It’s Time for a Boat Ride!

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For many Americans, summer is synonymous with fun on the water and boating. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 12 million recreational boats were registered in this country in 2015.

It’s no wonder that boating is so popular; it’s one of those rare activities that can bring families and friends closer because it’s enjoyed by every age group. Children who grow up with boating gain an appreciation for the environment and enjoy all the benefits of an active lifestyle.

People buy boats for a lot of different reasons, so there are many types of boats to choose from. If you’re thinking about buying a family boat, start by identifying how you’d like to use it. Does your family enjoy water sports such as water skiing or wakeboarding? Do you plan to go fishing? Do you want to explore local waterways, or have you always dreamed about a long expedition on the open sea? These questions will determine which boat is the best choice for your family, since each of these activities is best suited for a certain type of boat.

For boaters who like speed, high-performance powerboats are the way to go. These boats combine a V-shaped or catamaran hull with one or more high-horsepower engines, allowing them to cut through lakes, rivers and ocean swells at speeds more than 90 mph. They are often recognizable by their distinctive silhouette: a small cockpit behind a long foredeck. Popular names for high-performance powerboats include cigarette boats, go-fast boats and rum runners. When it comes to high-end go-fast boats, design and appearance are nearly as important as speed. Hulls are reinforced with carbon fiber for increased strength. Add-on luxuries such as custom upholstery and sleeping accommodations are reflected in price tags that range from $120,000 to over $1 million.

If you float with everyone, including Grandma and the family dog, a luxury pontoon boat can accommodate a crowd safely and easily. Captain’s chairs, couches with pillow-top upholstery, tables and state-of-the-art navigation and sound systems trick out these stable boats. The newer triple-tube hulls give more stability, maneuverability and a really smooth ride.

If comfort is more important than speed for you and your family, consider a motor yacht. These powerboats range in length from 40 to 100 feet and are capable of voyages on large lakes and rivers as well as trans-ocean. They’re equipped with electricity, air conditioning, plumbing and many other comforts of home. Advanced navigation technology makes motor yachts easier to pilot and navigate than in the past, but you’ll still need a crew to pilot a longer vessel.

Imagine setting off with your family in Vanquish Yacht’s VQ50, a sleek 50-foot motor yacht powered by twin 600-horsepower diesel engines capable of a maximum speed of about 40 mph. The boat’s dark reflective hull gives it a distinctive look on the water. A cockpit dining area seats six and two cabins are available below deck. There’s also a small garage for a jet ski and a hydraulic winch to launch and retrieve it. This upscale motor yacht is priced at about $1.6 million, with additional customization available if you so desire.

You can still have comfort but with a touch of adventure in a cruising sailboat. These larger sailboats usually have at least one sleeping area and they’re equipped with an engine that can provide power when there’s no wind. Depending on your budget, furnishings and built-ins range from practical to luxurious. Since sailing requires a certain amount of skill, a mono-hull sailboat such as the Marlow-Hunter 31 is a good first sailboat for offshore cruising. It can be configured with four staterooms to sleep up to eight people. The price starts at about $434,000.

The high-end boats require a significant investment, so it makes sense to “try before you buy” with a boat rental or charter. By trying out different boats and boating activities, you have the chance to experiment without too much risk. An added bonus is that many charter boats come with an experienced crew to educate you about what it takes to operate and maintain that type of vessel.

Speaking of education, if you decide it’s time to invest in a family boat, make sure you get the proper training to safely enjoy your new purchase. Just as you learn the rules of the road before you start to drive a car, there are safe boating procedures and laws. You don’t need to learn on your own; a wide range of hands-on boating education options is available, depending on your type of boat. U.S. Powerboating and the U.S. Power Boat Squadron are nonprofit organizations that offer courses in power boat operation and navigation. Sailboat owners can check out U.S. Sailing, the American Sailing Association and the United States Sailing Association for information about sailing schools. Besides helping to ensure your family’s safety, completing a boating education course may help you get a reduced rate on boat insurance. ■

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