A whaleboat or whaler is a type of open boat that is relatively narrow and pointed at both ends. It was originally developed for whaling, and later became popular for work along beaches, since it does not need to be turned around for beaching or refloating. The term "whaleboat" may be used informally of larger whalers, or of a boat used for whale watching.

A modern copy of a traditional whaleboat on display at Mystic Seaport. Another whaleboat, on the davits of a larger ship, is reflected in the water.

Modern applications and derivative designsEdit

Today whaleboats are used as safety vessels aboard some marine vessels. The United States Coast Guard has been using them since 1791. Their simple open structure allows for easy access and personnel loading in the event of an emergency. Currently, some USCG whaleboats are used as lifeboats, with standardized equipment such as a hatchet, compass, sea anchor, emergency signal mirror, drinking water, first aid kit, jack knife with can opener, bilge pump, and other emergency provisions.[citation needed]

On modern warships, a relatively light and seaworthy double-ender for transport of ship's crew may be referred to as a whaleboat or whaler. Many have fuller hulls with more capacity, but far more drag.

Monomoy surfboats, a lifeboat directly descended from whaleboats, are used for recreational and competitive rowing in the San Francisco Bay Area and coastal Massachusetts.

The Tancook Schooner descends from whaleboats through the tancook whaler, a double-ended design optimized for sail.

Uses in warEdit

Whaleboats were also extensively used in warfare. Colonel Benjamin Church is credited with pioneering their use for amphibious operations against Abenaki and Mi'kmaq tribes in what is today Maine and Acadia. His troops, New England colonial forces and Native allies from southern New England, used them as early as 1696 (during King William's War). Others in the Northeastern borderlands followed suit and they were used throughout the imperial conflicts of the early 18th century, and extensively used by both British and colonial troops during the French and Indian war. Units that made extensive use of whaleboats were the 7th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment at the siege of Louisburg in 1745, often referred to as "the whaleboat regiment", and Gorham's Rangers, formed in 1744, initially a company of Indians mainly from Cape Cod, many of whom were employed as whalers, and which later evolved into a British Army ranger company in the 1750s and 1760s.[1] John Bradstreet's Bateaux and Transport service,[2] a corps of armed boatmen tasked with moving supplies on inland waterways during the French and Indian War also used whaleboats extensively. In 1772, American colonials used whaleboats to attack and destroy the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay. During the American Revolutionary War, there were many whaleboat raids, including one with 230 men led by Return J. Meigs, Sr. to sack Sag Harbor on Long Island in 1777. On December 7, 1782, two fleets of whaleboats fought a bloody battle on Long Island Sound known as the Boats Fight. During the desperate hand-to-hand conflict, every man involved was either killed or injured.[citation needed]

Construction and useEdit

The whaleboat was originally a lapstrake design, clearly in the Northern European building tradition that created the longship and the yole. Its "superior handling characteristics soon made it a popular general-purpose ship's boat".[3] In the first half of the 20th century, many navies carried whaleboats on their warships, such as the 27ft whalers used in the Royal Navy.[4] Whaleboats generally used a dismountable mast for distance work or for towing a carcasse, but depended on oars for close-in work. Boats used strictly for whaling often used only a long steering oar, while those used as ship's boats often had dismountable pintle-and-gudgeon rudders as well.[citation needed] A main sail, and occasionally a jib were used. After 1850 most were fitted with a centreboard.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit

  • Pequod
  • Whaler (a ship used for whaling, often carrying whaleboats)
  • Whaling
  • Montagu whaler 27 by 6 feet (8.2 m × 1.8 m) the standard seaboat of the Royal Navy (1910-1970]]
  • RHIB (a boat detached to major naval units with the same function of a whaleboat)


  1. ^ Brian D. Carroll, "'Savages' in the Service of Empire: New England Indians in Gorham's Rangers, 1744-1762", New England Quarterly 85, no. 3 (September 2012): 383–429.
  2. ^ Joseph F. Meany, Jr. "Bateaux and 'Battoe Men': An American Colonial Response to the Problem of Logistics in Mountain Warfare". New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. Accessed July 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "whaleboat". Encyclopædia Britannica, January 1 – December 31, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2014
  4. ^ Manual of Seamanship: volume 1. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. 1937.

Further readingEdit

  • Johan Nicolay Tønnessen, Arne Odd Johnsen. (1982). The History of Modern Whaling. University of California Press
  • Vincent, M. (1998). Ancient whaler. Canadian Geographic, 118(7), 55.
  • whaleboat. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/641443/whaleboat
  • jib. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/303769/jib
  • Vincent, M. (1998). Ancient whaler. Canadian Geographic, 118(7), 55.
  • Whitridge, P. (1999).The Prehistory of Inuit and Yupik Whale Use. Revista De Arqueología Americana, 99-154.
  • Dow, George Francis. (1985). Whale Ships and Whaling. Dover Publications
  • Johan Nicolay Tønnessen, Arne Odd Johnsen. (1982). The History of Modern Whaling. University of California Press
  • United States Coast Guard. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (2013). Lifeboat history. Retrieved from USCG website: http://www.uscg.mil/d1/stachatham/Lifeboat History.asp
  • United States Coast Guard. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (2013). Lifeboat and liferaft survival equipment. Retrieved from USCG website: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5214/survivalequip.asp
  • picture accredited to BotMultichillT; Weis, C. (Photographer). (2009, August 17). US Navy 090818-N-0167W-042 USS Constitution crewmember Boatswains Mate 2nd Class Garrett Renner guides a team of Navy chief selects in the port whaleboat of USS Constitution [Web Photo]. Retrieved from [1]
  • Willits D. Ansel, The Whaleboat, Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut, ISBN 0-913372-40-4

External linksEdit