A family considering options for an off-shore capable boat often compare center console and dual console models. Both boat styles are available from 18 to more than 30 feet in length, and both typically feature a smooth-riding deep-vee hull, outboard power and a saltwater-friendly interior. The difference lies in the design of the boat interior – in fact many boat builders use the same hull as a foundation for center console and dual console models. Which style is best for you? Let’s consider the advantages of these two popular boat types.
How Fishy Are You?
The center console boat was originally designed for offshore fishing in warmer climates where weather protection is not frequently a concern. By placing the helm console in the center of the boat, anglers have free access to fight a fish all around the rail. Center console boats were traditionally hard-core fishing machines loaded with angling amentias – live and bait wells, fish boxes, rod and tackle storage, expansive casting decks – with little seating beyond a leaning post at the helm and perhaps a padded cooler in front of the console. In recent years the popularity of center console models as high-performance sport boat powered by big outboards has resulted in a “softening” of the style, with more seating and luxury amenities, but most still retain essential fishing features. If fishing is your primary activity, or you just want to look like a serious angler, the center console offers the best layout.
A dual console boat is sort of a bowrider designed for offshore use. In place of the center console and a stand-up helm it has port and starboard consoles topped by a full windshield and traditional seats. There’s usually a passway forward to bow seating, and a bench seat aft, or perhaps jump seats flanking the motorwell. The cockpit will be all fiberglass, self-draining and easy to hose down at the end of the day. Most dual console models do have some angling features, including bait and live wells and rod storage, but trade that 360-degree access around the boat for the comfort of seats and that windshield. This makes the dual console boat a great choice for families that may fish occasionally but also use the boat for day-cruising, lounging and tubing, especially with younger children aboard.
• A deep-vee hull shape and added bow flair gives a smooth ride in light to moderate chop and added spray protection on windy days.
• Outboard power, with multiple motors on bigger models, offers exciting performance and more room in the cockpit than a boat with sterndrive power. Outboards can be tilted out of the salt water when the boat is moored and are easy to maintain.
• Offshore-friendly cockpit will have a fiberglass liner and larger scuppers to drain water quickly from the cockpit. Many models will have a fresh-water washdown feature – a hose in the cockpit – that can be used to rinse salt residue (and fish slime) from the cockpit at the end of the day.
• A head compartment is common on all but the smallest models. This will be within the center console or in the port console of the dual console model. Smaller boats will have a portable head, while larger models may have a fixed head with a pump-out tank.
• Both styles can be rigged with a T-top for shade and mounting antennas and rod holders.
Center Console Advantages
• Made for fishing first with 360-degree access around the rail. This also makes it very easy to handle lines when docking.
• The center console has plenty of room for fishing and navigation electronics in display sizes that won’t fit on a dual console helm.
• The option of standing at the helm gives the captain great visibility and can be more comfortable in rougher water. Because the helm is further aft in the boat there’s less up-and-down motion in rough water, too.
• More room for live wells and bait wells, so these will be larger on the center console. A center console can also offer more storage options in the inwales for rods and gaff hooks.
Dual Console Advantages
• Most dual console models offer true lounge seating in the bow, using the consoles as backrests. These seat cushions are often removable for fishing, and there may be a filler to create a casting deck over the footwell.
• The full windshield with a closing section over the walk-through to the bow protects the helm seating area, making the boat more comfortable, especially in cooler weather.
• Many dual console models will offer convertible seating in the aft cockpit that can be folded up for fishing and down for passengers. There will be more comfortable seating options in the dual console cockpit.
• An optional T-top for a dual console model can be wider and will shade more of the cockpit. A dual console model will also offer other canvas sunshade options you can’t get on a center