Boat Registration: How to Register Your Boat

  • Specific laws for registering your boat vary from state to state.
  • In most cases any boat with mechanical propulsion will need to be registered.
  • The registration usually must take place in the state where the boat is primarily used, so if you live in one state but do your boating in another, check the local laws carefully to see where the boat needs to be registered.
  • To register your boat you’ll need the same type of basic information as needed for registering a car: a bill or sale or proof of purchase (yes, there will probably be taxes due based on purchase price) are almost always necessary.
  • When registering your boat, you’ll use the “HIN” (hull identification number) the same way you’d use a car’s VIN number to identify the vehicle.
  • If you buy a boat new, the dealership can almost certainly take care of the initial registration for you.

So, you’ve bought a boat. Congratulations! And if you’ve found your way to this page, you probably already know that before you can use that boat, there are a few legal hoops to jump through. Perhaps you’ve already acquired your boating license, chosen a boat, lined up financing and struck a deal with the boat seller. The next step will be registering the boat.

boat registration
You just bought a boat? That’s great! But before you can start enjoying it, you’ll have to get your boat registration in order.

The easiest way to register a boat is, of course, to buy one new at a dealership and let them handle all the paperwork. This is not always an option, though, so let’s go through the process step-by-step. Since each state has its own specific regulations, remember that this will vary a bit.

First, you’ll have to ID the state agency that handles boat registration. This may be the Department of Motor Vehicles, but it can also be the Department of Natural Resources, or a Fisheries and Wildlife Service. In most cases you’ll start with a form (usually, but not always, downloadable online). These forms are quite similar to those used for registering a car. You’ll need to fill out information about yourself, including your address and phone number. Then, you’ll have to fill out information about the boat. This often includes specifications like length overall, weight, primary use, hull construction material, and so on. The vessel’s HIN number is used to identify it, exactly like a car’s VIN number, and will be needed no matter what state you’re registering in.

The HIN number is on all boats
The HIN number is on all boats, either engraved into the fiberglass or stamped on a plate, on the starboard-side transom.

These forms also track security interest, but to the issuing body, the most important blanks to fill in usually have to do with purchase price and taxation. You’ll need documentation for this, too, usually in the form of a bill of sale. If you bought the boat from a private party, most of these state agencies have a boilerplate bill of sale you can fill out and use to document the purchase.

Finally, you’ll sign and date the form – and of course, probably pay a filing fee, too. This ranges but usually it’s between $25 and $250 (often depending on the boat’s size), and the taxes on the purchase price of the boat are commonly in the five to 10 percent range. When the form’s all filled out and you’re ready to pay whatever fees are necessary, you can bring it to the issuing agency or mail it in.

Registering a boat means dealing with state agencies
Registering a boat means dealing with state agencies, so yes folks, there is some paperwork to be filled out.

In some cases if you do it at the state agency office, you’ll get a registration card and sticker on the spot. In other cases, you may have to wait for it to be delivered by mail. Either way, there’s usually a sticker involved, just like a car’s license tags, which has to be renewed annually or biannually.

There’s one big exception to all these rules, and that comes up if you build your own boat. In that case, you obviously won’t have a bill of sale for documentation. In many states, however, you may need to provide proof of purchase of the construction materials. And in others, you may need to supply photographs of the boat from various angles.

Okay: with your boat all registered, have you cleared the last legal hurdle to hitting the lake? Not quite. Before you shove off the dock, make sure to check out this Boat Items Checklist, because there’s some legally-mandated safety gear you must keep aboard plus some common-sense safety items you’ll want to be sure are also on the boat. Check that final box, and you’ll be ready to hit the water and have some fun—lots of fun.


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Best Rod Holders and Rocket Launchers

There’s one truism that holds across the spectrum of fishing boats, whether you cast from an aluminum fishing boat, a center console, or a bay boat: you can never have too many rod holders. In fact, very few serious anglers feel that their boat has enough rod holders right out of the box. You say you’d like to add rod holders and rocket launchers to your fishing machine? No doubt you would — here are the types to consider, and some top picks:

  • Flush-mount rod holders
  • Surface-mount rod holders
  • Rail-mount rod holders
  • Leaning post and console vertical rocket launchers
  • T-top rocket launchers

Flush-Mount Rod holders

Flush-mount rod holders are a top pick for many anglers, for several reasons: they’re as sturdy as possible and can even take the pressure generated by huge offshore species like tunas and billfish; they look slick sitting flush on a boat’s gunwales or transom; and most have gimbal-pins in the bottom, for locking trolling rods in place. But there are also a number of limitations on flush-mount holders, and some problems associated with them.

For starters, mounting is difficult and requires sawing a hole or holes in your boat. Not all boats have wide enough gunwales to accommodate them, and some don’t have enough open space below the surface you’d like to mount them on. And on many boats the transom spots you might like to mount them are taken up by things like livewells or fishboxes.

Top Flush-Mount Rod holder Pick

The Gemlux Screwless Cup and Rod Holder is a primo flush-mount which is wide at the top and then narrows down to rod holder size, so it can do double-duty as both a cupholder and a rod holder. We also like the slick-looking screwless mounting system, and the fact that it’s made out of rugged cast stainless-steel. These don’t come cheap, though, and cost is approximately $130.

Surface-Mount Rod holders

Surface-mount rod holders are great in that they can be place just about anywhere, on any sort of boat or surface from a kayak to a motor yacht. There are a zillion and one varieties to choose from, with all different sorts of screw, through-bolt, or track mounting systems. You can find surface mounts made of lightweight plastic, inexpensive metal, or heavy-duty stainless-steel. The options are virtually endless and include all different price ranges.

There are, of course, drawbacks. These aren’t usually as strong as some other types of rod holders, and if you go cheap you may end up with a rod holder that can’t stand up to the force applied by very large fish. Mounting with through-bolts is preferable to screws (since there’s less chance of them loosening over time), but in some cases you may not be able to access the back of the surface to put on the nuts. Since these rod holders stick up from the boat’s surface they can also create tripping points, or snags for your lines. And they certainly don’t look as slick as rod holders that are integrated with the boat.

Top Surface-Mount Rod holder Pick

We love the Scotty Orca because it allows you to pop the rod out in one smooth, hook-setting motion. We also love that the removable bases for these can be either side- or top-mounted, and the angle you set them at is fully adjustable. And although they’re made from fiber-reinforced nylon as opposed to stainless-steel, these holders are quite beefy and can stand up to gobs of pressure.

Rail-Mount Rodholders

If your boat has rails there’s a strong possibility that rail-mount rod holders will be your best option, simply because the rails may interfere with other types of rod holders you may try to mount. Plus, installation is incredibly easy because rail-mounts clamp right onto the existing structure. Be careful, however, about where and how you locate them. If they stick outboard of the boat’s rails they may snag on pilings, docks, or anything else the side of the boat comes up against, and in that case damage to both the rod holder and the rail is the common result.

Top Rail-Mount Rod holder Pick

When it comes to rail-mounts, it’s going to be very difficult to find a better pick than the Taco Clamp-On. These are available with mounts sized for multiple rail diameters, come with clamp inserts to get a perfect fit, are made from top-shelf 316-L stainless-steel, and can be rotated and locked in place in 18-degree increments. Tightly clamp one of these to a railing or a T-top frame, and it will hold up to the most vicious strikes from pelagic big game. They also come with a white PVC liner, to protect your rods.

Leaning Post and Console Vertical Rocket Launchers

Having a set of rocket launchers on the back of your leaning post or on the sides of a console is very convenient. But there are countless varieties of leaning posts and consoles out there, and while in some cases mounting will be easy, in some others it will be virtually impossible. On top of that, on some boats you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of leaning post or console vertical rod holders because the position of a top or Bimini doesn’t allow enough room for the rod tips. The bottom line? It all depends on your specific rig — but if you can add them, you’ll love having them.

Top Leaning Post and Console Rocket Launcher Pick

An option that will allow for mounting on a range of console and leaning post surfaces is the Angler’s Fish-N-Mate 3 Rod Boat/Hook/Plier Rack. Its anodized aluminum construction will hold up for the long haul, and we love that in addition to three rod holders, you get 17 hook holders for your rigs and a pair of slots to hold pliers. Added bonus: at $70, these seem very reasonably priced, too.

T-Top Rocket Launchers

If you have a T-top, honestly, we’d call having a set of rocket launchers up there a must-have. Not only do they add tons of rod stowage capacity to your boat, but on top of that rods kept up in a T-top rocket launcher are always out of your way. Rods stowed in gunwale and surface mounts, on the other hand, can become a casting impediment. So having those extra rigs up top gives you a big advantage.

Top Leaning Post Rocket Launcher Pick

The Stryker 7 Rod Rocket Launcher is about as slick as they come. In order to fit so many rods into the 38-inch width, yet prevent the reels from banging into one another, the rocket launchers sit at different angles. The rack clamps onto two-inch T-top pipe, and it’s constructed from anodized aluminum. The kicker? It also has two swiveling and tilting triple-LED floodlights, so you get cockpit illumination as part of the deal. One downside: like many clamp-on racks the manufacturer does state that trolling from these holders may void the (five-year) warranty.

Pop quiz: how many rod holders does you boat have on it, right now?

A) Not enough, I need to add more
B) The perfect amount
C) Too many
D) I don’t know

If you answered with anything other than “A,” you didn’t pass the quiz. And if you did answer “A” then what are you waiting for? Go out and get the best rod holders and rocket launchers for your boat, today.


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The Best Offshore Fishing Boats of 2020

Finding the best fishing boats for your needs is no small task — even if you limit your search specifically to the best offshore fishing boats, only. Truth be told there are always a number of trade-offs to make with any boat. Design a deeper V in the hull and you may improve ride characteristics, but you’ll likely reduce stability. Make a lighter boat and it’ll be more fuel efficient, but it’ll also be tossed around a bit more by the waves. The list goes on and on, and the best offshore fishing boats are those that attain a measure of balance in both critical and peripheral elements.

That said, some features are more important than others and we can boil down the most important to the following main characteristics:

  • Hull design
  • Deck layout
  • Power system
  • Fishability
  • Comfort

Considering these among the most important attributes an offshore angler is likely to consider, our top contenders for best offshore fishing boats of 2020 (ranked alphabetically) include:

  1. Albemarle 27 DC
  2. Bertram 61
  3. Caymas 34
  4. Grady-White Canyon 336
  5. Sea Fox 368 Commander
  6. Solace 345 Center Console
  7. Sportsman 352
  8. Valhalla 41
  9. Viking 38BF
  10. World Cat 230

Albemarle 27 DC

A dual console may seem like an unlikely pick to include as one of the best offshore fishing boats, since the deck layout is less ideal than that of a center console for fishability. But truth be told many anglers with boating families will be wise to choose a DC. The flexibility this design provides can keep non-angling family members happy and onboard with the boat-buying decision. Unfortunately, the vast majority of dual console boats are built with little attention paid to maintaining maximum fishability. Not so, with this Albemarle. The company has never built anything other than fishing boats, and it shows. The livewell holds a hefty 40 gallons, there’s a 60-gallon macerated fishbox in the deck, coaming bolsters line the cockpit, and the helm is designed to house a pair of 12-inch MFDs. The clincher: an unusually tall wrap-around windshield provides far more protection than you’ll find on most DCs.

For more, read the review of the Albemarle 27 DC.

See Albemarle 27 DC boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit the Albemarle Boats website for more information.

Bertram 61

When the Bertram 61 hit the water last year we were impressed – very impressed – and it remains a top pick among best offshore fishing boats as we move into 2020. From the 188 square foot cockpit, to the mezzanine MFD, to the electric reel outlets under the gunwales, this boat lacks nothing in the fishing department. But the real stand-out feature is its construction. This is a vinylester resin-infused boat with Kevlar reinforcement, so it’s light for its size (if you can call 88,000 pounds light) yet it’s also uber-strong. Plus, with a pair of C32 ACERTs in the engineroom it can cruise at over 40. The clincher: the comfort factor is off the scale. Seriously. Book-matched grain woodwork, gyroscopic stabilization, and three en-suite staterooms are all in the mix.

Read a full review of the Bertram 61.

See Bertram 61 boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit the official Bertram website for more information.

Caymas 341 CC

Caymas 341 Center Console Caymas 341 Center Console. Photo by Caymas Boats.

Offshore anglers who don’t like to burn up all their fishing time with a long cruise will love the Caymas 341 CC, which can run at 60-mph with a brace of triple Mercury V-8 300-hp outboard engines on the transom. And it can do it in surprisingly tough conditions, too, thanks to the aggressive 23-degree, twin-step hull it rides on – which also gives it an additional boost in the comfort department.

The Caymas scores high for fishing features, too, including a 70-gallon transom livewell plus the option for 60 more gallons in the deck, 125- and 60-gallon fishboxes, coaming bolsters, toe rails, six gunwale rodholders, and 10 rocket launchers. The clincher: the hardtop has a pass-through hatch so you can get up on the hard-top and spot fish from an elevated position whether you opt for the upper station or not.

The Caymas 34 is so new we haven’t reviewed it yet, but check out’s review of the 28 HB to get some insight into how these fishing machines are designed and built.

See Caymas boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit Caymas Boats for more information.

Grady-White Canyon 326

The Grady-White Canyon 326 was a surprise introduction, since Grady-White already had another model very close in size, the 336. However, that boat is just large and heavy enough that it needs a pair of Yamaha F425 outboards or triple engines to perform up to Grady-White’s standards. By shaving off a bit of size and weight, the 326 is able to run quite well with a pair of 4.2-liter Yamaha F300s and comes close to 50-mph at top-end — yet gets 1.6-mpg at a 30-mph cruise. As is true of all Grady-Whites it also checks the fishability box, and scores high for comfort. The clincher: The 72-gallon fishbox in the transom is literally big enough to climb inside of.

See listings for the Grady-White Canyon 326 on Boat Trader.

Visit the official Grady-White website for more information.

Sea Fox 368 Commander

When you think of 35-plus-foot triple-engine center consoles you probably don’t think of Sea Fox boats. At least, you wouldn’t have prior to 2020, because Sea Fox didn’t have any offerings in that range. But now they do, and when we got a ride on their new 368 Commander we liked what we saw. Serious fishing cred is instantly established with a huge tackle station in the back of the leaning post, a pair of twin 50-gallon pressurized transom livewells, and an aft-facing hard-top MFD. Comfort gets a boost with an extending aft sunshade and a huge forward console lounger. The clincher: 27 rodholders ring the boat, line the hard top, and grace the transom.

See Sea Fox 368 Commander boats for sale on Boat Trader

Visit Sea Fox for more information.

Solace 345

Named Boat of the Year by Boating Magazine and awarded an NMMA Innovation Award at the 2020 Miami International Boat Show, the Solace 345 isn’t just among the best offshore fishing boats around, it’s also one of the most unique center consoles ever built. Fishability gets a massive leg up due to the cockpit extension which goes back aft of the outboards, while touches like a pair of flanking 45-gallon pressurized livewells, electric reel plugs, and 18 standard rodholders make this boat battle-ready right out of the box. Construction is cutting edge, too, and the boat’s built with Innegra and epoxy infusion. It gets cured in a heated, oven-like mold, which produces the lightest, strongest fiberglass part possible. The clincher: helm seats are mounted on Shockwave S5 shock-mitigation mounts, to help smooth out the ride and seriously enhance comfort levels.

See Solace 345 boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit the Solace Boats website for more information.

Sportsman Open 352 Center Console

The Sportsman Open 352 Center Console naturally has that center console deck layout we anglers love, spiffy performance including a top-end of over 58-mph, and all the fishing features one could want including a pair of pressurized 30-gallon livewells, a 22-inch Garmin MFD and CHIRP transducer, and a pair of macerated in-deck fishboxes. Where we get wowed, however, is when it comes to pricing. Bottom line: not everyone can drop half a mil on a 35-foot center console, and while many competitors run this much, the Sportsman starts at a far more reasonable $295K.

Even more impressive is that piling on features causes the price to build about half as fast as it does with some other boats. The clincher: Comfort is through the roof thanks to a surprisingly large console cabin, which has a berth and dinette, a head, and a huge light-providing side window.

See Sportsman Open 352 boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit the Sportsman Boats official website for more information.

Valhalla V-41

What happens when yacht builder Viking decides to build a no-holds-barred center console fishing machine? You get the Valhalla V-41. When we ran the V-41 this rig – with quad Mercury Verado 400 engines – blew past 73 mph. Cruising through a two- to three-foot chop at 45-mph presented no problem, and the Michael Peters-designed SVVT hull proved smooth and spray-free. Performance? Off the charts. Comfort? Off the charts. Add to that touches like a Jacuzzi-sized 90-gallon pressurized livewell, a mammoth 192-gallon fishbox, and gobs of open deck space, and you have an offshore angler’s dream boat. The clincher: didn’t you see the part about breaking 73-mph?!

We don’t have a video yet of the V-41, but checkout the V-37 to get an idea of what these Valhalla center consoles are all about.

See Valhalla V-41 boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit Valhalla Boatworks for more information.

Viking 38BF

Launching the Valhalla line certainly didn’t occupy all of Viking’s bandwidth, because at the very same time they also developed the new 38 BF. Like others in their Billfish line, rather than have a closed saloon under the flybridge this area is open to the cockpit. The design supercharges the boat’s fishability factor since you can choose to run it from up top, or from a (optional) lower station as though it were an express – giving the captain the flexibility to easily move into the cockpit and partake in the action. Plus, the 38 has about 25-percent more cockpit deck-space than the older model 37 Billfish.

Oh, and don’t worry about the comfort factor, either. This is after all a Viking, and the lower cabin is just as luxurious as you’d expect. The clincher: that open saloon can be hosed out, so after getting splattered with fish gore you can go in, sit down, and rest without worrying about ruining anything.

See Viking 38 BF boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit Viking Yachts for more information.

World Cat 230

The World Cat 230 CC has the honor of being the smallest boat we’d qualify as offshore-capable in this round-up, which gives it a number of big advantages: it costs far less than the other boats we’ve included here, it costs less to run and maintain (a pair of 115-hp outboard give it a cruise of around 30 mph and it gets well over 2.5 mpg at that speed), it can be fished with a minimal crew, and you can easily trailer it from port to port and launch it wherever you’d like. Fishability is up to snuff with a 30-gallon livewell in the transom, a pair of 37-gallon fishboxes, four gunwale holders, and eight rocket launchers on the T-top and leaning post. The clincher: the boat’s diminutive nature should mean comfort levels take a big hit, but the catamaran hull design runs much smoother than almost all monohulls in its class.

See World Cat 230 CC boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Visit World Cat for more information.

Are any of these contenders the perfect offshore fishing boat? Which one is the best of the best? That depends on you, your needs, and your financial wherewithal. But we can say one thing for sure: no matter who you are, if you buy any one of these 10 offshore fishing boats your 2020 is about to get a whole lot more exciting.


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How to Paint an Aluminum Boat

When you buy a new aluminum boat these days, many have a baked-on enamel paint job that looks almost as slick as gel-coated fiberglass. But many older or less expensive aluminum rigs have a dull gray look that’s not very attractive. That’s because they oxidize on the exterior, as opposed to skipping right to the corrosion stage like many other metals. And while that’s certainly preferable, it’s not exactly appealing to the eye. You want to make that dull gray aluminum look better than it ever has before? Then it’s time to prepare for a paint job.

How to paint an aluminum boat

  1. Sand off any old paint and/or surface contaminants.
  2. Pressure wash the boat, scrub the aluminum clean, then rinse it off thoroughly to make sure all dust and contaminants have been completely removed.
  3. Apply a primer coat.
  4. Pain the aluminum with at least two coats of an appropriate type of paint.
  5. After the paint has cured, apply a clear coat.
  6. Apply an aluminum-safe anti-fouling paint, if the boat will be stored in the water.
Lund Boat clean hull
Good old-fashioned sanding is an important stage; a rough, course-grit sandpaper is best.

Sanding an Aluminum Boat

Just like painting fiberglass or wood, painting an aluminum boat begins with sanding away old paint and oxidation until you’re left with clean, shiny metal. This usually requires 80 or 100 grit sandpaper, which will leave behind some scuff marks. Don’t worry – this is a good thing. The tiny scratches and scuffs will help the primer and paint adhere to the metal. In fact, an aluminum surface needs to be etched so the paint has something to hold on to.

Good old-fashioned sanding is an important stage; a rough, course-grit sandpaper is best.

Naturally, some safety precautions are in order when you sand aluminum, which can release oxide dust into the air. Safety goggles are a must, as well as a dust mask or respirator. You should also wear gloves and clothing which can be washed immediately after you complete the sanding.

Getting Aluminum Clean

What we’re looking for here is a shiny silver uncontaminated surface, to get the best possible paint adhesion. After sanding is complete, it’s helpful to wash down the aluminum boat with a pressure washer. Then, give it an old-fashioned scrub-down with a coarse-bristle brush and soapy water. Finally, rinse the boat down to remove all the soap and everything else left behind. After it’s been thoroughly washed down, allow the boat to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Applying Primer

Aluminum boat paint jobs come out best when you use a primer that’s formulated specifically for use with aluminum. The primer will not only help the paint adhere to the boat, but will also provide an extra barrier layer that helps prevent corrosion or oxidation. Note: because oxidation begins shortly after bare aluminum is exposed to the air, you’ll want to apply the primer as soon as possible after the aluminum has been cleaned and dried. Many manufacturers recommend you do so just an hour after the boat has dried.

At this point, it becomes impossible to make blanket statements about the application of the primer and paint, because different types of products have different requirements. And you need to know this prior to applying the primer, because some primers should be painted over just an hour or two after application. Others need up to 48 hours to cure. Some should be sanded before the paint goes on, and others should not be sanded. The bottom line: you’ll need to read the instructions and follow them for each individual product.

Primers for boats
There’s a wide range of primers to choose from but each has different characteristics and application requirements. Be sure to read the instructions of any specific product carefully, before slapping it on that boat.

All of that said, there’s nothing special about applying primer to an aluminum surface. Prior to application you’ll want to tape off the area(s) of the boat as applicable. The primer itself can be sprayed, brushed, or rolled on. After application a second coat may be recommended, but again, the specifics of multiple coats, dry times, and sanding between coats will vary from product to product.

Painting Aluminum

When the surface is primed and ready, it’s time to paint the aluminum. This is actually the easy part –it’s really no different than painting any other surface. Almost all paints will recommend at least two coats, however, and often (but not always) with a light sanding between them. In most cases you’ll want to use both a roller (for longer, broader surfaces) and brushes (for tougher areas with lots of angles, like chines and transoms).

Applying a Clear Coat

Applying a clear coat after you paint the aluminum will go a long way in protecting the paint and adding a glossy shine. It prevents damage from UV rays, corrosion, staining, and numerous other problems. Many clear coats can be sprayed on, and some should be applied with a brush; in those cases, foam brushes often work better than bristle brushes. Again, multiple coats are usually recommended and we’d always suggest following the manufacturer’s specific instructions.

If you like the silver metallic look of bare aluminum (such as on this pontoon boat shown below), you can also use a clear coat designed to keep it looking shiny and protected in its natural form. The right clear coat can chemically bond directly to the aluminum, prevent oxidation, and protect against corrosion for a decade or more.

Clear coat treatment
Some clear coats (this boat was treated with four coats of Alumetron) can be applied directly to the aluminum, to maintain the metallic shine while also protecting the aluminum.

What About Anti-Fouling Paint?

If you want to leave your aluminum boat in the water for extended periods of time, anti-fouling paint may be necessary to prevent growth on the bottom. And regular paint and clear coat isn’t intended to do this job – you need a paint specifically formulated to be anti-fouling.

Warning: Never apply a coprous paint (any bottom paint including copper as the anti-fouling agent) to an aluminum boat. Any anti-fouling paint applied to an aluminum boat should be marked aluminum-safe, or it can set up a galvanic bath that will literally eat your boat alive, by causing the metal to corrode away. There are several types of anti-fouling paints that can be used on aluminum hulls without any problems – but check and check a second time, to be sure the paint you apply is safe for use on aluminum boats.

Make sure the anti-fouling paint you choose is formulated specifically for use on aluminum boats.

Okay: now your freshly-painted aluminum boat looks great on the outside. If the interior and other pieces-parts now look shabby in comparison, learn how to give things like vinyl, rubber, and plastic a face-lift, too. You’ll find some great tips on how to do so in Preparing Your Used Boat for Sale, whether you plan to sell that boat or not – and you probably won’t want to part with it, now that your aluminum boat has a completely new look.


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Boat Surveys Checklist

Buying a boat can be a trying process, even if you’ve perused the many articles in our Buying a Boat section, and thoroughly educated yourself about the ins and outs of this experience. You’ve probably already learned that a boat survey is often helpful and/or necessary.

Before digging into the details, let’s make a checklist of the things covered in a boat survey:

  • Verify the boat’s identity, via HIN (hull identification) number and state or federal registration.
  • Visually inspect the hull for flaws or damage.
  • Audibly inspect the hull and deck for flaws or damage by gently tapping with a hammer, and listening for differences in the sound it makes.
  • Test all around the hull and deck, especially in suspect areas, with a moisture meter (note that moisture meters can be difficult to interpret, and the fool even the pros sometimes).
  • Inspect the hull-to-deck joint wherever possible, inside and out.
  • Inspect the powerplant and if applicable, complete a compression test. Remember that some professional surveyors cover powerplants and others do not; in many cases this is best left to a mechanic.
  • Inspect the other parts of the propulsion system and/or running gear.
  • Look at the interior spaces of the boat and check for damage and/or wear.
  • Check the fuel system, from the tank(s) to the engine(s).
  • Test the electrical system and all of its components ranging from navigational electronics to lights.
  • Inspect all through-hull fittings and seacocks.
  • Test the plumbing systems and all of its components, ranging from washdown pumps to commodes.
  • When and where possible, inspect belowdecks stringers and bulkheads for structural condition.
  • In the case of sailboats, inspect the rigging and associated gear (winches, lines, etc).
  • Perform a sea trial.
  • Create a general report on the boat’s overall condition, state of maintenance, and appearance.
  • Create a list of the boat’s equipment, indicating the condition of said equipment.
  • Create a report on the boat’s major systems, such as propulsion, electrical, etc.
  • Create a list of items in need of immediate repairs or replacement for the safe operation of the boat.

That’s quite a list—and it’s also rather superficial. In truth surveying a boat is a complex endeavor that requires training, experience, and professionalism. That’s why professional marine surveyors are accredited by one of two organizations: the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS).

SAMS and NAMS were established to give boat buyers confidence that the surveyors they credential are reliable pros.

That’s not to say that a knowledgeable boater can’t perform a survey of their own that still has value. But as is true with many things we all do on our own when we could hire a professional, you risk missing important items that a full-timer may pick up on. And those accrediting organizations require their members to meet strict standards on technical and ethical levels. You can read up on some of the details and nuances professional surveyors check for in What Marine Surveyors Look For.

Is a Professional Boat Survey Necessary?

In many situations, having a survey performed on a small, inexpensive boat would be considered overkill. In those cases, it’s usually most appropriate to simply do the best job you can, personally or perhaps with the help of a knowledgeable friend. But as the cost of a boat grows, so does risk. And at some levels, a professional survey and report will be required by banks making the loan on a boat. The same may be true for insurance companies that will be covering the boat, as we point out in Buying Boat Insurance? Get a Survey. When selling a boat it can be advantageous to already have a survey in-hand, to show to potential buyers. But again, to satisfy banks and insurance companies, the survey will likely have to be performed by a SAMS- or NAMS-accredited pro.

boat surveys checklist
Many people would consider it unnecessary to have a professional survey performed on a small bowrider, like this 16’ Bayliner. But as the buyer, you’ll certainly want to do a survey of your own to the best of your abilities.

One boat survey item we do want to circle back on: in our checklist, the sea trial got just one bullet point. But in the real world, it deserves to have some added emphasis. Taking a boat off the dock and operating it will tell you volumes about how much you will or will not like it as the future unfolds. Is it loud, or quiet when underway? Do you have to fight the steering wheel? Did that wake you just hit rattle your fillings a bit more than you expected? These questions and many, many more will be answered with a spin around the bay. And the longer you spend off the dock, the more you’ll learn about the boat. Check out Sea Trials, to get some pointers on making the most of the experience and utilizing our sea trial checklist.


Crestliner 1750 Bass Hawk Review

The 2017 1750 Crestliner Bass Hawk is an all new model that bass anglers have got to know about.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

We have a pretty healthy selection of Crestliner fishing boat reviews on, but most of them share one thing in common: they’re multi-species boats, designed for general fishing as opposed to being focused in on any one species or style of fishing. Crestliner does, of course, have pure bass boats in their PT and VT lines. What would happen if you took a bass boat and melded it with the multi-species Hawk line? The 2017 1750 Bass Hawk is your answer. Join us for an in-depth look at this all new model, in this video boat review.

One of the important things about this boat which we weren’t able to examine in detail during the video review is construction. It’s important to know that Crestliner uses a four-piece hull design with formed-in strakes in the aluminum hull and an extruded, full-length keel. The seams are all welded, and feature a tongue-and-groove interlocking system. Gunwales are also extruded aluminum, and have the SureMount mounting system designed in. Decking is aluminum, and the boat is wood-free. The transom gets double-welded and reinforced. Crestliner backs up this construction method with a limited lifetime warranty on all main-seam welds, and a three-year bow-to-stern warranty.

Blasting across the lake at speeds in excess of 50 MPH, the Bass Hawk felt plenty solid underfoot.
Blasting across the lake at speeds in excess of 50 MPH, the Bass Hawk felt plenty solid underfoot.

Another thing many people don’t realize is just how long Crestliner has been building boats, and just how much experience they have at it. Their history goes all the way back to 1946. You can see it the knowledge that comes with this sort of experience in details like that rod box we liked so much. Not only does it lock, have tubes to protect the rod tips, and have oodles of capacity, it also has a pair of gas-assist struts that hold the hatch up. Notice the use of nylock locking nuts, of their attachment points. And notice the hinges, which run the full length of the hatch.

Another place experience shines is at the helm station. Many small aluminum boats like this one don’t plan ahead for an electronics installation, and a chartplotter/fishfinder has to be binnacle-mounted. But Crestliner dedicated a flat in the center of the helm, so you can have flush-mounted electronics. Same goes for the foresight shown in including the electronics flat at the bow, something serious bassers demand.

How many 17-foot aluminum fishing boats have flush-mounted electronics at the helm? Not many.
How many 17-foot aluminum fishing boats have flush-mounted electronics at the helm? Not many.

As we mentioned in the video, aluminum wont’ be the first construction material choice of all bass anglers. Its light weight does mean the boat gets blown around more easily than a fiberglass boat, and foot for foot fiberglass tends to ride better. But between the easier trailering, lower initial and repair costs (note—even with maximum power and a trailer this rig barely breaks $32K), and the faster speeds with similar horsepower, for many people, a boat like the 1750 Bass Hawk is going to be exactly what they’re looking for. Is it the ideal boat for you? There’s only one way to find out for sure—get on board one, nail the throttle, and take that test ride for yourself.

Other Choices: For a model that’s a bit less bassy and a bit more multi-species, check out the Tracker Pro Guide V 16 SC. Or, if you want the protection of a full windshield, a boat like the Smoker Craft 162 Pro Angler might be of interest.



Boston Whaler 320 Vantage Review

The 2017 Boston Whaler 320 Vantage is the largest dual console model Whaler builds—and after spending a day on one, we think it might be their best dual console, too.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

We loved the 230 Vantage for its multipurpose versatility, but after spending a day on the 2017 Boston Whaler 320 Vantage, we have to admit that size matters. Even though the 320 Vantage is a dual console boat in every sense of the genre, its sheer size means that the boat’s potential uses skyrocket. No mere runabout, it has the beef to blast through heavy seas. It has the accouterments and sleeping accommodations for weekending. And it has the sheer size you need to throw a multi-family shindig on the water. This video boat review will give you a good look at the 320 Vantage, inside and out.


How you option the 320 Vantage will play a big role in just how well it serves some of its multipurpose missions. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available. If you plan on weekending, for example, you’ll probably want to make sure you get the generator, air conditioning, and water heater. Those more interested in watersports may want to consider adding the onboard air compressor system to inflate their water-toys, and perhaps the bow beach boarding ladder. Anglers will opt for the raw water washdown, extra rodholders, and maybe the deluxe prep center with a 40 gallon livewell (a “Fishing Package” is also available, which includes five rocket launchers, the washdown, three rod holders, and stainless-steel toe rails). And boaters who aim to do some serious entertaining should consider adding the bow and cockpit Sunshades, an electric grill, the 22” flat-screen TV, the cockpit refrigerator, and one or more of the available bow and aft cockpit tables.

A few things boaters of all stripes will appreciate include the underwater lights, bow thruster, and the premium audio package. In fact, there are so many different ways to outfit this boat—no surprise, considering how many niches it inhabits—that you can do some very serious customization with the Vantage 320. Added bonus: Whaler has a nifty Build You Boat function on its web site, which lets you choose everything from hull color to power-plants and includes MSRP pricing for all the different tweaks and changes, as you create your unique 320 Vantage.

Are they going fishing? Cruising? Entertaining? Yes, yes, and yes.
Are they going fishing? Cruising? Entertaining? Yes, yes, and yes.


One area of the boat we didn’t spend too much time on in the video was the bow cockpit. It’s worth visiting this spot for a moment, though, because again the 320 Vantage has an advantage over boats that could be labeled as bowriders. The port side of the bow seating is notched, so there’s legroom for several people to sit around the forward cockpit table. It also allows for three or four people to sit while facing each other. In most bowrider bow cockpits they’d be knocking knees, instead of relaxing comfortably.

Another nice thing about that bow cockpit design: since the fronts of the consoles create backrests and the inside of the bow is bolstered all around, you can sit comfortably facing both fore and aft, as well as while facing the center. Add in the low-profile bow grabrails, and riding up here at cruising speeds is no problem.

Still, our favorite spot to kick back on the Boston Whaler 320 Vantage is on that gigantic aft convertible lounger. How many other boats allow you to merge the passenger’s seat, dinette, and aft bench into one huge relaxation-station? None that we know of. And on top of that, one thing we didn’t demo in the video is the ability to swivel the helm seat and the passenger’s seat to face the center, for lunching on the hook or kibitzing at the marina.

The notched port side seat makes for extra legroom, while the seats themselves provide plenty of extra dry stowage compartments.
The notched port side seat makes for extra legroom, while the seats themselves provide plenty of extra dry stowage compartments.

Hey, wait a sec—no boat is perfect. So, what are the down-sides to the 320 Vantage? We can call out pricing, which is pretty much always near the upper end of the scale for Whalers simply because of how they build their boats. As we said in the video, the unsinkable Unibond construction system is going to be exceedingly difficult to beat, but you have to expect to pay top dollar for it. Aside from that the main drawback is simply the nature of the dual console design; to get such extensive versatility you do have to give a bit on specific design features that might otherwise allow the boat to lead the class in one niche or another. The 360-degree fishability of a center console is the natural example, but you could also look to the overnighting abilities of a full cabin boat like the 315 Conquest.

The bottom line? If you want a do-everything boat with enough room for multiple families as well as the equipment needed to fulfill multiple missions, the 320 Vantage is a top contender.

Other Choices: Shoppers might also look at the Pursuit 320 DC, and the Grady-White Freedom 335.

For more information, visit Boston Whaler.





Tips for Boating with Kids

Whether you’re new to boating, new to kids, or you have a new crew of children coming onboard, knowing these 10 tips for boating with kids will surely come in handy. We had a slew of young boaters tell us what they needed to know—and what they needed us to know—before leaving the dock, and we made sure the important bases were covered. You can read them below, or watch the video to hear what those kids have to say firsthand.

Tips for boating with kids

1. Get me a comfortable life jacket that fits—those old blocky orange things are no fun at all.

2. Tell me the rules before we leave the dock. Make sure I know to keep both feet flat on the deck, not to lean over the rail, and those sorts of thing.

3. Help me stay safe from the sun. Putting on suntan lotion and drinking lots of water is a must!

4. Warn me about falling hatch covers. They pinch little toes and fingers, and are one of the most common causes of injuries for kids on a boat.

5. Keep me involved with running the boat. I like steering or holding lines, and even scrubbing the boat at the end of the day can be fun.

6. Be prepared for seasickness—and even though I can’t take Dramamine or socpalomine until I’m 12, some homeopathic remedies, like smelling peppermint, drinking ginger ale, wearing wrist bands, and going barefoot, are things we can try. They work sometimes!

Ready to go boating, kids? Use these tips to make sure the day on the water is both fun, and safe.

7. Bring me a change of clothes. When a kid gets wet, we get cold a lot faster than an adult. So we need extra dry clothing onboard.

8. Show me how to hail the Coast Guard on the radio. If anything happens to you, I need to know how to ask for help (check out How to Use a VHF Radio).

9. Show me how to use the GPS (read How to Navigate a Boat, and Navigation Apps for Boaters for a few extra tips). I’ll need to know for when I get my boating license—since I know you’ll let me borrow your boat, Dad!

10. If you’re boating in saltwater and swimming or tow toys are in the plans, bring along some vinegar in case I get stung by a jellyfish! Yech, I hate them!

Looking for more advice? Check out 10 Boating Lessons Kids Should Know Before Climbing on Board and 10 Tips for Boating with Babies and Toddlers, or read 5 Tips for Fun Family Boating Trips on UK.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Republished by permission.


Boating Tips For Social Distancing During COVID-19
5 Boating Tips for Social Distancing
Category: Boating

Creative “boating-hacks” and tips to help you follow the current best practices during COVID-19....

Free Concerts By Boat

If you love boats and you love live music, what could be better than combining the two? Easy answer: combining the two for free. And no matter where you live, you can. There are free concerts—or concerts those landlubbers will have to pay for—which you can hear for free from your boat or yacht. Taking place coast to coast, in harbors, marinas, and on lakefront bandstands, here are a few of the top concert venues by boat for you to consider.

Aquapalooza is the king of all boating concerts - especially when Alan Jackson headlines the show.
Aquapalooza is the king of all boating concerts – especially when Alan Jackson headlines the show.

Aquapalooza – Aquapalooza is, of course, the king of all on-the-water concerts. Sort of. Aquapalooza is really a loose collection of in-water parties which often include live music, sometimes in the form of multiple bands. They also include outrageous crowds—one event reportedly drew over 7,000 boats. Aquapaloozas average around 1,500 boats per palooza, so these things are big (really big).

The party series (let’s call a spade a spade) is sponsored by Sea Ray and MarineMax, but that doesn’t mean you need to own a Sea Ray to go. Where’s the next Aquapalooza close to you? Start Googling; there’s no master Aquapalooza website or schedule, so you’ll have to track down local events individually.

Gorge Amphitheatre – This 25,000 seat venue in The Gorge, WA, is set back a bit from the Columbia River, so truth be told, listening in by boat isn’t the best seat in the house. But there are near-by sand bars and calm stretches you can use to hang out and listen as the tunes drift in from afar. To find out who’s playing, check out Live Nation.

Humphrey’s – Humphrey’s By the Bay in San Diego is a favorite for west coast concert-going boaters, but the quality of your view depends on the tide. If it’s in you’re in luck, but if it’s out, you may not be able to see much at all. You’ll also need a very small boat—most waterborne concert-goers arrive in kayaks, dinghies, or small inflatables. You’ll have to weave through the marina and moored boats, and you aren’t allowed to anchor. But drifting around on a small boat is permitted, and you’ll be close enough to get a serious earful. Check out who’s playing: Humphrey’s On the Bay.

Jones Beach Theater – In Wantagh, NY, the Jones Beach Theater draws big bands and big crowds—crowds you won’t have to deal with, since you’ll be on your boat. True, you won’t really be able to see much of what’s going on from your seat on the water, but if you meander up into Zach’s Bay your ears will be in for a treat. Plan ahead by visiting the Jones Beach website to find out who’s playing, and when.

Marina Del Rey – LA’s largest marina, which covers a whopping 807 acres and is the largest manmade marina in the United States, is home to over 5,000 boats and yachts. It’s also home to free seasonal weekly concerts on Saturday and Sunday evenings at Fisherman’s Village. The type of music ranges significantly; it may be reggae one evening and jazz the next.

For those who have a taste for the classics, there’s also a Marina Del Rey Summer Concert Series at Burton Chance Park, featuring “Symphonic Thursdays” with the Marina Del Rey Symphony. There are both overnight and four-hour guest docks at Burton Chance Park, available on a first come/first served basis. You can get all the info you need regarding fees and availability from the LA Department of Beaches & Harbors. Visit the Marina Del Rey website for more info on the concert series and to see a listing of all the events.

Newport Jazz & Folk Festivals – Fort Adams State Park, in Newport, RI, is the location for a couple of events that lure boaters in with sweet tunes. The Folk Fest comes first (late) and the Jazz Festival follows in early August. Anchor just off Fort Adams to join in the fun, and you’ll have a front row seat of the stage(s) from the water, too. Here’s your link to learn more about the Jazz Festival, and here’s one to the Folk Festival.

Northerly Island – Chicago boaters can listen to the tunes coming from FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, on Northerly Island (formerly called Charter One Pavilion). This is a major-league venue with seating capacity for 30,000, so some big-name bands can be expected. Anchored in Lake Michigan you won’t get much of a view, but you can hear the music just fine. If you pull into the harbor you can see the bands better, but you’ll have to remain adrift as anchoring here isn’t permitted. And expect to stay at the wheel and pay attention, since there’s plenty of boat traffic. You can find out who’s playing and when by visiting FirstMerit Bank Pavilion.

Pensacola Gulfside Pavilion – Pensacola Beach has a slew of free concerts called Bands on the Beach, and while they are not usually headline acts, there is a great diversity in the type of music from week to week. You’re allowed to pull up, anchor or beach your boat (if the conditions are appropriate), and set out lawn chairs, so get in on the musical action from May through October. Info on upcoming concerts is at Visit Pensacola.

Whether you're grooving sand or happily sipping a cold one on your yacht along the shorelines, the Tortuga Music Festival gives you a chance to listen to some of the best sounds from country, rock and roots music.
Whether you’re grooving sand or happily sipping a cold one on your yacht along the shorelines, the Tortuga Music Festival gives you a chance to listen to some of the best sounds from country, rock and roots music.

Seabreeze Boulevard, Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Located along the sands of South Florida, you won’t find a party that rocks harder than the annual Tortuga Music Festival. This three-day event brings out some of the biggest names in country music—and thousands of their screaming fans who pack every inch of the Ft. Lauderdale beaches. You’ll also find dozens of boats—and maybe even a few superyachts—anchored just off shore. We’d be doing a disservice if we failed to mention that the Festival works hand in hand with the Rock The Ocean Foundation to “increase public awareness about the issues impacting the world’s oceans and to support scientific research, education, and ocean conservation initiatives.”

Vinoy Waterfront Park – Host to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in St. Petersburg, FL, Vinoy Waterfront Park is adjacent to North Yacht Basin, which is sometimes called Vinoy Yacht Mooring Field on maps and charts. As we learned in’s 2016 Guide to Concerts By Boat, the tucked-in, protected spot had a new mooring field put in a few years ago, and it’s now operated by the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Not to mention, yacht owners will be happy to learn that the nearby Vinoy Club Marina (located adjacent to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort) features an exclusive 74 slip marina, accommodating vessels up to 120 feet.

So, are you ready to rock the boat? With so many places to party, we may have missed your favorite concert venue by boat. Let us know your top spots to drop anchor and listen to the songs of the night on our Boat Trader Facebook page.


Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.


Boat Mooring Guide
Boat Mooring Guide
Category: Boating

Boat Trader's helpful boat mooring guide walks you through the process of setting up a boat mooring and...

Pursuit S 328 Sport Review

The Pursuit S 328 Sport promises to blend fishing features with social grace.

This article originally appeared on Reprinted by permission.

While we’d all love to own a fleet, economic reality limits most of us to a boat or three—which means we need an uber-versatile design, like a center console. True, most people think of center consoles as pure fishing boats, but this just isn’t the reality. In fact, there are many center consoles out there that one wouldn’t dream of defacing with fish blood and smelly bait. But if you do want to fish, and you also want a boat that offers the amenities provided by a luxury day-boat—plus sporty performance—then you’re looking for a center console that keeps fishability in mind but also offers those perks you’d find on more genteel boats. You’re looking for a boat like the Pursuit S 328 Sport. Take a quick look at one, and find out why.

Fishing-wise, all of the usual accoutrements are present and accounted for. There’s a 24-gallon livewell in the transom, flush-mount rod holders in the gunwales, integrated fishboxes in the deck, rodracks under the gunwales, and both fresh and raw water washdowns. There’s also dedicated rod stowage for four rigs inside the console cabin.

Unlike the console cabins on some large center consoles, Pursuit doesn’t blow it out of proportion to make it seem huge inside at the cost of deck space. It has a two-person berth that converts into a small settee, a head, and a sink, and while it is somewhat tight down below, everything you need for weekending is present. Besides, keeping it relatively svelte means there’s more space to enjoy the great outdoors. Space for things like a large bow cockpit, with U-shaped seating forward and a large lounger on the front of the console.

What about cooking facilities? There’s no galley down below because there’s no need for one, thanks to the sink, refrigerator, and (optional) grill in the cockpit. In fact, the cockpit—usually thought of as pure fishing territory on a center console—is designed for maximum entertaining abilities. A double-wide seat flips out of the back of the leaning post, another flips out of the transom, tables sit in the middle, and you can convert the cockpit into a bona fide socializing area in 10 seconds flat.

When it’s time for a dip or watersports, note the transom door and extended swim platforms to either side of the outboards. A 30-gallon onboard freshwater system means you can rinse off the salt before climbing back aboard. And note that this freshwater system is a standard feature. On many boats it would be considered a cost-adding option. In fact, that’s true of lots of the things found on the S 328 Sport’s standard feature list. A Bluetooth stereo system with seven speakers, an amplifier, and two remotes? Standard. A three HP bow thruster? It’s on the list. A windlass, stainless-steel through-hull anchor, and chain? Yup, that’s present and accounted for, too.

Is the Pursuit S 328 Sport really a fishing boat, or a social platform? Yes!
Is the Pursuit S 328 Sport really a fishing boat, or a social platform? Yes!

Aside from versatility, the execution of details is where this boat shines. Fit and finish is spectacular, which is no surprise to those of you familiar with Pursuits. You can pick apart their entire line, from the relatively small C 238 to the chunky OS 385, and you’ll have an exceedingly difficult time finding a single inch of boat that Pursuit hasn’t made silky smooth to the touch and pleasing to the eye. The down-side here is cost, because attention to details takes time and time is money. The S 238 Sport listed at a hair over $300,000 at press time (with a pair of 300 HP F300 Yamahas on the transom). That’s not at all cheap, but you get what you pay for.

So far as construction goes, again, you’re looking at top-shelf. Pursuit builds this boat with vinylester resins (which aren’t as water-permeable as less-expensive polyester resins), an infused-glass stringer grid, a five-ply infused transom, and 316L-grade stainless-steel all over the place. Flip up a hatch for more confirmation of quality: it’ll be finished on both sides, supported by a gas-assist strut, have latches that dog down tightly, and will be gasketed, guttered, and drained.

If you care about fishing and nothing else, will you really want all that seating and the cushy cabin? Nah. If all you’re interested in is cocktail cruises or weekends spent cruising with friends and family will you really care for the livewell and fishboxes? Of course not. But if you need a boat that can do all of the above, you need the versatility of a center console—a center console like the Pursuit S 328 Sport.

Other Choices: Shoppers interested in this boat may also want to peek at the Boston Whaler 330 Outrage. The Scout 320 LXF would be another boat worth checking out.

For more information, visit Pursuit.