Boat Types Explained

Boat Types Explained

by Boatdipity on May 13, 2018

Ready to start your watercraft search but having trouble sorting out all the different Types, Styles and Models? Boatdipity has spelled out the qualities of each to help you choose the best boat for your activities.


Boats type names have changed over the years to make them more marketable. Your Grandparents probably used the name Runabout to describe a general-purpose boat; today manufactures call it a Sportboat. Types such as a Deckboat we not around 20 years ago but they have become popular due to the multipurpose design. Whichever watercraft you choose let the tool guide your path to the perfect boat.


BASS – Bass boats are the ultimate fishing watercraft.  Features include flat decks, storage areas for gear and live wells for bait and your catch. High horsepower outboards get you to that favorite fishing spot quickly while electric trolling motors allow quite movement when close.


BAY – Bay boats are designed to fish the shallow areas of bays and venture into the rougher waters just offshore. Typical layouts include center consoles, flat deck areas, gear storage and outboard power. Expect a more comfortable ride when the water gets choppy but the deeper draft may keep you from chasing fish into shallow areas like the Flats boat.  

BOWRIDER – Bowriders are also considered a Sportboat. A good all around boat for family use these boats typically seat 6-10 people. The name comes from its open bow area forward of the driving position which allows for two different seating/social areas. This watercraft is happy spending the day exploring corners of the lake or pulling skiers, tubers or most other water toys.  Power of choice can be outboard or sterndrive engines.

CABIN CRUISER – Cabin cruisers have the features to spend a few days on the open water.  As the name implies it has an enclosed cabin where you will find a galley, head and helm.  Expect multiple sleeping berths and enclosed areas that are heated and cooled where generators provided electrical power. Many different engine options are available but inboards using gas or diesel are normal. The Cabin Cruiser name type has also become known as Express or Cruiser with each having some differences.


CANOE – A Canoe is a lightweight boat usually with seating for two. Built from many different materials they are typically pointed at each end with a fairly flat bottom. Power of choice is human using a paddle, although some boaters have attached lightweight electric motors for convenience.  Mostly used on calmer inland waters.


CATAMARAN – Catamarans are sometimes referred to as Multi-hull these are designed for stability in rough water allowing the boats wide beam to roll smoothly over the seas. This double hull design produces a wider than normal watercraft allowing for large open spaces. You will find most of the amenities from home on these vessels and an electric generator to run them. Power can be provided by engine or wind depending on your preference.


CENTER CONSOLE – Center console boats as the name implies are designed with the driving station in the center of the boat.  This position allows for access completely around the boat when reeling in those big fish. The hull is designed with a deep-v for handling rough water. Some of the larger boats come equipped with a storage area or small cabin under the center with a head, microwave and sleeping berth.


CUDDY CABIN – Cuddy refers to a small room or cabin on a boat. The designers sacrificed forward seating and created a lower cabin with a small galley, head and sleeping berth.  This layout allows for short overnight outings or an area to get out of the weather during the day. Most of these boats have spacious seating areas and are powered with outdrive engines.


DECK BOAT – Some would call a Deck boat the upgraded version of a pontoon boat or a stretched bowrider. The fiberglass-designed hull gives it better maneuverability and ride characteristics than the pontoon and the enlarged forward seating is larger than a bowrider. A retractable bimini top is available for protection from the sun and rain. A Deck boat is a good choice for a boat with an active family.


DINGY – This is a catchall word for a small watercraft that moves people to and from their larger boat anchored away from shore. Other common names are Rib or Inflatable. These craft typically carry 2-4 passengers and can be powered manually or with an outboard engine. Designed are varied and made with many different products but a most popular are made from coated rubber or plastics.


DOWNEAST – Or Downeaster, as some will say. This watercraft is styled after the workboats that can handle tough sea conditions of the Maine coast.  These boat have larger keels and semi-displacement hulls. A stylish watercraft with all the amenities found in your home including heating, cooling, electrical power, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen facilities.


EXPRESS – The Express also known as Cruiser, Express Cruiser or Sports Cruiser with each having some differences. Express boats have features allowing you to spend a few days on the open water.  These boats have sleek designs and are built with a single deck above the hull with living areas below. Expect multiple sleeping berths that are heated and cooled and generators providing electrical power for all utilities. Many different engine options are available but inboards using gas or diesel are typical.


FISHING – Fishing boats come in many shapes and designs but the purpose of all are to get out on the water for and catch fish. Most have storage areas for rods and gear and also have live-wells for bait and your catch. Some are specific to the type of fishing you wish to do whether that’s in the ocean, bay, lake or stream. Look for open areas to cast a line and the ability to move around the deck while reeling in your catch. Power is mostly outboards except on the larger ocean going ones.

FLATS – Flats boats are designed with unique features for fishing shallow areas of saltwater bays. The shallow draft and poling platform allow quite movement while tracking fish. Large flat decks for casting and live wells for bait and your catch are common. Seating for no more than three is typical and high horsepower outboards are the engine of choice.


HIGH PERFORMANCE – If speed is your thrill then this is the boat for you. Designed to cut through the water using deep-v or split hull designs these boats are narrower than most others of this length to reduce drag. You will not find a lot of seating in the cockpit area but these seats are designed with grab handles and padding to help with the speeds and bumps experienced while traveling fast. Larger boats have areas below the long bow for sleeping, preparing foods and other comforts.


HOUSEBOAT – Houseboats are designed for multiple days on the water with a large group of friends and family. Most are built on pontoon platforms and lightweight materials. Outfitted with all the amities found in your home you can expect to be comfortable when cruising. Tanks for water, waste and fuel are built into the designs allowing for longer adventures. A generator will handle the electrical power while on the water. Handling can be a challenge due to the length and maneuverability speed is average at best. But, the adventure will begin once you throw out the anchor.


KAYAK – A Kayak is similar in size to a canoe but more sleek and maneuverable.  Mostly made from plastics for weight they are used fishing, photography and just a day on the lake or stream. You will need to use human power and a double-ended paddle for movement. Many different brands and styles are available for uses in oceans, lakes and fast moving streams.


MOTOR YACHT – A yacht powered by a motor is the simply definition. More specifically a motor yacht describes a large multi-level watercraft with large interior areas. As a general rule of thumb anything longer than 40’ falls under the yacht category. Over 100’ tends to fall into the mega-yacht status. Whether it starts with Motor, Pilothouse, Cockpit or Skylounge the next word is most always Yacht. Some will describe them as a Flybridge, Sedan, Sedan or Sport Bridge but terms tends to describe the upper or top of the structure.  Whatever you call it, you will find all the comforts of home and the ability to spend many nights and days exploring all corners of the seas.


PADDLE BOARD – This sport started many years ago when surfers would use a paddle for directional changes while surfing. With the advent of larger and lighter boards people started using these on lakes and large bodies of water. Long paddles are used to propel you along the surface while getting a great workout as a bonus. Most are made of fiberglass but now you can find inflatable’s that allow for easy storage.


PONTOON – A Pontoon boat is built with open spaces in mind so you can grab your family and friends and spend a great day on the water. Aluminum tubes (pontoon’s) support the deck of the boat giving it a wide platform with multiple seating areas. Hull designs have variations such as an additional center pontoon, inboard engines and upper decks. Many water activities can be accomplished with a pontoon boat.


PWC – Personal Water Craft, otherwise known as a JetSki, WaveRunner or Standup will all offer some sort of seating with handlebars for control. Call it a motorcycle or snowmobile on the water! Covered inboard engines provide power and use jetpumps for propulsion. This drive unit makes them safer than exposed propeller options when performing watersports. Lower prices and flexibility of uses have created a good market for this watercraft.


RUNABOUT – Also called a Sportboat. This boat category has been around for a long time and has become a catch-all for many different boat types. The original definition for Runabout is a Classic wooden boat with covered bows and a cockpit seating 4-6 people. Today’s typical runabout is a small fiberglass boat 19’ or smaller that can perform multiple water activities. Many of the boats described on Boatdipity could fall under this classification.


SAIL – A Sailboat is a sleek watercraft propelled by wind power. This term is used for many different designs that have a one or multiple sails. Some have additional power options when the wind is calm and depending on size it could be a small outboard or a large diesel engine. The width is narrower to help reduce the drag created while underway. All have a type of underwater keel for stability and directional control. Designs include single hull or multiple hulls and sail masts numbering upwards of six. Because of the unlimited fuel source sailors have experienced multi-year worldwide adventures.  


SKI – A Ski boat is designed to create a small wake for the skier, which helps in making a smoother transition when carving turns behind the boat. Other unique features include a mid-engine position and shallower v-bottom for less bow rise when accelerating. Props are positioned further under the boat helping keep the skiers out of harms way. A rudder is used for precise steering helping to track a straight line. Swim platforms and center pylons for ski ropes are other features.


SPORTFISHER – Combine a Yacht and Bass boat and you get a Sportfisher. Designed to carry everything a big game fisher will need along with the amenities of a yacht when anchoring at your favorite fishing location. Rod holders, live wells, fish freezers, outriggers, fish spotting towers and all the fish finding technology will be found on these boats. Large engines are also used which allow high-speed movement. The interior has all the features you will find on the finest yachts allowing comfortable voyages while searching for fish.


TRAWLER –  “Slow and steady” is the key phrase for this boat. Designed to be very stable and efficient at slower (displacement) speeds, they are built to push water out of the way and not rise on top of the surface. These boats will sip fuel compared to faster planing hull designs. Because of the larger fuel capacity design extended range cruising is commonplace with Trawlers. You will find all the comforts of home and the electricity to run them while on your adventures.


TUG – We are not talking a commercial Tugboat but more of a look-alike style with modern conveniences. Typically 50’ and smaller in length these personal Tugs have enclosed cabins outfitted with kitchens, bathrooms and sleeping areas. The hull design is for long distances at slower speeds similar to a trawler but some do allow for planing speeds. Most are built with a single inboard engine for efficiency.

WAKE/SURF – These boarders like big wakes when attempting “big air” stunts. Wake or Surf boats are designed with rear mounted engines, deep v-hulls, ballast water tanks and other devices; these all help create large wakes for the rider. A large overhead tower can hold racks for boards and speakers blasting out everyone’s favorite music. Shade coverings can also be attached to the tower allowing a little break from the sun.

WALKAROUND – Combine a Center console and a Cuddy cabin and you have a Walkaround. You get the convenience of a 360-degree walkway when fishing and the comfort of a galley, head and berth below. The hull is designed to handle rougher water offshore when needed and engine selection is typically outboards.