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What Makes Yacht, a Yacht?

Yacht Cruise Dubai

When does a boat become a yacht? When does a yacht become a ship? What about sailboats, are they ever yachts? What about superyachts and megayachts and gigayachts? There are no hard and fast answers. Different groups of boat people will have different answers. The multi-billionaire owner of a 300' ultra luxury ocean-going vessel may refer to it as simply a "yacht" while referring to his 50' cruiser as a "boat." It usually comes down to perspective and the types of people one associates with. But in an attempt to categorize, here is a rundown of commonly accepted types of yachts.

First off, a yacht generally means a vessel that is over 30' and is built for pleasure and not commercial or business use. The main point of using the word yacht is to indicate a level of luxury. The sole purpose of a yacht is for the enjoyment of its owner and the owner's guests. For example, a cruise ship may be very luxurious, but it would not be considered a yacht as it is meant for hundreds of passengers and built for the purpose of making money. Or a 75' fishing vessel may have a couple cabins with some nice amenities, but its primary purpose is for commercial fishing so it would not be considered a yacht.

Types of Yachts Explained

1. Cruiser: Also called: Express, Express Cruiser, Sports Cruiser
Cruisers are the smallest yachts available. They are generally a single deck with small living quarters primarily in the forward bow. These yachts also have a more sporty look. They are the Audi R8 of the yacht world. The go fast, have sleek lines and look best moving at full throttle. Boat makers are always building bigger and better so this is only a generalization, but cruisers are usually between 30' and 40'. They are more of a day trip, or possibly weekend yacht. They are not meant for long distance voyages.
2. Flybridge: Also called: Sedan, Sedan Bridge, Sport Bridge
The distinguishing feature of these yachts is a second platform, called a bridge, with a control station. The control station allows for the captain to have a full command of the water on all sides of the yacht. This allows for safer open ocean traveling. Because of their higher profile, these yachts lose most of the sportscar look of their smaller siblings. The length is generally 40'-60.' The longer the yacht, the fancier the bridge can be. The simplest bridges have no covering and just enough room for the control station and a few lounge chairs. The larger bridges will often have the option to be fully enclosed and have room for chairs, tables, and a wet bar. The addition of the bridge also allows for a larger, more enclosed main deck.
3. Motor Yacht: Also called: Pilothouse Motor Yacht, Cockpit Motor Yacht, Skylounge
The motor yacht is probably what most people think of when they hear the word "yacht." It also has the most ambiguous name. The previous two types of yachts listed both were pleasure boats with motors so they could technically be referred to as motor yachts as well. Motor yachts are generally 60'-150' although once they surpass the 100' mark, the line between motor yacht and superyacht becomes blurred. Motor yachts will have a pilot house, sort of a middle deck between the main deck and bridge where the main control center of the yacht is located. The main decks of motor yachts sit more central in the hull, allowing for the addition of a cockpit, which is an area on the back of the boat generally used for fishing.
4. Superyacht: Also called: Tri-Deck, Megayacht, Gigayacht
At this stage in the yachtdom world, it just becomes a competition to be able to say "my yacht is bigger than your yacht." Basically, they are mansions on the water. Superyachts are 150'-250,' megayachts are 250'-400' and gigayachts are anything beyond 400.' The minimum requirement to get into this class of yacht is to have at least 3 fully enclosed decks. These yachts are the play toys of the billionaires. They can have swimming pools, helipads, dozens of staff, support vessels (these are usually yachts in and of themselves), the list goes on and on. If money can buy it, it can be done.

77m / 253 ft yacht - under construction - delivery 2017 from Turquoise Yachts on Vimeo.

5. Convertible: Also called: Sportfish, Express Sportfish, Flybridge Sportfish
This last category is the odd brother of the family but it is worth mentioning. The boats are for the deep-pocketed people who like to fish. What differentiates them from standard fishing boats is the level of luxury and performance. These boats are built to go fast and handle the rough seas, something their similarly sized cruiser yacht siblings aren't made for. For the smaller vessels, the cabin space is sacrificed for large cockpit areas. But there are also sportfishing yachts that approach 100', leaving plenty of room for the rest of the family and guests.

Because there are so many yacht builders in the world and because the length, size and performance limits are always being pushed forward, there are no standard definitions for the different yacht categories. If one is trying to figure out what a yacht is, most yacht owners would say "if you have to ask, it probably isn't a yacht."