What Does "Tender" Mean On a Sailboat?

What Does "Tender" Mean On a Sailboat? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

August 30, 2022

When sailing on a large boat, there are times when you need something smaller to navigate certain areas. This is when a sailboat tender comes in handy.

Think about setting your anchor down and exploring shallow waters. What is a tender sailboat and how can it help in this situation?

Tender boats are smaller vessels that allow you to travel from a larger boat to shallow waters. These boats are called “tender” since they tend to the larger boat’s needs. This includes retrieving supplies, navigating areas too shallow for the larger boat, and a life boat for emergencies.

Tender boats will often mirror the quality of the larger boat itself, depending on the preference at the time of purchase. They can even be stored on the ship or towed behind as an added convenience. Some tender boats are night and day in comparison, with some providing the best quality available.

According to coast guard regulations, tender boats have to be treated as regular travel boats or rescue boats. Regardless of the use of these boats, it would not hurt to properly have everything you need in the event of an emergency.


Table of contents

History of a Tender Boat

Tender boats have roots to almost any small boat traveling on water in history that tended to the needs of larger boats. It was not until the 20th century that these boats were heavily popular and a common tradition was born.

Around the 1870’s, a 13-year-old boy named Chris Smith had just created his first boat and began the production of runabouts. By the 1920’s, a company he started had changed their name to Chris-Craft and they were building mahogany powered yacht tenders with inboard engines.

Around the 1940’s during WWII, they used a different style of large tender boats to offer supplies and support to the submarine vessels. Once the war ended, these particular boats were no longer needed.

Looking at today’s tender boats, you will likely see larger boats having some kind of tender boat but on a much smaller scale compared to WWII. In addition, these boats are being used differently as well.

For example, many tender boats will be available on cruise ships to allow passengers to ride to the dock when the ship cannot pass through. If not on the cruise ship themselves, there are usually tender boats waiting to help out.

Characteristics of a Tender Boat

A tender boat is often a general reference to another small boat called a dinghy. Dinghies will vary in size and shape, usually between six and 24 feet long.

Some tender boats have motors or simply just need oars to operate. In addition, these could be inflatable ones similar to military use or solid hulls that you would find for most options.

There are some rigid inflatable boats on the market that provide stability and efficiency without compromising comfort. These boats have a strong hull with inflatable tubes along both sides.

When looking at tender boats, you want to make sure it has a heavy duty towing eye. This means you should check the quality of the tow eye on the front of the boat.

If you plan on towing your tender boat in the water behind your larger boat, you want to make sure it can handle rough conditions. The strength of your tow eye and quality of the tender boat you have chosen need to have a great correlation in safety.

In addition, towing behind greatly accelerated the wear and tear of the tender boat. An inflatable boat, one that you store after each use or a heavy duty one that you keep out, will significantly have less damage over time.

Why Would You Need a Tender Boat?

Tender boats, for a little extra money,  allow you to enjoy the entire sailing experience. Depending on certain needs, everyone will have their preferences in why they need a tender boat.

If you want to take your tender boat out for some fast paced action, there are some that reach as high as 46 knots. This is a great opportunity to reach high speeds on the water without using your main vessel that would be beaten up by the waves.

When speaking about tender boats, sailors know that this type of boat serves a variety of purposes. If you plan on making trips often to shore, you might need something a little more rigid and durable to withstand constant use.

In the event of an emergency, you still want a reliable mode of transportation. However, you might not spend the extra money in luxury if you only plan on using your tender boat for emergency situations.

Your first step would be to consider what the tender boat will be to your current situation. This will allow you to narrow down options more efficiently and not rush into a purchase for a tender boat that does not meet your expectations.

Which Tender Boat is Right for Me?

Tender boats are a similar idea to your family car or as another reliable form of transportation. It might not be the main attraction, but it still serves an important purpose.

When considering a tender boat, remember to vision all of the scenarios you plan on taking it through. There are some factors that separate tender boats from one another that should be considered before a purchase.

Size Plays a Role

Depending on the size of your sailboat or yacht, you might have a specific size in mind for your tender boat. For example, if you have a 33 foot sailboat or small yacht and a 20 foot tender boat, the size of that particular tender boat might be overkill for just a few people.

If you are currently in that situation, you obviously have no choice but to tow the tender boat behind you unless it was one that you had to inflate every time. In that case, you could inflate the tender boat only when needed.

The size of the tender boat for larger sailboats might be considerably bigger if you plan on making one trip to the dock and back with a handful of people. Knowing how many people you will typically travel with makes a big difference in tender boat decisions.

Functionality of Tender Boat

These are a few of many questions you should ask yourself before considering a tender boat. How often do you plan on using your tender boat? Do you enjoy navigating areas where your larger boat cannot reach?

Some owners might like to have faster tender boats, while others do not mind slowly cruising around. This will all depend on your tastes as a consumer.

Available Free Space

The amount of space available for where you are going to store your tender boat is typically a great place to start when considering a tender boat. You also need to consider storing the boat onto your large vessel or tow behind you while traveling.

If you plan to store your vessel while traveling, you need to see how much room it will take up. You also need to factor in how heavy the tender boat is in this situation because it could affect the performance of your larger boat.

Money Arguably is Decision Maker

The price of a tender boat will often vary in quality and functionality. If you have a luxurious blue water sailboat, you are likely going to want a tender boat that matches the occasion.

Some tender boats might only cost a few thousand dollars or so, while others are over a million dollars. These are going to vary wildly since it depends on quality, inflated or solid hull, and luxury.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of cheaper options and you do receive what is paid for. If it gets the job done, the price might not matter as much.

What Does "Tender" Mean On a Sailboat?
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

Read more articles

by this author

Home /

What Does "Tender" Mean On a Sailboat?

What Does "Tender" Mean On a Sailboat?
7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat >>Can You Live On A Sailboat Year Round? >>

Most Recent

Important Legal Info

Similar Posts

Popular Posts

Get The Best Sailing Content

Welcome aboard! Check your email...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Lifeofsailing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

(866) 342-SAIL

© 2024 Life of Sailing
Email: contact@lifeofsailing.com
Address: 11816 Inwood Rd #3024 Dallas, TX 75244
DisclaimerPrivacy Policy