We use the term "deck boat" as if everyone knows exactly what one is. But that isn't the case, especially in 2005, when several wildly different styles have necessitated subcategories. So, like someone new to cards, before you can get into the game you need to know some basics.
All deck boats share a few common traits: spacious seating, easy access, generous storage, shallow draft and quick on-plane stability. The easiest way to pick one from a lineup of bowriders is the bow — the deck boat is much beamier, or wider, throughout. It's like deciphering a diamond from a heart. After that, because of recent innovations, things get all unsorted, like a game of 52-card pickup. We pull out the most interesting styles, one by one.
**The Trick Card
**Tracker Marine puts fishing at the forefront of its Tahoe 195 OB. The boat is loaded with a livewell, rod holders, trolling motor hookup and fishing chairs. What really goes against the deck-boat grain is the outboard power, which caters to salt-water users.
Princecraft proudly calls its new Ventura 192V a fish 'n' ski boat within the deck boat category. Its seven-foot rod locker is also a ski storage compartment, and the Ventura hull is a deeper, wider V than that found on most deck boats, which should allow for bigger loads and more stability in rough water.
This style flies in the face of the giant fiberglass deck boats. Aluminum models are lighter, easier to trailer and more economical to run, options that were missing when glass dominated this game — a game that is now wide-open.
Tahoe 195 OB
**Why it stands out: Check out the cost, for one. A deck boat under 20 feet, made of fiberglass, will be easy to store and trailer with a mid-size tow vehicle. This is among the first models to be as true a fishing boat as it is a deck boat.
Length overall: **19'10"
**Dry weight: **2,200 lb.
Weight capacity: 1,650 lb.
Fuel capacity: 45 gal.
MSRP (w/ Mercury 115): $20,495
**The Trump Card
**Deck boats may have started out as 16-foot bathtub boats, but there's been a continual shift over the past five years toward bigger, more beautiful party boats, with just enough of the old, low-slung deck boat about them to show off the family history.
Chaparral has long been a big-league player with cruisers and sport boats, and it transitioned naturally into deck boats with sexy lines. Their latest, the Sunesta 274, is a prime example of a gargantuan deck boat that shares qualities with an express cruiser. It has one of the biggest heads you'll find on a day boat, and there's an entertainment center in the cockpit. The 70-gallon fuel tank and 4,600 pounds of boat make the 274 a standout — the standard extended swim platform sets it apart even more.
Hurricane also stretched the boundaries with its new SunDeck 257, a dual-console inboard/outboard boat that's 25'5" long and is rated for up to 320 horsepower. This one has a 77-gallon fuel tank.
Chaparral Sunesta 274
Why it stands out: Yacht-certified — at more than 28 feet in length — you can see why this is called the flagship of Chaparral's deck-boat line. You won't find a deck boat with a more civilized head, and the cockpit galley has everything but a stove.
Length overall: 28'3"
**Dry weight (approx.): **4,600 lb.
Weight capacity: Yacht certified
Fuel capacity: 70 gal.
**MSRP (w/ MerCruiser 5.0L MPI 260-hp Bravo 3): **$54,685
The deck boat was born a bath-tub style tri-hull with a rectangular (card-shaped) deck plan. From those 1960s models, deck boats have evolved into sleek party platforms with sweeping lines. Most deck boats, though, are still built on some variation of the tri-hull plan with more width and depth farther forward. That's the key to a desirable deck boat: more space where it counts — up top.
However, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who'll claim a tri-hull cuts waves as smoothly as does a V-hull. So we now have a deck boat like the Four Winns 264 Funship. It is one of the larger deck boats around, and when you put this size deck on a V-entry hull (17-degree deadrise) you have less rat-a-tat-tat-tatting over chop than is felt in a tri-hull.
You'd normally sacrifice some space in a monohull deck boat, but the 264 Funship has a massive cockpit that sits deep, so you could teach dancing to a kindergarten class. The size also allows up to 375 horses and duoprop drives.
This is clearly Sea-Ray's approach as well. The four boats in their Sundeck line, from 20 to 27 feet, are as much wide-beamed, wide-bow sport boats as they are traditional deck boats — a little more spacious than their bowrider brethren, but just as snappy.
Four Winns 264 Funship
Why it stands out: This is the biggest of the Four Winns deck-boat lineup, offering swim platforms, showers and ladders off the bow and stern. The hull rides deep, which also translates to massive storage areas in the cockpit and a 2,300-pound capacity.
Length overall: 28'2"
Dry weight (w/ base engine): 5,170 lb.
**Weight capacity: **2,300 lb.
Fuel capacity: 80 gal.
**MSRP (w/5.7 Gi/DP 280 hp): **$61,415
The Wild Card
Yet another approach in deck boats, where maximum space is the only guiding goal, has given us traditional deck-boat hulls bearing virtual pontoon topside plans. Look at Hurricane's new FunDeck 218 from a bird's-eye view, and you'd be excused if you thought it was a pure luxury pontoon, with its spacious deck plan, tastefully blended stainless-steel rails and side-mounted console.
But back at water level you see that supporting the 10-passenger deck is the company's Category 5 hull. This tri-hull, a modified V with sleek sponsons, is wide both fore and aft (where some deck boats still display just a slightly snubbed bowrider shape). Lifting strakes, along with a reverse chine and a shallow draft, pop the boat onto plane in a snap. Several companies have followed suit, but Hurricane is considered the leader in this hybrid style — maxed out interior coupled with a performance running surface and in-deck storage not found on most pontoons.
Starcraft has a similar combo deck-toon, with a variation that leans toward the runabout influence. Its SD 201 tops a sleek fiberglass hull and deck with a three-gate rail, but there's more fiberglass above the waterline than in the Hurricane. The reverse chine V-hull also promises a dry ride.
Closer to pontoon-ness, perhaps, is Premier's Sport Dek. Here, a pontoon deck rests atop three flat-bottom, foam-filled sponsons — as stable as pontoons, but quick to plane like a deck-boat hull. You could stage a great debate in a dockside bar over whether this is a pontoon or a deck boat — but not over whether it blends the best of both worlds.
Hurricane FunDeck 218 RE I/O
**Why it stands out: The FunDeck series was among the trailblazers in the pontoon/deck boat crossover design. Also available with outboard power, it's as fun to drive as a runabout, but with the topside comfort of a big pontoon boat. Oversized in-floor storage is something you won't find on most pontoons.
Length overall: **21'8"
**Dry weight: **3,995 lb.
Weight capacity: 1,440 lb.
Fuel capacity: 52 gal.
MSRP (w/ Mercury 4.3L MPI): **$32,100