This article is about a type of boat. The term skiff is used for a number of essentially unrelated styles of skiff boat boat. Traditionally, these are coastal craft or rivercrafts used for leisure or fishing, and have a one-person or small crew. Sailing skiffs have developed into high performance competitive classes.
The term has been used for a number of styles of craft round the United Kingdom, often small river and sea going craft. They varied from double ended rowing boats to small sailing boats. The poet John Milton refers to a ‘night foundered skiff’ in Paradise Lost as early as 1670. The Thames skiff became formalised as a specific design in the early part of the 19th century. It is a round-bottom clinker-built rowing boat that is still very common on the River Thames and other rivers in England.
Akin to the skiff is the Yoal or Yole which is a clinker built boat used for fishing in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. The boat itself is a version of the Norwegian Oselvar which is similar to a skiff in appearance, while the word is cognate with Yawl. In American usage, the term is used to apply to small sea-going fishing boats. One usage of skiff is to refer to a typically small flat-bottomed open boat with a pointed bow and a flat stern originally developed as an inexpensive and easy to build boat for use by inshore fishermen. The term skiff has been applied to motorized boats of small size and construction used as sea-going vessels for piracy or drug-smuggling.