Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing, entertainment, public safety, and warfare. Historically, a "ship" was a vessel with sailsrigged in a specific manner.
Ships and boats have developed alongside mankind. In armed conflict and in daily life they have become an integral part of modern commercial and military systems. Fishing boats are used by millions of fishermen throughout the world. Military forces operate vessels for combat and to transport and support forces ashore. Commercial vessels, nearly 35,000 in number,carried 7.4 billion tons of cargo in 2007.
Ships were key in history's great explorations and scientific and technological development. Navigators such as Zheng He spread such inventions as the compass and gunpowder. Ships have been used for such purposes as colonization and the slave trade, and have served scientific, cultural, and humanitarian needs. New crops that had come from theAmericas via the European seafarers in the 16th century significantly contributed to the world's population growth.
Ships can usually be distinguished from boats based on size and the ship's ability to operate independently for extended periods. A commonly used rule of thumb is that if one vessel can carry another, the larger ofthe two is a ship. Dinghies are carried on sailing yachts as small as 35 feet (10.67 m), clearly not ships; this rule of thumb is not foolproof.
In the age of sail, a "ship" was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit; other types of vessel were also defined by their sailplan, e.g. barque, brigantine, etc.
A number of large vessels are usuallyreferred to as boats. Submarines are a prime example. Other types of large vessel which are traditionally called boats are the Great Lakes freighter, the riverboat, and the ferryboat. Though large enough to carry their own boats and heavy cargoes, these vessels are designed for operation on inland or protected coastal waters.
In most maritime traditions ships have individualnames, and modern ships may belong to a ship class often named after its first ship. In English, a ship is traditionally referred to as "she", even if named after a man, but this is not universal usage; some journalistic style guides advise using "it", others advise "she" and "her".
Prehistory and antiquity
A raft is among the simplestboat designs.
The first known vessels date back to the Neolithic Period, about 10,000 years ago, but could not be described as ships. The first navigators began to use animal skins or woven fabrics as sails. Affixed to the top of a pole set upright in a boat, these sails gave early ships range. This allowed men to explore widely, allowing, for example the settlement of Oceania about 3,000years ago.
By around 3000 BC, Ancient Egyptians knew how to assemble wooden planks into a hull. They used woven straps to lash the planks together, and reeds or grass stuffed between the planks helped to seal the seams. The Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides had documented ship-faring among the early Egyptians: "During the prosperous period of the Old Kingdom, between the 30thand 25th centuries B. C., the river-routes were kept in order, and Egyptian ships sailed the Red Sea as far as the myrrh-country." Sneferu's ancient cedar wood ship Praise of the Two Lands is the first reference recorded (2613 BCE) to a ship being referred to by name.
The ancient Egyptians were perfectly at ease building sailboats. A remarkable example of their shipbuilding skills was the...