As a boat enthusiast, perhaps you’re curious about some random, interesting, and fun facts about boating, sailing, and the history of boats in general. If you have some time to kill, here are some boat facts to learn and keep yourself entertained. There’s no denying that the vast waters in the world guard a lot of secrets.
1. The difference between a boat and a ship lies in weight.
If you think ships are always bigger than boats, you’re wrong. The two forms of water transport differ in terms of weight. If the vessel weighs 500 tonnes or more, it’s classified as a ship. To always know the difference, remember that a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship.
2. The origins of the word “quarantine” is related to boating.
The word “quarantine” comes from the Italian “quarantine giorni,” which means forty days. It came from the Venetian policy of quarantining ships from plague-stricken places for 40 days to ensure that no one infected is on board. From the 17th century onwards, the term was used to refer to any period of forced isolation.
3. There was a superstition that whistling on a ship can summon strong winds.
Back then, in the old days of the Royal Navy, only cooks onboard ships are allowed to whistle. Apparently, this proved that they were not using their mouths to eat food as long as they whistled. Superstitions say that whistling is considered bad luck as it can bring about strong winds.
4. Cats apparently bring good luck on a boat.
Finding a cat on a boat is considered good luck, so sailors bring their cats. Irish and British sailors would often adopt a black cat, which may sound counterintuitive because, in some cultures, a black cat is considered evil. There seems to be some logic to it, as cats hunt down and get rid of the rodents who might chew on ropes or eat their food. Because of this, cats help keep the boat safe and clean. This practice was also adopted by the Vikings in Northern Germany between the 8th and 11th centuries.
5. There was a rare female pirate who wasn’t out for treasure – just revenge.
As you probably know, a career in piracy (the original piracy) is dominated by men. There was a French noblewoman named Jeanne de Clisson, known as the Lioness of Brittany, who was born in 1300. She became a pirate to relentlessly seek revenge after her husband was beheaded after the order of King Philip VI. She sold her lands to buy three ships, painted them black, and installed red sails on them. She terrorized the English Channel by hunting French ships, often slaughtering the crew and the nobles. It was her practice to leave at least one sailor alive to carry the message to the King of France. She continued her pirate endeavors for 13 years.
6. The youngest person to sail around the world is a 14-year-old girl.
The youngest person to sail solo around the world is Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch sailor. Her attempt began on August 21, 2010, and successfully completed the solo circumnavigation of the world at the age of 16, after 518 days. She was aboard Guppy, a 12.4-meter two-masted ketch.
7. A party yacht tripped over due to nude beachgoers.
In May 2004, a party yacht tripped over on Lake Travis when all passengers moved to one side of the boat as it passed a public nude beach in Texas. Revelers who crowded to one side of the barge wound up splashing in the water when the boat tipped over. About 60 people were rescued, including two with minor injuries.
8. The ship Christopher Columbus used to reach America was the size of a bus.
The first ship to reach America was small, compared to today’s standards. The ship named Santa Maria was no longer than 70 feet, which is about the size of a modern bus. It carried a crew of 52 people. The boat was originally named La Gallega, but Christopher Columbus changed it to Santa Maria de la Immaculate Concepcion.
9. A Swedish warship that sank in the 17th century was discovered completely intact after more than 300 years.
Short-lived was the voyage of the Swedish warship Vasa, a Royal Swedish Navy ship that sank just 1,300 meters into her maiden cruise in 1628. A light gust of wind caused the Vasa to heel over on its side, sinking the ship and causing the loss of 53 lives. After spending centuries underwater, the boat was recovered in 1961 by marine archeologists. The boat was still in good shape and completely intact. Among the many items found, there were weapons, cannons, tools, clothing, cutlery, food, drink, and sails. Today, the boat lies in the Vasa Museum and is considered the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship. The Vasa Museum is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions and the most visited museum in Scandinavia.
10. For three times in history, December 5 spoke of the tale of unsinkable Hugh Williams.
The date of December 5 might just go down as one of history’s most coincidental days ever. On that date, in 1664, a ship sank in Menai Strait off the coast of Wales. Only one of its 81 passengers survived, and it was a man named Hugh Williams. That same date in 1785, another ship sank in the Menai Strait. Once again, of all 60 passengers of the ship, there was only one who survived – and his name was Hugh Williams. To add more mystery to the tale, the year 1820 marked the third instance of a ship sinking in the Strait on December 5. All 25 people aboard drowned except a man named Hugh Williams.
It seems to be a retold sea story with different years and a different number of passengers, but there are three variables always constant: the accidents happened on December 5, it all happened in Menai Strait, and the only survivor was always named Hugh Williams. Apparently, the Menai Strait is known for its rough waters all year round. The last name Williams is highly prevalent in Wales, as is the first name, Hugh. Over a period of almost 200 years, it’s not unlikely that there were three different survivors with the same name, and it’s nothing more than an odd coincidence.