Buying a boat opens up a whole new world of fun. Boats can be activity-specific, so the first step in finding your ideal boat is to consider what you want to do on your boat. Talk to your family to determine how you really want to spend your time together on the water. Click here for a more detailed list of boat types.

Fishing boats are often specialized boats with features that make them best for catching certain fish in specific waters. Bass boats, flats boats, bay boats, center consoles and sportfishing boats are just a few of the boat styles that get families out on the water with a mission to land the big one. When the bite is "off" they double for cruising, diving and water sports fun.

 RUNABOUTS Runabouts are smaller, multiple-use, often trailerable boats like bowriders, cuddies or jet boats used for day cruising, touring and relaxing. Many have a fishing rod or two on board as well. This craft allows boaters to enjoy the two most popular on-water activities; fishing and skiing. This family fishing and recreational boat has enough power to pull a skier or two, and to get to the fishing spot in short order.

Ski boats look much like bowriders, but are designed to throw a very slight wake that's easily crossed by skiers. They accelerate rapidly to "pop" skiers up and turn crisply, for easy recovery of downed skiers. Powered by an inboard engine, these boats "throw" a perfect wake for very serious wake boarders. With the engine set back against the transom, seating is more comfortable and open like a bowrider. These boats are great for skiing, racing and other watersports activities.

Pontoon boats give families with younger boaters a secure place to enjoy the ride or toddle about when at anchor, thanks to wide decks and "play-pen-like" side rails and gates. When equipped with larger engines, they can be as quick as runabouts. Deckboats have wide decks to carry 8 to 15 passengers (like pontoon boats) but look and perform more like runabouts. They are powerful, too, making them excellent boats for skiing, tubing and wakeboarding.  SAILBOATS

Sailboats are for the contemplative boater who gets his satisfaction from harnessing the wind to race or just to get from place to place, cruising along enjoying the breezes and motion of the boat. Ranging from 8 to 80 feet with living quarters, cooking and plumbing facilities, the sailing life offers a variety of experiences. From the ease of day sailing, to the adventure of cruising or the thrill of racing, there are many activities to choose from.

 CRUISERS Like a houseboat, cruisers provide the fun of living on the water with the convenience of sleeping, cooking and plumbing facilities. But their hull style makes them more at home in rougher, deeper ocean waters and enables them to move pretty fast. Large enough to serve as a second home at sea, they are still popular choices for weekend vacationers who want to escape on inland waterways.  YACHTS

Opulent and lush, comfort is the watchword on these vessels, but so is fun, and many yachts can carry one or more runabouts or fishing boats for sport. Motor yachts are ideal for ocean cruising or navigating large rivers or the Great Lakes, as well as entertaining at the dock. Two engines, usually fueled with diesel and a generator for electricity make them self-sufficient in terms of living accommodations.

 PERFORMANCE/SPEED BOATS Performance boats are the sleek sports cars of the boating world, offering high speeds and precise handling to boaters who prefer their thrills full throttle. A cuddy in the bow usually offers sleeping berths, a sink and toilet and sometimes limited cooking capabilities for weekend trips. Marrying big horsepower with sleek hulls results in boats that are equally at home slicing through ocean swells or tearing up inland lakes. Cranking offshore or simply relaxing in a cove, performance boats deliver lots of smiles per hour.

The two categories of inflatable boats-roll-up inflatables or rigid-hull inflatable boats (RIBs)-share key benefits that distinguish them from other types of boats. They are exceptionally stable and safe, have surprising carrying capacity, are economical to operate, and forgiving of operator error in close maneuvering  INFLATABLE BOATS situations thanks to the inflatable collars that act as natural fenders. These boats are suitable for saltwater and freshwater fishing, watersports and more.

 HOUSEBOATS Designed to offer ranch house living on the water, complete with cooking, plumbing and sleeping facilities, most of the houseboat's living space is on one easy-access level. They are best moving at a stately pace along river, lakes and coastal waterways where waters are calmer.

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