Day cruising is an activity that will be fun for virtually everyone stepping aboard a boat, whether you’re probing the quiet coves of one of the 10 best lakes in America, or the plan is to visit one of the best coastlines for cruising in a saltier climate. And truth be told, you can use virtually any boat for day cruising. But, which will be the best?
Finding the Best Day Boat
Whatever the destination might be, choosing the ideal boat for your aquatic adventures depends on a number of factors. Before making any decisions, ask yourself these key questions:
- How many people do you plan to have aboard?
- Will you be in sheltered waters, or do you feel the urge to cruise out into open bays, lakes, or the ocean? And, what types of waterways are close to home?
- How far might you want to go on your day cruises?
- Will you go day cruising in all different weather conditions, or only when it’s nice out?
- Is the cruise your favorite part of the experience, or are you more interested in arriving at new destinations in short order?
Day Cruising with a Crowd
If you have a big family or lots of friends you plan to entertain, your day cruises are likely to include a large number of people and obviously, you’ll need a bigger boat. Here are some good options for larger crews:
- Pontoon boats are large enough to hold more than a dozen passengers, and they make great platforms for exploring places like lakes and small bays.
- Although in the past most bowriders were on the small side, these days there are also some very large models—even some over 30 feet in length—which can hold a huge crew.
- You may want to consider cabin cruisers, which tend to be on the bigger end of the size scale and have lots of capacity plus indoors accommodation.
- You could even day cruise in a motor yacht or power cruiser, with multiple families and large crowds of friends.
Where Will You Go Day Boating?
The type of waterways you’ll visit should play a big role in just what kind of boat you choose. It’s very different cruising in and around New York City, for example, then it is to take a trip down a river in middle America.
One big factor here is to make sure the boat you choose is appropriate for saltwater use, if you’re going to use it in bays or the ocean. But also consider factors like average water depth and how much draft (clearance above the bottom) a particular boat needs, and how large the seas you’ll likely encounter may be. Factors like these may end up dictating where you can and cannot visit on your day cruises.
And on top of those factors, consider whether the boat will live in a slip or marina, or if you plan on towing and trailering. If you can trailer the boat your horizons are more or less endless, but size restrictions and your tow vehicle’s capacity will limit the size and weight of the boat you can choose.
How Far Do You Cruise?
One issue that limits the cruising ability of many smaller boats, like cuddy cabins and inflatables, is fuel capacity. But boats may burn more or less fuel depending on how hard you run them and the sea conditions you encounter. So, when considering a boat’s range, most boaters always figure in a 10-percent fuel reserve.
To calculate range, multiple fuel capacity by 0.9, then multiply the remaining figure by how many miles per gallon the boat gets at cruise. Conservative captains like to make sure there’s an even wider margin of safety, and many go by the fuel-rule one third out, one third back, and one third in reserve.
Will You Be Cruising in Bad Weather?
If you’re a fair-weather boater who won’t leave the dock when it’s raining, then owning an open boat is no problem. But if you’ll be determined to go boating even when the weatherman’s report is less than ideal, getting a boat with some protection is a good idea. That doesn’t necessarily limit you only to cabin boats.
- Center consoles, for example, can be equipped with T-tops or may have a small enclosure inside the console that you can duck into.
- Smaller boats like deck boats or even some aluminum fishing boats can be at least equipped with a Bimini top to offer some shelter when the weather turns for the worse.
- At the other end of the extreme, day cruisers in places like the Pacific Northwest, where it rains quite often, will opt for designs like trawlers that put more emphasis on enclosed areas and often have awnings or convertible tops sheltering the cockpit.
Best Day Cruising Boats for Your Lifestyle
For some people just getting there is half the fun, and if it’s the cruise you enjoy then a boat that travels at a slower pace—maybe a sailboat—will be ideal. On the other hand, if you want to hit the throttle and get there asap, high performance boats might be more your speed.
What does all of this boil down to? The best boat for day cruising, and the day cruises you’ll enjoy the most, all depend on your personal tastes and style. The ideal day cruiser for one person may be a completely different type of boat than the best day cruiser for another. Consider all of these questions as you choose your own boat, however, and you should be able to pick out the one the best fits your needs.
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