Three Of The Best Boat Types For Cold Weather

Boating All-Year-Round, Come Rain Or Shine

A boat that provides usage all year round can be an excellent investment. The merits of boating during the off-season are often overlooked. Winter berthing is usually more affordable because marinas reduce their prices to attract business. Extending the boating season ensures you get more quality boating time with less boat traffic around and time to enjoy some quiet time on the water.

Extended Boating Seasons: An Improved Quality Of Life

Boating culture across the United States is incredibly diverse. Up North, and in much of the continental U.S. most local boating seasons winds down in October or November. Of course, down in some southern coastal states the boating season can extend into the winter months, while in South Florida and Southern California, the boating season never really stops. Boating activities in most U.S. areas center around fishing, watersports, cruising and adrenaline-fueled speed boating. Alas, many speedboats, bowriders, RIBs, skiffs, and dinghies sit idly wrapped up during winter in many areas.

Despite the colder weather, boating season can extend year round in the Pacific Northwest for many avid boaters. This is thanks largely in part to a different breed of boats than are found in states like Florida, Texas and the South. Boats in the Pacific Northwest are used as vehicles to discover dramatic mountainous landscapes in range of weather conditions. They are built to be comfortable in rain, wind and even sleet or snow. Boaters who extend their boating lifestyle into the winter with vessels like these are often serious anglers or retired boaters with more time to enjoy winter cruising.

Experienced winter boaters tend to favor trawlers, tug boats and pilothouse boats. However, if you want to advance your nautical skills, investing in any type of all-year-round boat will allow you to develop the experience you need to turn from an average boater into an expert mariner. By exposing yourself to all types of weather and long ocean passages, you will also challenge your fundamentals allowing you to sharpen up with boat handling, navigation and weather monitoring. Nordic Tug boats claim that their owners spend twice as much time on the water each year compared to the average yacht owner.


                              Nordic tug boat 49 2023. Image credit: Boat Trader/Seattle Yachts

A Boat Designed For A Lifetime Of Adventures

We have selected three of the best boat types for cold weather built for life adventures to ensure that you get protection from the elements all year round, allowing you to enjoy a full year of boating from your vessel.

1. Trawlers

Trawler Boat Advantages

  • Protected interior spaces.
  • West-coast trawler boats come with diesel heaters as standard.
  • High bows for moving windward.
  • Pilothouse windows slant inward from top to bottom to shield from rain and snow.

Trawler Boat Defining Features

A workboat that sits above the waterline appeals to buyers wanting to cruise at slow speeds. Key characteristics of trawlers include:

  • Excellent sea-keeping abilities.
  • A large range enables boaters to reach remote anchorages.
  • Extended living accommodations at anchor.

Trawlers also can carry, launch, and retrieve a tender. Trawlers are the most popular choice for boat passage making because they are low-speed vessels that maximize fuel efficiency.

Trawler Hull Types

Trawlers are constructed using either a total displacement or semi-displacement hull shaped for seaworthiness. A semi-displacement hull stays mainly in the water but benefits from the lift at higher speeds, and an entirely displaced hull bottom remains in the water at all speeds.

Ballasted hulls provide stability in strong winds in rough seas, making them seaworthy enough range to make long-ocean passages. The weight carried at the lowest part of the boat is typically made of lead, iron, or cement.

Trawler Aesthetics

Most trawlers have a rugged workboat look. European brands have accelerated the look of trawler yachts using modern styling to achieve a sporty, luxury aesthetic.

The Best Trawler Boat Builders

The best trawlers on the market provide extremely comfortable interior accommodations, all-weather capability and efficient fuel consumption. Kadey-Krogen Yachts is generally viewed as the de facto trawler builder with a great reputation for building long-range vessels. Closely resembling many characterstics found on historic fishing trawlers of the North Sea, this boats are built to cross oceans and handle rough water. The company’s seaworthy vessels combine comfort and efficiency with ocean passage making, and the Kadey-Krogen’s exclusive Pure Full Displacement (PFD) hull, recognized globally as a masterpiece. The full displacement hull is designed specifically for pleasure yachts and was originally created in the 1970s by James S. Krogen.

Other popular trawler boat builders include Grand Banks Yachts, Outer Reef YachtsNordhavn, Beneteau Swift Trawlers, Ocean Alexander (built in Taiwan) and Princess Yachts. Smaller, sturdy trawler-style boats like Weldcraft Boats and Northwest Boats are also popular in the trailerable trawler segment.

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Nordhavn tug boat N51 will launch in March 2022. The N51 is similar to the N41 design but has more room, an additional head and a flybridge. Image credit: Nordhavn Marine.

2. Pilothouse Boats

Pilothouse boats generally appeal more to the trailerable boat segment and are generally designed in two different styles, either “sedan-style” – i.e. for family or recreational use, or as commercial-style vessels intended to be used as fishing boats or utility work boats in all types of weather conditions. The key characteristic of a pilothouse boat is that the driver is protected from the elements inside an enclosure.

The Advantage Of Pilothouse Boats

As stated above, the helm station onboard pilothouse boats is completely enclosed to protect the elements and this is the major advantage for these types of boats. The pilothouse enclosure has big windows on all sides, providing the captain with excellent 360-degree visibility for long ocean passages. A closed hardtop over the helm is especially handy If you want to keep electrical navigation equipment dry. Plus this surface makes mounting radar domes and antennas easier. There is limited aft deck space onboard pilothouse boats in order to maximize protection from the elements.

The Best Pilothouse Boat Builders

Parker builds some of the best, go-to hard working pilothouse boats in the U.S. Their most popular trawler model the Parker 660 Weekend is ideal for families who want to spend a weekend on the water combined with a spot of fishing. Other popular pilothouse boat builders include Bayliner, Carver, Eaglecraft, Grand Banks Yachts, MJM Yachts, and Aluminum Duckworth.

A sedan-style pilothouse cruiser differs from a traditional flybridge cruiser, because it has one main helm station situated forward of the salon. The sedan-style cruiser was born in the U.S and subsequently, other trawler boat builders are following the trend. Living on one level with an open flow from saloon to the cockpit is proving very popular, and full height glass sliding doors with hopper windows provide light, ventilation while protecting boaters from the cold. For family-oriented sedan cruisers look at Osprey,  Ranger Tugs and Cutwater Boats.

Shop for new or used pilothouse boats for sale on Boat Trader.

3. Tug Boats

Popular in northwest America and Canada, tug boats are defined by their blunt nose bow and extended saloon cabins. Deck and exterior space is limited because they are built for colder climates. Traditionally, tug boats are commercial boats used to tug yachts, but many boat brands have designed liveaboard tugs for leisure boating all year round. Tugs are typically between 20-35 feet and are trailable, allowing boaters to start a voyage wherever suits their needs, providing them with total flexibility.

The Best Tug Boat Builders

Popular boat builders specializing in tug boats include Ranger Tugs, American Tugs, Crosby, and Nordic Tugs. Boat builder Ranger Tugs dominates the tug boat market thanks to their large tanks that allow boaters to cruise for extended periods.

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The pinnacle of the American Tug fleet, the 2022 American Tug 485 has an impressive range of 1500 nautical miles. Image credit: Boat Trader/Edwards Yacht Sales

Boating Safety In The Winter

Boating in the winter can be dangerous. Monitor the weather throughout the day and heed the forecasts before setting out. Make sure you have distress signals and other safety and survival equipment on board, especially a VHF marine radio. Keeping warm is essential to ensuring that your boating trips are enjoyable. Read our article on How To Keep Warm Boating During Winter.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.