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A cigarette boat, also known as a go-fast or dance boat, is a narrow, fiberglass speedboat developed by professional racer Donald Joel Aronow in the 1960s. Aronow won a World Championship with a 32-foot (10-meter) cigarette boat and went on to form the Cigarette Racing Team in 1969. Cigarette is the brand name of Aronow's boat, but it has come to be used as a generic term for all boats of a similar design.
Most cigarette boats are 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 meters) long and about 8 feet (2 meters) long. They have a closed bow and usually hold no more than five people. A typical version has two or more engines with a typical combined horsepower of 1,000. This style of boat is intended for offshore racing and can reach speeds of over 80 knots (150 km/h) in calm waters. In races, a cigarette boat is manned by three people: one to steer, one to navigate, and one to work the throttle, controlling speed.
These boats are typically made of fiberglass, which gives them durability. Their long and lean shape helps them move through the water quickly. They have a planing hull, which means that they move along the surface of the water with only a small part of the hull touching it. This design also improves the boat's speed.
Its sleek design, speed, and power have made the cigarette boat popular among offshore racers. In the 1980s, the same characteristics resulted in the boat becoming the preferred vehicle for drug smugglers as well. Legend has it that this boat gets its name from the fact that it was used at one time to smuggle cigarettes into Canada.
Unfortunately, the cigarette boat became popular in the illegal drug trade, particularly that of cocaine, in the decades after it appeared on the market. This fact lends the boat a certain mystique among consumers, but at the same time, the United States Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have been compelled to improve their detection methods to deal with the stealthy sea-craft. As conventional boats are not up to the challenge of apprehending cigarette boats, the US Coast Guard now uses their own speedboats, along with helicopters, to fight the illegal drug trade. The helicopters have anti-materiel rifles able to disable the motor of a cigarette boat.