A boat is a watercraft of a large range of sizes designed to float, plane, work or travel on water. Small boats are typically found on inland waterways or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed for operation from a ship in an offshore environment. An older tradition is that a ship has a weather deck fully enclosing the hull space, while a boat lacks a full weather deck; this is suggested as the reason why submarines are referred to as 'boats' rather than 'ships', as a cylindrical hull has interior decks but no weatherdeck. Another definition is a vessel that can be lifted out of the water.
Boats have a wide variety of shapes, sizes and construction methods due to their intended purpose, available materials or local traditions. Canoe-type boats have been used since prehistoric times and various versions are used throughout the world for transportation, fishing or sport. Fishing boats vary widely in style partly to match local conditions. Pleasure boats include ski boats, pontoon boats, and sailboats. House boats may be used for vacationing or long-term housing. Small boats can provide transport or convey cargo to and from large ships. Lifeboats have rescue and safety functions.
By the mid-19th century, many boats had been built with iron or steel frames but still planked in wood. In 1855 ferro-cement boat construction was patented by the French, who coined the name "ferciment". This is a system by which a steel or iron wire framework is built in the shape of a boat's hull and covered (trowelled) over with cement. Reinforced with bulkheads and other internal structure, it is strong but heavy, easily repaired, and, if sealed properly, will not leak or corrode. These materials and methods were copied all over the world and have faded in and out of popularity to the present time.
Fibreglass boats are strong, and do not rust (iron oxide), corrode, or rot. They are, however susceptible to structural degradation from sunlight and extremes in temperature over their lifespan. Fibreglass provides structural strength, especially when long woven strands are laid, sometimes from bow to stern, and then soaked in epoxy or polyester resin to form the hull. Whether hand laid or built in a mould, Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats usually have an outer coating of gelcoat, which is a thin solid colored layer of polyester resin that adds no structural strength, but does create a smooth surface which can be buffed to a high shine and also acts as a protective layer against sunlight.
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