Skiffs, Center Consoles, Flats Boats

The Confusing World of Boat Types

What Kind of Boat is That?

Occasionally while on the road as a truck and boat passes by, the lovely wife asks, “baby – what kind of boat is that?” For the record, that question has been answered a least a dozens of times.

Now before anyone makes any assumptions, the wife is smart lady, she’s a former marine, a data analyst, and an avid researcher. Given that, I’ve more than once wondered why she continues to struggle with boats, more specifically which type of boat is which.

As the newly appointed grand poohbah marketing director for a boat manufacturer, I came to realize after just a few days on the job that my bride is not alone. Understanding boats is confusing. Case in point, the National Marine Manufacturers Association lists twenty-three different types of boats on their site. Adding flame to that fire, at CRI we create skiffs, bay boats, flat boats, offshore, and center consoles. One thing is certain, the potential for confusion is high.

For a little more perspective I asked one of our engineers, “What’s the difference between a center console and a bay boat?” His answer though technically correct went into a six sentence diatribe about hull configurations, lines, and some grumbling about who was asking such a silly question. I replied with, “my wife.” which was immediately followed with, “oh. OH! sorry, sorry…”

The point, the differences between boat types for newbies or the untrained who only see aesthetics are negligible.  Given that, here’s a quick down and dirty, five minute guide to Skiffs, Center Consoles, & Flats Boats.

The Skiff – It’s a Hull Thing

Before we go any further, let’s answer the question, “what is a skiff?” A skiff is a a flat bottom vessel with a sharp bow and a squared stern.  The skiff category is actually ancient and can contain everything from row boats to the Sundance DX22 based purely on their hull design.  The thing that confuses many new boat buyers is that a vessel with a central based control, meaning piloted from the center, can be called something else. In their defense, it really doesn’t make sense but the fact remains, it’s the hull design and purpose of a boat that defines its nomenclature. As for features, skiffs can contain plenty of creature comforts along with a plethora of power options while remaining both fishing and family friendly.

Recommendation:  Unless you have very specialized interests in offshore, a skiff will be fun, functional, affordable, and versatile.

Center Consoles

Discover Boating refers to center consoles as, “elegant fishing machines built for rough offshore waters, both saltwater and fresh.”

What might not be apparent is that center consoles have higher sides (freeboard) making them the logical choice for salt water offshore anglers. The reason for this is simple, the larger the vessel and deeper the draft, the less friendly it will be in shallow waters. Sea Born’s SX239 Offshore  is a great example built primarily for fishing and blue-water runs but is small enough to fit on a trailer. As for features, you’ll find most center consoles will have plenty of seating, lots of storage options, and even an optional in-console head.

Recommendation: If you want to go offshore fishing or cruise deeper lakes then a center console or offshore model might be the best boat for you.

Flats Boats

At CRI we also manufacturer flats boats and technical poling skiffs.  Flats boats are used in back bays and shallow inner coastal waters where a poling platform allows anglers to sneak into extremely shallow, hidden areas undetected by fish. As for the appearance, a clear difference between flats boats and center consoles is that they often sport a flat, large step up casting decks allowing for fishing from almost any angle . The trade off for all the fishing friendliness is a lower freeboard which makes flats boats unfriendly in rough waters. As for features, most Flats Boats offer, smaller engines, less fuel consumption, and poling platforms for sight fishing.

Recommendation: If you aren’t looking to go into the big water and prefer shallow areas, a Flats Boats could make you a very happy fisher.

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