Definition of a Yacht

Though far from an expert on naval information, I have always considered myself relatively knowledgeable when it comes to sailing vessels. Recently, however, I got into a rather intense debate about the classification of sea vessels. I used to think that a yacht was a classification based upon size but after debating with a friend and then refrencing the dictionary, Miriam Websters, simply defined it as “any of various recreational watercraft.” Does anyone know if yacht is also a classification, or did I just make this up? Does the Coast Guard classify marine vessels based on size?

Yachts are big and expensive. Yeah, relative terms suck.


Yachts are big and expensive relative to other personal watercraft.

AFAIK, “Yacht” is not a precisely defined term (as opposed to something like a schooner). As a matter of fact, our Yacht Club when I was growing up, only had Sunfish, which are just big enough to seat three (if they’re small).

It’s usually meant to refer to a large, privately owned boat.

Aren’t yachts always ocean-faring craft (even if they never leave the marina)?

I have always been under the impression that a Yacht is a vessel that has one or more state rooms and a seperate compartment for the head (toilet)

The definition of ‘yacht’ varies greatly. As far as I know, there is no official classification of ‘yacht’ used by the Coast Guard which would indicate a particular sized vessel. Vessels are classified by their usage and/or size for regulatory purposes, and those classifications will vary depending on what regulations you’re talking about.

The actual names of the classification are often just the vessel size in length, gross tonnage, or by what subchapter of the regulations apply to them. For example, a “T-Boat” refers to a vessel <100GT that is certificated to carry no more than 150 passengers for hire, because subchapter “T” in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations is the subchapter that covers those types of vessels. A private yacht would pretty just be classified as a US or foreign recreational vessel. Unless it holds SOLAS documents, then it starts to gets really sticky.

As others have said, the generally accepted meaning of “yacht” is a boat that is used exclusively for private purposes. That means ferries, freighters, tugboats, etc. are not yachts. It also means small boats, large boats and medium boats can all be yachts, as long as they’re private vessels.

The US Coast Guard does classify vessels based on size but that’s something different; the sizes are based on a combination of size and capability factors and can be fairly complicated. These classifications are intended to determine tariffs and documentation fees, as well as to allow for the specific licensing of Masters (captains). For example, my husband holds a 50-ton masters license issued by the Coast Guard. He may legally captain any vessel classified as 50-ton or smaller.

Now, the above notwithstanding, I’ve heard a lot of boats called yachts that do not strictly meet the definition of a vessel used for private purposes. For instance, it’s common to hear of “charter yachts” - these boats are owned by a company and rented out to individuals.

Part of the reason for the casual application of the term, I believe, depends on how snooty the speaker/writer wants to be. I personally call my boat a boat; if I were to say “yacht” I’d get people giving me the ol’ hairy eyeball and wanting to know if I were meeting Biffy and Tad for drinkie-poos at the yacht club after the sail.

Who’s Tad?

I work for Australian Coastwatch. We consider a yacht to be any sailing vessel and a motor yacht to be a large privately owned motor powered pleasure craft.

There are all sorts of definitions, depending on your goal. A rule of thumb I have heard is that a vessel is a yacht if it is capable of carrying a smaller boat (usually a tender or dinghy).

A sailor from Brokeback Mountain.

Blonde #1 to Blonde #2:

“Not only did he lie to me about the size of his yacht, but he made me do the rowing.”

::ducks and runs::

As some before me have already said, a yacht is a pleasure (not commercial) boat. There are many definitions. Some insurance companies say any private boat over a certain length is a yacht; everything smaller is a boat. The word allegedly comes from *jacht,*a Dutch word for hunt. The first boats to be called yachts, according to folklore, were small duck-hunting skiffs. According to the broader definition, yachts range from the humble canoe and the dinky Optimist sailboat to the 120 ft. round-the-world racer.

I’m not going to say anything about Frostbite Falls, MN or Omar Khayyam.