transportation, enabling them to use the passage as a mini yard period to get a variety of jobs done on board.

While most cargo ships do not permit riders to sleep in their yachts while in transit, before the pandemic, they often would assign them cabins in the ship and let them eat in the mess hall and recreate with the ship’s crew. However, when COVID-19 hit, most ship operators suspended this courtesy in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading on board, which could lead to serious delays if the ship was forced to quarantine before unloading in a port.

“When things calm down, we will accept riders again,” Scarlata says. On DYT, “We still allow riders as it’s such a crucial part of the service that we offer,” Tempest says. In fact, the semi-submersible ships provide power to the yachts so that riders can sleep and work on board. At the height of the pandemic, however, the company limited the riders’ interaction with the ship’s crew. “They needed to provision their yacht for the duration of the voyage. They had to stay in the yacht and on the deck of the ship; they could not go into the ship’s superstructure.”

  • 5 Things You Need to Know About Health Insurance During the Pandemic

One thing that has not changed in the yacht transportation industry is the need for owners and captains to ensure their vessel is properly insured for the passage. “Some people get caught out on this. They think their hull and machinery insurance will automatically cover them. They need to take out a separate marine cargo insurance policy,” Judson says.

Both Sevenstar and DYT include an all-risk insurance policy in the rate they quote for yacht transport. “Usually, one of the questions we get is, ‘Can we leave it out?’ It’s not optional,” Tempest says. “It covers everyone on board and eliminates the need for multiple underwriters.”

Price Increases

Captains booking transport for their yachts today are finding that insurance rates have gone up. “The whole insurance market has hardened over the last couple of years,” Judson says.

As for shipping, no matter what method you choose, you are bound to see a COVID-related price increase. “DYT rates have increased over the past six months. Many factors have attributed to this but certainly a large portion is a consequence of the global pandemic,” Tempest says.

“In the last ten years, freight rates have been very low…. Now the market has flipped a little bit,” Judson says. While there are a number of reasons behind this, the main one is the reduced amount of cargo space currently available.

As for shipping, no matter what method you choose, you are bound to see a COVID-related price increase. 

In early 2022, Judson reported that his company had seen rates for shipping yachts between the U.S. and the Caribbean go up 15 to 20 percent; transatlantic shipping rates had increased a 60 to 80 percent, and rates to and from the Far East had gone up 200 to as high as 300 percent. “Coming out of Asia, every ship is full to the gunwales and if you want some space, you have to pay through the nose for it,” he says.

“There are not as many people who are prepared to pay the increased freight rates we are seeing at the moment. There are a lot of people who are holding back…,” Judson continues. “Not everyone who ships a yacht is a multi-millionaire. We’ve got lots of clients who are dealers, brokers, and manufacturers who are moving their boats where they need to be to be sold as new boats…. I think the people and companies who are shipping their boats now are the ones who have more of a commercial need.”

This feature originally ran in the April 2022 issue of Dockwalk.

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I have captained several of their vessels and worked closely with one of their brokers, Capt. Rupert Covell, who is not only an ace captain with an attention to detail, but also an excellent communicator with a strong code of ethics. I am confident that anyone wishing to buy or sell a yacht with Rupert’s help will be very pleased with the result. Extremely knowledgeable and reliable!

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I met Paul over 20 years ago when we were in pilot training together, we were both deployed in theater together back in 2006 and we had the pleasure of working together as colleagues at the same firm when our Active Duty service was complete. For all the years I’ve known him there is no one better at delivering on exactly what he has promised and providing the best service possible. Yachting and boating are shared passions for us both and I recently discussed running a yacht as a business with Paul. He hosted me at the Newport International Boat Show, he had the right appointments made and ensured we gained the most value for our time at the show. Whether you want a yacht for personal use or to run as a business venture Paul is an absolute must have person on your team.

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First and foremost, Captain Rick’s knowledge of the yacht market is impeccable. What sets Captain Rick apart is not just his knowledge but also his dedication to his clients. He was always available to answer my questions and address any concerns I had, no matter how big or small. In addition to his professionalism, Captain Rick Milroy’s passion for yachts and the maritime world is infectious. His enthusiasm for the industry and his love for the sea are apparent in every conversation, making the experience of working with him not only informative but also enjoyable. In conclusion, I highly recommend Captain Rick Milroy as a trusted yacht broker. He is a true expert in his field, a dedicated advocate for his clients, and a pleasure to work with.

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I send all my clients to Rupert Covel at JFA Yachts his knowledge and expertise in the yachting and Sailing industry is unmatched. He truly goes the extra mile to ensure every client is his top priority he is extremely efficient and most of all he doesn’t waste your time thank you for all your help. It was a true pleasure doing business with you look forward to much more to come in the future.

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Paul Minihan at JFA Yacht & Ship is the go-to person for your boat or yacht needs. As a military veteran and Naval Academy grad, his experience and integrity shine through. I’ve known Paul for over 15 years, and his dedication to his clients is unmatched. Whether you’re buying or selling, Paul’s expertise ensures a smooth and trustworthy experience. Proud to recommend him and contribute to the positive community at JFA Yacht & Ship!

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Paul from JFA Yacht has been helping me locate my first boat. He has done overtime work to learn what my needs and wants are and in many ways he has identified multiple areas where what I should be looking for haven’t matched my initial impressions. I have learned tons. I look forward to working with him and JFA yacht into the future on this purchase, and the next!

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James & Katy, Thank you for all that you have done to see us off on our dream. You’ve both been awesome!

James, you’re the best broker anywhere, you’ve gone above and beyond what any other broker should or would do. Thank you.

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Captain Z just recently helped us purchase our first sail boat. he kept the entire experience stress free! he is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic! the best is that after closing he has been right there helping us organize all of the equipment on board and even helped us move the boat to it’s new slip. he also graciously provided us…

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James Fachtmann is one of the few people you come across that has that rare combination of passion and expert knowledge focused solely on one thing. The yacht and marine industry. He continually keeps his knowledge base up to date whether its by visiting boat manufacturers, researching and writing articles in yacht trade magazines or just plain curiosity, he knows…

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I have recently purchased a Fountaine Pajot Saona 47 catamaran through James Fachtmann and was quite happy with the service and support he provided me throughout the process. James cares about the happiness of his customer not just in the near term but also for the long term and clearly feels he has an obligation to treat his customer ethically…

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I have recently had the pleasure of selling my yacht with the help of James Fachtmann. The service, enthusiasm and professionalism he demonstrated during the transaction was beyond my expectations and I would, in fact already have, recommended his services to some of my best friends. The ease of the selling process was in large part due to his diligence…

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Thank you for all that you have done to see us off on our dream. You’ve both been awesome! James, you’re the best broker anywhere, you’ve gone above and beyond what any other broker should or would do. Thank you. Cheers!

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Orcas Sink Another Boat Near Iberia, Worrying Sailors Before Summer

Two people were rescued on Sunday after orcas damaged their boat near the Strait of Gibraltar, where the animals have caused havoc in recent years.

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By Isabella Kwai

Summer is on the way, meaning that the orcas are out to play near the Strait of Gibraltar — which is bad news for sailors.

Two people were rescued on Sunday after an attack by a group of orcas caused enough damage to sink their boat, according to the Spanish maritime rescue service. It was the fifth such sinking in waters off the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa in recent years.

The Alboran Cognac, a sailing yacht about 50 feet long, was approached by the animals on Sunday morning, some 14 miles off Cape Spartel in Morocco, the rescue service said. Crew members onboard reported that the animals had slammed the hull, damaged the rudder and caused a leak.

A nearby oil tanker quickly maneuvered toward the boat and evacuated the two sailors, who were taken to Gibraltar, the rescue service said. The boat was left adrift, and the Moroccan authorities reported that it eventually sank.

It’s the first boat to sink in those waters this year after an orca-related mishap. A group of orcas that traverse the Strait of Gibraltar and nearby waters has plagued sailors and intrigued marine biologists , who are studying the population. Since 2020, orcas have disrupted dozens of sailing journeys in these high-traffic waters, in some cases slamming vessels hard enough to cause critical damage.

Last November, orcas slammed a yacht’s rudder for 45 minutes, causing its crew to abandon the vessel, which sank near the Tanger Med port.

The group is more likely to appear in the busy lanes around the Gulf of Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar between April and August, the Spanish government said in a news release, and sailors have spotted some of the orcas there in recent weeks.

Researchers do not know why the pod is targeting boats, but they have theorized that the behavior is a form of play for the curious apex predators. The interactions have become so frequent that they are now a multinational issue, involving scientists and officials from Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Online, anxious sailors have gathered to share advice on navigating “orca alley,” and biologists are tracking the orcas’ movements and testing methods that could deter them.

In the event of an orca encounter, the government advised in its release, boats should not stop but instead head toward shallower waters near the coast.

But the number of incidents may be declining: Researchers at the Atlantic Orca Working Group said on Monday that the number of orca interactions with boats between January and May had dropped some 40 percent, compared with that of similar periods in the past three years.

Isabella Kwai is a Times reporter based in London, covering breaking news and other trends. More about Isabella Kwai

Orcas sink sailing yacht in Strait of Gibraltar

An unknown number of orcas have sunk a sailing yacht after ramming it in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain’s maritime rescue service said on Monday, a new attack in what has become a trend in the past four years.

The vessel Alboran Cognac, which measured 15 metres (49 feet) in length and carried two people, encountered the highly social apex predators, also known as killer whales, at 9 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Sunday, the service said.

The passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder before water started seeping into the ship. After alerting the rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them onboard and transported them to Gibraltar.

The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The incident is the latest example of  recurring orca rammings  around the Gibraltar Strait that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and northwestern Spain.

Experts believe them to involve a subpopulation of about 15 individuals given the designation “Gladis.”

According to the research group GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region were first reported in May 2020.

Researchers are unsure about the causes for the behaviour, with leading theories including it being a playful manifestation of the mammals’ curiosity, a social fad or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors for their favourite prey, the local bluefin tuna.

Although known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to eight metres and weigh up to six tonnes as adults.

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80-foot yacht sinks off the coast of St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (WSVN) — A relaxing boat day turning dangerous after an 80-foot yacht sends an emergency alert to the coast guard. It happened early Sunday afternoon off the coast of St. Augustine.

Local police were the first to reach the boat and rescued the two people on board. The official cause of the sinking remains under investigation.

That boat is still underwater as recovery operations are being coordinated.

Copyright 2024 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bill Of The Month

He fell ill on a cruise. before he boarded the rescue boat, they handed him the bill.

Bram Sable-Smith

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On the last full day of a Bahamas excursion, Vincent Wasney had three epileptic seizures. While being evacuated, he received a bill for expenses incurred during the cruise. Kristen Norman for KFF Health News hide caption

On the last full day of a Bahamas excursion, Vincent Wasney had three epileptic seizures. While being evacuated, he received a bill for expenses incurred during the cruise.

Vincent Wasney and his fiancée, Sarah Eberlein, had never visited the ocean. They'd never even been on a plane. But when they bought their first home in Saginaw, Michigan, in 2018, their real estate agent gifted them tickets for a Royal Caribbean cruise.

After two years of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, they set sail in December 2022.

The couple chose a cruise destined for the Bahamas in part because it included a trip to CocoCay, a private island accessible to Royal Caribbean passengers that featured a water park, balloon rides, and an excursion swimming with pigs.

Bill of the Month is a crowdsourced investigation by KFF Health News and NPR that dissects and explains medical bills. Do you have an interesting medical bill you want to share with us? Tell us about it !

It was on that day on CocoCay when Wasney, 31, started feeling off, he said.

The next morning, as the couple made plans in their cabin for the last full day of the trip, Wasney made a pained noise. Eberlein saw him having a seizure in bed, with blood coming out of his mouth from biting his tongue. She opened their door to find help and happened upon another guest, who roused his wife, an emergency room physician.

Wasney was able to climb into a wheelchair brought by the ship's medical crew to take him down to the medical facility, where he was given anticonvulsants and fluids and monitored before being released.

Vincent had had seizures in the past, starting about ten years ago, but it had been a while since his last one. Imaging back then showed no tumors, and doctors concluded he was likely epileptic, he said. He took medicine initially, but after two years without another seizure, he said his doctors took him off the medicine to avoid liver damage.

Wasney had a second seizure on the ship a few hours later, back in his cabin. This time he stopped breathing, and Eberlein remembered his lips being so purple, they almost looked black. Again, she ran to find help but, in her haste, locked herself out. By the time the ship's medical team got into the cabin, Wasney was breathing again but had broken blood vessels along his chest and neck that he later said resembled tiger stripes.

Wasney was in the ship's medical center when he had a third seizure — a grand mal, which typically causes a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. By then, the ship was close enough to port that Wasney could be evacuated by rescue boat. He was put on a stretcher to be lowered by ropes off the side of the ship, with Eberlein climbing down a rope ladder to join him.

But before they disembarked, the bill came.

The patient: Vincent Wasney, 31, who was uninsured at the time.

Medical services: General and enhanced observation, a blood test, anticonvulsant medicine, and a fee for services performed outside the medical facility.

Service provider: Independence of the Seas Medical Center, the on-ship medical facility on the cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International .

Total bill: $2,500.22.

A mom's $97,000 question: How was an air-ambulance ride not medically necessary?

Shots - Health News

A mom's $97,000 question: how was an air-ambulance ride not medically necessary.

What gives: As part of Royal Caribbean's guest terms , cruise passengers "agree to pay in full" all expenses incurred on board by the end of the cruise, including those related to medical care. In addition, Royal Caribbean does not accept "land-based" health insurance plans.

Wasney said he was surprised to learn that, along with other charges like wireless internet, Royal Caribbean required he pay his medical bills before exiting the ship — even though he was being evacuated urgently.

"Are we being held hostage at this point?" Eberlein remembered asking. "Because, obviously, if he's had three seizures in 10 hours, it's an issue."

Wasney said he has little memory of being on the ship after his first seizure — seizures often leave victims groggy and disoriented for a few hours afterward.

But he certainly remembers being shown a bill, the bulk of which was the $2,500.22 in medical charges, while waiting for the rescue boat.

Still groggy, Wasney recalled saying he couldn't afford that and a cruise employee responding: "How much can you pay?"

They drained their bank accounts, including money saved for their next house payment, and maxed out Wasney's credit card but were still about $1,000 short, he said.

Ultimately, they were allowed to leave the ship. He later learned his card was overdrafted to cover the shortfall, he said.

Royal Caribbean International did not respond to multiple inquiries from KFF Health News.

Once on land, in Florida, Wasney was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, where he incurred thousands of dollars more in medical expenses.

He still isn't entirely sure what caused the seizures.

On the ship he was told it could have been extreme dehydration — and he said he does remember being extra thirsty on CocoCay. He also has mused whether trying escargot for the first time the night before could have played a role. Eberlein's mother is convinced the episode was connected to swimming with pigs, he said. And not to be discounted, Eberlein accidentally broke a pocket mirror three days before their trip.

Wasney, who works in a stone shop, was uninsured when they set sail. He said that one month before they embarked on their voyage, he finally felt he could afford the health plan offered through his employer and signed up, but the plan didn't start until January 2023, after their return.

They also lacked travel insurance. As inexperienced travelers, Wasney said, they thought it was for lost luggage and canceled trips, not unexpected medical expenses. And because the cruise was a gift, they were never prompted to buy coverage, which often happens when tickets are purchased.

When a quick telehealth visit yields multiple surprises beyond a big bill

When a quick telehealth visit yields multiple surprises beyond a big bill

The resolution: Wasney said the couple returned to Saginaw with essentially no money in their bank account, several thousand dollars of medical debt, and no idea how they would cover their mortgage payment. Because he was uninsured at the time of the cruise, Wasney did not try to collect reimbursement for the cruise bill from his new health plan when his coverage began weeks later.

The couple set up payment plans to cover the medical bills for Wasney's care after leaving the ship: one each with two doctors he saw at Broward Health, who billed separately from the hospital, and one with the ambulance company. He also made payments on a bill with Broward Health itself. Those plans do not charge interest.

But Broward Health said Wasney missed two payments to the hospital, and that bill was ultimately sent to collections.

In a statement, Broward Health spokesperson Nina Levine said Wasney's bill was reduced by 73% because he was uninsured.

"We do everything in our power to provide the best care with the least financial impact, but also cannot stress enough the importance of taking advantage of private and Affordable Care Act health insurance plans, as well as travel insurance, to lower risks associated with unplanned medical issues," she said.

The couple was able to make their house payment with $2,690 they raised through a GoFundMe campaign that Wasney set up. Wasney said a lot of that help came from family as well as friends he met playing disc golf, a sport he picked up during the pandemic.

"A bunch of people came through for us," Wasney said, still moved to tears by the generosity. "But there's still the hospital bill."

The takeaway: Billing practices differ by cruise line, but Joe Scott , chair of the cruise ship medicine section of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said medical charges are typically added to a cruise passenger's onboard account, which must be paid before leaving the ship. Individuals can then submit receipts to their insurers for possible reimbursement.

He recommended that those planning to take a cruise purchase travel insurance that specifically covers their trips. "This will facilitate reimbursement if they do incur charges and potentially cover a costly medical evacuation if needed," Scott said.

Royal Caribbean suggests that passengers who receive onboard care submit their paid bills to their health insurer for possible reimbursement. Many health plans do not cover medical services received on cruise ships, however. Medicare will sometimes cover medically necessary health care services on cruise ships, but not if the ship is more than six hours away from a U.S. port.

Travel insurance can be designed to address lots of out-of-town mishaps, like lost baggage or even transportation and lodging for a loved one to visit if a traveler is hospitalized.

Travel medical insurance, as well as plans that offer "emergency evacuation and repatriation," are two types that can specifically assist with medical emergencies. Such plans can be purchased individually. Credit cards may offer travel medical insurance among their benefits, as well.

But travel insurance plans come with limitations. For instance, they may not cover care associated with preexisting conditions or what the plans consider "risky" activities, such as rock climbing. Some plans also require that travelers file first with their primary health insurance before seeking reimbursement from travel insurance.

As with other insurance, be sure to read the fine print and understand how reimbursement works.

Wasney said that's what they plan to do before their next Royal Caribbean cruise. They'd like to go back to the Bahamas on basically the same trip, he said — there's a lot about CocoCay they didn't get to explore.

Emmarie Huetteman of KFF Health News edited the digital story, and Taunya English of KFF Health News edited the audio story. NPR's Will Stone edited the audio and digital story.

KFF Health News , formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.

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  • broward health
  • travel insurance
  • cruise ship
  • royal caribbean

Carnival cruise ship rescues 25 people stranded off the coast of Mexico

yacht as in ship

A Carnival Cruise Line ship responded to a call from the U.S. Coast Guard and rescued 25 people stranded in a small boat off the coast of Mexico, the company announced Saturday.

The 2,984-passenger Carnival Radiance had left Long Beach, California, on Friday and was heading toward Ensenada Mexico for a three-day sailing when the cruise ship's officers were informed by the Coast Guard "about a distress call involving a small vessel," a news release said.

The ship immediately routed toward the location of the vessel, provided by the USCG, and "quickly" rescued all 25 people on board, including three children, the company said.

The U.S. Coast Guard did not immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.

The rescued group was welcomed onto the cruise ship and given food, water, and medical assistance. Carnival coordinated with the Coast Guard to hand off the group.

Learn more: Best travel insurance

The incident did not disrupt the Carnival Radiance's schedule, the company announced.

A roller coaster in the ocean: What Carnival Cruise Line's BOLT ride is like

Another Carnival ship rescued a group of 28 Cuban nationals stuck at sea as it was sailing the Caribbean and saw people signaling for help in late April. The cruise ship was headed from Tampa, Florida, to Roatan in Honduras at the time. Also last month, a Celebrity Cruises ship sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to multiple destinations in the Caribbean rescued a small vessel adrift between Mexico and Cuba.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected]

yacht as in ship

Passenger dies after jumping off world’s largest cruise ship as it sets sail from Florida

A passenger has died after jumping overboard from the world ’s largest cruise ship after it set sail from Florida .

The male passenger, who has not been identified, reportedly jumped, according to the New York Post , from the 20-deck high Icon of the Seas after it left a Florida port on Sunday to embark on a seven-day cruise around the Caribbean , first stopping in Honduras.

The Coast Guard , who said they did not have much involvement in the incident beyond assisting in the search for the man, told the New York Post that “the cruise ship deployed one of their rescue boats, located the man, and brought him back aboard”.

The man has since been “pronounced deceased,” the Coast Guard added.

The world’s largest cruise experience was approximately 300 miles away from PortMiami, and around 30 to 40 miles north of Santa Lucia, Cuba, at the time of the incident, which occurred in the morning, according to Cruise Hive.

The Royal Caribbean, which operates the Icon of the Seas along with other groundbreakingly large cruise ships, told the outlet in a statement that their ship’s crew immediately notified the Coast Guard in the US and “launched a search and rescue operation”.

“Our care team is actively providing support and assistance to the guest’s loved ones during this difficult time,” the cruise company added. “For the privacy of the guest and their family, we have no additional details to share.“

The ship, which holds way over 5,000 guests and only made its maiden voyage in January of this year, had embarked on the cruise on Saturday, but after the incident on Sunday, the cruise halted and stayed put for around two hours while the search continued, the outlet said.

According to CruiseMapper tracking data, the Icon of the Seas is due to reach the port of Costa Maya, Mexico by noon on Tuesday.

The incident comes over a month after a similar tragedy on another Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Liberty of the Seas when a 20-year-old man identified as Levion Parker is thought to have gone overboard during a trip around the Bahamas.

The cruise line immediately launched a search and rescue mission along with the US Coast Guard, but it was suspended after five days due to not being able to find him.

However, the cruise company has also witnessed some successful rescues in recent months, such as being able to recover a passenger who fell overboard from the Symphony of the Seas back in October.

The cruise, which had just left Barcelona at the time, said the guest was successfully brought back on board after falling shortly after it left the port.

The Independent has contacted Royal Caribbean for comment.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

The Independent is the world’s most free-thinking news brand, providing global news, commentary and analysis for the independently-minded. We have grown a huge, global readership of independently minded individuals, who value our trusted voice and commitment to positive change. Our mission, making change happen, has never been as important as it is today.

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