What Is a Speed Boat?

To counter the threat posed by the speed boats used by drug cartels, the U.S. Coast Guard has begun to deploy several classes of smaller patrol boats.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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A speed boat is any variety of engine-powered boat that is designed to go exceptionally fast. The boat may feature an inboard or outboard motor, and the shape of the hull and deck of the boat is often designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. Some speed boats are designed to allow the driver of the boat to sit inside a cockpit that is also aerodynamically designed to reduce wind resistance. Other designs feature a sunken cockpit and seating area for a driver and a few passengers. These boats do not usually go quite as fast, though they are good for recreational purposes.

The overall design of a speed boat can vary significantly based on its intended purposes. Racing boats, for example, will often feature more aerodynamic shapes and designs that are meant to help reduce wind drag. The pilot of the boat may sit inside a cockpit, and some boats even feature two cockpits for more than one operator. Such boats are sometimes called power boats because of the exceptional thrust they can create. It is not uncommon to find a double-hull speed boat that is designed to further reduce drag produced by the hull's motion through the water.


A speed boat designed for more recreational use will often feature an open cockpit and sitting area for passengers. The boat will still be able to reach high speeds, though not often as high as power boats designed for racing. These boats will, like racing boats, feature a long, V-shaped hull made from fiberglass. Fiberglass is a relatively durable material that is very lightweight, allowing the boat's weight overall to be reduced for speed and maneuverability. Many speed boats do not feature any cabin underneath the foredeck, though the boats that do feature cabins often feature very small spaces that are not designed for comfort.

While these boats are most commonly used for racing and for recreation, they are sometimes used for illegal purposes. Drug runners have often chosen to use these boats to transport drugs quickly across international waters or even within a country's boundaries; the idea was to use the fast boats to outrun the Coast Guard or other authorities, though with the use of helicopters and equally fast boats, the authorities have become adept at catching such criminals. Law enforcement agencies may also use a speed boat fleet to patrol coastal waters.


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