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What is a yole?


Main features of a yole



A yole, also called skiff, is a kind of small boat that is usually long and thin and which is propelled either by rowing or sailing. "Skiffing" does actually exist as a verb, although it isn't used much.



"Skiff" comes from the Middle English skif. It derives from the Old French esquif, which in turn derives from the Old Italian schifo, which is itself of Germanic origin. Originally, skiffs were light, narrow, shallow-draught, oar-powered boats. Today, skiffs can be rigged with a sail and some are equipped with a rudder.



Be careful not to confuse yoles with yawls. The latter is a bit like a ketch but with the aft mast (called a mizzen mast) positioned behind the rudder stock, which does not improve propulsion but gives the boat more balance. There is often confusion between the two in English.


Yoles, monohulls with multiple uses


Several types of yoles are listed:


  • river yole: dating from the 19th and 20th century and typically a romantic kind of boat, it is rowed by one or two rowers and was painted by Renoir and Manet on several occasions. Equipped with a sliding bench from 1870 onwards, these skiffs were the first to be used during competitions;
  • sea yole: designed in 1982 by Gérard d'Aboville and the naval architect François Vivier, the sea skiff has no sails but is very stable, perfect for rough seas;
  • Bantry yole (or 1796 yole) : either propelled by rowing or sailing, this yole is inspired by an 18th century boat that took the captain of a warship to another ship or to the shore;
  • Ness yole: a rowing and sailing skiff that can take up to 7 people and is a replica of Shetland Islands fishing boats;
  • Martinique round yole: a boat originally intended for fishermen that has a sail but neither neither keel nor daggerboard. Does not have seats which are replaced by 'straight wood' and a paddle at the back. This kind of yolehas been listed as intangible cultural heritage in France since 2017;
  • marsh yole: manoeuvred using a paddle or a pole, this skiff is used to navigate canals as well as channels and is native to the Poitevin and Breton marshes;
  • OK yole: this is a light dinghy rigged as a catboat (a single mast with a square mainsail without a jib).



A boat with multiple uses, yoles are very popular with all sailors. Keep the wind in your sails by exploring our new and used skiff listings on Band of Boats.