We explain what a boat is, its characteristics and what parts make it up. In addition, we tell you about its origin and its history.

Current boats generally move thanks to an engine.
The boats are used for transportation, sporting, military, or fishing purposes.

What is a ship?

A ship, vessel, or vessel It is a vehicle designed to float and move on water., through different propulsion mechanisms, usually concave in shape and endowed with autonomy of operation. Ships are used for transportation (cargo and passenger), sporting, military, or any other purpose.

The invention of ships is very old and has always represented an important technology for humanity, allowing the population to overcome geographical obstacles such as rivers and lagoons, fish for food and trade with distant populations. In fact, international and worldwide trade depends primarily on merchant ships, which transport passengers and merchandise from one port to another.

The words “ship” and “barca”, similarly, have a very ancient history dating back to Latin. boat (“boat”), borrowed from the Greek and in turn from the Egyptian barswhich is what the Egyptians called their canoes or feluccas to cross the Nile. It is a word that serves as a source for many other derived words, such as “boat”, “boatman”, “embarcar”, “cart”, ” landing stage”, among others.

Ships play a fundamental role in society and are often a source of inspiration for artists and thinkers. There have even been famous ships, such as the famous RMS Titanic cruise ship, sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912; or the battleship Bismarck of the German fleet during World War II.

See also: Water transport

Origin and history of the ships

The origin of the ships is ancient. The earliest types of boats date to around 10,000 years ago and consisted of carved tree trunks like a raft or canoe, and they were propelled with a long rod that touched the bottom. These types of vehicles made it possible to cross rivers or shallow lakes, and were the forerunners of the first boats themselves.

The ancient cultures located on the coast of seas and oceans were, surely, the inventors of the ship. They were civilizations that became sedentary taking advantage of the abundance of food that they could obtain from the sea, and that carved their first wooden boats. To propel yourself, the oar was for many centuries the main propulsion mechanismwhich sometimes required strong oarsmen, who were often selected from among the slaves.

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The first great advance in nautical matters had to do with the incorporation of the wind, through the development of sails: large pieces of cloth tied to the mast of the ship that propelled it forward easily and freely, although inconstantly.

The sail, the oar and the compass were the foundations of naval technology until practically the 19th century, when the first steamships appeared.. This did not prevent the development of a wide variety of large vessels, some for commercial purposes (galleons, brigantines, clippers, among others) and military (frigates, schooners, corvettes, among others).

With the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the combustion engine, ships increased their speed enormously. and its comforts, which gave rise to the diversity of modern vessels that today sail through the world’s ports and engage in armed conflicts. For this, the submarine, aircraft carriers and other specialized military vessel models have also been invented, some of which even have nuclear energy capacity and long-distance weapons.

Boat features

From a general perspective, the main characteristics of the ships are:

  • They are vehicles of resizablealmost always concave and fusiform, rigid, resistant and stable.
  • They are endowed with flotation capacity (since they move on the surface of the water), load capacity and some means (or several) of propulsion.
  • are used with different purposes: commercial, recreational, sporting, military or scouting.
  • Depending on its type and model, can reach high speedstransport large amounts of cargo or perform other specialized functions, such as aircraft carriers that serve as takeoff and landing strips for warplanes.
  • They are the main means of transporting goods and people in the world.

parts of a ship

Boats are divided into parts based on their direction and their position in or out of the water.
Although the ships can be very different from one another, they comprise the same set of parts.

Although ships can be very different from one another, depending on their purpose, they generally comprise the same set of parts, which are:

  • Bow. It is the front or front part of the boat, much narrower and wedged than the stern, whose role is to cut the waves and facilitate the advance of the boat.
  • Stern. It is the back or back of the boat, where the propulsion mechanisms (such as the propeller) and driving (such as the rudder) are installed.
  • Port. It is the left side of the boat, looking from the stern to the bow.
  • Starboard. It is the right side of the boat, looking from the stern to the bow.
  • sides. It is the name given to each of the halves of the ship, if it is divided longitudinally: the port (left) side and the starboard (right) side.
  • Helmet. It is the waterproof portion of the boat that separates the frame from the water, that is, what keeps the boat afloat and gives it stability.
  • Deck. It is the part of the ship that closes the habitable structure and forms the upper portion of the hull.
  • living work. It is the portion of the hull that is submerged under water, that is, below the waterline.
  • dead work. It is the portion of the hull that emerges above the water, that is, above the waterline.
  • Bilge. It is the intermediate portion between the deck and the hull, where sewage, oil and other waste from the ship end up, which is eventually expelled abroad.
  • Keel. It is a lower fin-like protrusion that extends out of the hull into the water and provides stability to the boat.
  • Mast. It is a stick perpendicular to the keel where the topmasts (horizontal) are fixed to hold the sails of a boat.
  • Rudder. It is the ship’s maneuvering device, equivalent to the steering wheel of automobiles.
  • Ridge or Garbo. It is each of the “ribs” of the ship’s frame, usually made of wood or metal.
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In addition to the parts of the ship, it is important to know the measures used to talk about it:

  • Length. It is equal to the length of the ship and is usually measured in feet (approx. 30 cm).
  • Sleeve. It is equal to the width of the ship, and distinguishes between maximum beam and minimum beam depending on its location on the ship.
  • Strut. It is equal to the height of the ship from the underside of the hull.
  • freeboard. It is equivalent to the distance between the waterline and the highest deck, therefore it represents the highest limit to which the water can rise: above it there is a risk of sinking the ship.
  • openwork. It is equal to the height of the submerged portion of the ship, from the keel to the waterline.

ship types

Ships can be of very different types, depending on their purposes (commercial, military, recreational, sports ships, among others), and within each category it is possible to distinguish different specialized subtypes. However, another form of general classification of ships distinguishes them based on two fundamental criteria:

According to your size. A distinction is made between minor and major ships, as follows:

  • minor ships. Those that have a length of less than 24 meters and less than 50 meters of internal volume.
  • older ships. Those that have a length and an internal volume greater than 24 and 50 meters respectively.

According to your method of propulsion. A distinction is made between three types of ships:

  • human powered boats. Those in which the propulsion depends on the effort of one or more crew members, as is the case with kayaks, canoes, feluccas, among others.
  • wind powered boats. Those in which the propulsion depends on the use of the wind, as is the case of sailing ships, rotorcraft, among others.
  • Power boats. Those in which the propulsion depends on different energy transformation devices, such as motor boats, turbine boats, steam boats, among others.
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How are ships built?

Part of a ship's hull remains ashore during its construction.
The hull of a ship is made in one piece if it is small, but in several pieces if it is a ship.

The construction of a boat is an ancient art, which has developed enormously since the ancient times of wooden boats, to adapt to new techniques, materials and needs. Nowadays Large ships are manufactured with steel and other resistant materials, using industrial machines and implements, in ship factories or shipyards.

The construction of a ship begins with the hull., manufactured from a single piece if it is a small boat, and from several pieces joined by cranes, if it is a large modern ship. Then the cover is adhered and the necessary reinforcements are introduced to give consistency and solidity to the frame.

Then the interiors of the hull and the deck are assembledand then the so-called isolation phase takes place, in which engines, computerized systems and other functional additions are added. This phase occurs in the dry when it comes to small boats and directly afloat, that is, in the water, when it comes to large ships and freighters.

Then the aesthetic details, painting, finishes and identifications are incorporated into the boat.and in the case of small and medium-sized boats, they are thrown away, that is, they are thrown into the water. Once at sea, the necessary tests are carried out to verify the correct functioning of the systems, before terminating the ship.

Continue with: Maritime transport


  • “Ship” on Wikipedia.
  • “Ship” in the Dictionary of the Language of the Royal Spanish Academy.
  • “Ship Etymology” in the Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “Parts of a boat” (video) at the Faculty of Distance Studies of the Nueva Granada Military University (Colombia).
  • “The boats” in the National Administration of Ports of Uruguay.