A whaleboat is a type of open boat that is relatively narrow and pointed at both ends, enabling it to move either forwards or backwards equally well. It was originally developed for whaling, and later became popular for work along beaches, since it does not need to be turned around for beaching or refloating.
Whaleboats were also extensively used in warfare. Colonel Benjamin Church is credited with first pioneering their use for amphibious combat operations against Abenaki and Mi'kmaq tribes in what is today Maine and Acadia . His troops, New England colonial forces and Native allies from southern New England, used them as early as 1696 (during King William's War). Others in the Northeastern borderlands followed suit and they were utilized throughout the imperial conflicts of the early 18th century, and extensively used by both British and colonial troops during the French and Indian war. Units that made extensive use of whaleboats were the 7th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment at the siege of Louisburg in 1745, often referred to as "the whaleboat regiment," and Gorham's Rangers, formed in 1744, initially a company of Indians mainly from Cape Cod, many of whom were employed as whalers, and which later evolved into a British Army ranger company in the 1750s and 1760s. John Bradstreet's Bateaux and Transport service, a corps of armed boatmen tasked with moving supplies on inland waterways during the French and Indian War also used whaleboats extensively. In 1772, American colonials used whaleboats to attack and destroy HMS Gaspée in Narragansett Bay. During the American Revolutionary War, there were many whaleboat raids, including one with 230 men led by Return J. Meigs, Sr. to sack Sag Harbor on Long Island in 1777. On December 7, 1782, two fleets of whaleboats fought a bloody battle on Long Island Sound known as the Boats Fight. During the desperate hand-to-hand conflict, every man involved was either killed or injured.
Whaleboats are traditionally oar-powered, although in whaling use often had a dismountable mast and sails, too. After 1850 most were fitted with a centreboard for sailing. When sailing, steering was with a rudder; when rowing, steering was done with an oar held over the stern. Whaleboats used in whaling had a stout post mounted on the aft deck, around which the steersman would cinch the rope once the whale had been harpooned, and by which the whale would drag the boat until it was killed.
The term "whaleboat" may be used informally of larger whalers, or of a boat used for whale watching. On modern warships, a relatively light and seaworthy boat for transport of ship's crew may be referred to as a whaleboat or whaler. It may also refer to a type of vessel designed as a lifeboat or "monomoy" used for recreational and competitive rowing in the San Francisco Bay Area and coastal Massachusetts.
- Brian D. Carroll, " 'Savages' in the Service of Empire: New England Indians in Gorham's Rangers, 1744-1762," New England Quarterly 85, no. 3 (September 2012): 383-429.
- Joseph F. Meany, Jr., “Bateaux and ‘Battoe Men’: An American Colonial Response to the Problem of Logistics in Mountain Warfare,” New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center <http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/articles/bateau.htm> Accessed July 5, 2013.
- Willits D. Ansel, The Whaleboat, Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut, ISBN 0-913372-40-4
- Whaleboat, an award winning scaled replica of a traditional whaleboat