In essence, a deck boat is really just a bow rider (see A guide to bow riders), but done well it’s a brilliant thing. By increasing the beam and taking it much further forward, it generates a blunter bow, with extra seating, storage and deck space. Given that it also tends to improve spray deflection as well as forward buoyancy off the plane, the only real downside is the fact that deck boats tend to look slightly less dynamic – more like blunt instruments than rapier sports tools. It’s a problem that seems to restrict their popularity in the UK, so while the likes of Starcraft, Tahoe and Bryant certainly produce some very effective (and very affordable) examples of the type, what follows are five authentic deck boats from big, confidence-inspiring mainstream brands. And just in case that doesn’t quite tip the balance for those in the UK who continue to resist the self-evident appeal of the deck boat, I’ve also included three very compelling deck boat alternatives.
1. Four Winns HD220
New to the Four Winns line-up, the HD220 (see Four Winns HD220 review) is a ten-man 22-footer equipped with everything you could want on a boat of this scale. Up in the bow, you get a pair of forward-facing loungers, a coolbox under the forward seat, easy-access storage spaces with one-handed mechanisms and a bow ladder at the stepping off point. You also get a heads compartment with porta potti and a choice of propulsion, with outboards of up to 250hp or sterndrives of up to 350hp. In either case, the provision of big swim platforms, with a double-sided aft bench, creates an aft-facing two-man dining station of tremendous appeal.
2. Crownline E2
Crownline is a past master at big, expansive family bow riders and deck boats but, as the entry-level Eclipse E2 proves, it is also capable of making good use of compact platforms. There’s some nice attention to detail here, with plenty of stainless steel fittings, dedicated rope storage aft, soft-touch matting on the swim platforms, a flush-fit central door to block out the wind, ladders at the bow and stern and a very decent heads compartment in the port console. There are plenty of upgrade options too, plus a usefully convertible aft sun lounge with three positions. The 140-litre fuel capacity isn’t huge for a boat with the option of 350hp propulsion, but as a well specced sub 23-footer capable of seating 11 people and tickling 50 knots, it’s a serious contender.
3. Regal 22 Fasdeck ESX
Regal’s FasTrac hull is famously entertaining to drive, with great dexterity and very agile handling – and it tends to be relatively fast and efficient, whichever of the three Vovo Penta engine options you choose. On board, you get the usual deck boat facilities, with a broad bow seating area, a heads compartment with the option of a pump-out loo, a selection of both forward and aft-facing seating options and a huge, unbroken transom bench that ‘contains’ the cockpit in very intimate and sociable fashion. Little wonder then that, despite measuring just 22 feet in length, the Fasdeck ESX boasts class-leading 12-man capacity.
4. Bayliner 195 Deck Boat
Also available in 190 (outboard) form, Bayliner's family-friendly 195 Deck Boat uses shallow hull angles and Mercury inboard power of up to 220hp to plane fast, even when fully loaded. There’s plenty of seating and dry storage and, despite being little more than 18 feet (5.66m) and 2.46m in the beam, it’s still big enough to seat 11 people. It’s far and away a better boat than Bayliner’s E-series entry-level craft or the bizarre, line-topping, pontoon-hybrid monstrosity known as the XR7 – and that’s because rather than attempting to flex, straddle or redefine the parameters, it adopts the classical deck boat formula and executes it well.
5. Sea Ray SDX 220
The Sea Ray’s SDX 220 is a remarkably capable boat. While its 2.56m beam is a couple of inches narrower than most boats of this type, it’s still a 12-man boat – and it also comes with a remarkably acute and soft-riding hull, allied to a generous fuel tank for extended day trips. There are some some neat, user-friendly touches like the hinged cushions, the luxurious bow loungers and the extended swim platform; and it also offers some useful options, like the wakeboard tower, the bow ladder and the enclosed heads compartment with pump-out loo.
Deck boat alternative 1: the pickle-fork platform
The advent of the pickle-fork bow on watersports platforms little more than a decade ago generated a very handy means of extending the beam further forward without making your boat look like a pedestrian, duck-billed plodder. A boat like the MasterCraft NXT22, for instance, is a sexy, multi-purpose, 14-man boat with deck space, lounging pads, boarding points and seating options everywhere you look. It’s what most people look for in a deck boat but in a package that is far easier to covet. If you can’t quite afford one of MasterCraft’s pickle-fork originals, take a look at the Rinker 20MTX, the Stingray 212 SC or the Monterey M4 instead.
Deck boat alternative 2: the twin-hulled deck-fest
Yeah, I know this is not what you would tend to define as a deck boat. But twin hulls necessitate a relatively rectangular shape, with a non-tapering bow and a preservation of the beam from stem to stern – and that makes any open-plan powercat a deck boat in all but name. Oddly enough they are almost as rare as conventional deck boats on UK waters, but a small power-driven recreational catamaran like the 525 from Cornwall-based Powercat (see Powercat 525 review: rock solid multihull), is a very rewarding option. See also Twin-hulled powerboats: advantages of power catamarans.
Deck boat alternative 3: the Dutch masterclass
The beamy, deepset NEO 7.0 from Dutch yard (see Interboat Neo 7.0 review: broad appeal), Interboat, is a design that offers a great many pontoon boat benefits, while radically mitigating the downsides. It takes the rectangular, taper-free inboard shape of a pontoon boat, narrows it a touch, mixes it with the depth and seakeeping of a monohull, throws in the gentlemanly looks and open layouts of a Dutch sloop and perfects the recipe with a set of modular deck layout options to tailor its abilities to your favoured pursuit. With a serious range of power options, it can encompass every form of mainstream application, from coastal watersports to inland day trips. It’s like a deck boat with pontoon boat aspirations, but it’s arguably more attractive than both.
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If you're trying to decide which boat to buy, read our feature Choosing a boat: which boat is right for me? or Powerboat buying: which powerboat is right for me?