May 2006

Portable Pleasure

A Quick Look At The Many Types Of Trailerable Boats

There are many ways to enjoy time on the water, and there is a boat for just about everyone to help you enjoy that time. Here is a quick overview of the types of boats available for trailering and an idea of how many persons can usually fit in each

All-Purpose Fishing Boats

For those who fish from a boat for everything that bites, these are "generalist" craft with space for fishing gear, several bench seats or a few pedestal chair-back seats, a simple steering station or steer-by-tiller. They can be aluminum or fiberglass, are almost always outboard-powered, and are 15- to low-20s feet long. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Bass Boats

Specialty craft for getting to the bass, fast. Accommodate larger outboards. Have lots of storage space for rods and gear. Outfitted with electronics and livewells. Usually feature a raised-deck casting platform in the bow (and often the stern), with provision for an electric trolling motor. Most often fiberglass, but aluminum models are available. Range from 16 to mid-20 feet. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Bow Riders

All-purpose runabouts with extra seats and forward access to the bow, a convenient spot to relax and sun. Outboard or stern-drive power. Smaller versions are fine for water skiing; larger versions allow some camping. All are suited to short-distance cruising. Mid-teens to upper-20s feet long. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)


Paddle-powered craft for exploring shallows to running white water. Great for fishing techniques. All-purpose aluminum to high-tech composites. Easy to use and enjoy. Range from about 10 to 22 feet. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Center-Console Fishing Boats

Allow angling from any place on deck, since the control station is located in the center. Generally outboard powered, some have small cabins for the "porta-potty" or to escape a squall. Depending on size, can be used offshore as well as near. Length ranges from mid-teens to high-20s. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Cuddy Cabins

Small cruisers with compact cabins to camp, do some simple cooking, and get out of the weather. Outboard or stern-drive power. Great day cruisers and overnighters for small groups. Also used on big water for trolling for fish. High-teens to about 30 feet. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Day Sailers

Small sailboats suited for short day outings on small lakes or calmer waters, ranging from dinghies (with a centerboard) to more substantial boats with a fixed keel. At about 20 feet, day sailers often include a small cabin or "below decks" area for dry storage. So-called "pocket cruisers" range from 21 to about 29 feet, have cabins ample enough to accommodate berths and amenities for basic overnighting. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Deck Boats

Feature a one-level deck throughout and often rails or gunnels all around, all built on a performance hull. Multi-purpose craft that serve anglers, swimmers, sunbathers, evening social cruisers, and folks at the dock. These are stable craft. A number of guests will find room to enjoy being aboard; six friends on smaller versions, eight to 10 on larger ones. Some have small cabins. Most often outboard powered, though some feature stern drives. Length ranges from mid-teens to upper-20s. (Trailerable; 1-8 persons)

Dinghies, Sailing

Small sailboats with a centerboard (a retractable fin) for use off the beach, around the harbor, or for small-lake sailing and racing. Mostly open-cockpit boats commonly come with just one sail (a mainsail) under 12 feet; above that, they are likely to have two sails and a covered foredeck area for gear stowage. Many dinghies race in popular "one design classes" where all boats in a class are of the exact type and measurement and sailed with equal crews (from one to four). (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Dinghies, Rowing

Rather fish than sail? Get the rowing dinghy to get around the harbor and wet a line. Small, car-topable at eight to 12 feet or so. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Fish And Skis

Interior layouts of these craft allow boaters to enjoy the two most popular on-water activities. Have enough power, usually outboard, to pull a skier or two, and to get to the fishing spot in short order. Storage allows taking skis and tackle. Three or four can ride and fish in lengths from teens to upper 20s. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Flats Boats

Shallow-draft hulls, mostly fiberglass, with tilting outboard engines. These craft allow angling access to saltwater flats fish. Each boat features a "poling platform" that allows navigation and fish spotting. A casting deck gives the angler stable control. Upper-teens to mid-20s feet. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Folding Boats

Made to store, then unfold and float, these consist of lightweight frames that are covered by fabric or plastic. Usable by one or two, they range from about seven to just over 10 feet. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

High-Performance Boats

Designed for speed, these can be deep-vee or catamaran-hulled craft with big power. Creature comforts are included in the cockpit and below decks; fishing craft are more spartan. Outboard and stern-drive power, often-sophisticated engines, can push even larger craft to speeds in the 60-mph range, sometimes faster. Size starts in the mid-20s and tops out in the 50s. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Inflatable Boats

Short 5- and 6-footers are used as dinghies. Mid-sized models in the 12- to 18- feet. range are more durable, have more interior space, and can handle an outboard; such mid-sized models can carry several passengers and serve as runabouts. Newer, hard-hull (or rigid) types of 20 feet and over take moderate power and work well near and offshore. The "smalls" are easily transported; the "bigs" can be trailered. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Jet Boats

So described because they are powered by jet pumps linked to engines. Fun and usually wet, small versions starting at about 12 feet can take two or three along; larger versions ranging to 18 feet can accommodate a couple more folks or pull tubers or skiers. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)

Jon Boats

Multi-purpose camping, freshwater fishing and hunting craft, typically aluminum and powered by a small to moderate outboard or oars. Length in mid-teens to low-20s; accommodates three to five on bench seats, plus gear. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)


One- or two-person craft traditionally used for short- distance transportation, now expanded to include whitewater rapids duty and some for "sea kayaking" on bigger lakes and along coasts. (Trailerable; 1 or 2 persons)

Multi-Hulls, Sail

Called "catamarans" when they have two hulls and "trimarans" if they have three. Come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the popular 14 feet and up "cats" launched from the beach, to high-speed ocean racers of 70 feet or better. The lightweight hulls make these boats quicker under sail and well suited to cruising and anchoring in shallow waters. Wide cockpit and deck layout in the back and "trampolines" in front provide lots of lounging options. Larger multi-hulls come with substantial cabins. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons).

Pedal Boats

Leg-powered, two- or three-seaters for lazy small-water excursions. Classic lake boat, great diversion for the kids and not-so-serious anglers. Eight to 12 feet or so. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Personal Watercraft

More often known by brand names such as "Jet Skis" or "Sea Doos." Two varieties include stand-on or sit-on; latest versions have gotten a bit bigger to accommodate three adults. Fun, fast, wet. Range from about 6 to 10 feet. (Trailerable; 1-3 persons)

Pontoon Boats

Two tubes, usually aluminum, under a stable deck surrounded by railings and powered most often with outboards. Often covered with a canopy, featuring plenty of seating space (sometimes convertible to sleepers). Good for fishing, swimming and sunning. Start in the high-teens and go to the upper 20-foot range. (Trailerable; 1-8 persons)


Feature open or closed bows, outboard or stern-drive power, and mostly vee-hulls. Fun for water skiing and wakeboarding, fishing, cruising, sunning throughout the day. Some add camper canvas to allow overnights. Probably the most popular fiberglass boat made, though some are aluminum construction. Range from about 16- to upper 20-feet. (Trailerable; 1-8 persons)


Surfboard with a sail for those who like to work waves and wind for an "athletic" form of solo sailing. Like water and snow skis, sailboards and sails are specialized for different windsurfing styles and skill levels, from easy gliding to stunts and jumps. Wider, more stable options are user-friendly to beginners. Range from 8 to over 12 feet. (Trailerable; usually 1 person)

Waterski Boats

Powered by inboards, these "throw" a perfect wake for very serious water skiers and wake boarders. Used at tournaments and for training. Passengers usually include the driver and a "spotter." Range from about 18 feet to the mid-20s. (Trailerable; 1-5 persons)