Boats, Ranked

Boats, Ranked

A careful review of the pros and cons of various watercraft.

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Photo: Fabrice Coffrini (Getty Images)

Boats: They are vessels of ancient Solomon Islanders who charted a now-fantastical journey 2,000 miles into the unknown. They contain drunk people while idling with the engine running on the East River as the toilet floods the lower deck, penetrating nauseated passengers’ nostrils with sewage, an event which I can testify has happened at least one time (July 4th, 2018). They are vehicles of assholes, such as American Commodore Matthew Perry and the Winkelvoss twins. They are machines that disrupt whale song. They are Biblical. They are the catalyst for cannibalism and schlocky movies and thrilling movies. The Jungle Cruise. The Titanic. The Raft of Medusa. Noah’s Ark. Some of these are ships, I guess. The important question is how do you rank them?

That’s such an expansive and chaotic range of boat-related instances that the only metric to rank them is whether they justify their own existence. Here are nine boats that represent the best and worst reasons to be a boat, from worst to best.

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9. PWCs

9. PWCs

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“Personal watercraft” (jet skis, water scooters) are the cocaine of boats: obnoxious, deadly, hard to defend purchasing. Oh, great, the jet ski people are here, they’ll say. Jet skis ruin the water. Jet skis can get as little as three miles per gallon, which means they burn fuel at about twice the rate of a tractor-trailer and twelve times that of a Honda Accord. There’s a name for the specific kind of potentially lethal anorectal/vaginal injury incurred when the high-pressure jets shoot water up and lacerate the rider’s insides. There’s a reason that there are no heroes associated with this shit boat.

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8. Hovercraft

8. Hovercraft

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Photo: Jason Reed (Getty Images)

On paper, the amphibious hovercraft sounds like it was made up by a boat-obsessed child. It hovers, with the help of an air cushion, capable of jetting up to 95mph and, in one case, transporting three tanks. It can travel on sea, ice, and earth. Look at this bad boy. Its soundtrack is a ‘90s electric guitar riff. James Bond can ride it through a minefield. And now it’s getting ridiculous:

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Photo: Ian Forsyth (Getty Images)
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Photo: Mark Ralston (Getty Images)

A bit much.

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7. Paddleboat

7. Paddleboat

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Photo: Tolga Akmen (Getty Images)

The paddleboat is true-neutral. They say what they are and do what they say. If you don’t like paddling don’t get on a paddleboat.

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6. Utility Boat

6. Utility Boat

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Photo: Juan Mabromata (Getty Images)

If a prehistoric man were dropped into 2021, he would intuitively understand the purpose of this boat. It’s a chair for water. It’s the basic components of a boat. It’s the ultimate boat.

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5. Ferry

5. Ferry

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Photo: Angela Weiss (Getty Images)

If you’re traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan, you can descend into the depths of a rat-infested tunnel and cram into a tube of strange bodies quietly farting and eating salad. Or, for the same price, you can embark on a ferry where the snack bar offers vodka mules and then feel the breeze on your face on the spacious upper deck. I have no idea why these two things cost the same amount of money.

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4. Tugboat

4. Tugboat

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Photo: Suez Canal Authority (AP)

The tugboat is the plunger of canals, the lifeguard for boats.

Look at them pull this embarrassment of a ship out of the way.

That’s the case for tugboats.

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3. Raft

3. Raft

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Photo: Bebeto Matthews (AP)

If you need a raft, you really need a raft. Nobody’s unhappy to see a raft.

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2. Houseboat

2. Houseboat

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Photo: Rick Bowmer (AP)

True, it would take you an hour to travel ten miles in a houseboat at top speed, but it’s not like you have a hair appointment, ya ‘ole sea dog. Your house is portable. You exude “fuck it” energy. You are untethered to land and its social conventions. You can evade junk mail and possibly the IRS. You don’t have an exterminator. Good boat.

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1. Garbage Barge

1. Garbage Barge

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Photo: David Bookstaver (AP)

In New York, trash barges are primary characters in the choreographed voyage of 14 million tons of trash off the island each year, heralding their arrival with a big ass fog horn that suits it. They have lots of personality. A story is guaranteed to be more interesting if there’s a barge in it.

Here’s a barge story: After New York City ran out of landfill space in 1987, a mafia-linked trash barge carried nearly 3,000 tons of mysterious garbage up and down the east coast for around six months asking if anybody wanted some trash. Typical barge.

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