Do You Know What Purpose This Boat Was Built For?

By: Staff Author
Image: baldeaglebluff/chjab via Wiki Commons/Pixabay

About This Quiz

Have you sailed the seven seas? Since the earliest days of human civilization, water travel has played a vital role. The simplest and most direct use of boats is of course for fishing! Fish have and continue to be a staple of many human societies. But as technology as well as commerce grew, the water also proved to have a different purpose: the transportation of trade goods. The water can seem a vast and forbidding obstacle, but when navies grew more sophisticated, it took the role of a great blue highway linking disparate peoples together. The ensuing flow of commerce led to greater societal specialization, and in turn greater wealth, which let those societies both learn more about each other and develop on their own terms.


In the modern age, we have a vast panoply of different naval vessels to tackle all the challenges and opportunities Father Neptune can offer. From the humble dinghy to the mighty aircraft carrier, we are ready, willing and able to take our places as masters of the sea.  But how much do *you* know about our vast naval arsenal? Within this quiz you will find dozens of different watercraft from different cultures and disparate eras. Show that you are a true master of the sea with our quiz!



Drift boats are designed to easily spin around so as to make river rapids more navigable. They are used by pro boaters who want a boat that responds very quickly to changing surface conditions in rivers.

Lighter and weaker than ocean-going craft, riverboats are designed to do their work on rivers and lakes. They are generally used for commerce, but also for entertainment purposes like a river-based casino or party boat!

Submarines are used to travel underwater. They lack many traditional commercial uses, and are typically used for military or scientific purposes. A submarine is typically substantial in size, too, particularly when used as a military weapon.

Airboats have a large propeller mounted on the back and a flat bottom, making them perfect for swamp and river excitement! They are typically used for fishin' and huntin', and make quite a lot of noise!

The name ketch is actually short for "Catch", indicating the sailing ship's origins as a fishing boat. Nowadays it can certainly be used for that, but this two-masted little vessel is often used simply for pleasure yachting and sailing.

Either dual or 3-masted, the Xebec was a fast seagoing vessel designed either for quick transport of commerce ... or overtaking and capturing similar commerce vessels! A Xebec was immortalized by being defeated by the British Navy vessel Speedy in an epic one-on-one confrontation.

Surf boats are small, oar-driven craft specifically designed to maneuver among the waves of a heavy surf. They are used to rescue people who become endangered off of beaches or other areas with large waves close to shore.

The punt is a flat-bottomed, square boat specifically designed to be ridden on the Thames River in England. It is propelled through the use of an oar stuck into the riverbed, whereupon leverage is used to shift the craft along.

The flyak is a Norwegian innovation to the kayak, involving a hydrofoil mounted atop a traditional kayak to give it a burst of speed. This would be ideal for racing down Norway's lovely fjords!

Jukungs are Indonesian outrigger canoes, which have historically been used for food gathering. Today they see a new use, however: teams of prospective SCUBA divers use the canoe as a mobile base from which to dive!

The barge-esque Higgins boat, known to Marines as the Papa boat, was critical to US operations in WWII. This boat allowed the quick and efficient deployment of a platoon of Marines to an open beach, and their use en masse saw success all over the world- from Tarawa to Normandy.

Yachts vary in size, but are unusual in this list in that their name is less an indication of a mode of construction, and more an indication of purpose: a yacht can be large or small, and powered or sail, but one thing they all have in common is that they are for having fun!

The pink is actually two kinds of ship! The kind derived from the Dutch word Pincke was used for Atlantic transportation of cargo and passengers, whereas the one inspired by the Italian Pinco was better suited for the more shallow waters of the Mediterranean. What a coincidence!

The narrowboat is a peculiar design, born of a very specific purpose in a very specific age: It is a steamboat (originally horse drawn!) meant for passenger transport along thin British canals. The descendants of these vessels are still used today, mostly as pleasure craft for holidays.

A lifeboat is a small craft, either rigid or inflatable, used to escape from endangered vessels. If inflatable, they generally include a self inflation mechanism. They don't usually contain a method of propulsion, but are brightly colored so as to aid in rescue.

More a declaration of purpose than a type of vessel per se, patrol boats are generally used for guarding a nation's coastlines from light, intrusive threats and smugglers. They include both so called "blue water" (ocean) and "brown water" (coastal) variants.

The cog was a 10th century seagoing vessel, purpose built for trade among the members of the Hanseatic League. It was meant for sea- not oceanic- trade, and was used mostly for plying the waters of the North and Black seas.

A skiff is a term for a small vessel, usually for shallow coastal or river/lake waters, usually used for pleasure purposes. It might bear only a single passenger, or a few, but its main purpose is for having a good time!

Skipjacks are modern-day sailing boats built for dredging oysters in the Chesapeake. Why sail craft? Because regulations actually prohibit the use of motored craft when engaged in dredging oysters. Who says sails are outdated?

Steamboats are typically large cargo or passenger ships designed for inland waterways and rivers. They are generally paddle driven, with a propeller, and are of course powered by steam! These vessels were a mainstay of commerce in the United States during the so-called Age of Steam in the 19th century.

A water taxi is a simple vessel, usually with just a few seats, designed to travel from one part of a water-adjacent city to another. The earliest recorded example of this was in Manchester, but there are similar services operating all over the world.

Famous among Polynesian lore, an outrigger canoe has arms to either side with floats attached for stability. They're used for everything from fishing to transport.

A fireboat is a boat designed and equipped to fight large shipboard fires. They are occasionally used to fight fires right along the waterline as well, and they are adept at their task due to the fact that they pump water straight from beneath them, letting them fight indefinitely.

A dhow is a type of trading vessel, typically seen in the Indian Ocean. Their hulls were long and they required a minimal crew, allowing for relatively large amounts of cargo. They are still used somewhat in cargo transport today!

A gondola is a slim, long boat with a flat bottom, used for transporting people through Venice's Lagoon. They used to be made up of any flotsam that was at hand, giving them a ramshackle look, but modern wealth and aesthetic sensibility have resulted in the sleek watercraft we see today.

A landing craft is a medium sized vessel whose avowed purpose is in bringing troops to enemy-occupied beaches. Some of the larger ones could even carry multiple tanks, and some were equipped with rudimentary sleeping facilities for the soldiers.

A shallop is a small gunboat that sits low in the water. They gained a certain amount of fame when the resourceful mariners of Denmark strapped bunches of cannon to them and tried to use them to fight the mighty British Navy.

A ship's tender is a small vessel whose mission is to provide supplies to larger ones, particularly for commercial vessels but occasionally for passenger ships, too. It's a humble job, but logistics are vital for keeping the commerce fleets in motion.

A Norfolk wherry is a transport sailing ship, with a squarish build and a mast way forward. It has evolved to suit the particular needs of passengers traveling The Broads at Norfolk and Suffolk in England.

A monitor is a unique type of warship largely categorized by its oversized armament. Put simply, the vessels were comparatively small, but they carried individual huge guns so that they could punch far above their weight class. They could also be used for shore bombardment.

Car floats were simple barges that lacked power, mounted with rail tracks so they could easily be used to transport rail cars across water obstacles. They were usually pulled by a tugboat or similar such vessel.

One of the less sexy vessels on this list, the sailing scow is flat-bottomed, unwieldy looking, and not very glamorous. It is used to haul bulk cargo- it can go for limited duration over ocean but it is also adept at handling more shallow waters. It makes up for its lack of maneuverability or elegance with versatility.

A dugout is essentially a canoe made from a single tree trunk, hollowed out to make space for passengers. It is an ancient mode of conveyance, used for transporting fishermen and hunters. For ocean travel, it can be mounted with a pair of outriggers for stability.

The captain's gig is basically a rowboat. It gets its name from its primary function: carrying the captain of the ship to and fro.

A ferry is a simple mode of transport, often cheaper by the mile than various modes of land transportation. They are used today in both public and private capacities, and form a valuable secondary mode of transportation for many cities.

A haka is a special war canoe used by the Maori people. It can seat up to 80 people for limited oceanic voyaging. It was a vessel heavily infused with Maori beliefs, for example it needed to be entered from the sides to avoid the symbols painted on the front, and no cooked food was allowed on board.

PWC is really just an acronym for Personal Water Craft, the simplest example of which is the Jet-Ski! They don't really have a purpose outside being a lot of fun, but do they really need one?

A pinnace was basically another name for a ship's tender, and as such was used largely to resupply and maintain larger vessels. Although it mostly provided logistical support, they occasionally saw use on their own as smuggler's craft.

Banana boats are a particularly silly mode of recreational watercraft- they're long, skinny yellow inflatable boats whose purpose is to be pulled behind something like a PWC or other such small vessel. They're just for entertainment, so don't do anything dangerous on one!

A motorboat is an all-purpose craft used for everything from pleasure boating to water-skiing to fishing to transportation. They're generally fairly small, and limited to use in waters protected from big ocean swells.

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