While wood has long been used as a traditional boat-building material, some people perceive wooden boats to be very high maintenance. Nowadays, there are many options for boats without wood.
We’ve put together a list of popular types of boats without wood so that you can spend less time on the maintenance and more time having fun on the water:
1. Kayaks (~$1,000 – $2,000)
Kayaks are narrow boats that seat 1 or 2 people and are usually powered with double-bladed paddles, although a small outboard or trolling engine can also be fitted.
Depending on the model of kayak you choose, they can be used for fishing, racing, surfing, white-water adventures, or even touring.
While wooden kayaks that have been coated with resin or fiberglass are popular, many designs have either been roto-molded from various grades of plastic or made from fiberglass laid up in a mold. Inflatable kayaks are also popular because of their ease of transport and storage when they are deflated.
Today’s modern kayaks are designed using computer-aided design (CAD), and there are many brands and types to choose from. An entry-level beginner’s kayak will set you back around $250 – $300, whereas the average price of a specialized ocean-going or white-water kayak can be anywhere between $1,000 – $2,000 or more.
Popular brands of kayaks include, but are not limited to the following:
- Old Town
- Wilderness Systems
- Eddyline Kayaks
- Lifetime Kayaks
- Ocean Kayaks
- Vybe Kayaks
2. Sailing Dinghies (~$2,000+)
Sailing dinghies are small sailing boats that have a single mast and no keel. Rather they have a daggerboard or centerboard, in addition to a rudder to help them stay on course.
Sailing dinghies are simple and fun to sail, and many different models can be sailed single or double-handed or even with more crew.
Most small sailing dinghies are made from fiberglass, although those used for teaching are often made from polypropylene which is heavier and more stable.
There are many different designs of dinghies, which are more often known as ‘classes.’ Each design or class has its own competitions or series of boat races (also known as regattas), with some classes even competing in the Olympics.
Here’s a shortlist of some of the more popular dinghies:
- International 470’s
- 505 Double-handed sailing dinghy
- RS boats
New sailing dinghy prices start from around $2,000 and upwards. However, they are widely available second-hand. It’s best to try one out before you buy, so a good place to start dinghy sailing is at your local yacht club.
3. Inflatables/RIBS (~$100 – $1,000+)
Inflatable boats or RIBS are good options if you are looking for simple, low maintenance, but a fun boat with no wood.
Inflatable boats come in a vast range of sizes and can be used for anything from fishing to diving, and even for different watersports like water skiing or wave riding.
However, there is a difference between the two:
Inflatable boats are a common sight at any marina as they are often used by ‘yachties’ as transport to their bigger boat.
Nowadays, they are becoming more popular for general boating as they are affordable, portable, and easy to store when deflated.
Inflatable boats are lightweight boats made up of several tubes that you pump up with air. As they have separate tubes, inflatable boats are remarkably seaworthy for their size even if one fails. If well looked after, an inflatable boat can last up to 10 years.
The price of inflatable boats can range from under $100 to well over $1,000, depending on the quality. Don’t forget you get what you pay for!
Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs)
Rigid inflatable boats are the grown-up version of the two.
The main difference is that RIBs are designed and built with a rigid V-shaped hull or bottom. This rigid hull allows these boats to cut through waves and choppy waters, making them a much more high-performance boat.
However, as RIBs are bulkier, they cannot be stored so easily and need to be kept on a trailer. Add up the extra storage costs and the fact that RIBs are much more expensive to buy. You will need to weigh up the pros and cons and how much you plan to use the boat before making that purchase.
Prices for RIBs start from around $1,000, but you can splash out as much as you can afford!
Whether you opt for a simple inflatable or a more sturdy RIB, the following are brands to look out for:
- Falcon – is a manufacturer and worldwide distributor of award-winning rigid inflatable boats (RIBs);
- Inmar – is an American producer of inflatable boats and RIBs;
- Intex – produces affordable inflatable products, including boats, and has been around for more than 50 years;
- Sea Eagle – offers a range of inflatable boats, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs);
- Seamax Marine – is a Canadian company offering a range of quality inflatable boats for both recreational and commercial use;
- Newport Vessels – is a supplier of high-quality inflatable boats and accessories;
- Zodiac-Nautic – is a French company best known for pioneering the inflatable boat. They now offer a range of inflatables and RIBs.
4. Center Console Boats (~$8,000+)
A center console boat is a boat that has a central steering console and seating in the bow and the stern.
They are very versatile recreational boats mainly associated with fishing, but they make great family cruisers.
Centre console boats range in size from 18 – 65 feet, and there’s a huge choice of brands. However, we’re interested in the ones with no wood. If you are looking for a center console boat without wood, you need to look for boats that have been constructed with 100% composite materials.
The following brands all offer center console boats with no wood in their build:
- Cobia Boats
- Edgewater Power Boats
- Scout Boats
- Seahunt Boats
Prices for center console boats will depend on their size, engine(s), and accessories.
However, the good news is that they are widely available second-hand, so if you do some research, you might even be able to find a great bargain.
5. Aluminium or Alloy Boats (~$1,800)
Aluminum boats are lightweight and extremely strong, plus they come in all different shapes and sizes.
Most boaters think of fiberglass as the main material used for a boat’s overall structure when thinking about boats. But aluminum has been used to build boats as diverse as dinghies to fishing boats and build boats for recreational and commercial vessels of all sizes.
Aluminum boats are more expensive to build than their fiberglass counterparts.
Perhaps this a reason why they are not so popular in the US. However, if you are looking for a long-lasting, safe, and strong boat, then there’s no question that an aluminum boat is a good choice.
Manufacturers of aluminum or alloy boats include:
- Coastal Craft – manufacturers of a range of rugged aluminum fishing boats from 33 – 42 feet;
- Eaglecraft – have been building aluminum boats for both recreational and commercial use since 1985;
- Grunman Canoes – have been building aluminum canoes since 1945, and their canoes have a reputation for durability and ease of use;
- Maxweld Boats – started off building small aluminum skiffs but have now progressed to building aluminum power cats;
- Osagian Canoes – is a Danish brand of rugged aluminum canoes;
- Rock Salt Boats – offer a range of aluminum fishing boats and build-your-own kits.
There are many other aluminum boat builders around.
While you will find smaller craft like aluminum canoes and dinghies readily available, larger boats will either be semi, or full-custom builds.
Prices for aluminum canoes start from $1,800.
6. Catamarans (~$5,000+)
If you are struggling with wooden boats and dislike dark wooden interiors, then a modern-day catamaran could be the way to go.
Today’s catamarans come in all different sizes, from 14-foot racing catamarans to +50 foot luxury cruising catamarans, both motor and sail.
Modern-day catamarans are molded with composite materials making them bright and airy inside. Some have wood trim in the interior to complete a nautical feel.
One advantage is that their twin hulls offer much more space and stability than their single-hull equivalents on the water.
Today’s catamaran types include beach catamarans, open-deck sailing catamarans, bridge deck cabin cruisers, racing catamarans, and many more. Whether you are interested in racing, fishing, day sailing, or long-term cruising, catamarans make a good choice for those who don’t like wood on a boat.
Popular models include the following:
- Hobie Cats – are small catamarans used for fun day sailing and racing. When the design was unveiled more than 50 years ago, it revolutionized the world of sailing and became known as the ‘people’s boat’ because of its affordability;
- Lagoon – is a French company offering a range of luxury cruising catamarans;
- Robertson & Caine – is one of the biggest catamaran builders in the world, offering a range of both power and sailing cats;
- Seawind Catamarans – have long been Australia’s most popular brand of a cruising catamaran, offering a range from 38 – 52 feet.
- Wharram Designs – offer a unique catamaran design that is based on the canoes of Polynesia. Wharram has a different way of working in that the company offers its designs for you to self-build your boat.
Prices of catamarans vary widely, with the bigger, more luxurious cruising cats costing more than a house.
However, if you want a fun day sailor, it needn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
A new Hobie16’ Mirage Adventure Island will set you back just over $5,000, and that’s ready to sail.