Bowriders: What is a Bowrider Boat?
Bowriders are a fun style of boat for the entire family, plus they’re easy to handle, and they can be used for a wide range of activities—which explains why they’re one of the most popular boat rentals around. It also explains why lots of bowrider boats will be found on lakes, rivers, bays, and just about any sort of waterway in the nation.
So, if you want to go zipping across the waves, feel the spray in your face, and enjoy the sunshine on your skin, a bowrider boat is just what the doctor ordered.
What are bowrider boats used for?
First, let’s start with answering the question: what is a bowrider? Any boat with a forward cockpit in the bow that includes seating can be termed a bowrider. Historically most bowriders fell into the 16- to 26-foot range, but today there are models large enough to qualify as bona fide yachts. These may have cabins underneath the helm station and bow, enclosed stand-up head compartments, and even full galleys.
Another change in the world of bowrider boats is an evolution towards outboard motor power systems. Years ago, stern drives were the engines of choice and outboards were rarely seen on bowriders. But today’s modern, reliable, fuel-efficient outboards are now favored by many boaters.
Whatever their size and systems may be, most bowriders will feature:
- A pair of forward-facing seats, wrap-around seating, or C-shaped seating in the bow
- Some of the larger models may include a dinette table up front if there’s enough room
- Many have amenities like USB ports, cupholders, and stereo speakers, so the bow cockpit is usually a great place to hang out and relax.
- Behind that bow cockpit there’s generally a windshield sheltering the helm and passenger’s seat with a center pane that swings open to allow access.
- In the cockpit, most bowriders will feature additional seating.
If the boat’s large enough the console in front of the passenger’s seat usually houses a private head compartment, and perhaps a sink and stowage areas. Additionally, larger, more well-equipped models often also have amenities like a dinette table, water ski/wakeboard lockers, and maybe even a wet bar.
So, with all that in mind, what is a bowrider best for? Well, pretty much anything! You can use these boats for simple day cruising, watersports, tubing, fishing, and if there’s a cabin, even overnighting.
Advantages of bowriders
The biggest advantage a bowrider enjoys compared to other types of boats is the additional seating found up front. On top of that, since bowriders generally have open helm stations and good access both forward and aft, they’re particularly easy to captain.
- You can see where you’re going and all around you at all speeds, and handling lines or fending off at the dock is a piece of cake. That makes them an excellent choice for inexperienced captains who are considering motor boat rentals.
- Another strong suit of a bowrider is adaptability. These boats can be used for just about any activity, ranging from watersports to fishing.
- In fact, you can find many runabouts that are designed to serve well in specific niches, such as wakesports bowriders with arches and ballast tanks, or fishing-centric bowriders that have livewells and fishing rod holders.
And, no matter how tilted a bowrider may be towards one activity or another, virtually all of them have the basic items you need for general-purpose use: a big swim platform with a boarding ladder, integrated coolers, bulk stowage compartments, and sun lounges.
Drawbacks of bowriders
Setting aside the yacht-size bowriders with cabins, the biggest downside to running a bowrider boat is that you and your crew are exposed to the elements.
- If a rainstorm breaks out or the wind generates large waves, everyone aboard will likely get wet. Many do have Bimini tops that offer shade and provide some level of protection from rain, but generally speaking you’ll want to plan your adventures according to the weather.
- And if you were hoping to enjoy weekending aboard a boat, unless it’s a very large model with a full cabin, a bowrider probably isn’t the best choice.
How to Choose the Best Bowrider Boat
Which will be the ideal bowrider for you and your family, whether you’ll be aboard for just one day or for the foreseeable future? In addition to all the factors we’ve already covered there are a few other variables to consider.
- Hull design is a big one, because some bowriders run smoother than others, some offer better stability, and some require more or less draft. As a general rule of thumb remember that the deeper the V shape of the hull the better it should split waves, but the flatter a hull is the more stability it usually enjoys.
- Another factor to consider is range, because some bowriders are designed for quick day-trips and have small fuel tanks that will run dry if you try going for a long cruise.
- Finally, remember that when it comes to boats size does matter. The published maximum capacity of a boat relates to safety, not comfort, and a boat with a capacity of 12 may feel quite cramped with eight or 10 people aboard.
You say you’re not entirely sure a bowrider is the best pick for you and your family? Don’t worry, there are plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right boat. See our Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Boat to learn about some other options.
With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.