The term ‘Yacht’ is instantly recognizable in association with categories such as high class, elegant, fancy, and wealthy. Unlike other types of floating modes of transportation, you get a different reaction when saying you spent a week on a yacht, versus a week on a sail boat. People will picture you sipping a cold martini aboard a large yacht in some exotic region. But, what is the origin of this luxury? Let’s take a look.

The Word

The English word ‘yacht’ is internationally popular now, but it was after an event in history that lead to this. Originally, the word came from the Dutch word ‘jaghte’, meaning ‘hunt’. Meanwhile, ‘jaghtschip’ was a fast pirate ship, commonly used by Dutchmen to intercept slower, bigger ships or boats.

The British King, Charles II was given a ‘hunter’, but the King did not use the vessel to intercept others, but for fun. It was this event that resulted in vessels used for pleasure becoming known popularly as ‘yachts’.

The Purpose

During the mid-16th century, these type of vessels were used for hunting and interception by the Dutch navy to track down pirates and others. These ships allowed the Dutch to travel in shallow waters. It was an efficient vessel.

When King Charles II decided to use the one given to him for traveling between England and Netherlands in 1660 for restoration. After this, these vessels became known for transporting important people. With this association, the vessel became a luxury item.

Hundreds of years later yachts are still a luxury item. Modern yachts are focused more on leisure than a working ship, with two major different yacht classes: sailing yachts and power yachts. As Steamboats became popular, sailing vessels became more recreational and luxurious. The term later encompassed larger motor powered boats as being mostly used for private pleasure.

The Size

Yachts come in various sizes and appearances. Commonly, yachts range in length from 33ft to hundreds of feet. The luxury vessels under 39ft are commonly referred to as cruisers. The term ‘superyacht’ commonly refers to yachts with a length of 79ft to 163ft. Meanwhile, yachts with a length over 164ft are usually called a ‘megayacht’. Compared to your typical cruise liner or oil tanker, these sizes are still small. (see yacht construction)

Fun Facts:

Nearly all yachts prior to 1950 was constructed out of steel or wood. Today, there are many more martial options available. Fiberglass is the most commonly used in modern designs, but wood hulls are produced as well.

Depending on the size, yachts can be good for a few friends, up to 100+ people.

Some countries place special flags on yachts known as ‘yacht ensigns’ that indicate the ships nationality. Usually based around the national flag.