is a vehicle
, vessel or craft
designed to move across (or through) water
, including saltwater and freshwater, for pleasure, recreation, physical exercise, commerce
and military missions. It is derived from the term "craft
" which was used as term to describe all types of water going vessels. (The term craft has since been expanded to include all types of vessels which travel on water (watercraft), in air (aircraft) and in space (spacecraft).)
Most watercraft would be described as either a ship or a boat. However, there are a number of craft which many people would consider neither a ship nor a boat, such as: canoes, kayaks, rafts, barges, catamarans, hydrofoils, windsurfers, surfboards (when used as a paddle board), jet skis, underwater robots, and torpedoes.
Although ships are typically larger than boats, the distinction between those two categories is not one of size per se.
- Ships typically are large ocean-going vessels. Boats are smaller and travel most often on inland or coastal waters.
- A rule of thumb says "a boat can fit on a ship, but a ship can't fit on a boat", and a ship usually has sufficient size to carry its own boats, such as lifeboats, dinghies, or runabouts.
- Local law and regulation may define the exact size (or the number of masts) that distinguishes a ship from a boat.
- Traditionally submarines were called "boats", perhaps reflecting their cramped conditions: small size reduces the need for power, and thus the need to surface or snorkel for a supply of the air that running diesel engines requires; in contrast, nuclear-powered submarines' reactors supply abundant power without consuming air, and such craft are large, much roomier, and classed as ships.
- A ship is any floating craft that transports cargo for the purpose of earning revenue; in that context, a passenger ship's "cargo" is its passengers. However, neither fishing boats nor ferries are considered ships, though both carry cargo (their catch of the day or passengers) and ferries carry lifeboats.
The term "watercraft" (unlike such terms as aircraft or spacecraft) is rarely used to describe any specific individual object: Rather the term serves to unify the category that ranges from jet skis to Aircraft carriers.
Examples of watercraft