Boating, Yachting, and Sailing: Is There a Difference?

Wondering what the difference between boating, yachting, and sailing is? In this article, we are going to break down each of these terms in-depth and share different examples of each.

So, is there a difference between boating, yachting, and sailing?  Yes.  Boating is a general term that refers to using a boat on the water. There are many kinds of boats, such as sailboats, which can be used for sailing and yachts, which can be used for fishing, living in, and boating.

So, while yachting and sailing are examples of boating, boating is not an example of yachting or sailing.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between boating, yachting, and sailing.

What is a Boat?

A boat is a watercraft that comes in a large range of different types and sizes. A boat is defined to be a watercraft that is small enough to fit on a ship, which is usually no more than 1,000 feet long. A ship is a boat with a large size and carrying capacity that can carry other boats.

The size, shape, and capacity of a boat vary depending on what exactly the boat is being used for. Most often, boats are used for navigating areas near shore or inland waterways such as lakes and rivers, but they can be used on any water source.

Boats can be used for providing service to people and watercraft out on the water, recreational purposes, and commercial transportation of passengers and cargo across short distances.

Different Types of Boats

While hundreds of specific types of boats exist, the most popular types of boats are:

Bowriders: best for families; seats 8+ people

Cruisers: versatile, good for long trips

Fishing Boats: built for fishing in either saltwater or freshwater

Runabouts: controlled by a steering wheel; perfect for casual sports and recreational boating activities

Sailboats: boats powered by sail

Jet Boats: high maneuverability; very fast

Pontoon Boats: popular for inland and other small bodies of water; great stability

Watersport Boats: high speed and maneuverability for wakeboarding, tubing, and water skiing

Yachts: most luxurious, great for parties or long trips

Each of these types of boats – along with many others – are designed to serve a specific purpose. Most often, these are recreational purposes such as leisure, fishing, or speed boating across open waters.

Boats are usually powered by either sail (sailboats), oars, or engines. From a simple wooden dinghy powered by rowing with oars to a luxurious high-output engine-powered yacht, there are boats for any kind of occasion.

What is Boating?

Boating is defined as the act of traveling on water in a boat for recreational purposes. Since there are so many different types of boats, there are different kinds of boating correlated with each type of boat. For example, you can go boating on a sailboat – which is sailboating – or go boating on a yacht – which is yachting. If you are out having fun on the water in a watercraft that isn’t a ship, you are boating.

What is a Yacht?

What is a Yacht?

A yacht is defined to be a watercraft used for recreational purposes, most often pleasure and leisure. Yachts are considered to be one of the more luxurious, high-end types of boats available on the market. Some features of a yacht that distinguish it from other kinds of boats are its size (33 ft. and longer) and aesthetics. Yachts are usually going to have:

● A sharp prow

● Graceful lines

● Quality varnish that gleams from ~50 ft. away

● Shiny hull: no chalky gelcoat

● Neatly coiled lines

● Shiny hardware

● Properly flow burgees

● Jaunty ensign angles

● Varnished trim in the cabin

● Galley with comfortable bunks and an enclosed head

Another difference worth considering between yachts and other boats is that in addition to their premium aesthetics and features, yachts often have more navigational equipment meant for use for longer-range trips. This makes yachts and their insurance more expensive and comprehensive than other boats.

Different Types of Yachts

The different types of yachts are determined by their size, engine style, and specific uses. A yacht up to 100 ft. long is considered a yacht, while a yacht over 100 ft. long is considered a mega-yacht or superyacht. Yachts and mega-yachts are powered by either sail or engines.

Yachts powered by a motor in an engine are usually the most popular choice for large groups or families due to them having more space and stability. Sailing yachts come with all of the same levels of luxury as motor yachts and are best for those who enjoy traveling under sail. From there, it comes down to choosing between hull types (mono or multi) and choosing a style that will deliver the exact kind of performance you are looking for.

Some of the most popular types of yachts include:

Sailing yachts: traditional sailing experience

Explorer/Expedition yachts: built for long voyages

Motor yachts: most popular choice for parties

Classic yachts: older yachts; often handcrafted with wood

Fishing yachts: best for fishing

Gulet yachts: high stability and sturdiness; good for sailing

Catamaran yachts: contains more than one hull; luxurious

Cruisers: best for recreational trips; highly versatile

Hybrid yachts: powered by hybrid propulsion systems: a combination of electric battery and engine power. Can switch between electric, diesel/electric, and full diesel mode.

Open yachts/Sports cruisers: fast and sporty

What is Yachting?

Yachting is the act of either racing, cruising, navigating, or riding on the water in a yacht, which we defined above. This will most often be for recreational purposes such as leisure or pleasure. Basically, if you are out on the water in a yacht, you are yachting.

What is a Sailboat?

A sailboat is a specific kind of boat that incorporates a sail in its design. Sailboats can move across water due to the wind applying a force to the large sail that propels the entire boat forward. A sailboat is most often distinguished by its large mast with a triangular-shaped sail attached and minimalist design.

Sailboats differ from yachts in that yachts are often larger, have more features, and can be powered by an engine.

Different Types of Sailboats

Here are some of the most common types of sailboats and their uses:

Beach catamarans: 14-20 ft. long, fast, agility is required

Cruising catamarans: 25-50 ft. long, accommodation for extended cruising

Cruising sailboats: 16-50+ ft. long, cabins for extended cruising; often seen in fleets for group cruising

Daysailers: 14-20 ft. long, meant for day sailing, seat up to 4 passengers, great for beginners

Motorsailers: 35 ft.+, powered with inboard engines for long cruises, trade speed for luxury due to the added weight of the engine, gas, and water tanks

Racer-Cruisers: 25 ft.+, hybrid cruising boat built for both overnight cruising and competitive racing

Racing sailboats: 20-70ft.+, fasted ride possible for racing

Sailing dinghies: under 15 ft. long, room for one or two people, will be a wet ride.

What is Sailing?

Sailing is the act of navigating a sailboat that is being propelled forward by the wind, which applies a force to its sail. There are two types of sailing: cruising and racing.

Since sailing is most often done as a recreational activity, cruising is more common than racing. Cruising is simply gliding on the water with your sailboat, while racing (such as in the Olympics) is more competitive and is done by expert sailors.

Sailing isn’t the easiest task, but the basics can be learned within a few days if you are taught properly and in proper conditions such as calm water and gentle winds.


I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

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