Launch (boat)

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1910 Mathis Launch, 15 Horsepower Universal Engine, at Saranac Lake, New York
An Iranian launch, used for fishing

A launch is a large motorboat.[1] Originally it was the largest boat carried by a warship. The word comes from the Portuguese lancha "barge", from Malay lancha, lancharan, "boat," from lanchar "velocity without effort," "action of gliding smoothly" (said primarily of boats and turtles).

In the 1700s a launch was used to set the large anchors on a ship. They had a square transom and were about 24 feet long. In 1788 Captain Bligh was set adrift in the "Bounty’s Launch".

Thames launches[edit]

On the River Thames the term "launch" is used to mean any motorised pleasure boat. The usage arises from the legislation[2] governing the management of the Thames and laying down the categories of boats and the tolls for which they were liable. The term is still in current use and can be seen in the official notices at any Thames lock.

Military launches[edit]

Main article: Motor Launch

Motor Launch was the designation for large (typically 60-to-115-foot or 18-to-35-metre long) vessels used in the Second World War by the Royal Navy and some other navies. They were used for inshore work in defending the coast from submarines and carried relatively light armament: a few depth charges, a gun and a few machine guns.

Historically, the first modern military launch was crafted in during the Paraguayan War by the paraguayan marine Lieutenant José María Fariña.[3] They were made of wood and they carried an equipped cannon with which paraguayans encountered the powerful Brazilian Fleet.[4]


In competitive Rowing the term 'Launch' is used to refer to any motorised boat used by the coach to follow practising boats during workouts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AskOxford: Launch
  2. ^ Thames Conservancy Act 1932
  3. ^ O'Leary, Juan; The Book of Heroes (Spanish: El Libro de los Héroes); Editorial Servilibro; Asunción, Paraguay (1996)
  4. ^ Whighan, Thomas; The War of the Triple Alliance (Two Volumes); Taurus Editorial, Santillana Editorial and University of Nebraska Press (2002)