Vessel-\ Types | Part Names | Hull Shapes | Navigation | Stationary /
\ Propulsion | Hydrodynamics | Rigging | Foils | Sailing /
Anything that floats and has enough space to board, can be considered a vessel. Any object that displaces more mass of water then the mass of the object will float. Any object with some grandeur and a captain to confirm it, can be considered a ship.1
The vessels are mentined roughly historical, only broad classes of vessels are mentioned
A raft is a vessel where the buoyancy is generated by floating of an object or several objects connected. The objects may be tree trunks, bamboo, bundles of grass or reed, barrels, bottles, chunks of foam or a combination of any of those. A surfboard is a raft .
- Reed boats
Reed boats are one step beyond a raft in that they are made more or less watertight. They are made of bundles of reeds tight together with woven strains and using clay, tar or resin on the outside to waterproof. The shape of a reed boat tends to be that of the bundles, wide at the bottom or stern and narrow to the bow. Often the bow is bend up to ride over the waves.
- Dugout log
A hollowed out log becomes a most often unstable vessel. The basic outline shape of a tree is round and as soon as you board, your center of gravity will tend to tip over the log. Using a second log fixed as outrigger at some distance from the main log, you stabilyse the construction from tipping. The spars used for the outrigger or ama must be fixed securely to the main log as all the tipping forces work on them.
Round bowl shaped ancient vessel most often used in moderate water conditions such as for fishing near the coast. Traditionally made of woven grass or reeds, watertight covered with tar or natural resin. If local available, they are also made with a wooden frame covered by animal skin. There is some resemblance with an upside down umbrella.
A canoe has more or less the shape of the dugout log, long and narrow. The bottom is more rounded flat and the bow and stern are sharp and rising so it does not plough through the water but slides through it. The canoe can be made from a wooden lattice structure covered with birch tree bark or animal skin. Modern canoes are often made with composite epoxy and fibers or aluminium shell. The near flat and wide bottom and relative low boards make them stable. Kayaks are closed on top, just an opening above the seat is available to enter your legs. Kayaks are about the only vessels known to be made of plastic, the elasticity is defunct for most other vessels.
A skiff is a clinker build canoe like vessel. Many wooden boats are clinker build, that is the hull consists of overlapping planks. The build is started by laying a keel, then the ribs are attached perpendicular to the keel. The hull is formed by attaching overlapping planks from the keel op to the board. These skiffs are the wide sea fearing drakkars of the vikings and the roman triremes as well as the olympic class rowers.
Inflatables are to be considered a class of vessels apart. The balloons float on top of the water and the mass of the vessel is nearly neglectable. Most are made of several long tubes. The tubes touching eachother create a banana boat. Others have a tarp or hard shell as floor underneath, connecting the tubes. Several rubber attachment loops and or seats can be glued to the tubes. The tubes may form a bathtub shape or only a U-shape with in the stern a stiff structure, the transom, to attach an outboard engine. The tubes can have several chambers to prevent total collapse on a single leak.
A dinghy is an extra, most often it is carried on or dragged behind a larger vessel to ease boarding and disambarking when no port facilities are available. They may have a life of their own as fishing boats or sailing dinghy. There is no defined shape or material. They may be just a rounded box of plywood. While others are fast and light and made of state of the art composite materials. Many are robust and made of aluminium or even steel. Most have build in buoyancy to double function as emergency escape boats. This buoyancy comes from a honey comb structure in the shell or dedicated cavities.
A yacht was originally a pirate hunting navy vessel. Later it became an officer transportation device. The officers required a cabin and a bunk as well as a galley and a refreshment room. The yacht became a more luxurious small vessel. Most motor2 yachts have a V-shaped bottom where sailing yachts will have an S-shaped bottom.
- Multi hull
A vessel does not have to be limited to one hull, there are catamarans with two hulls, like the island ferries. These will use a lot of engine power to plane out of the water and create a relative stable platform for passengers. Multi hulls really have good advantages when used for sailing. A proa has one large hull, the vaka for flotation and a small outrigger, the ama for stability. A catamaran has two hulls also called vakas of the same size. A trimaran has one large hull for flotation and two smaller for stability and against making leeway.
- No hull
No matter how you describe these, it will always be wrong. These vessels do have a hull for flotation and will use it when stationary. The fun part begins when they fire up their propulsion. The hovercraft 'floats' on a cushion of air when sailing. A hydrofoil stands on its foils, these are winglike structures just on or under water. Sinkers3 and kite boards are the ultimate hydrofoils. The question remains if they can be considered vessels. The catamarans of the last Americas Cup are hydrofoiling vessels for sure, they use J-shaped daggerboards, and T-Shaped rudder blades as lifting foils. Also dinghies like the moth use hydrofoils.
Great was my disappointment to see the 'hydrofoil'-ferry was not a hydrofoil at all, it was 'just' a planing catamaran.
A Barge is a bathtub shaped construction, it usually has a flat bottom, vertical sides and no real distinguishable fore and aft. Propulsion is an option and mostly provided externally. There is some resemblance with a container as the structure is only to support the cargo, not much more. The flat and wide bottom gives this shape its stability. The centre of the mass of the cargo should stay below the centre of the volume. A pontoon is a barge with a sealed top. An ark or a floating house can also be considered a barge. Most famous under the barges are the lifting cranes, these pontoon build structures may have cranes towering over a hundred metres.
A boat is a barge with dedicated propulsion and space for some crew. This still can be a very bare construction though there will be a bow up front and the propulsion most often in the stern. Also the rudder will often be visible at the stern. Modern freighter vessels are either for bulk cargo, think of sand or ore, or dedicated for container transport. Containers are loaded with a cargo crane, a crane extending over the kay and over the ship.
Then we have the oil and gas tankers, dedicated car or ship transporters and ofcourse ferries. Oil and gas tankers do not only have dedicated and seperate cargo holds, they also have multiple hull structures. If the outer hull gets damaged the cargo is still contained. Car transporters are called roros as short for roll on roll off, loading goes in a perfectly orchestrated traffic line. Many drivers just drive one car at the time on or off the vessel using a lifting drive ramp. Ship transporters have another fancy trick; they submerge under their cargo, once positioned, they then emerge with the load on deck. Ferries are most often a oneway parking lot, you drive on on one side and off on the other side.
Cruise ships, these are the floating palaces of the seas. Thousands of passengers have luxuruory cabins. Most have several onboard swimming pools, dozens of restaurants and bars, theaters, workout areas and the famous sundecks4. There is no doubt of what is front as a majestic sharp bow shows the name of the ship in goldplated artistic letters. Often provided with retractable adjustable bilge fins compensating the tinyest wave, keeping the vessel from any rolling pitching or jawning. Huge pipes tower high above the superstructure, only one is used for exhaust of the engines, the others are for the airconditioning or even just for show.
Aircraft carriers are navy vessels and very distinct as they have a huge flat deck and not very elegant shape. On the deck you find on one side the control tower and wheelhouse, topped with a forest of antennas. The aircraft are shuttled off using a steam piston construction and a ramp. Huge elevators are used to transport the aircraft to and from the deck.
Submarines are mainly all navy vessels and they have the disadvantage they use to travel halfway or completely submerged. Using ballast tanks and an relative small displacement volume they manage to balance their decent before they hit the bottom. Submarines do have only one type of propulsion, they all use propellers.