A whaleboat is a type of open boat that was used for catching whales, or a boat of similar design that retained the name when used for a different purpose. Some whaleboats were used from whaling ships. Other whaleboats would operate from the shore. Later whaleboats usually could operate under sail or oar - American whaling crews in particular obtained better results by making their first approach to a whale under sail, then quickly unstepping the mast and using oars thereafter.

A modern copy of a whaleboat at Mystic Seaport. The mast is stowed with its heel under the after thwart and resting on the gunwale on the starboard quarter. The 2 tubs containing the whale rope are in the after half of the boat, and the rope is led round the loggerhead and then forward to the bow, between the chocks. The harpoons are already attached to the rope.
Whaleboat aboard the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport

Most whaleboats have double-ended[lower-alpha 1], clinker-built hulls of light construction. The hulls were narrow and with sharp ends to achieve the best possible speed for the length of waterline. Length was between 27 and 31 feet. Beam was just over a fifth of the length. Typically they were propelled by five oars when rowed, and stepped a single removable mast when under sail. A rudder was used when under sail and a steering oar when the boat was rowed. The latter provided the manoeuvrability needed when closing with a harpooned whale.

Outside of whaling, whaleboats were well thought of for their seaworthiness and as a useful compromise between optimisation for sail or oar. They were therefore used as a type of ship's boat and for other utility purposes. Many of these derivative types varied from the whale-hunting types to some extent - for instance the Montagu whaler was a somewhat sturdier version with slightly fuller lines, but still retaining, for example, the five oars, clinker build, double ends and a reputation for seaworthiness.

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