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When Is a Boat Also a Yacht?

Published on August 3rd, 2015

by Carol Cronin,
So maybe you’ve just bought a boat and joined the local yacht club. Does that mean you can call your boat a yacht?

The answer is, it depends.

Let’s start with something obvious: the term “yacht” is exclusive to vessels used primarily for recreation—commercial vessels work too hard. That’s probably why traditionally, the term “yacht” applied only to sailboats, which is still true in the UK (where they say “sailing boats”).


The Morris M29 is definitely a yacht, in spite of her lowly length of 29’2″. Photo: Onne van der Wal

Sam Coleridge is probably rolling over in his grave, but here in US waters, yachtsmen and women no longer have to know how to sail. At many prestigious yacht clubs around the country, slip space is dominated by mast-less and massive powerboats. And they are definitely referred to as “yachts”—by owners, guests, and gawkers alike.
Yacht Size and Price

Since we can no longer determine yacht status by propulsion type, we turn to size (and by association, value). Obviously the bigger and more expensive a boat is, the better her chances of being considered a yacht. Anything over 40 feet long almost always qualifies. (Above 100 feet we move into mega- or even super-yacht territory, but if you own something that big you’re probably quite secure in your yacht status and hence not reading this.)

It’s a little trickier to determine the bottom end of the yacht length scale. A recent random and completely unscientific survey of a group of respected yachtsmen established an equally random 33 feet as their minimum required LOA to achieve yacht status. When pressed, not one could come up with a reason more specific than it “just seems right.”

Another random survey of another group of equally respected yachtsmen might come up with a different minimum length, so size is not the only aspect we have to consider—which brings us to the most important and hard to define aspect of yachtiness: attitude. – Full report

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