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A yacht is a recreational boat or ship. The term originated from the Dutch Jacht meaning “hunt”. It was originally defined as a light fast sailing vessel used by the Dutch navy to pursue pirates and other transgressors around and into the shallow waters of the Low Countries. After its selection by Charles II of England as the vessel to carry him to Britain from Holland for his restoration, it came to be used to mean a vessel used to convey important persons.
In modern use the term designates two rather different classes of watercraft, sailing and power boats. Yachts are different from working ships mainly by their leisure purpose, and it was not until the rise of the steamboat and other types of powerboat that sailing vessels in general came to be perceived as luxury, or recreational vessels. Later the term came to encompass motor boats for primarily private pleasure purposes as well.
Some countries have a special flag worn by recreational boats or ships that indicates the nationality of the vessel. Although inspired in the National flag, the yacht ensign is not always corresponding with the civil or merchant ensign of the state in question. The US yacht ensign for example, has a circle of 13 stars and a fouled anchor in the canton instead of the 50 stars, being quite different from the Ensign of the US, which is the flag of the United States.
Common commercial uses of watercraft, which would not be referred to as yachting, include commercial fishing, shipping, operation of ferries, and military applications.
Day sailing yachts are usually small, at under 6 metres (20 ft) in length. Sometimes called sailing dinghies, they often have a retractable keel, centreboard, or daggerboard. Most day sailing yachts do not have a cabin, as they are designed for hourly or daily use and not for overnight journeys. They may have a ‘cuddy’ cabin, where the front part of the hull has a raised solid roof to provide a place to store equipment or to offer shelter from wind or spray.