A boat is a watercraft of a large range of type and size. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on their larger size, shape, and cargo or passenger capacity.
Small boats are typically found on inland waterways such as rivers and lakes, or in protected coastal areas. However, some boats, such as the whaleboat, were intended for use in an offshore environment. In modern naval terms, a boat is a vessel small enough to be carried aboard a ship. Anomalous definitions exist, as bulk freighters 1,000 feet long on the Great Lakes being known as oreboats.
Boats vary in proportion and construction methods due to their intended purpose, available materials, or local traditions. Canoes have been used since prehistoric times and remain in use throughout the world for transportation, fishing, and sport. Fishing boats vary widely in style partly to match local conditions. Pleasure craft used in recreational boating include ski boats, pontoon boats, and sailboats. House boats may be used for vacationing or long-term residence. Lighters are used to convey cargo to and from large ships unable to get close to shore. Lifeboats have rescue and safety functions.