Anatomy of a Powerboat: Guide to a Powerboat

Some enjoy the pace of speed boating, some enjoy scanning the seas aboard luxurious yachts, and some enjoy the simple pleasure of fishing. What do these activities have in common? They are all powered by powerboat! In our new guide we’ll take you through a brief history of the motorboat - focusing on the powerboat.

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What are the types of powerboat?


There are around 15 different types of powerboat. And technically, any boat with an engine can be described as a powerboat. But a few rules of logic apply to this. Though a dinghy is powered by an engine, you definitely would not call it a ‘powerboat’!

In the boating community it is motor yachts and superyachts (over 100 feet long) which typically fall under this description. Perhaps our favourite example of a powerboat would be the research vessel once known as Boaty McBoatface – named by the British public creating one of 2016’s funniest viral stories. The naming decision was overturned, and it has since been changed to RRS Sir David Attenborough (a very worthy alternative). But, it will be remembered as Boaty McBoatface to most.   

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Parts of a powerboat

  • Hull – This is the part of the boat that floats. It consists of an internal framework and is covered by an outer fiberglass shell (the part that you see and can touch).

  • Bow - (pronounced like “cow”) the bow is the front of the boat hull.

  • Stern - The back of the boat hull.

    • Port: Left (while looking forward).
  • Starboard: Right (while looking forward)

  • Aft: In or toward the back.

  • Berth: The sleeping area.

  • Bridge/Cockpit: The part of the boat where the controls are.

  • Cabin: A private room on the boat.

  • Deck: An outside area of the boat on which you can walk.
  • Galley: The kitchen.

  • Helm: The wheel or handle for steering.
  • Porthole: Window.

  • Propeller: The spinning blades that make the boat go.

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History of the powerboat

The earliest motor-powered boat was tested on the Neckar River in Germany by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1886. The engine had a single cylinder of just one horse power (HP). Daimler’s second launch in 1887 had an additional cylinder positioned at an angle of 15 degrees to the first one, and was known as the ‘V-type’. The Daimler name may sound familiar, because it’s the same company which once manufactured cars and was purchased by Jaguar in 1960. Though the earliest record of motorboats in use may be traced back to Germany, the first working motorboat was created here in Britain! The Priestman Brothers in Hull started testing their motorboats in 1888 and by 1890; the Priestman’s boats were being used to tow cargo along canals.

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Record-breaking powerboats

Anatomy Of A Powerboat Spirit Of Australia

Ken Warby may be the official King of DIY – he built the world’s fastest speedboat in his backyard. The three-point hydroplane was designed by Warby specifically to beat the world record. And he did – the boat went up to a staggering 317.6 MPH. And to this day the record has not been broken.

Fastest yacht in the world - World is Not Enough, 2004

Named after the James Bond film – it shares the same suave and sophistication as the man himself. It stretches to an enormous 42 metres and maintains a top speed of 70 knots. It was built in 2005 by Millenium Superyachts and boasts two Paxman 18-cylinder main diesel engines which offer a combined 10,870hp. When compared to the first motorboat tested in 1886 - which achieved just one HP - World Is Not Enough is a testament in how far boat engineering has developed.

Anatomy Of A Powerboat World Is Not Enough


Biggest yacht in the world - The Azzam, 2013.

Having taken the record once held by billionaire tycoon Roman Abramovich, The Azzam is a marvel. It is owned by Sheikh Bin Zayed – the Emir of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, and it is the world’s largest superyacht at 180 metres long and cost $605 million to build. Despite its size, it manages to travel at a surprising top speed of 30 knots. For more about The Azzam, check out our detailed infographic about the cost of maintaining a superyacht.


The powerboat is a feat of modern engineering – if you are lucky enough to be aboard one or even luckier to own one, those perfectly preened #nofilter Instagram posts are fine with us. The powerboat is like a car of the seas, allowing you to speedily skim across the earth’s vast waters as you please. All aboard!


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Motorboat insurance from Towergate

We can offer cover for motorboats and speed boats on and off the water.

Get a motorboat insurance quote online or call us on 0344 892 1987.

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About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.