You may be wondering why a boat is associated with a cigarette. What is a cigarette boat? Why is it called a cigarette boat? In this article, I’ll describe exactly what a cigarette boat is, including why it is called that and its features.
What is a cigarette boat? A cigarette boat is also sometimes called a go-fast boat. Its design includes a long, narrow platform or body. Their planing hulls are specifically built so that they can attain higher speeds than regular speed boats – over 50 knots.
These boats range from 28 feet to 48 feet in length. For their size, cigarette boats are some of the most expensive boats in the industry.
Why is it called a cigarette boat? In the early 1960s, Donald Aronow built his first boat with this hull design and christened it The Cigarette. He thought the long, sleek look of the boat resembled a cigarette.
The term cigarette boat is actually a name that replaced the older term rum runner.
Read on to learn more about what a cigarette boat is, why it is called a cigarette boat, and its cool history.
What Is a Cigarette Boat?
Have you ever seen a boat speeding on the water at 50 knots? That speed is equal to 57 miles per hour or 92 kilometers per hour. Some cigarette boats can reach a speed of up to 90 knots. 90 knots is about 104 miles per hour or 167 kilometers per hour! So cigarette boats go very fast on the water.
What is a cigarette boat? A cigarette boat or a go-fast boat is a relatively small boat with a long narrow body or platform. Its planing hull is typically designed so that it can attain high speeds on the water. In terms of product brand, the word cigarette refers to the classic brand that builds this type of boat in the boating industry. The typical sizes of these boats range from 28 feet to 48 feet.
These boats are relatively more expensive compared to similarly-sized conventional boats. They are not like yachts that feature luxurious amenities, but their prices approach some of the most expensive yachts of the same boat length. The prices of cigarette boats from the shortest to the longest typically range from $22,216 to $943,468.
These boats go back in modern history. During the Prohibition era, these boats were used illegally as rum runners. They were used to transfer illegal alcohol or liquor from bigger vessels waiting outside U.S. territorial waters to the mainland.
Coast guards back then, with their typical patrol boats, were unable to catch these boats because of their higher speeds. As time went on, the term rum runner was replaced by the word cigarette. Since the 1960s, the term cigarette has stuck.
Why Is It Called a Cigarette Boat?
Why is it called a cigarette boat? This modern name is closely related to the boat builder Donald Aronow. In the early 1960s, Aronow built his first boat with this hull design and christened it The Cigarette. He entered his boat in the United States Championship race and won first place.
Aronow’s boat also won the UIM Gold Medal of Honor and the World Championship. And with his successes, he renamed his company to Cigarette, after his champion boat’s name. Since then, its unusual name and remarkable speed captured the interest of the boating community and the public.
Today, the Cigarette Racing Team is proud of its capability to produce high-end speedboats for law enforcement and military customers. The company even boasts that its boats exhibit extraordinary visual appeal and underlying sexuality.
Cigarette boats with the highest performance have motors up to 2,848 horsepower, while the most tamed versions only have 470 horsepower. Its modern accomplishments in boating design and performance have conveniently relegated its shady past to the back burner.
How Are Cigarette Boats Constructed?
The typical go-fast boat has a deep ‘V’ style offshore racing hull. Cigarette boats have lengths ranging from 20 to 50 feet (6.1 to 15.2 meters). The hull is laid up by using a combination of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass. The beam of the boat is very narrow. All cigarette boats have long and narrow hulls.
More than two engines can power go-fast boats. These engines have a combined capacity of more than 1,000 horsepower (750 kilowatts). In calm waters, the usual speed that these boats can attain is more than 80 knots (92 mph or 150 kph). Even in choppy waters, it can still reach 25 knots (29 mph or 46 kph). They can still cut their way onto higher waves, which no ordinary boat can do, although slower.
Secret History of Cigarette Boats That You May Not Know
It’s easy to get awed by the sleek and stylish look of a cigarette boat because it is slender and looks very sharp. Cigarette boats have a high-speed performance and a small crew. They call its style the go-fast design to raise the bar for speed boats’ maximum performance.
It was in the 1960s that Donald Aronow thought of this boat design. The first cigarette boat he built won in several championship boat races. Word spread out, and he was asked to build speed boats to luminaries like George H. W. Bush, the Shah of Iran, Lyndon B. Johnson, Malcolm Forbes, the founder and publisher of Forbes Magazine, and many others.
Cigarette Boats and Drug Smuggling
The cigarette boats were breaking speed records by the early 1980s, and so Aronow found himself a multimillionaire. Unfortunately, his boats were also being used by cocaine smugglers. Drug dealers were using his boats to escape from the U.S. Coast Guards and DEA agents.
He was then asked by the U.S. government to build a fast boat costing millions of dollars. They called it Blue Thunder intended for U.S. customs agents. But later on, the contract was scuttled when Aronow sold his company to a suspected individual who had connections with the illegal drug trade.
He bought back his company in 1987 and revived the Blue Thunder contract with the U.S. government. One day in 1987, he was gunned down in the middle of a Miami street. The suspects were believed to be hired guns of the short-time owner of his company.
When it comes to trophies, Aronow’s cigarette boats are not in short supply. They have won more than 350 offshore races. Aronow, himself, won world championships two times. He was also crowned three times as the U.S. champion.
This man is part and parcel of the Hall of Fame of every powerboating organization. Moreover, he is one of the two men only awarded with the UIM Gold Medal of Honor. The other is Gar Wood, another American champion boatbuilder/entrepreneur.
Charles ‘Vannie’ Higgins and His Cigarette Boat
Another theory regarding the origin of the Cigarette boat term is that it may have originated in the 1920s. This theory relates the term to the illegal activities of Charles ‘Vannie’ Higgins, an Irish-American smuggler and gangster.
Higgins got rich from importing huge amounts of alcohol from Canada and bringing them illegally to the United States. This period was during the Prohibition era. Higgins had a fleet of small but high-powered speed boats, which he used to transport his cargo from the Canadian border to the U.S.
One of his boats was named Cigarette. Some stories also suggest that the Cigarette boat manufacturer, Aronow, knew all about Higgins’ activities and his Cigarette boat when he was still young.
What Is the Origin of the Name Cigarette?
Vannie Higgins was a Brooklyn gangster and the original owner of a speedboat named Cigarette. This boat was a rum-runner during the Prohibition era in U.S. history. The boat was called Cigarette because of its narrow beam and elongated hull, which, at that time, were unusual for regular boats to have.
It was used to smuggle huge quantities of alcohol from Canada to the U.S. The Cigarette of Higgins was a large boat that was able to attain approximately 50 mph with about 600 cases of rum on board. Some believe this is where Don Aronow, the original cigarette boat manufacturer, got the name for his boat, and eventually, his boat building company.
Aronow grew up in the Sheepshead Bay section in Brooklyn, New York. During those times, both state and city taxes were heavy on cigarettes. Speedboats were used by smugglers to speed over boxes of cigarettes and other goods from New Jersey to places such as Bath Beach and the nearby neighborhood in Aronow’s Sheepshead Bay area. Even after the Second World War, these illegal activities persisted.
When Aronow began to race offshore boats in 1963, he named his first boat, Cigarette. Formula, his first boat company, built it. He built his second boat, Magnum, which is 28 feet long. He used it to race and win the title of World Champion in 1969.
Next, Aronow built his third boat and named it The Cigarette. He used it to win his second World Champion title in 1969. The boat was 32 feet long.
So to recap, why is it called a cigarette boat? Aronow built his first boat with this hull design and christened it The Cigarette. He entered his boat in the United States Championship race and won first place.
Are Cigarette Boats, Go-Fast Boats, and Rum Runners the Same?
Cigarette boats, go-fast boats, and rum runners all refer to the same type of boat. They are relatively smaller than regular boats and yachts, with long narrow platforms and planing hulls to attain high speeds even on choppy waters.
The original term used for these types of boats was rum runner because they were used to smuggle rum alcohol from another country to the U.S. This term was later changed to cigarette boats when the boats made by Don Aronow became popular. Drug dealers used these boats to transport drugs across the Caribbean to the U.S. They are now called go-fast boats by the U.S. Navy. These boats are also used for hunting and catching drug dealers.
Cigar Boat vs Cigarette Boat
If you have heard of a cigar boat, you may be wondering what is the difference between a cigar boat vs cigarette boat.
The Cigarette boat name is a boat brand owned by Don Aronow, just like Colgate is a brand of toothpaste. But some use the word cigar boat as a nickname for cigarette boats.
How Are Cigarette Boats Used?
There are two ways cigarette boats or go-fast boats are being used today. One is for law enforcement, and the other is to break the law.
1) Illegal Drug Trade
In the recent past, the U.S. Coast Guard and other components of the U.S. justice system were hard put in catching drug smugglers because the latter were using cigarette boats to transport their wares.
The DEA and U.S. Coast Guard found these boats very hard to catch because they are fast, challenging to intercept, stealthy, and seaworthy. These boats cannot be easily detected by radar except on calm and flat waters at close range.
The illegal drug business was so good that it came to the point when Don Aronow sold his company to a person suspected of having ties with drug syndicates. Their cigarette boats were so fast that U.S. Coast Guard boats weren’t able to fight them toe to toe.
2) U.S. Coast Guard
To balance the equation, the U.S. Navy thought of developing the same types of boats to apprehend these criminals. They asked Don Aronow to build speed boats that can overtake the capabilities of the cigarette boats of drug lords.
To differentiate their boats from the boats of drug lords, the U.S. Coast Guard called their speedboats go-fast boats. They are only five-passenger boats with small low cabins situated below the foredeck. Also, they are much smaller than a typical yacht. However, they are faster, more powerful, and very sleek in form.
Cigarette Boats of the U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy strived to get the upper hand in its fight against illegal drug traders. So, the U.S. Coast Guard started to develop its own speed boats alongside helicopters with anti-materiel rifles to disable the speedboat engines of drug traders.
The USCG is now using RHIBs or rigid-hulled inflatable boats run by powerful engines and equipped with radar. These boats are also armed with various non-lethal weapons and a machine gun, the M240 GPMG.
The U.S. Navy is still secretive about its go-fast boats. A photo that came out in 2017 showed a U.S. Navy go-fast boat sailing in the waters of the United Arab Emirates. Some believe that this boat was assigned to a task force from the U.S. Special Operations Command Central.
Conclusion – What Is a Cigarette Boat?
So, to recap, what is a cigarette boat? Cigarette boats are also called go-fast boats. These vessels are designed with a long narrow platform or body. Their planing hulls are specifically designed so that they can attain higher speeds than regular speed boats. The sizes of these boats range from 28 feet to 48 feet.
The term cigarette boat is actually a name that replaced the older term rum runner. For their size, cigarette boats are some of the most expensive vessels in the boating industry.