People have been taking to the water for fun since the heyday of Ancient Egypt. The Anglo-Saxon aristocracy took to the waves on ‘pleg-scips’ – early yachts built purely for recreational purposes. Some innate love and respect for the water helps draw humankind into the brine, where we commune with nature, learn new skills, and get away from the stresses of modern-day life. Boating for pleasure is a plural activity. People take part in watersports, fishing or just relax on the water. Here are some of the most popular kinds of recreational boats in use today.
Racing dinghies are small sailing boats with no accommodation. They are immensely fun to sail in and are often the first boat a future skipper has the chance to take charge of. Racing dinghies’ small size means that the human body plays a huge part in the balance and speed of the craft – meaning that there is a satisfying and tangible connection between the sailor and the boat. Learning to sail a racing dinghy helps to develop the essential skills needed to be a competent skipper on larger vessels. Basic knot skills, docking skills, and the ability to set sail are all nurtured on a racing dinghy.
Inflatable ribs are perfect for the thrill-seeking skipper that wants to experience high speed at a low cost. Instead of a solid hull, inflatable ribs have air-filled sections of material that act as a rigid surface. This makes for an immensely light craft that sits rather high on the water: perfect for attaining high speeds using minimal power. As well as being a pleasure craft, inflatable ribs are often used as rapid response boats for lifeguard services and military organizations. Inflatable ribs are a great choice for skippers that want to be able to load their boat onto a normal-sized trailer to take home after a day on the water.
Bowriders are some of the most popular pleasure crafts around. This is thanks largely to their extreme versatility. They are small, comfortable, and more than often fast little boats that can be perfect for day cruising, sports fishing, and water skiing. They are not recommended for long oceanic journeys but ideally suit the skipper who wants to put their boat on a trailer and drive home to sleep in their own bed at the end of a long day on the water. If you ask any skipper what their first motorboat was, they will almost always tell you it was a bowrider. Bowriders can be powered by inboard or outboard motors. Outboard motors have the advantage of being very easy to maintain.
Pontoon boats are inevitably connected to the American tradition of spending a Summer’s day on the lake. These pleasure crafts are usually relatively small and float on aluminum ‘logs’ as opposed to traditional hulls. They might be pleasure craft, but you’ll still need some boating skills to safely captain such a vessel. If you live in Maryland, you could do a great deal worse than taking a quick MD online boating safety course before you try and hire out a pontoon boat. If you are unqualified, you may be refused a boat by the hiring company. Seaside cities like Maryland have a longstanding culture of pleasure boating during the warmer months.
A yacht is a medium-sized boat typically equipped for cruising or racing. For years, yachts have been associated with opulent luxury. Monarchs around the world still often maintain royal yachts – partially for the prestige that they imply. They often include relatively spacious living quarters and can sustain a family on a holiday cruise lasting up to a few weeks. The first modern yachts were built in the 17th Century for European aristocrats. Although traditionally yachts were sailing vessels, steam-powered examples began to see popularity with the super-rich in the early 20th Century. Today, the largest yachts in the world are diesel-powered and resemble vast cruise ships containing swimming pools, dining rooms, and crew accommodation.
Jet Skis – more correctly known as Personal Watercraft – are small, nippy little pleasure craft typically designed for thrill-seeking. They first emerged in the 1950s and were developed in the United Kingdom and Germany. These crafts were rather slow and fragile but found some moderate success. The Japanese engineering firm Kawasaki coined the term ‘Jet Ski’ in the 1970s to promote their new range of extremely fast Personal Watercraft. Japanese manufacturers Kawasaki and Yamaha dominate the PWC market. There is a healthy racing scene centered around Jet Skis, although commercial models are now limited to 65 miles per hour for safety reasons. Jet Skis have the advantage of being small enough to pull on a very modest trailer without a powerful car.