Debunking the Myth: Do Sharks Attack Boats?

Do sharks really attack boats, or is it just a myth? You may have seen similar incidents in movies and video games. So, what’s the truth?

Well, sharks typically don’t attack boats. However, they may bite or damage ships under specific conditions. Witnessing sharks attack boats is rare.

Do you know what causes sharks to attack boats? Why do sharks become aggressive toward vessels?

Here, I will explain when and why sharks might attack boats, giving you peace of mind while boating.

Great White Shark

To understand why sharks attack boats, let’s first learn about their history with boats and ships.

DatePlace of IncidentDead People NameDescription
1730Boston Harbor, MassachusettsAlexander SampsonSampson was knocked overboard by a shark that attacked his boat and was devoured.
1771New England (uncertain)Unknown MaleMan was bumped out of the boat by a shark and bitten in two. His remains were later buried.
1779Maliu, HawaiiNu’u-anu-pa’ahuThe victim died from injuries after suffering a gash to his buttocks in a shark attack.
1817Charleston, South CarolinaJemmyJemmy was bitten in two by a shark as he was swimming to a boat.
1840Charleston Harbor, SCCrew member of a pilot boatVictim was killed while treading water awaiting rescue after being thrown overboard.
1852Off Norfolk, VirginiaSailorSailor was killed almost immediately by a shark after attempting to desert his ship.
1865Off Brazos, TexasColonel BryantBryant was killed while bathing.
1878East River, New YorkArthur ColeCole died from injuries after being attacked while swimming from a boat.
1879Near New Orleans, LouisianaGus EricssonEricsson was pulled under by a tiger shark and was never found.
1885Off the coast of Kau, HawaiiCaptain Mark RobinsonRobinson and other survivors were attacked by sharks after their ship capsized.
1898Likely off the coast of AlaskaSailor of the NomadThe remains of a crewman partially eaten by sharks were found when the wreck washed ashore at Kohala, Hawaii.
1905Ocracoke Inlet, North CarolinaUnidentified Coast GuardVictim was killed while fishing for red drum.
1906Near Honolulu, HawaiiCrew MemberOne crew member went missing after a small boat broke away from a coastal schooner; a shark was seen swimming around bloody water.
1907Near Pepeekeo, Honomu, HawaiiJapanese fishermanFell into the water and was killed by a shark while net fishing.
1952Off the coast of Santa Monica, CaliforniaSurvivors of “Spare Time”After a boat explosion, 3 men were rescued from shark-infested waters; others are presumed to have been killed by sharks.
1958Off Lanikai, Oahu, HawaiiWilliam S. WeaverWeaver was killed by a shark while surfing.
19596 miles off Panama City, FloridaLt. James C. NealNeal went missing while free-diving; his gear showed bite marks, and his body was never recovered.
1999Off the west coast of Maui, HawaiiNahid DavoodabaiDavoodabai was attacked at dusk by a “large shark” and lost her arm. Her body was never recovered.
2001Off Avon, Hatteras Island, NCSergei ZaloukaevZaloukaev was killed while swimming. His girlfriend was severely injured but survived.

Do Sharks Attack Boats?

Do sharks unintentionally attack boats? Yes, sharks mostly attack unintentionally and it’s often just accidental.

Sharks may mistake a boat for prey, especially if it resembles a seal or sea turtle underwater. Tiger sharks are particularly drawn to these animals and might think it’s mealtime.

Sharks usually investigate potential food items by biting or poking them. They can detect specific water signals emitted by their prey. However, there’s a catch: a boat’s motor also generates these signals. Sharks can’t differentiate between a boat’s field and their regular food signals, leading to possible mistaken attacks.


In murky water, sharks may confuse boats or kayaks for food, posing a risk. Fishing boats, in particular, carry enticing items like fish bait and create churning water, making them more susceptible to shark encounters. If you’re on a boat, stay vigilant.

See also  Do Sharks Eat Bones? [Yes, Here's How]

Why Do Sharks Attack Boats?

You’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered why sharks attack boats. Let’s dive in and explore some of the key reasons.

Sharks Have Amazing Eyesight

First off, sharks have pretty incredible eyes. Yup, almost as good as us humans. They have special cells in their eyes that allow them to see in light, dark, and even in color.

Plus, a shiny layer behind their retina boosts their night vision. They use this amazing eyesight to spot prey swimming on the ocean surface. Once they find something they like, they enter super-speed mode and start biting away.

Mistaken Identity in Murky Waters

Now, let’s get one thing straight. Sharks usually munch on fish, dolphins, and seals. Boats? Not so much. But here’s the kicker: their champion eyesight goes down a notch in murky water. That’s when they might accidentally bump into boats, thinking they might be prey or something else interesting.

Out of Curiosity

Sharks are curious creatures. Sometimes, they just want to know what’s going on. So, if they see a boat, their curiosity might get better. They may take a nibble just to figure out what this big floating thing is and who’s on it.

Territorial Behavior

Sharks aren’t just curious; they’re also pretty territorial. When they see a boat cruising through their home waters, some sharks might see it as an invasion of their personal space. And no one likes their personal space invaded, do they? So, they may act out and give the boat a ‘friendly’ bump or bite to assert their dominance.

 Feeling Threatened

Some sharks attack boats because they feel threatened. Perhaps it’s the noise, the size, or the activity on the boat. Whatever aspect it is, it makes the shark perceive the boat as a threat. So, in an act of self-defence, the shark may decide to bite first and ask questions later.

Also Read: Can Sharks Jump Out of The Water?

How Do Sharks Attack Boats?

Sharks are curious creatures with highly developed senses, so it is common for them to investigate boats with their mouths. This can involve biting and bumping the hull to assess what the boat is made of and how it works.

Surprisingly, there have been instances where a shark attacked an inflatable boat, mistaking it for a juicy marine animal! They generally leave the boat alone if they do not find anything interesting or edible.

Occasionally, sharks attack boats in groups. They swim around it in a circle and attempt to cause damage by thrashing their powerful tails against the sides of the vessel.


Have you ever wondered, ‘Do sharks ram boats?‘ Yes, they do, especially when they are propelled by curiosity or feel that their territory is being intruded upon. Sharks also have been known to ram their bodies into boats from below. Here, they launch themselves out of the water in an effort to breach and injure whatever lies on top of the boat’s deck.

Questions like ‘Do sharks attack small boats?‘ and ‘Do sharks bite boats?’ often surface in various discussions, and the answer is – occasionally. But why do sharks bite boats? Particularly when sharks become curious or if they mistake it for prey.

When sharks attack boats, they can cause a lot of damage. Their sharp teeth and strong jaws can really mess up a boat’s body. If the shark is big, it might even put holes in fiberglass boats or rip off wood parts from wooden ones.

See also  Atlantic Sharpnose Shark: Habitat, Diet, Anatomy & Fun Facts

And nope, in case you were wondering, sharks don’t eat boats. But their test bites can still cause big damage! They might also get caught in fishing nets hanging off the boat. But don’t worry. They use their strong tails to break free and swim away.

How Often Do Sharks Attack Boats?

Well, shark attacks on boats are pretty rare. Sharks might check out boats out of curiosity or by mistake, but it’s not something that happens a lot. Smaller boats, like kayaks, might be of more interest to them due to their size and shape.

However, in general, you don’t hear about sharks attacking boats very often. So, it’s not a common occurrence. With some precautions, you can have a safe boating experience.

Can a Shark Capsize a Boat?

Can a shark sink a boat? Yes, a single shark can really capsize or sink your boat. For example, a great white shark can bite with a force of 1.8 tons. A tiger shark’s bite is even stronger, at 6000 PSI. One strong bite can make a boat sink.

Sharks are also heavy creatures. For instance, white sharks can weigh between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds. Their weight alone can flip a boat if they lean on it.

To put it in perspective, jet skis weigh about 800 pounds, and fishing boats range from 1,500 to 2,500 pounds. So, even bigger boats could be in hot water if a large shark sets its sights on them.

Sharks are more than just brawn; they’ve got brains too. They know how to target a boat’s weak spots, like parts that are loose or damaged. This way, they can cause even more harm than their strength alone would suggest.

Which Sharks Attack Boats?

Some of the sharks are mostly responsible for attacking boats. Here is the list:

Tiger sharks: Some have reported a tiger shark attacking boat while out at sea. They can be found in the Central Pacific Islands and can grow over 5 meters.

Check out the video on how a tiger shark attacked on a kayak.

Bull sharks: Bull sharks are mostly known for attacking boats. They can be found normally in hot and less deep water. For example, there are instances where a bull shark attacks boat near coastal areas.

Hammerheads: Laterally, the heads of hammerheads are like “hammer,” so they are named like this. They are known for attacking boats accidentally in Southern California.

Great White Shark: Do great white sharks attack boats? They can be found in large numbers on the shore of every major ocean. There have been cases where a great white shark circles kayak in open waters.

Mako shark: Mako shark on-boat incidents have been reported, but they are relatively rare. These large sharks often swim near the coast, near boats, humans, and fish.

The rest of the sharks also attack boats, often out of confusion but not as common as these species mentioned above. So, boaters should be vigilant and aware of the types of sharks that pose a risk.

Has There Ever Been a Shark Attack?

Do sharks ever attack boats? Yes, a few shark attacks have been recorded. For instance, there were only 64 unprovoked and confirmed shark attacks in 2019 worldwide. It became 137 in 2021, where 39 were provoked and 73 unprovoked. Some examples happened and were recorded from 1900, but the number is much smaller than these.

What was one of the most brutal shark attacks?

The attack on the survivors of the USS Indianapolis was one of the most brutal shark attacks in recorded history. The men were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for four days without any food, water, or protection from the circling sharks. The sharks, smelling the scent of blood, quickly picked up on the distress of the men and began to swarm around the wreckage.

See also  Shark Dorsal Fin: Anatomical Structure and Functions

The attack began immediately after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, as the sharks began to prey on the wounded and dying men in the water. Many men could not swim due to their injuries and were easy targets for the sharks. The sharks attacked in packs, tearing limbs and flesh from the bodies of the men and leaving them to bleed out in the water.

Despite their injuries and the attack’s trauma, many survivors were forced to spend several days in the water without any protection from the sharks. The survivors were forced to cling to makeshift rafts made from debris from the wreckage, hoping to stay afloat until they could be rescued.

One survivor described the attack as a “living nightmare,” saying that the sharks seemed to come from all directions, attacking with incredible force and ferocity. Another survivor remembered feeling the jaws of a shark brush against his leg, leaving him with a deep gash that nearly severed his leg.

How To Avoid Shark Attacks on Boats?

<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" title="Great White Shark Attacks Inflatable Boat! (Exclusive Video)" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

While big boats aren’t usually a target for sharks, kayaks and small boats are more at risk. So, make sure to take steps to stay safe. Avoid swimming in areas with blood or many fish in the water. Sharks are attracted to these places. Be extra careful at dawn and dusk. That’s when sharks are most active.

If a shark comes close to your boat, move away. Sharks can get mad if they feel cornered. Look for signs like low-flying seagulls or dolphins that swim away fast. These signs mean sharks may be nearby. Don’t splash a lot or toss food in the water. It could draw sharks in.

Stay away from dark, plant-filled waters. Sharks often lurk there. If you’re kayaking, wear a wetsuit to protect against bites. Regular swimwear won’t cut it. Wear bright clothes while swimming. It makes you easier to spot and might fend off sharks.

What to Do When Getting Attacked by Sharks in the Boat?

What to do in a shark attack on the boat? If a shark attacks you on a boat, act fast to get away safely. First, try to identify the shark species attacking you. Each kind acts differently, so this info helps.

Stay calm, and don’t make sudden moves to avoid angering the shark. Get out of the water quickly but quietly. If you’re not alone, stick close together for safety as you head to shore.

If you can’t escape fast enough, defend yourself. Use a hard object like an oar to hit the shark, distracting it so everyone can escape. If someone has a gun or speargun, they may need to shoot to protect others.

Great White Shark

If you can’t get away, be extra cautious. Keep watching the shark and stay calm, even if others panic. Always scan your surroundings. Look for boats that might help or things you can use as weapons.

Once safe, note down what happened and where. Tell the local authorities to help warn other boaters.


Can a shark damage a submarine?

Yes, sharks can hurt submarines if they attack them. But submarines usually aren’t in places where sharks live. Plus, their high-tech gear and strong outer layer make them hard for a shark to damage.

How often do sharks attack boats?

Shark attacks on boats are very occasional. Most sharks tend to avoid boats and humans in general, but attacks may occur if a shark is provoked or if there are high food concentrations in the area.

Are sharks scared of boats?

People often think sharks are scared of boats and boat motors. It is not true. They are not scared of boats, as they do not recognize them as a threat. However, the noise from boat motors can attract them to investigate the area.

Do sharks eat boats?

No, sharks do not eat boats. They may attack or damage them if they feel threatened or provoked, but their diet consists mainly of fish and other marine animals.

Do sharks attack sailors?

Yes, there are a few stories of sharks attacking sailors, mainly those in long ocean races or trips. This is because these events can create situations that sharks like, such as people in the water for a long time or extra sweat and blood from hard work. But these cases are rare and can be dodged by taking the right safety steps at sea. 

Do sharks attack inflatable boats?

Yes, sharks can bite and tear inflatable boats just as they can damage other types of boats. However, due to the material used for these kinds of watercraft, they can deflate or puncture even without being attacked by a shark.

Can a great white shark sink a boat?

Yes, a great white shark can sink small boats, especially those made of flimsy materials. However, this is rare and more likely to occur if the boat is being used for fishing and has attracted the attention of sharks with its bait or catch. 

Do sharks attack kayaks?

Yes, sharks can occasionally attack kayaks, but it is not a common occurrence. Some experts believe that the shape of a kayak may resemble that of a seal or other prey item from below, thus causing the shark to mistake it for food.

Do sharks follow cruise ships?

Some reports say sharks follow cruise ships, but it’s not common. Also, there are no confirmed cases of sharks attacking anyone on a cruise ship. 


Hopefully, now you know why sharks are attacking boats. Sharks do not attack a boat until the situation arises. Therefore, take precautions to avoid potential shark attacks, and wear protective clothing and brightly colored clothes to make yourself easily visible.

And if you, unfortunately, get attacked by a shark, then try to identify the type of shark, remain calm, and act cautiously. Ensure everyone is safe and clear before informing local authorities about the potential hazard in that area.

5 thoughts on “Debunking the Myth: Do Sharks Attack Boats?”

Leave a Comment