General Boating

Tips for Navigating Boats in Shallow Water

Even though it is imperative to be mindful of the local surroundings when sailing, it is even more important to be alert when it comes to navigating the shallow bodies of water.

Shallow Water Boats

If skinny water isn’t given the caution it deserves, a sailing boat could soon be left stuck, grounded, or holed. Nevertheless, by being more careful and using common sense in situations like this, you are much more able to navigate the shallow waters with confidence.

Here are some tips for navigating a boat in shallow bodies of water:


In order to get a full appreciation of the conditions in shallow water situations it benefits to rely on some of the latest boat electronics which are starting to be priced within reach of most boaters finances. A high-quality electronic device like the depth finder is certain to be a highly dependable tool when it comes to gauging the depth of any particular body of water. It also helps to check on paper or electronic charts prior to departing port to checking for any areas on a planned route that might suddenly get shallow, which will give a clear idea of the areas that should be avoided on the sailing adventure.


If planning on hiring a boat where there is a chance that you will be navigating shallow waters, an appreciation of the boat’s draft is certain to be highly beneficial. The draft essentially relates to the area of the boat that is below water, and is measured in inches from the waterline to the lowest area of the boat.


If able to check the tides on a daily basis, you are more certain to have a successful sailing trip when exploring the coastal areas. Since tides can change by several feet on a daily basis, you really want to make certain that you are always able to have an up-to-date guideline of the low tide conditions to make certain that you aren’t left stranded with the moving tides.


If you are able to use the sailing or motor-driven at lower speeds when cruising the shallow waters there is a greater chance that you will be able to navigate the waters without incident. Plus, the type of hull can impact the use in the water. A boat with a planing hull is more effective at speed and will travel with ease over the surface of the water. But, once the speed is reduced and the throttle pulled back this can result in the hull going off plane and drops further into shallow water — in certain situations this could leave the boat at risk and a ground.

Read the Water

When sailing in the shallow waters there is a chance of seeing a varied range of water colors which can help to indicate the depth of the water. An area of water that appears dark is usually regarded as deep. Blue water is seen as safe and possible to sail through while white and brown could be an indication of increased difficulty.

Small Boats & Paddle Crafts

Flats Boats: What Is A Flat Bottom Boat

Flat bottom boats, at 10 to 20-ft in length, with its raised platforms, stern or bow-mounted trolling engine, and spacious storage areas, are built to offer a solid, reliable platform for the dedicated fisherman – and comes with a high-degree of ‘pole-ability’ for ease in maneuvering in still or shallow bodies of water and ‘fish-ability’ due to its large, stable flat bottom.

tracker-flats-boatOutside of a light-chop to calm waters, the flat bottom boat designs are not a practical option due its failure to cope in rough waters or ‘cut through’ waves – unless a waters surface is calm and flat, the ride is expected to be rough with a great deal of splash to the hull.

Popular manufactures –

Even though the wide, flat bottom boats start at 8 to 10-feet in length, it’s stable construction and spacious interior give a lot of space for storage, and a great deal more that the round-hull or V-bottom boat of equal dimensions.

1 – Fisher Boats

Manufacture a high-quality selection of reliable, easy-to-handle riveted Utility & Jon Boats, at 10ft to 16ft 22” in length, and all-welded Utility Boats, at 14ft to 20ft 3” in length, for ease in cruising shallow bodies of water. Features include raised platforms, spacious storage areas, aerated livewells, and full-width bench seats.

2 – Lowe Boats

Manufacture a series of marine-grade aluminum Utility and Riveted Jon Boats, at 10ft to 20ft in length, and featuring rounded, formed-in keels, a solid paint finish, and a reliable lifting handle.

3 – Tracker Boats

Manufacture a series of easy-to-maneuver, versatile, and water-ready Riveted Jon and Utility Boats, at 10ft to 20ft 4” in length, for use on rugged fishing and hunting trips.

4 – Alweld Boats

Manufacture a high-quality series of Flat Bottomed ‘Econo’ Jons, at 10ft to 17ft in length, featuring an aluminum construction, bow seat, single rear seat, paint options, and a choice of custom configurations.

Maverick Boat Company, G3 Boats, and War Eagle Boats also offer a choice of rugged, highly maneuverable and solid-performing utility boats for use on shallow bodies of water. Built in marine-grade aluminum, these boat types are fully outfitted for the dedicated fisherman or hunter, which an option to customize the specification to tailor a particular use.

Flats Boats for Sale

Purchasing one of the latest models of flats boats for sale is at times at high-cost endeavor, even so this will guarantee an operational fishing craft, with the option to select a specific configuration, and comes with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Alternative options include the second-hand, ex demo, or repossessed boats, with purchasing options for such shallow water boats available at boat forecourts, online auction sites (eBay and Craigslist for example), BY bulletin boards, classified ads, etc.

Beside the flat bottom boat for shallow water applications, other configurations for use on open waters consist of the cathedral hull, round hull, and V-bottom hull.

Self-build a Utility Boat

High-quality flat bottom boat plans are available to aid in self-constructing a 16 to 18-ft flats boats in marine-grade plywood, with a self-bailing cockpit, spacious storage, shallow draft, and sight platform. Boat plans come complete with full size, detailed, or illustrated step-by-step guidelines to help through each stage of the build, as well as a materials list and tools required.

Also, if self-building a flat boats it might be a requirement to arrange for a out-of-the-water inspection to the carried out by a competent surveyor or boat builder prior to putting in place all-risk boat insurance coverage – this is often a need for vessels at 18-ft plus. Although, if the craft is of low-value, a third party or liability only policy should be sufficient, and this wouldn’t call on a survey or inspection report.

Whether it is for poling the backwaters of a calm lake, the shallows of quiet-river, or waters of the coastal flats, the flat bottom boats are designed to provide a high-quality casting platform that is highly maneuverable for a wide variety of applications, such as all-types of fishing or hunting in shallow bodies of water.