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What is a Tender Boat and Its Uses?

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

What is a Tender Boat

What is a tender boat? If you’re not familiar with going on a cruise ship, the term may seem novel to you. Tender boats are small boats used on big yachts and cruise ships to carry passengers and luggage inland when the dock is too narrow for the ship to enter.

Today’s article includes a thorough explanation of tender boats and associated boating terms. Stay tuned!

Overview About Tender Boats

1. History

Source: britannica.com

Speaking of the tender boat origin, we have to trace it back to the Middle French era. The term tendre, from Middle French, means to offer, hold forth.

However, other people believe that tender boats actually have a different backstory than what was mentioned.

In former times, trading vessels would send out a small boat to inform dealers of the products they wished to trade. These boats were known as ‘tender,’ and the process of sending out these boats was called ‘tendering.’

Fast forward to today, we have the official definition of a tender ship, a small boat that provides services for big vessels, including transportation, casual rides, fishing trips, etc.

2. Characteristics


So, what are the characteristics that define tendor boats? Some tender boats offer a wide range of features to suit your liking and needs, depending on their price and size. Below are some of the commonly seen characteristics of a tender boat for a yacht.

  • Comes in various sizes (from 9 to 24 feet)
  • Can occupy 2-50 people
  • Usually flat-bottomed to ensure tender vessel stability
  • Provides hassle-free navigation in shallow waters
  • Offers comparable services to a yacht – the grandness, quality, and security
  • Capable of handling hauling demands regardless of the destination, whether it’s a small port or narrow docking location
  • Often has a crew to help passengers with mobility problems and kinetosis

You don’t necessarily have to look for a tender boat with all of these features; the more services they offer, the higher they’re going to cost. Consult several dealers and examine different models to find the boat of your dreams.

3. Types of Tender Boats


Need an example of a tender ship? Find below different types of tender boats nowadays.

  • RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) – These are the most commonly known choice of tender boats thanks to their optimized convenience. Crew members make use of RIBs to pick up supply goods from inland.
  • Limousine Tenders – Limousine tenders don’t just come in styles but also functionality. They offer seating for visitors with utmost comfort, typically suitable for short voyages in the water.
  • Custom Tenders – In case you can’t find any model to suit your liking, custom tenders are also available. Yacht owners like to match their tenders with yachts for a more stylish overall look.
  • Jet Tenders – These boats are preferred over others due to their speed and maneuverability. Just like RIBs, jet tenders are utilized in taking passengers out on a short cruise around shallow bays and beaches.
  • Sport or Fishing Tenders – There are also tenders specially made for enthusiast anglers, featuring different fishing amenities and equipment. They’re superior to other models regarding their powerful engines, enabling fishing at multiple destinations and voyaging at a high speed.
  • Electric Tenders – E-tenders are on the rise in recent years due to their convenience and functionality. These boats are either solar-powered or need frequent charging, but that won’t be a problem, since tenders don’t often have to travel far.

Why Are Tender Boats Necessary?


Why is a tender on a boat necessary, you may ask.

As mentioned, a captain will make use of tender boats when the port or docking site is not qualified to enter (too narrow entrance, shallow waters, rocky seabed, etc.). Instead, passengers will disembark and get on tenders to safely get to a tender port.

What defines a tender port is not the size of the port itself, but a vessel’s specifications. Some ports offer piers to accommodate small and midsize ships, but larger vessels are required to dock from afar and transport passengers with tender boats – this process is called tendering.

The scarce availability of cruise ports also contributes to the use of a port tender vessel. When a port is fully occupied, dock managers would offer a tendering space to reassure the tardy cruise lines and keep local tourism in check.

Additionally, tender boats also serve as life rafts in case of emergency.

Tender vs. Dinghy


You may think a dinghy is another name for a tender boat, but that’s not entirely true. There is a slight difference between the two in terms of functionality for large-size vessels.

Tenders can be used for various purposes, including carrying supplies or fishing trawls from cruisers or fishing ships to and fro inland – they’re designed to cater to larger crafts.

On the other hand, dinghies are found on small and midsize recreational vessels. They can be as straightforward as a rowboat, or gas-powered inflatables to perform similar tasks as tenders.


What is a tender boat? By now, the answer should be as bright as day!

Cruising on a tender can be a fun experience to explore islands and bays where the water is shallow. However, it can also be a little challenging for people with mobility issues or children.

On top of that, choosing a tender isn’t an easy task, and it certainly shouldn’t be one of your last decisions after purchasing a yacht. Put some serious thought to consider what features are must-haves and consult different dealers when you’re on the hunt for the perfect tender boat.

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