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Longtail boats in Koh Lipe

Longtail boats in Koh Lipe
Photo by Tarmo Soodla

The long-tail boat is a type of watercraft native to Southeast Asia, which uses a common automotive engine as a readily available and maintainable powerplant.

There is much variation among these boats, some have evolved from traditional craft types, while others have a more improvised look—the sole defining characteristic is a secondhand car or truck engine.

This engine is invariably mounted on an inboard turret-like pole which can rotate through 180 degrees, allowing steering by thrust vectoring. The propeller is mounted directly on the driveshaft with no additional gearing or transmission. Usually the engine also swivels up and down to provide a "neutral gear" where the propeller does not contact the water. The driveshaft must be extended by several metres of metal rod to properly position the propeller, giving the boat its name and distinct appearance.