Boats display elegant shear lines and innovative designs. We love to show them off and spin tales of high-hook days.
But boats also have tight spaces, flawed systems and quirky layouts. Boats have trade-offs. As one of our survey respondents put it: “It’s easy to find the perfect boat to do one thing. As soon as you want to do two things, you’re compromising.”
Our survey asked boaters to list favorite features, biggest disappointments, and what their current boat has taught them to look for in a future new boat. More than 1,800 of you provided answers.
Many of our bay-boat owners seemed to be frustrated offshore fishermen. They sang the praises of their vessels as it pertained to ease of trailering, launching and loading, as well as features and versatility, but still lamented how often rough seas kept them from bluewater fishing.
Here are their comments and some of our editorial asides:
Fishing is a way I escape with my wife for a few days. (Carolina Skiff)
[Note, he typed “with.”]
Kind of a Swiss Army knife of a boat, does a lot well. (Robalo Cayman)
I can use it like an old pickup. (Winner bay boat) [Is he carrying crab traps or hay?]
Bass-boat style fore and aft, with pontoon boat features in the middle. (Lowe Bay 20)
The smooth ride, even in 4- to 6-foot seas. (Hell’s Bay) [4 to 6 feet? The heck you say?]
Dual-console owners liked the creature comforts, space and stability of their rides.
It fishes well, and the ladies like the front chaise longues. (Boston Whaler Vantage)
It starts and goes. It fits the needs of my wife and dog. Keep It Simple -Stupid. (Aquasport dual-console)
Wide, with enough space to fish, and places to sleep overnight for up to eight friends, with kitchenette and toilet. (42-foot dual-console)
Those with flats skiffs liked the shallow-water capabilities, of course. Since most small skinny-water boats lack a lot of storage and comfort amenities, their comments centered on backwater fishability, practicality and sheer enjoyment.
My favorite feature of my boat is the history and the memories that come with it. (Sea Nymph) [The last one was made 22 years ago—you should be thinking upgrade!]
I am older, and this is easy to board. Seating is at butt level, so I don’t have to try to get up and out. Easy to see where you are going…easy to fish from. (Carolina Skiff) [Another nod to this indestructible workhorse.]
On bigger inboard sport-fishers, owners laud the open layout, creature comforts, and ride in rough seas.
Great to live on. Great to fish on. (Riviera) [Well, it’s a yacht—it better be!]
Built like a tank. (Rampage) [Have you seen the movie Fury?]
Excellent trolling boat, stable in rough water, and rides like a Cadillac. (Bertram) [Well, duh. It’s why they call them classics.]
Still can push her 30 knots at full rack. I love my boat. I give her all my money!
Offshore center-console owners waffled between speed, 360-degree fishability, ride and fuel efficiency in their list of favorite features.
It has plenty of power to outrun a storm and pretty comfortable to fish on. (Sea Pro)
Perfect combination of seaworthy, comfortable, good-looking and economical! (Sea Hunt) [Is this a boat or the description of a frugal spouse?]
As I grow older, the windlass is my favorite feature. Will never buy another boat without one. (Sea Fox) [Judging from the average age of an offshore angler, there should be plenty of windlasses on the water.]
I love having a raw-water washdown. Comes in handy when bloody fish are caught. And plenty of rocket launchers for storage of rods. Portable cutting boards with gimbal mounts that can be moved around the boat. I really like the Taco -outriggers for separation of lines. As much storage space as possible for stowing equipment. Plenty of icebox/fish-box space, and a nice 40-gallon baitwell is a must. (Sailfish Boats) [Nice list! Well-thought-out. All the judges give this a 10!]
Walkaround owners liked their spacious cockpits and the ability to overnight comfortably aboard their boats.
I have a 30 WA with an 11-foot beam, which makes for a pretty spacious cockpit. Having a lot of uncluttered room to work is one of my favorite features. (Pro-Line Boats) [Bigger is almost always better!]
The walkaround cuddly [sic] cabin covers all bases and all activities well, as well as family activities and all fishing scenarios. It is an overnighter or a dayboat. It can be an offshore troller or inshore explorer. (Grady-White) [Man, we like that cuddly part!]
My wife loves cruising on it while I fish. She does not fish. (Boston Whaler Conquest) [Sounds like he has found the perfect boat for a trouble-free marriage, but how does she settle for a 6-knot cruising speed?]
My boat is an absolute jack-of-all-trades when it comes to versatility and capability. It has strength, speed, comfort, range, and can handle seas like a larger vessel due to its wide beam and weight. It’s no wonder I’ve owned two of them. (Grady-White) [With over 60 contiguous years of boatbuilding, it’s no wonder Grady-White gets so many comments.]
We’re quite pleased to report that the single-most-common answer to the question of what disappoints you about your current boat’s build was… nothing, none, nada.
Of course, we did hear about issues, chief among them: “I need a bigger boat.” But many answers also reflected the age of the boat, and in many cases, problems with older hulls have been remedied in new designs for the same model.
Here are a few of the disappointments, listed by boat type:
Needs different dry storage, but hell, this is a fishing boat. (Skeeter) [Have you looked at them lately?]
Has good baitwell…livewell…but no fish box for icing down catch! Always have to take a cooler, which takes up space! [They build in coolers now, buddy!]
It leaks. [Uh-oh. Have you heard of Flexi-Seal?]
Not enough freeboard/low gunwales. (Bayboats) [Several similar remarks reveal a few owners should’ve looked at the new hybrid boats, such as Regulator XO26.]
No windlass. [If wishes were fishes. In a bay boat?]
Not very much unfavorable about this boat. If anything, it’s that it has a single motor.
The soft top gets in the way at times. [Go topless.]
It doesn’t wash itself. [You don’t make your crew wash it? Seriously?]
If it were 2 feet longer, it would be perfect. [If it were 2 feet longer, it would be a bay boat.]
Can’t go offshore…but I knew that. [You need two boats—37 percent of our respondents have more than one!]
Rocks and rolls on the drift if there’s any kind of sea on. [You sound like a candidate for a Seakeeper.]
Cruises at 18 to 20 knots. Would like it faster. [Repeat after us: Must buy a Yamaha 425 XTO Offshore outboard!]
Small enough; however, large enough. [Can you say “oxymoron”?]
I am 6-foot-3 and need a little more headroom, and like most boats this size, the captain’s bed is never long enough for my wife and me.
A herd of cats got in my boat and destroyed every piece of my new marine deck. (Mako) [We’ve heard that cats had started traveling in herds.]
Not enough space between seatback and transom baitwell. Tough to walk through, especially while fighting a fish.
Height of console (hard to see over for short people). [Ahem, I feel your pain.]
Old and outdated. Newer boats seem to have much-better-thought-out features.
Can be challenging to get to the bow due to my feet, which are bigger than the walkaround.
Difficult to fish off the front. [We’ve heard that about walkarounds.]
Needs more fishing room. I would rather have a center-console, but my wife wanted privacy when use of the port-a-potty is needed. Also, I’d like to have a second control station on the hardtop for sight-casting red drum and cobia. [We know. It’s all about compromise.]