Angie's LIST Guide to
Boaters hit the water for many reasons. Some love the feel of a lake or sea breeze on a hot day, and others like to sail toward the sunset or enjoy a day reeling in fish. There is a boat for all these needs and more:
If you want a recreational boat for day cruising or water sports, check out a bowrider, cuddy cabin, cabin cruiser, deck boat, high performance boat or jet boat. These are great options for boaters who seek an exciting escape on the water.
Sailboats vary depending on the configuration, number of sails, size, keel type and style. Propelled by wind, these boats can accommodate up to 14 people and range from 7 to 70 feet. Sailboats are great for day or overnight cruising, races and charter vacations.
If fishing calls you to the water, consider a sport fishing boat complete with sleeping berths, plumbing and a galley for cooking. For shorter trips, consider a walkaround boat, inflatable boat or cuddy cabin.
Buying a boat
Buying a boat is an investment, and there are many factors to consider before making a purchase. Boat shows are great opportunities to get inspiration and check out new boats, but they are also high-pressure environments. Take the time to talk to an experienced boat dealer, who can recommend the best watercraft for your needs and budget. The dealer can also help you estimate maintenance and other costs, including:
Fuel is the biggest operating expense for boat owners, and some boats have more economical cruising speeds than others. Gas guzzlers are expensive to operate, and marina fuel is often more expensive per gallon that what you pay for your vehicles.
Storage and maintenance
Factor in marina, yard and maintenance costs. What you spend on maintenance largely depends on the type and size of boat, but all boats require some maintenance. Large boats with high-maintenance features will require the most money and time.
Consider the cost of boat insurance, which protects you and your vessel from damage from storms, theft, explosions, capsizing, fires and other risks. Boat liability coverage protects you from legal liability due to accidents, and emergency service insurance protects you in a crisis.
Boats require regular maintenance. Regular cleaning is the best way to maintain a boat's condition. After every trip, the boat should be rinsed off with fresh water. The superstructure can be cleaned with marine soap, and the deck should be scrubbed regularly with a deck brush and pH-balanced soap.
Off-season maintenance is equally important. During winter, replace old gear oil in the engine and change the oil filter. Drain the boat's water system to prevent freezing and run a fogging solution through the engine. This will protect the boat's internal parts and reduce risk of corrosion.
If you dry-dock the boat during the off-season, disconnect the battery. If you keep your boat in the water, the battery must remain connected to run the bilge pump.
If your boat is exposed to the elements during the off season, have a professional shrink-wrap it.
A professional should be contacted to prepare a boat for the off season. When the temperature drops below 60 degrees, schedule an appointment to protect your boat and keep it in top condition.
While DIY efforts can fix some minor boat problems, hire a professional to reconstruct the hull, repair broken fiberglass, outboard motors, gear cases, steering and stern drives.