Best Boats for Ocean & Offshore Boating
Checking out our Boat Finder tool is an excellent way to find the best boat for you and your family, but if you want to limit your search to the best boats for ocean boating, there are some special considerations to take into account. Filter your search by “Boat Offshore” on the Boat Finder, and you’ll find you’re left with nine choices.
9 Best Ocean and Offshore Boats
- Cabin Cruisers
- Center Consoles
- High-Performance Boats
- Motor Yachts/Power Cruisers
- Multi-Hull Powerboats (Catamarans)
- Sportfishing Yachts
Obviously, this is a wide range of boat types and which will be your personal best choice depends on how you plan to use your boat. If you enjoy saltwater fishing and you dream about hunting down huge pelagic trophy fish, this list of choices shrinks to include center consoles, sportfishing yachts, and walkarounds. But if you just want to go on dolphin- or whale-watching cruises or head down the coast to a new destination, one of the other types of boats will probably be a better pick.
In all of these cases, however, one thing’s for sure: you want to feel safe and confident in your boat’s abilities. To that end, there are some specific attributes any vessel needs if you plan to use it for ocean boating.
Must-Haves for Boating on the Ocean
First and foremost, any boat that goes through an inlet and into the ocean must be large enough and seaworthy enough to safely handle the conditions.
Just exactly what this means is a judgement call, because boating in the ocean can vary dramatically depending on the location and the weather. Wind speed, sea state, and the potential for storms (see Boat Handling: Riders on the Storm, to make sure you know what to do if you get caught in a sudden squall) all play a role in determining whether or not any boat can safely venture out into the ocean on any given day. That’s why checking the latest weather forecasts and paying close attention to changing conditions is absolutely critical. So, how can one say which are the best boats for ocean boating, in this regard? You simply can’t—the correct answers change from day to day and place to place.
Being properly equipped with safety, communications, and navigational gear is another necessity.
You can check out Boat Safety Checklist & Safety Equipment to see the must-haves as well as recommended safety gear, but in addition, most experienced captains would agree that a VHF radio should be on each and every boat entering the ocean. Naturally you also need to have a full understanding of how to use it; see How to Use a VHF Radio, to get the scoop. And remember that when you’re in the ocean, losing sight of land is almost always a possibility be it due to distance, haze, or fog. In any case you’ll need to be able to find your way back to that inlet, so GPS should also be considered a must-have. In fact, it’s critical for anyone captaining a boat in the ocean to have a firm grasp on how to navigate a boat with and without the assistance of electronics.
Another critical factor for boats used in the ocean is that they’re designed and built with corrosion-resistant hardware.
Most of the boat types we’ve listed above will have stainless-steel fittings and fasteners, but if you take a boat that was intended for freshwater use and put it in the ocean, you’ll likely have corrosion streaks and deteriorating hardware starting on day one. In just a season or two, serious damage can occur.
Fuel economy and fuel capacity also become important issues to consider when ocean boating.
Remember, the ocean is essentially limitless when you’re on a boat, and while a boat may be perfectly competent to take offshore, some will burn a lot more fuel than others doing so. There are many high-performance boats, for example, that are designed for offshore racing, can handle heavy seas, and are equipped to navigate beyond sight of land. But those big engines need to be fed lots of fuel, and this can mean range restrictions. If the captain miscalculates his or her range, running out of fuel is a much bigger problem than it would be ashore. On the flip side of the equation, some sailboats can travel for literally thousands of miles while requiring little to no fuel. When calculating range for your own boat, most experts advise accounting for a bare minimum of 10-percent of fuel capacity in reserve, and some suggest it’s safest to plan in as much as one-third in reserve.
What are the Best Boats for Ocean Boating?
As is usually the case when it comes to boating in general, the answer to the above question will be different from one person to the next. But we can say one thing for sure: if you have a boat that’s appropriately sized, designed, built, and equipped for ocean boating, you should consider giving it a try. Because the experience of fishing, cruising, or just observing nature outside of the inlet is an amazing adventure that many people in this world never get to enjoy—and that’s one more reason why the boating life is indeed a better life.
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