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Yachts 101: Types of Yachts & Yacht Tenders

There are as many ways to get on the water as there are people who want to set sail. Pleasure vessel designs range from the simplest motor boat cruising coastal waters to the largest expedition yacht that goes anywhere in the world.

But whether you have a tiny recreational vessel or a mega yacht, every cruising yacht needs the perfect tender. Here's a look at the different types of yachts and the invaluable tenders that connect them to shore.

What Classifies As a Yacht?

The word "yacht" conjures different images for different people. Europeans, for example, will refer to nearly all sailboats and motorboats as "yachts," even very small recreational vessels.

In the US and other parts of the world, a yacht is larger and more luxurious than the average boat. They usually have a professional, full-time crew on board--but not always. Yachts might further be classified as a superyacht (over 78 feet long) or even a megayacht (over 260 feet long). Like other vessels, they may be of fiberglass, metal, or wooden construction, and they come in many different designs for various purposes.

But, no matter where you are, yachts are pleasure vessels built for recreational purposes. They'll always include some basic living accommodations like a galley (kitchen), head (bathrooms), and cabins or staterooms (bedrooms). But a yacht is appointed to a higher standard than typical pleasure boats, with nothing but the highest-quality luxury amenities. Things like air conditioning, watermakers, and lots of storage space are given on large yachts.

Beyond these bare necessities, a luxury motor yacht will also have a complement of entertainment options to suit any guest. Many are outfitted for extensive long-distance cruising, entertaining, or water sports like fishing, diving, swimming, and lounging. Of course, a yacht's accessories are entirely up to the owners.

Different Types of Yachts

There's no right or wrong answer regarding the type of yacht you want--there's something out there for everyone. Here are a few types of yachts you'll see on the water.

Sailing Yachts

Some sailing yachts are traditional, with low-slung cabins and wide, open decks, while others are hybrid yachts with modern tri-deck yacht layouts. In some parts of the world, many yacht charter boats offer sailing vacations. For example, the Turkish gulet yacht is a traditional wooden sailboat that cruises the Aegean.

Most luxury yacht owners seek the versatility and high speed that a motor yacht provides. Still, plenty of modern sailing yachts are out there for those who love to sail.

Multihull Yachts

Sailing catamaran and trimaran designs are very popular. These wide vessels are stable at sea and do not heel as much as their monohull sisterships. As a result, they're some of the most popular charter yacht designs.

Plenty of smaller catamaran motor yachts are available, but these are generally limited to boats less than 70 feet long. However, this is an exciting new sector in yachting, so expect to see more on the water soon. Thanks to their wide beams, these boats offer immense interior space. A 70-foot cat might have the interior accommodations of a 130 or 150-foot monohull.

Motor Yachts

Monohull motor yachts are the most common type on the water because they offer a surprising amount of versatility and comfort. If you can dream up an amenity or an expedition to undertake, there's a yacht out there built to do it.

Motor yachts come in a huge variety of different styles, and are outfitted and designed to meet the purposes and expectations of their owners. Some common designs include the following examples.

The Classic Yacht

These yachts have a distinctive, timeless look that reminds you of the golden era of steamers crossing the open sea. A classic yacht is designed to suit a particular owner's tastes. Most are custom-built. While they may look old, they are often modern designs with timeless aesthetics.

The Express Cruiser

An express cruiser is a single-deck yacht designed to go fast. Some are called a "Downeast" because their designs harken back to traditional Maine lobster boats. They feature an enclosed helm forward of a main deck salon and an open rear cockpit.

The Flybridge Yacht

Flybridge yachts have an upper helm--the flybridge--that is usually open-air. There's also an upper deck area where the operator and guests can enjoy fresh air and sun. Plus, the visibility from a flybridge is perfect for everyday cruising.

A flybridge sportfish yacht is designed for fishing. These sports yachts boast excellent seaworthiness and stable rides that can go anywhere. Fishing flybridges are often very tall, allowing the operator to see schooling fish from up high.

If you like the looks of a sportfish but want a luxury yacht for cruising, then a sedan bridge is for you. They have similar features to a sportfish but are appointed for entertaining and relaxing instead of fishing.

The Pilothouse Motor Yacht

Pilothouse yachts are built around an enclosed helm area. As a result, the pilothouse often gives them a classic, seaworthy look--an aesthetic that some designers embrace more than others.

The Tri-Deck Yacht

A three-level yacht is the classic yacht layout for modern super and megayachts, giving a vessel of any size the look of luxury and comfort.

The Expedition Yacht

These explorer yachts are built for extreme long-distance and all-weather cruising anywhere in the world. They're custom-built or conversions from research vessels that have been appointed to luxury standards. Their designs often incorporate pilothouse motor yacht aesthetics that look more practical than luxurious. Many of the largest yachts on the water incorporate this go-anywhere ethos.

Yacht Tenders

When you discuss the yacht tender, what you're describing is the "mothership's" primary support vessel. The size of the tender depends on the size of the mothership. For this reason, the word "tender" encompasses many different types of boats, from packable inflatable row boats to 50-plus-foot center consoles.

Many yachts carry a few "toys" that do not necessarily tender. Sailing dinghies, jet skis, or kayaks are perfect for playing in the water and enjoying your favorite watersports. But a tender, on the other hand, can carry diving or fishing gear, but it can also carry spare parts and groceries when you need supplies from shore.

Types of Yacht Tenders

Tenders are roughly divided into three categories: inflatables, rigid boats, and Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs).


These dinghies are made of air chambers and can roll into a small package when deflated. They can be packed away in a small locker. Some have removable, hard floorboards to make them sturdier when carrying a load. The largest ones are about 15 feet long and are open, driven by tiller-steered outboards.

Rigid Boats

A rigid boat is any other type of boat that isn't inflatable, be it wood, fiberglass, plastic, or metal. When it comes to tenders, the most common choice is an open-deck fiberglass boat. Many believe that the center console fishing boat makes the perfect tender since it is well-suited for many activities and available in sizes from 15 to 60 feet long.

The problem with a rigid tender is storage and weight. These vessels are often much heavier and bulkier than inflatables or RIBs. Larger center consoles are used as chase boats or are towed behind the mothership.

Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs)

A RIB is a rigid hull (usually made from fiberglass or aluminum) surrounded by an inflatable tube. The hull makes the boat strong and produces a comfortable ride, while the tube gives it extra buoyancy and load-carrying capabilities. They make an extremely stable platform for a tender. The tube also acts as a built-in fender, so you don't have to worry about damaging the yacht or the mothership when operating in close quarters.

RIBs are excellent multipurpose vessels that can do it all--carry the groceries, take you diving, or carry passengers to and from shore. In addition, they can operate in very shallow water and go out in various weather conditions.

Choosing the Right Tender Boat

Now that you know the types of tenders out there, you can begin choosing the right one for your yacht. No matter what type of mothership you've got, your tender should complement it. This is always a balance between the tender's size, functionality, and aesthetics.

  • What size tender will be easy to stow and secure onboard?

  • How will your tender move with the mothership? Does it stow on deck, in the garage, tow behind, or meet you at the destination?

  • Will it do what you need it to do? For example, how many passengers does it need to carry, or how much gear? Will it operate in heavy seas, or shallow, protected waters?

  • Will the tender match the mothership in terms of quality and luxury?

  • Will the tender complement the look and beauty of the mothership?

The Best Yacht Tenders on the Market

At Argos Nautic, we believe that getting the most out of your tender means getting the right design, performance, and customization options.

Our RIB yacht tenders are sleek, designed by artists like Patrizio Facheris of Facheris Design Inc., and handcrafted by our expert builders. In addition, we incorporate the latest building techniques and technologies, creating what we believe is the best yacht tender you can buy. Since every tender is built to order, you can customize every detail to match your yacht, from the tube and hull colors to the flooring and upholstery.

Choose the tender that meets your needs based on the size and type of internal combustion engine that you want--gasoline outboards (GT series), jet drives (JET series), or reliable diesel inboards (Diesel series).

Now that you have an idea of the types of yachts and tenders out there, the value of getting the right tender for your mothership should be clear. We believe that the two should go together, hand-in-hand. So come and design your custom yacht tender today with Argos Nautic.


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