Boats have been around for centuries. Ever since prehistoric men first came upon large bodies of water, there's been a desire — and a need — to cross over to the other side. The first boats may have been nothing more than simple rafts made out of a few tree limbs tied together. Such a basic boat wouldn't have gotten you far, but it might have helped you cross safely to the other side of a small stream or river.
The first people to create boats could probably have never foreseen how large and sophisticated boats would become. They probably couldn't imagine boats large enough that they would carry many other little boats with them in case of emergency. What are we talking about? Lifeboats, of course!
Lifeboats are small boats intended to be used only in case of emergencies on larger boats. If a large boat were to sink, lifeboats would be able to be used to keep passengers and crew members afloat until help arrives.
Lifeboats are usually small craft with a few minimal supplies, such as oars and life preservers. They are not intended to be comfortable for a long voyage. They're mainly mean to float, which is all you need if your main craft fails that basic test at any point in time.
The term “lifeboat" is also used for other specialized craft that are used for more than just emergencies. They've also been around for hundreds of years. Although the first lifeboats were simple rowing vessels, modern lifeboats can be large vessels capable of patrolling the oceans.
These full-time lifeboats — sometimes called rescue lifeboats — are used by local organizations charged with patrolling coastlines and helping any boats that may come under duress. Lifeboats might help other vessels navigate dangerous waters. They might also help repair boats that have been damaged.
In the worst scenarios, lifeboats can rescue passengers and crew members from sinking ships. Most rescue lifeboats are equipped for specialized search and rescue missions. Their crews usually have special training that allows them to help those in distress at sea. For example, the United States Coast Guard operates many rescue lifeboats off the coasts of the U.S.
The earliest rescue lifeboat stations are believed to have been operated along the banks of the Yangtze River in China. The Yangtze's treacherous waters have always been difficult to navigate, thus leading to the need for rescue lifeboats. Similar stations developed along coastlines around the world, including areas such as the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the U.S.