Finding the “One.”
Choose the Right Boat for You.
Discovering the perfect boat is right up there with finding your best friend.
It’s a relationship that always comes up aces when you’re together. Want to feel like a kid in a candy store? Check out our extensive list of watercraft, from PWCs to multilevel motor yachts and every vessel in between. There's a boat to satisfy every taste and desire.
What's Inside This Chapter:
- Boat Types and Detailed Information
The perfect boat if you love to live it up with friends. The open bow area makes bowriders very popular because it allows people to catch a breeze while enjoying sun and spray up front. Bowriders typically range between 16 and 28 feet in length and can carry a lot of friends. Bowriders are perfect for lakes and inland water, with ample power for most watersport activities.
Recreational in nature, the cabin cruiser’s majority of comforts is below the hull and includes sleeping, cooking and kitchen facilities. As the name suggests, these cruisers are driven from the stern (rear) of the cruiser and are powered by inboard engines. Ranging anywhere between 26 and 40 feet, cabin cruisers of all sizes can be seen up and down inland waterways and are perfect for those who want to feel the sun on their faces up above or the motion of the ocean down below.
Usually 40 feet and larger in length, yachts are ideal for cruising on the ocean or the Great Lakes and navigating large rivers. Two engines, usually fueled with diesel and a generator for electricity, make them self-sufficient in terms of living accommodations. Motor yachts feature more open area, a fly bridge (on some), large windows, a stateroom, and other luxurious living accommodations spread out over two or three decks. They’re ideal for entertaining clients and adventuring.
There’s no need to hurry with a cuddy, even if you can. Cuddies are nimble and maneuverable like a bowrider, but a closed deck over the bow area creates a cozy sleeping area with limited plumbing for toilet, sink and, sometimes, cooking. They are most often powered with sterndrive engines, but outboard power is becoming popular, too. Features such as a sunpad, swim platform and tow-line hook make them ideal for skiing, tubing and wakeboarding.
Kick back and hold on. Deck boats offer huge seating areas and can often carry as many passengers as pontoon boats. Deck boats are fast and maneuverable, thanks to a V-bottom hull that skims over the water. They are powerful, too, making them excellent boats for skiing, tubing and wakeboarding, or simply ideal for stirring a breeze on a long cruise.
Freshwater boats tend to allow more maneuverability in tight and shallow water. Smaller freshwater boats, such as aluminum, jon boats and bass boats, range anywhere between 8 and 20 feet, carry from two to five passengers, and can be equipped with an outboard and trolling motor.
Freshwater boats, such as pontoons, serve many purposes in addition to fishing. These vessels are well suited for recreational watersports and can take "looking for the perfect catch" to the next level by including livewells, bait bays, and ample storage room for fishing accessories and fittings, such as rod holders or outriggers.
When you want a no-nonsense day of fishing, aluminum boats are the way to go. Primarily used in freshwater, these lightweight, easy-to-maneuver vessels are usually equipped with bench seating and an outboard engine. Perfect for shallow water and other areas larger boats can’t reach, the aluminum fishing boat has become one of the most popular options on the water due to its durability and affordability.
Equipped with an outboard motor on the stern (back) and a trolling motor on the stern bow (front), bass boats sit low on the water, sport a sleek profile and are dreaded by fish the world over. Built to accommodate two or three anglers on swivel chairs, bass boats range between 16 and 18 feet (longer for tournament-style boats), are usually constructed of aluminum or fiberglass, and contain recirculating water livewells to store live catch.
In the simplest terms, saltwater boats tend to be larger and deeper than their freshwater counterparts. This allows the boat to go out on the water for longer periods of time and at much farther distances. Both the outside of the vessel and the internal motor mechanics are constructed of materials to help prevent corrosion caused by saltwater.
In bays and harbors, on inland waterways or even miles out onto coastal waters, there are many places to go saltwater fishing, and there's the right type of saltwater boat to bring you to each place. Whether coastal fishing the shallows on a bay or flats boat, taking a walkaround out for a family fishing day in the bay or chasing big-water trophies on a sportfishing yacht, there’s the perfect boat for you and your passion.
For those staying close to shore or in the bays and channels, small fishing boats similar to those used on freshwater can be used. But for those who want to go out farther, stay longer and catch bigger, center console and sportfishing yachts are great ways to saltwater fish.
These vessels average in length anywhere between 16 and 70 feet. The passenger capacity varies with size, but whether you’re angling for bluefin, mahi-mahi or just a good time, these boats allow you to do some serious fishing and serious relaxing all in the same place.
When it’s time to leave behind the safety of the bay and the calm of the lake, center console open fishing boats are the perfect choice to take you big-game fishing in rough, offshore waters. In addition to providing shade and rod storage, the T-top center makes room for up to seven anglers around the perimeter of the vessel. Bait wells, fish lockers, rod holders, outriggers and other fittings mean that when you hook that grouper (or tuna or snapper or mahi-mahi or ... ), you’ll do it in style.
When you’re ready to tackle the big one, whether you’re on a great lake or out on the big blue, walkarounds equipped with livewells, rod holders and 360-degree access are right for you. When you’re ready to relax, stowaway seating, plumbing and a cuddy await. If you want to cruise, drift, swim, tube or ski, the walkaround is ready when you are. Who knew walking on water could be so easy?
Measuring anywhere between 26 and 100 feet, sportfishing boats are meant to help you find (and even stay) where the fish are. Because they can be equipped with eating, sleeping and plumbing facilities, sportfishing yachts have the ability to stay out on the water for days at a time. So, bring friends, bring family, and bring a pan to fry the fish.
Bay or Flats Boats
Bay or flats boats are to coastal-area fishing what bass boats are to lakes and rivers. In other words, no frills and no nonsense. Ideal for shallow water with room for only two or three anglers, bay or flats fishing boats offer large casting decks, storage, rod holders, livewells and very little else. Sea trout and bonefish beware!
Is it a house or is it a boat? Yes. Houseboats are available in several different styles and sizes and can be built to suit your tastes and needs. Often spacious and equipped with such amenities as restrooms, sleeping, dining and entertaining areas, houseboats are ideal for spending time with family and friends while you cruise lakes, rivers and even coastal waters for a day, a night or a long weekend.
Welcome to the perfect “showboats.” Inboard wake and ski boats are specifically designed for towing skiers and boarders. However, there’s an important difference between the two. An inboard ski boat’s hull shape, configuration and placement of the engine, propeller and drive shaft cause these boats to throw a very slight wake, making it easy for the skier to cross. Inboard wake boats' V-drive engines and deep, wide hulls cause them to carve a steep, large wake that riders love to launch off of. The similarity? Both provide spacious room, ample power and hours upon hours of enjoyment.
Versatile by nature, inflatables are a wonderful option if you’re looking for a lightweight, maneuverable vessel. The two categories of inflatable boats—roll-up or rigid-hull inflatable boats (RIBs)—are suitable for saltwater and freshwater fishing, watersports, and more.
Dinghies are small boats (inflatables, rowboats, sailboats or boats equipped with a small outboard motor) that can be carried or towed by larger freshwater or saltwater vessels such as houseboats or motor yachts. They are very useful when venturing into smaller waters and ports where larger vessels are cumbersome and difficult to maneuver.
Time to haul hull. Performance boats are the cheetahs of the water, offering breakneck speeds and on-the-dime handling to boaters who prefer their thrills full throttle. Big-time muscle coupled with gorgeous lines allow these boats to be comfortable almost anywhere. Cranking offshore or simply relaxing in a cove, performance boats deliver lots of smiles per hour.
Just saying “jet boat” sounds cool. Most jet boats have spacious seating in front and back with a swim platform in the rear. However, it’s the mode of propulsion that differentiates these boats and gives them their name. Jet boats use water-jet drives to propel the vessel rather than the traditional propeller system used on most other vessels. The drives are almost completely enclosed inside the hull, reducing the risk of damage from impact with obstacles or the bottom. They are fast, maneuverable and offer an exciting ride and a fun tubing platform.
There’s a whole lot of ocean out there, so why not make the most of it? Multi-hull boats (a.k.a. “catamarans”) let you do it in style. Multi-hull power boats sit on two pontoon-like hulls that offer a smooth experience, whether you’re cruising the surface or floating at rest. The spacious center and stern (back) of the boat can carry up to eight passengers and can accommodate those who want to do some serious fishing, serious sport or serious relaxation time. Multi-hull cruisers sport dual V-bottom hulls, a wide-open cabin and a stable (and fuel-friendly) ride for your day out in the sun. Take advantage of the big blue by living large and cruising long on top of the water.
Pontoons are the "Kings of Comfort." With living-room-like couches, lounges, swivel seats, and spacious, flat platforms, they beg you to take it easy and enjoy. Pontoons are also the platypus of the boat world. They’re a little different from everything else around, but still really cool. Pontoons don’t have a traditional hull; their deck rests upon two or three floats rather than the water’s surface, a unique design that makes them incredibly stable. They are usually outfitted with smaller engines, but can be equipped with higher-horsepower engines for skiing and tubing. Pontoons offer everything from relaxation to power in one simple, yet oddly shaped, package.
Lightweight and maneuverable, personal watercraft are the perfect option for boaters looking for an exciting escape and enjoyable time on the water. PWCs offer state-of-the-art features that allow you to safely and comfortably explore the waterways. Whether you’re riding solo or taking your family on an adventure, PWC owners can enjoy a variety of activities, ranging from touring rides to watersports activities such as tubing, waterskiing, and fishing. PWCs are easy to store, maintain and transport, and are quite affordable.
Sailboats are in a class all their own. The term “sailboat” covers a wide variety of craft vessels propelled partly or entirely by the breeze. In general, sailboats are distinguished by size, hull configuration, keel type, number of sails, use and purpose. Click the link below to see which sailboat is right for you.
For those who want to spend long, lazy days on the water, may we suggest a trawler? (Lazy being a good thing.) Trawling is like sailing without all the work. Trawlers’ efficient hulls mean less fuel consumption, and their sleeping, cooking and plumbing facilities mean more comfort for your guests.
There Are Plenty More to Choose From
Those are just a few of the many types of boats that might be the perfect fit for you. Want to see more options before you set out on the world of water? We can help. Visit Discover Boating’s Boat Selector, an interactive boat tool that allows you to compare boat types by activity, size and propulsion.