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 have also been used in warfare. The whaleboat was used by Rogers' Rangers in the French & Indian war. 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.