There’s really no such thing as a ‘family powerboat’ – there are just boats. And while some of them are hopeless as family powerboats (think high-powered, two-seater race craft), some are much better equipped to make a good fist of it (if you are hoping to get your family hooked on boating family, read Get your family boating in 7 steps).
By and large, the criteria required for success as a family platform involve space, seating, security and versatility. If you want to cruise the coastline, drive onto a beach for a picnic, do a bit of fishing or get stuck into some watersports, a good family boat should be capable of providing it all.
Ideally, it also needs to be capable of storing all the gear necessary to embrace such a broad spectrum of activities and it needs sufficient flexibility to adapt to your changing needs. If you can buy it for sensible money, keep it at home and tow it to a range of different destinations, that often makes good sense – and if it is affordable (both in terms of buying price and running efficiency), all the better. However, the more wealthy among us will also want to explore the options with the shackles of economy removed, so there are a couple of more expensive boats below (see items four and five) that show what can be achieved if money is no object.
(1) Bayliner 190 Deckboat
I know bow riders make popular family boats but they are simply not as fit for purpose as deck boats.
A deck boat is basically a bow rider that takes the beam much further forward to generate a square rather than a tapered bow. This produces extra seating and storage space, plus a little extra bow flare to help minimise water ingress and increase driver confidence – and while deck boats have been slow to build a fan base in the UK, Bayliner's latest line-up might help change that. Despite a length of little more than 18 feet, Bayliner’s entry-level 190 comes with seating for an astonishing 11 people, plus “Smart Dividers” to help customise your under-seat storage with partitioned sections. The pontoon-style seating arrangement can also be customised, with various floorplans, windscreen configurations and pursuit-specific packages – and while its dynamic performance is modest, its effectiveness for the family boater is beyond doubt.
Read all news and reviews on bow riders. Search all Bayliner 190 for sale.
(2) Quicksilver Activ 675 Open
Quicksilver’s Activ range has been a winner ever since its introduction in 2011 – and while the Sundeck and cabin-equipped Cruiser configurations have also won plenty of admirers, the Open line remains the most versatile for UK use.
On the largest of the four Open craft, a generous beam of 2.55 metres means plenty of internal space. Better still, the absence of the Sundeck’s two-man berth and enormous forward sunpad means plenty of extra deck space in the bow, plus additional seating and a useful reduction in cost. You also get deeper, safer freeboards plus elevated guardrails for excellent family security. And the fact that it is 150kg lighter than the Sundeck also means better performance, lower running costs and a greater cruising range from that 135-litre fuel tank. With the top-end 200hp outboard and three adults on board, you can expect a top end of around 33 knots and a range of around 100 nautical miles, which is plenty for the average recreational family. This eight-man boat is also fun to drive, stylish to look at and attractively priced. Small wonder it walked away with the Motorboat of the Year award in its very first season.
Read the full Quicksilver Activ Open review: an ideal starter boat. Search all Quicksilver Activ Open boats for sale in the UK.
(3) Buster X
The aluminium Buster range from Finland is great for the boating family – and at just under 17 feet, the seven-man X model is a conspicuous highlight.
It uses an ingenious, tooling-free, modular deck furniture system that enables you to relocate the seating and storage units wherever (and whenever) you want. That means you can completely empty the deck for load-carrying and fishing, or fill it with seat pods for a long day out with friends. Its strong, lightweight aluminium construction is super-tough and low-maintenance and its running efficiency with a modern four-stroke is extraordinarily good. Of course, at around £28,000 with a 70hp outboard it’s not especially cheap, but as a safe, light, tough, efficient, versatile and compact runabout, this well established model remains one of the single most perfectly resolved family boats ever conceived.
Read full reviews by Alex Smith of Buster L Pro and Buster XXL. Search all Buster X for sale.
(4) Boston Whaler 350 Outrage
The Boston Whaler 350 Outrage is a great boat. With an excellent bow flare and deep freeboards, it is remarkably dry and soft riding (even at low speeds and in beam seas) and in addition to a huge spread of versatile seating areas, you get an absurdly impressive heads compartment.
The access door is hinged on a metal cantilever contraption that looks like it’s been stripped from the hatch of a nuclear submarine. Once inside, you get plenty of space to change without ever having to lose sight of the horizon and the build elsewhere is just as solid. It’s brilliantly composed in rough seas and the option of a fly position is also very welcome, but the real point here is that while it provides everything a day-boating family needs, it still gives you a very gratifying sense of self-indulgence. With a juicy price tag, a triple rig of 300hp outboards and a thirst like Oliver Reed in a Maltese strip joint, it is of course tough to make a coherent financial case for owning one of these things in the UK - but in many ways, its unflinching single-mindedness is part of its charm...
For a more in-depth look at the 350 Outrage, see: Centre Console boat: Buying the right model. Search all Boston Whaler 350 Outrage for sale.
(5) Minor Offshore 36 Fly
Minor Offshore is famous for its tough, practical seaboats – but as the flagship of the fleet, the 36 Fly offers a degree of versatility that none of the other models can match.
A family of five could use this for anything, from casual cruising to fishing, wakeboarding or (with a range of more than 400 nautical miles) some really adventurous long-distance passages. Despite a generous arrangement of ingeniously arranged internal accommodation, you also get plenty of wraparound deck space, plus a pair of opening side doors and an overhead hatch for a genuine sense of open boating in the main saloon. Of course, it’s not quite the classic sun-worshipper’s party boat, but a convertible flybridge sunbed, plus a big aft deck and swim platform, mean this surprisingly agile 40-knot craft is peculiarly well equipped for lazy summer days. As a do-it-all family boat for mixed four-season entertainment, it takes some beating.
Just to confuse matters, there has been a rebranding: Finland’s Minor Offshore is renamed Sargo. Search all Minor Offshore 36 for sale.
For more help choosing the right boat for you and your family, see: 10 Top Outboard Engines: How to Choose the Right Outboard, 5 of the best new powerboats for £20K and 5 new powerboats under £5,000.