I have several qualifications in what the RYA (UK authority for such qualifications) calls powerboating or motor cruising. These are small-to-medium sized boats with engines, and no sails. I would like to be able to say sentences of the form "I am a keen x" but using the word sailor suggests that I know about sailing (which I don't).

I realise that in other contexts (for example, sailors in the Navy) the word doesn't have those connotations, but I believe it would in the contexts I want to use it. What alternatives could I use?

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    Is there a question here? If you're looking for alternatives, what about boater? Mariner? Motorboater? Powerboater? – Steven Littman Nov 3 '17 at 11:26
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    "Boater" is the term used around here. – Hot Licks Nov 3 '17 at 11:32
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    'Boatsman' is probably unusual enough to make people at least examine likelihoods. Especially if you're a lady. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 3 '17 at 11:44
  • @HotLicks 'Boater' first brings to mind the hat, at least in the UK. – dbmag9 Nov 3 '17 at 13:25
  • What did your dictionary of choice, or the RYA rules, leave unclear? – Robbie Goodwin Nov 3 '17 at 21:39

The word you're looking for is boater ... this is what the RYA would call you. It's the best generic word for a boat user. The only caveat is that it includes all vessels, including rowing boats, kayaks, canal barges, pedalos, etc. If you cross oceans in a superyacht, you might find boater slightly beneath your dignity!

It's also fine to describe a motorboat user as a sailor (yes, I disagree with the premise of your question). Certainly so if you go on lengthy voyages.

sailor: 2) a traveller by water https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sailor

... most people understand that wind power does not a sailor make, in my experience. (I do sailboats. My motor-cruising friends all describe themselves as sailors without fear of reproach or confusion.)

Similarly, anybody who uses a boat for pleasure, rather than commerce or transport is a yachtsman (although that word is also slightly more associated with puff power)

I'd suggest that you can safely describe yourself as a yachtsman or sailor around anyone who knows boats, but keep "I sail a powerboat" in reserve for lubbers.


You're a mariner.

  1. a person who directs or assists in the navigation of a ship; sailor.


"I am a keen mariner."

And since you're in the UK, you probably won't be confused with those other guys.

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    I'm not sure how it's used elsewhere, but in the UK 'mariner' is normally reserved for those who go to sea as a career: either on a commercial freight vessel, or the navy. You wouldn't call someone who works on a fishing trawler a mariner, even. – ArchContrarian Nov 3 '17 at 23:02
  • @ArchContrarian sure. I agree. Even further, in my experience (U.S. Pacific Northwest, if it makes a difference) your examples would hold up for "sailor" just as much as "mariner". You'd call the guy a "fisherman" or "crabber" or "dude in a boat". OP mentioned qualifications of some flavor, which sounds formal enough to me that he'd be looking for a formal enough word. Mariner, to me, is basically "sailor" without the explicit "sail" part, which is what I think we're looking for. – EightyEighty Nov 5 '17 at 0:04

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