Introduction To Different Types Of Yachts

We have discussed the differences between cruise ships and their older counterparts, ocean liners in one of our previous articles. We have also learned about the various types of cruise ships.

In this article, we shall discuss the types of yachts.

To begin with, what are yachts? Yachts are those small to average-sized vessels used for pleasure, vacation, or sports activities like racing. The most distinct feature that distinguishes yachts from any other boat or vessel is their aesthetics.

Yachts are attractive and sleek in appearance, have narrow and streamlined beams, and are often pleasing to the eye. However, size is also another important parameter taken into consideration.

As per classification rules, a vessel dedicated for the aforesaid purposes is deemed to be a yacht only when it is over a certain length of at least 10 meters or 33 feet.

Though sizes of yachts can be as large as more than 70-80 meters, they are rarely 100 meters or more. Larger vessels of such extents come under the purview of cruisers or passenger ferries as discussed before. A handful of exceptions exist.

The private megayacht Azzam, having a length of 180 meters, is the longest existing motor vessel in the world to be classified as a yacht.


Types of Yachts 

By Size

Based on length and size, yachts can be classified into the following categories:

Megayachts: These are the largest of their kind. Most yachts under this category have lengths of over 50 meters. They are used for leisure or recreational purposes and are suitable for large families or groups. Most of such yachts are owned and operated by organizations similar to cruise lines but private ownership also exists. These vessels have dedicated crew to cater for the services of passengers. In terms of facilities and amenities, they are very much close to luxury cruisers and are often replete with everything from swimming pools to pubs, cafeterias to movie halls, gyms to restaurants, suite rooms to conference banquets. Of course, provisions of all these depend on the size of the vessel.

Superyachts: These are lesser in size than the former. Their average length ranges from 30-50 meters. They also have appealing features like Jacuzzis, sky lounges, dining rooms, and bars. Superyachts can be both motor-driven or have sails (shall discuss more on this later). They also are often served by professional crew members. Both superyachts and megayachts are also called offshore yachts for their ability to tread deeper waters.

Medium-sized luxury yachts: With lengths ranging from 20-30 meters, they are suitable for large families or tourist groups. They may have a small number of dedicated crew members. Though not having many amenities like their larger counterparts, they offer a significant degree of comfort and luxury. They operate near the shore or in rivers.

Smaller Yachts: These vessels range between 10 meters to 18 or 20 meters. Most of such vessels are privately owned and are used for purposes such as leisure or water sports. They can be both motor or sail-driven or a combination of both. They have the main deck and living quarters comprising of at most 2 or 3 rooms below it. These yachts may have a small promenade deck or a flybridge. These yachts are compact, streamlined, and aesthetically attractive. Such yachts have limitations for venturing beyond a certain limit of the sea or river.

By propulsion

Sailboats: Like most other ships, yachts have evolved from having prominent sails for plying in the waters by the virtue of wind forces to having motorized propulsions. Unlike cruisers and ferries which became popular at a much later date during the 17th or 18th centuries, yachts or the concept of pleasure boats saw their advent as early as the Pharaonic Egyptian era.

For several centuries, these pleasure boats were characterized by different forms and sizes of sails. The areas of the sails depended on the size of the vessel, of course, and were primarily composed of natural materials such as flax or cotton fibers.

However, with the introduction of synthetics, sails made of polyester or nylon became increasingly popular and have continued to be used to date. Sail yachts are of numerous types, most of their designs derived from traditional variants of monohull sailboats like sloop, catboats, cutter, ketch, or schooner.

These vessels can be single sail-single mast (like catboats), double sail-single mast (sloop), or other versions of multiple sails-multiple masts (like ketches or schooners). Though almost all modern yachts employ mechanized propulsion, many still feature sails simply for aesthetics (see gullet yachts below).

Figure 1: Typical Configuration of a single mast sailboat

Motor Yachts: After the Industrial revolution, yachts, in tandem with other vessels, incorporated engines for their propulsion. Coal-fired steam engines used both fire-tube and water-tube boilers. Over the years, steam engines became superseded by modern fuel-powered combustion engines. Yachts feature both four-stroke gasoline engines, especially for smaller and high-speed designs, as well as two-stroke diesel engines, for larger designs. Yachts may use single or twin-screw propellers of 3-blade, 4-blade, 5-blade, or even 6-blade propellers based on the requirements.

Gulet Yachts: They are a hybrid of the above types and employ both sails and engines for propulsion. As mentioned above, often the sails, even when no longer required, are kept for aesthetic appearance.

Based on Hull Design

Monohull: Commonly, yachts are of monohull configuration. Such hulls can be either of displacement or planing type. For displacement-type hulls, the buoyancy is created by the displacement and such vessels have average speeds not exceeding a certain limit.

Planing hulls, as we know, are meant for high-speed crafts where a substantial portion of the hull weights at high speeds are supported by the component of hydrodynamic lift as opposed to the hydrostatic lift from buoyancy. These vessels have very low wetted surface area during high speeds (and thus less frictional resistance) and the forward portion of the hull mainly stays above the waterline.

During rest or low speeds, once again, they are supported by buoyant forces. Yachts with planing-type hulls are quite small in size and are primarily meant for pleasure or water sports activities. Some designs combine both the elements of planing and displacement characteristics forming semi-displacement hulls.

Multihull: Yachts can also be multi-hull configurations, i.e., catamaran (two hulls) or trimaran (three hulls) types. Catamaran designs are chiefly characterized by two slender hull structures joined by the extension of the bridge deck or a large crossbeam. These vessels are highly stable and seaworthy.

Trimarans have a central hull and are further connected to a pair of hulls on either side by beams, superstructures, or decks. Multihull yachts mainly rely on their inherent stability and are not very fast like planning crafts. As expected, they are very expensive in construction. They are mainly composed of fibreglass and other composites.

Figure 2: Planing Crafts


Double Hull
Figure 3: Double-Hull Configuration

Based on Purpose

Cruiser Yachts: They are conventional yachts of varying sizes meant for passenger pleasure and vacationing. These vessels are permitted for long-distance travel up to moderate depths of the ocean. They are mainly of displacement type. Luxury yachts often come under this category.

Fishing Yachts: These yachts are chiefly built for fishing purposes as a recreational activity. These yachts have space for ample fishing equipment and gear and are characterized by open decks favourable for fishing as well as hauling up the catch. These vessels are permitted to venture into areas having the best chances of fishing but are barred from deeper depths of the seas.

Trawler Yachts: Their purpose is similar to a conventional fishing vessel designated for mass-scale commercial fishing. However, unlike the bland design of trawlers, these vessels imbibe some degree of aesthetics familiar to a yacht.

Sports Cruisers: These cruisers are meant for recreational or sports activities and short fast trips. Such vessels are mostly characterized by either planning or semi-displacement hulls. They are relatively smaller in size and thus accommodation spaces are limited. Such vessels have a stylish and sleek-appearing flybridge and an open deck for a better experience. Such vessels reach speeds from 30 knots to 50 knots. Sports yachts are also often deployed for racing purposes. They are sometimes also known as open yachts. For those willing to indulge in a bout of adrenaline rush like in sports cars, these yachts are the apt choice!

Sport Fishers: These vessels combine both the purposes of luxury as well as fishing. Like fishing yachts, they are equipped with fishing gear as well as have features for ample passenger comfort and amenities. They often have semi-displacement or planing configurations. During fishing activities, they are idle or operate at low speeds and during pleasure, they may be operated at high speeds. Though generally not very big in size, larger vessels with sizes around 30 meters exist.

Expedition Yachts: For those having an appetite for some real adventure or exploration, these yachts are just the right ones. They are designed for longer voyages and often receive permits for long-distance trips, often to uncharted and remote locations. Since adventure or exploration groups involve quite a number of people and unpredictable sea states, these vessels are significantly large in size. They are strict of displacement hulls, often strengthened to suit various types of conditions likely to be encountered. For those vessels venturing into icy waters, the hulls are designed and constructed based on Ice-Class regulations. From coral reefs to the wilds of the Pacific, such vessels are capable of literally traversing anywhere! Modern competent designs incorporate all elements of passenger comfort, luxury, amenities, power, endurance, strength.

Classic Yachts: Some still have a taste for vintage times. Classic yachts are the older restored and retrofitted vessels or newly built ones designed in a way similar to yachts built in the yesteryears. The hull is as per the older variants and often has sails. They are strictly for shallow water and near-shore leisure for those seeking a touch of royalty and the glorious past. These are mainly owned by vintage collectors or connoisseurs.

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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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About Author

Subhodeep is a Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering graduate. Interested in the intricacies of marine structures and goal-based design aspects, he is dedicated to sharing and propagation of common technical knowledge within this sector, which, at this very moment, requires a turnabout to flourish back to its old glory.

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