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What is a Boatyard?

By Phil Shepley
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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A boatyard is a location on the water where ships and boats are docked. The term can also refer to a place where boats are built, maintained and stored for a long or short duration of time. The words dockyard and shipyard can be interchanged with boatyard, but the term shipyard typically refers to a place mainly used to build or maintain boats.

Some small boatyards are used for leisure watercraft, such as speedboats, or for small fishing boats for hobbyist fishermen, for example. These require little more than a series of docks and slipways to hold and launch boats. Larger yards, some with huge commercial or military watercraft, will need much sturdier structures. Some of these are built with specific machinery dedicated to the types of boats that are docked along with their cargo.

The location where a boatyard is placed depends on its main purpose. Ideally, the water in the location will be calm, and have limited exposure to such dangerous weather as high waves, typhoons and hurricanes. Many boatyards are built along rivers, on inland lakes, and in bays where they are protected from more volatile waters.

Boatyards can be used to dock boats of any size or purpose. A marina, for example, is a type of boatyard dedicated to yachts, cabin cruisers and other watercraft with living spaces and amenities on board. People who dock luxury ships in a marina will usually pay a fee to do so, and they may be part of an exclusive club with other boat owners in the same marina. Civilian boatyards are usually privately owned and available to most people, but there often is a fee assessed here as well.

Military boatyards can be found on any body of water procured by a government for use as a naval base. The boats and ships docked on the water at a naval base range from small dinghies to massive warships and aircraft carriers. The locations of these dockyards are strategically located for defense, as well as for ease of ship deployment. Very few military bases allow civilian boats access to their boatyards.

Some civilian and military dockyards have been around for many years and have great historical significance. Pearl Harbor is one of the more famous examples of a military boatyard, for instance, that is still in operation today. Many commercial boatyards are popular because of their profitability over the years. Private docks can be hot vacationing spots, and many popular tourist destinations exist in and around boatyards within various waters throughout the world.

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