BOAT (O. Eng. bât; the true etymological connexion with Dutch and Ger. boot, Fr. bateau, Ital. battello presents great difficulties; Celtic forms are from O. Eng.), a comparatively small open craft for conveyance on water, usually propelled by some form of oar or sail.
The origin of the word "boat" is probably to be looked for in the A.S. bât = a stem, a stick, a piece of wood. If this be so, the term in its inception referred to the material of which the primitive vessel was constructed, and in this respect may well be contrasted with the word "ship," of which the primary idea was the process by which the material was fashioned and adapted for the use of man.
We may assume that primitive man, in his earliest efforts to achieve the feat of conveying himself and his belongings by water, succeeded in doing so - (1) by fastening together a quantity of material of sufficient buoyancy to float and carry him above the level of the water; (2) by scooping out a fallen tree so as to obtain buoyancy enough for the same purpose. In these two processes is to be found the genesis of both boat and ship, of which, though often used as convertible terms, the former is generally restricted to the smaller type of vessel such as is dealt with in this article. For the larger type the reader is referred to Ship.
Great must have been the triumph of the man who first discovered that the rushes or the trunks he had managed to tie together would, propelled by a stick or a branch (cf. ramus and remus) used as pole or paddle, convey him safely across the river or lake, which had hitherto been his barrier. But use multiplies wants, discovers deficiencies, suggests improvements. Man soon found out that he wanted to go faster than the raft would move, that the water washed over and up through it, and this need of speed, and of dry carrying power, which we find operative throughout the history of the boat down to the present day, drove him to devise other modes of flotation as well as to try to improve his first invention.
The invention of the hollowed trunk, of the "dug-out" (monoxylon), however it came about, whenever and wherever it came into comparison with the raft, must have superseded the latter for some purposes, though not by any means for all. It was superior to the raft in speed, and was, to a certain extent, water-tight. On the other hand it was inferior in carrying power and stability. But the two types once conceived had come to stay, and to them severally, or to attempts to combine the useful properties of both, may be traced all the varieties of vessel to which the name of boat may be applied.
The development of the raft is admirably illustrated in the description, given us by Homer in the Odyssey, of the construction by the hero Ulysses of a vessel of the kind. Floating timber is cut down and carefully shaped and planed with axe and adze, and the timbers are then exactly fitted face to face and compacted with trenails and dowels, just as the flat floor of a lump or lighter might be fashioned and fitted nowadays. A platform is raised upon the floor and a bulwark of osiers contrived to keep out the wash of the waves (cf. infra, Malay boats). It seems as if the poet, who was intimately acquainted with the sea ways of his time, intended to convey the idea of progress in construction, as illustrated by the technical skill of his hero, and the use of the various tools with which he supplies him.
On the other hand the dug-out had its limitations. The largest tree that could be thrown and scooped out afforded but a narrow space for carrying goods, and presented problems as to stability which must have been very difficult to solve. The shaping of bow and stern, the bulging out of the sides, the flattening of the bottom, the invention of a keel piece, the attempt to raise the sides by building up with planks, all led on towards the idea of constructing a boat properly so called, or perhaps to the invention of the canoe, which in some ways may be regarded as the intermediate stage between dug-out and boat.
Meanwhile the raft had undergone improvements such as those which Homer indicates. It had arrived at a floor composed of timbers squared and shaped. It had risen to a platform, the prototype of a deck. It was but a step to build up the sides and turn up the ends, and at this point we reach the genesis of ark and punt, of sanpan and junk, or, in other words, of all the many varieties of flat-bottomed craft.
When once we have reached the point at which the improvements in the construction of the raft and dug-out bring them, as it were, within sight of each other, we can enter upon the history of the development of boats properly so called, which, in accordance with the uses and the circumstances that dictated their build, may be said to be descended from the raft or the dug-out, or from the attempt to combine the respective advantages of the two original types.
Uses and circumstances are infinite in variety and have produced an infinite variety of boats. But we may safely say that in all cases the need to be satisfied, the nature of the material available, and the character of the difficulties to be overcome have governed the reason and tested the reasonableness of the architecture of the craft in use.
It is not proposed in this article to enter at any length into the details of the construction of boats, but it is desirable, for the sake of clearness, to indicate certain broad distinctions in the method of building, which, though they run back into the far past, in some form or other survive and are in use at the present day.
The tying of trunks together to form a raft is still not unknown in the lumber trade of the Danube or of North America, nor was it in early days confined to the raft. It extended to many boats properly so called, even to many of those built by the Vikings of old. It may still be seen in the Madras surf boats, and in those constructed out of driftwood by the inhabitants of Easter Island in the south Pacific. Virgil, who was an archaeologist, represents Charon's boat on the Styx as of this construction, and notes the defect, which still survives, in the craft of the kind when loaded -
"Gemuit sub pondere cymba
Sutilis, et multam accepit rimosa paludem!"
Aen. vi. 303.
Next to the raft, and to be counted in direct descent from it, comes the whole class of flat-bottomed boats including punts and lighters. As soon as the method of constructing a solid floor, with trenails and dowels, had been discovered, the method of converting it into a water-tight box was pursued, sides were attached plank fashion, with strong knees to stiffen them, and cross pieces to yoke or key (cf. ) them together. These thwarts once fixed naturally suggested seats for those that plied the paddle or the oar. The ends of the vessel were shaped into bow or stern, either turned up, or with the side planking convergent in stem or stern post, or joined together fore and aft by bulkheads fitted in, while interstices were made water-tight by caulking, and by smearing with bitumen or some resinous material.
The evolution of the boat as distinct from the punt, or flat-bottomed type, and following the configuration of the dug-out in its length and rounded bottom, must have taxed the inventive art and skill of constructors much more severely than that of the raft. It is possible that the coracle or the canoe may have suggested the construction of a framework of sufficient stiffness to carry a water-tight wooden skin, such as would successfully resist the pressure of wind and water. And in this regard two methods were open to the builder, both of which have survived to the present day: (1) the construction first of the shell of the boat, into which the stiffening ribs and cross ties were subsequently fitted; (2) the construction first of a framework of requisite size and shape, on to which the outer skin of the boat was subsequently attached.
Further, besides the primitive mode of tying the parts together, two main types of build must be noticed, in accordance with which a boat is said to be either carvel-built or clinker-built. (1) A boat is carvel-built when the planks are laid edge to edge so that they present a smooth surface without. (2) A boat is clinker-built when each plank is laid on so as to overlap the one below it, thus presenting a series of ledges running longitudinally.
The former method is said to be of Mediterranean, or perhaps of Eastern origin. The latter was probably invented by the old Scandinavian builders, and from them handed down through the fishing boats of the northern nations to our own time.
The accounts of vessels used by the Egyptians and Phoenicians generally refer to larger craft which naturally fall under the head of Ship (q.v.). The Nile boats, however, described by Herodotus (ii. 60), built of acacia wood, were no doubt of various sizes, some of them quite small, but all following the same type of construction, built up brick fashion, the blocks being fastened internally to long poles secured by cross pieces, and the interstices caulked with papyrus. The ends rose high above the water, and to prevent hogging were often attached by a truss running longitudinally over crutches from stem to stern.
The Assyrian and Babylonian vessels described by Herodotus (i. 194), built up of twigs and boughs, and covered with skins smeared with bitumen, were really more like huge coracles and hardly deserve the name of boats.
The use of boats by the Greeks and Romans is attested by the frequent reference to them in Greek and Latin literature, though, as regards such small craft, the details given are hardly enough to form the basis of an accurate classification.
We hear of small boats attendant on a fleet (Gr., Thuc. i. 53), and of similar craft employed in piracy (Thuc. iv. 9), and in one case of a sculling boat, or pair oar (Gr., Thuc. iv. 67), which was carted up and down between the town of Megara and the sea, being used for the purpose of marauding at night. We are also familiar with the passage in the Acts (xxvii.) where in the storm they had hard work "to come by the boat"; which same boat the sailors afterwards "let down into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship," and would have escaped to land in her themselves, leaving the passengers to drown, if the centurion and soldiers acting upon St Paul's advice had not cut off the ropes of the boat and let her fall off.
There can be little doubt that boat races were in vogue among the Greeks (see Prof. Gardner, Journal of Hellenic Studies, ii. 91 ff.), and probably formed part of the Panathenaic and Isthmian festivals. It is, however, difficult to prove that small boats took part in these races, though it is not unlikely that they may have done so. The testimony of the coins, such as it is, points to galleys, and the descriptive term leads to the same conclusion.
It is hardly possible now to define the differences which separated , , from , , or from or . They seem all to have been rowing boats, probably carvel-built, some with keels (acatii modo carinata, Plin. ix. 19), and to have varied in size, some being simply sculling boats, and others running up to as many as thirty oars.
Similarly in Latin authors we have frequent mention of boats accompanying ships of war. Of this there is a well-known instance in the account of Caesar's invasion of Britain (B.G. iv. 26), when the boats of the fleet, and the pinnaces, were filled with soldiers and sent to assist the Legionaries who were being fiercely attacked as they waded on to the shore. There is also an instance in the civil war, which is a prototype of a modern attack of torpedo boats upon men of war, when Antonius manned the pinnaces of his large ships to the number of sixty, and with them attacked and defeated an imprudent squadron of Quadriremes (B.C. iii. 24). The class of boats so frequently mentioned as actuariae seems to have contained craft of all sizes, and to have been used for all purposes, whether as pleasure boats or as despatch vessels, or for piracy. In fact the term was employed vaguely just as we speak of craft in general.
The lembus, which is often referred to in Livy and Polybius, seems to have been of Illyrian origin, with fine lines and sharp bows. The class contained boats of various sizes and with a variable number of oars (biremis, Livy xxiv. 40, sexdecim, Livy xxxiv. 35); and it is interesting to note the origin in this case, as the invention of the light Liburnian galleys, which won the battle of Actium, and altered the whole system of naval construction, came from the same seaboard.
Besides these, the piratical myoparones (see Cic. In Verrem), and the poetical phaselus, deserve mention, but here again we are met with the difficulty of distinguishing boats from ships. There is also an interesting notice in Tacitus (Hist. iii. 47) of boats hastily constructed by the natives of the northern coast of Asia Minor, which he describes as of broad beam with narrow sides (probably meaning that the sides "tumbled home"), joined together without any fastenings of brass or iron. In a sea-way the sides were raised with planks added till they were cased in as with a roof, whence their name camarae, and so they rolled about in the waves, having prow and stern alike and convertible rowlocks, so that it was a matter of indifference and equally safe, or perhaps unsafe, whichever way they rowed.
Similar vessels were constructed by Germanicus in his north German campaign (Ann. ii. 6) and by the Suiones (Ger. 44). These also had stem and stern alike, and remind us of the old Norse construction, being rowed either way, having the oars loose in the rowlock, and not, as was usual in the south, attached by a thong to the thowl pin.
Lastly, as a class of boat directly descended from the raft, we may notice the flat-bottomed boats or punts or lighters which plied on the Tiber as ferry-boats, or carrying goods, which were called codicariae from caudex, the old word for a plank.
It is difficult to trace any order of development in the construction of boats during the Byzantine period, or the middle ages. Sea-going vessels according to their size carried one or more boats, some of them small boats with two or four oars, others boats of a larger size fitted with masts and sail as well as with oars. We find lembus and phaselus as generic names in the earlier period, but the indications as to size and character are vague and variable. The same may be said of the batelli, coquets, chaloupes, chalans, gattes, etc., of which, in almost endless number and variety, the nautical erudition of M. Jal has collected the names in his monumental works, Archéologie navale and the Glossaire nautique.
It is clear, however, that in many instances the names, originally applied to boats properly so called, gradually attached themselves to larger vessels, as in the case of chaloupe and others, a fact which leads to the conclusion that the type of build followed originally in smaller vessels was often developed on a larger scale, according as it was found useful and convenient, while the name remained the same. Many of these types still survive and may be found in the Eastern seas, or in the Mediterranean or in the northern waters, each of which has its own peculiarities of build and rig.
It would be impossible within our limits to do justice to the number and variety of existing types in sea-going boats, and for more detailed information concerning them the reader would do well to consult Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia, by H. Warington Smyth, an excellent and exhaustive work, from which much of the information which follows regarding them has been derived.
In the Eastern seas the Chinese sanpan is ubiquitous. Originally a small raft of three timbers with fore end upturned, it grew into a boat in very early times, and has given its name to a very large class of vessels. With flat bottom, and considerable width in proportion to its length, the normal sanpan runs out into two tails astern, the timbers rounding up, and the end being built in like a bulkhead, with room for the rudder to work between it and the transom which connects the two projecting upper timbers of the stern. Some of them are as much as 30 ft. in length and 8 to 10 ft. in beam. They are good carriers and speedy under sail.
The Chinese in all probability were the earliest of all peoples to solve the chief problems of boat building, and after their own fashion to work out the art of navigation, which for them has now been set and unchanged for thousands of years. They appear to have used the lee-board and centre-board in junks and sanpans, and to have extended their trade to India and even beyond, centuries before anything like maritime enterprise is heard of in the north of Europe.
As regards the practice of long boat racing on rivers or tidal waters the Chinese are easily antecedent in time to the rest of the world. On great festivals in certain places the Dragon boat race forms part of the ceremony. The Dragon boats are just over 73 ft. long, with 4 ft. beam, and depth 21 in. The rowing or paddling space is about 63 ft. and the number of thwarts 27, thus giving exactly the same number of rowers as that of the Zygites in the Greek trireme. The two extremities of the boat are much cambered and rise to about 2 ft. above the water. At about 15 ft. from each end the single plank gives place to three, so as to offer a concave surface to the water. The paddle blade is spade-like in form and about 6 in. broad.
Both in Siam and Burma there is a very large river population, and boat racing is on festival days a common amusement. The typical craft, however, is the Duck-boat, which in the shape of hull is in direct contrast to the dug-out form, and primarily intended for sailing. It is interesting to note that the Siamese method of slinging and using quarter rudders is the oldest used by men in sailing craft, being in fact the earliest development from the simple paddle rudder, which has in all ages been the first method of steering boats. The king of Siam's state barge, we are told, is steered by long paddles, precisely in the same way as is figured in the case of the Egyptian boats of the 3rd dynasty (6000 B.C.). On the other hand the slung quarter rudders are the same in fashion as those used by Roman and Greek merchantmen, by Norsemen and Anglo-Saxons, and by medieval seamen down to about the 14th century.
The Malays have generally the credit of being expert boat-builders, but the local conditions are not such as to favour the construction of a good type of boat. "Small displacement, hollow lines, V-shaped sections, shallow draught and lack of beam" result in want of stability and weatherliness. But it is among them that the ancient process of dug-out building still survives and flourishes, preserving all the primitive and ingenious methods of hollowing the tree trunk, of forcing its sides outwards, and in many cases building them up with added planks, so that from the dug-out a regular boat is formed, with increased though limited carrying power, increased though still hardly sufficient stability.
To ensure this last very necessary quality many devices and contrivances are resorted to.
In some cases (just as Ulysses is described as doing by Homer, Od. v. 256) the boatman fastens bundles of reeds or of bamboos all along the sides of his boat. These being very buoyant not only act as a defence against the wash of the waves, but are sufficient to keep the boat afloat in any sea.
But the most characteristic device is the outrigger, a piece of floating wood sharpened at both ends, which is fixed parallel to the longer axis of the boat, at a distance of two or three beams, by two or more poles laid at right angles to it. This, while not interfering materially with the speed of the boat, acts as a counterpoise to any pressure on it which would tend, owing to its lack of stability, to upset it, and makes it possible for the long narrow dug-out to face even the open sea. It is remarkable that this invention, which must have been seen by the Egyptians and Phoenicians in very early times, was not introduced by them into the Mediterranean. Possibly this was owing to the lack of large timber suitable for dug-outs, and the consequent evolution by them of boat from raft, with sufficient beam to rely upon for stability.
On the other hand in the boats of India the influence of Egyptian and Arab types of build is apparent, and the dinghy of the Hugli is cited as being in form strangely like the ancient Egyptian model still preserved in the Ghizeh museum. Coming westward the dominant type of build is that of the Arab dhow, the boat class of which has all the characteristics of the larger vessel developed from it, plenty of beam, overhanging stem and transom stern. The planking of the shell over the wooden frame has a double thickness which conduces to dryness and durability in the craft.
On the Nile it is interesting to find the naggar preserving, in its construction out of blocks of acacia wood pinned together, the old-world fashion of building described by Herodotus. The gaiassa and dahabiah are too large to be classed as boats, but they and their smaller sisters follow the Arab type in build and rig.
It is noteworthy that nothing apparently of the ancient Egyptian or classical methods of build survives in the Mediterranean, while the records of the development of boat-building in the middle ages are meagre and confusing. The best illustrations of ancient methods of construction, and of ancient seamanship, are to be found, if anywhere, in the East, that conservative storehouse of types and fashions, to which they were either communicated, or from which they were borrowed, by Egyptians or Phoenicians, from whom they were afterwards copied by Greeks and Romans.
In the Mediterranean the chief characteristics of the types belonging to it are "carvel-build, high bow, round stern and deep rudder hung on stern post outside the vessel."
In the eastern basin the long-bowed wide-sterned caique of the Bosporus is perhaps the type of boat best known, but both Greek and Italian waters abound with an unnumbered variety of boats of "beautiful lines and great carrying power." In the Adriatic, the Venetian gondola, and the light craft generally, are of the type developed from the raft, flat-bottomed, and capable of navigating shallow waters with minimum of draught and maximum of load.
In the western basin the majority of the smaller vessels are of the sharp-sterned build. Upon the boats of the felucca class, long vessels with easy lines and low free-board, suitable for rowing as well as sailing, the influence of the long galley of the middle ages was apparent. In Genoese waters at the beginning of the 19th century there were single-decked rowing vessels, which preserved the name of galley, and were said to be the descendants of the Liburnians that defeated the many-banked vessels of Antonius at Actium. But the introduction of steam vessels has already relegated into obscurity these memorials of the past.
Along the Riviera and the Spanish coast a type of boat is noticeable which is peculiar for the inward curve of both stem and stern from a keel which has considerable camber, enabling them to be beached in a heavy surf.
On the Douro, in Portugal, it is said that the boats which may be seen laden with casks of wine, trailing behind them an enormously long steering paddle, are of Phoenician ancestry, and that the curious signs, which many of them have painted on the cross board over the cabin, are of Semitic origin though now undecipherable.
Coming to the northern waters, as with men, so with boats, we meet with a totally different type. Instead of the smooth exterior of the carvel-build, we have the more rugged form of clinker-built craft with great beam, and raking sterns and stems, and a wide flare forward. In the most northern waters the strakes of the sea-going boats are wide and of considerable thickness, of oak or fir, often compacted with wooden trenails, strong and fit to do battle with the rough seas and rough usage which they have to endure.
In most of these the origin of form and character is to be sought for in the old Viking vessels or long keeles of the 5th century A.D., with curved and elevated stem and stern posts, and without decks or, at the most, half decked.
In the Baltic and the North Sea most of the fishing boats follow this type, with, however, considerable variety in details. It is noticeable that here also, as in other parts of the world, and at other times, the pressing demand for speed and carrying power has increased the size in almost all classes of boats till they pass into the category of ships. At the same time the carvel-build is becoming more common, while, in the struggle for life, steam and motor power are threatening to obliterate the old types of rowing and sailing boats altogether.
Next to the Norse skiff and its descendants, perhaps the oldest type of boat in northern waters is to be found in Holland, where the conditions of navigation have hardly altered for centuries. It is to the Dutch that we chiefly owe the original of our pleasure craft, but, though we have developed these enormously, the Dutch boats have remained pretty much the same. The clinker-build and the wide rounded bow are now very much of the same character as they are represented in the old pictures of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The development of boat-building in the British Isles during the 19th century has been unceasing and would need a treatise to itself to do it justice. The expansion of the fishing industry and the pressure of competition have stimulated constant improvement in the craft engaged, and here also are observable the same tendencies to substitute carvel, though it is more expensive, for clinker build, and to increase the length and size of the boats, and the gradual supersession of sail and oar by steam power. Under these influences we hear of the fifie and the skaffie classes, old favourites in northern waters, being superseded by the more modern Zulu, which is supposed to unite the good qualities of both; and these in turn running to such a size as to take them outside the category of boats. But even in the case of smaller boats the Zulu model is widely followed, so that they have actually been imported to the Irish coast for the use of the crofter fishermen in the congested districts.
For the Shetland sexern and the broad boats of the Orkneys, and the nabbies of the west coast of Scotland, the curious will do well to refer to H. Warington Smyth's most excellent account.
On the eastern coast of England the influence of the Dutch type of build is manifest in many of the flat-bottomed and mostly round-ended craft, such as the Yorkshire Billyboy, and partly in the coble, which latter is interesting as built for launching off beaches against heavy seas, and as containing relics of Norse influence, though in the main of Dutch origin.
The life-boats of the eastern coast are in themselves an admirable class of boat, with fine lines, great length, and shallow draught, wonderful in their daring work in foul weather and heavy seas, in which as a rule their services are required. Here, however, as in the fishing boats, the size is increasing, and steam is appropriating to itself the provinces of the sail and the oar.
The wherry of the Norfolk Broads has a type of its own, and is often fitted out as a pleasure boat. It is safe and comfortable for inland waters, but not the sort of boat to live in a sea-way in anything but good weather.
The Thames and its estuary rejoice in a great variety of boats, of which the old Peter boat (so called after the legend of the foundation of the abbey on Thorney Island) preserved a very ancient type of build, shorter and broader than the old Thames pleasure wherry. But these and the old hatch boat have now almost disappeared. Possibly survivors may still be seen on the upper part of the tidal river. Round the English coast from the mouth of the Thames southwards the conditions of landing and of hauling up boats above high-water mark affect the type, demanding strong clinker-build and stout timbers. Hence there is a strong family resemblance in most of the short boats in use from the North Foreland round to Brighton. Among these are the life-boats of Deal and the other Channel ports, which have done and are still doing heroic work in saving life from wrecks upon the Goodwins and the other dangerous shoals that beset the narrowing sleeve of the English Channel.
Farther down, along the southern coast, and to the west, where harbours are more frequent, a finer and deeper class of boats, chiefly of carvel-build, is to be found. The Cornish ports are the home of a great boat-building industry, and from them a large number of the finest fishing boats in the world are turned out annually. Most of them are built with stem and stern alike, with full and bold quarters, and ample floor.
It is not possible here to enumerate, much less to describe in detail, the variety of types in sea-going boats which have been elaborated in England and in America. For this purpose reference should be made to the list of works given at the end of the article.
The following is a list of the boats at present used in the royal navy. They have all of them a deep fore foot, and with the exception of the whalers and Berthon boats, upright stems and transom sterns. The whalers have a raking stem and a sharp stern, and a certain amount of sheer in the bows.
Ft. In. Depth.
1a. Dinghy. Freeboard about 9 in. Weight 3 cwt. 2 qr. Between thwarts 2 ft. 9 in. Elm. 13 4' 8" 2' 2"
1b. Skiff dinghy for torpedo boats. Freeboard about 9 in. Carry about ten men in moderate weather. Between thwarts 2 ft. 7 in. Weight 3 cwt. 4 lb Yellow pine. 16 4' 6" 1' 10"
2a. Whaler for destroyers. 5 in. sheer. Yellow pine. 25 5' 6" 2'
2b. Whaler. Between thwarts 2 ft. 10 in. Freeboard about 12 in. Weight, 8 cwt. Strakes No. 13. Lap in. Elm. 27 5' 6" 2' 2"
(All have bilge strakes with hand-holes.)
3. Gig. Between thwarts 2 ft. 9 in. Weight 8 cwt. 2 qr. 15 lb 13 Strakes. Elm. 30 5' 6" 2' 2"
4. Cutter. Between thwarts 3 ft. 1 in. To carry 49 men. Carvel built. 30 8' 1" 2' 8"
5. Pinnace. Between thwarts 3 ft. Carvel-built. Elm. 36 10' 2" 3' 5"
6. Launch. Between thwarts 3 ft. 1 in. To carry 140 men. Double skin diagonal. Teak. 42 11' 6" 4' 6"
7. Berthon collapsible boats weighing 7 cwt. for destroyers.
With the exception of the larger classes, viz. cutters, pinnaces and launches, the V-shape of bottom is still preserved, which does not tend to stability, and it is difficult to see why the smaller classes have not followed the improvement made in their larger sisters.
Pleasure boats and racing
Though the number and variety of sea-going boats is of much greater importance, no account of boats in general would be complete without reference to the development of pleasure craft upon rivers and inland waters, especially in England, during the past century. There is a legend, dating from Saxon times, which tells of King Edgar the Peaceable being rowed on the Dee from his palace in Chester to the church of St John, by eight kings, himself the ninth, steering this ancient 8-oar; but not much is heard of rowing in England until 1453, when John Norman, lord mayor of London, set the example of going by water to Westminster, which, we are told, made him popular with the watermen of his day, as in consequence the use of pleasure boats by the citizens became common. Thus it was that the old Thames pleasure wherry, with its high bows and low sharp stern and V-shaped section, and the old skiff came into vogue, both of which have now given way to boats, mostly of clinker-build, but with rounder bottoms and greater depth, safer and more comfortable to row in.
In 1715 Thomas Doggett (q.v.) founded a race which is still rowed in peculiar sculling boats, straked, and with sides flaring up to the sill of the rowlock. Strutt tells us of a regatta in 1775 in which watermen contended in pair-oared boats or skiffs.
At the beginning of the 19th century numerous rowing clubs flourished on the upper tidal waters of the Thames, and we hear of four-oared races from Westminster to Putney, and from Putney to Kew, in what we should now consider large and heavy boats, clinker-built, with bluff entry.
Longer boats, 8-oars, and 10-oars, seem to have been existent at the end of the 18th century. Eton certainly had one 10-oar, and three 8-oars, and two 6-oars, before 1811. The record of 8-oar races at Oxford begins in 1815, at Cambridge in 1827. Pair-oar and sculling races in lighter boats seem to have come in soon after 1820, and the first Oxford and Cambridge eight-oared race was rowed in 1829, in which year also Eton and Westminster contended at Putney.
Henley regatta was founded in 1839, and since that date the building of racing boats, eights, fours, pairs, and sculling boats, has made great progress. The products of the present time are such, in lightness of build and swiftness of propulsion, as would have been thought impossible between 1810 and 1830.
In the middle of the 19th century the long boats in use were mostly clinker-built with a keel. At Oxford the torpids were rowed, as now, in clinker-built craft, but the summer races were rowed in carvel-built boats, which also had a keel.
In 1855 the first keelless 8-oar made its appearance at Henley, built by Mat Taylor for the Royal Chester Rowing Club. The new type was constructed on moulds, bottom upwards, a cedar skin bent and fitted on to the moulds, and the ribs built in after the boat had been turned over.
In 1857 Oxford rowed in a similar boat at Putney, 55 ft. long, 25 in. beam. From that time the keelless racing boat has held its own, fours and pairs and sculling boats all following suit. But with the introduction of sliding seats racing eights have developed in length to 63 ft. or more, with considerable camber, and a beam of 23-24 in. There are, however, still advocates of the shorter type with broader beam, and it is noticeable that the Belgian boat that won the Grand Challenge at Henley in 1906 did not exceed 60 ft. The boat in which Oxford won the University race in 1901 was 56 ft. long with 27 in. of beam.
In sculling boats the acceptance of the Australian type of build has led to the construction of a much shorter boat with broader beam than that which was in vogue twenty years ago. The same tendency has not shown itself so pronouncedly in pair oars, but will no doubt be manifest in time as the build improves. In fact we may expect the controversy between long and short racing boats, and the proper method of propelling them respectively, to be carried a step farther. The tendency, with the long slide, and long type of boat, is to try to avoid "pinch" by adopting the scullers' method of easy beginning, and strong drive with the legs, and sharp finish to follow, but it remains to be seen whether superior pace is not to be obtained in a shorter boat by sharp beginning at a reasonable angle to the boat's side, and a continuous drive right out to the finish of the stroke.
Appended is a list of pleasure boats in use (1909) on the Thames, with their measurements (in feet and inches).
Class of Boat. Length. Beam. Depth.
Racing eight 56' to 63' 23" to 27" 9" to 10"
Clinker eight 56' to 60' 24" to 27" 9" to 10"
Clinker four 38' to 42' 23" to 24" 8" to 9"
Tub fours 30' to 32' 3'8"-3'10" 13" from keel to top of stem
Outrigger pair 30' to 34' 14" to 16" 7" to 8"
Outrigger sculls 25' to 30' 10" to 13" 5" to 6"
Coaching gigs 26' to 28' 3' to 3'4" 10" to 14"
Skiffs (Thames) 24' to 26' 3'9" to 4' 12"
Skiffs (Eton) 27' 2'3" 9"
Gigs (pleasure) 24' to 36' 4' 15" to 16"
Randans 27' to 30' 4' to 4'6" 13" from keel to top of stem
Whiffs 20' to 23' 1'4" to 1'6" 6" from keel to top of stem
Whiff Gigs 19' to 20' 2'8" to 2'10" 12" over all
Punts racers 30' to 34' 1'3" to 1'6" 6" to 7"
" semi racers 28' to 30' 2' 9" to 10"
" pleasure 26' to 28' 2'9" to 3' 12" to 13"
Authorities. - For ancient boats: Dict. Ant., "Navis"; C. Torr, Ancient Ships; Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul; Graser, De re navali; Breusing, Die Nautik der Alten; Contre-amiral Serre, La Marine des anciens; Jules Var, L'Art nautique dans l'antiquité. Medieval: Jal, Archéologie navale, and Glossaire nautique; Marquis de Folin, Bateaux et navires, progrès de la construction navale; W.S. Lindsay, History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce. Modern: H. Warington Smyth, Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia; Dixon Kempe, Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing; H.C. Folkhard, The Sailing Boat; F.G. Aflato, The Sea Fishing Industry of England and Wales; R.C. Leslie, Old Sea Wings, etc.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)