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

All-Purpose Shallow Water Jon Boats

Durable, reliable and economical, the riveted and all-welded aluminum Jon boats (also referred to as flat-bottomed boats) are perfect for shallow bodies of water and used for waterfowl hunting, hauling, fishing, and other commercial activities.

Jon BoatTough built, the riveted boats are meant to be worked hard, while at the same time maintaining the appearance for years to come. Pull a modified-v or standard flat Jon up a rocky bank or left strapped in the bed of a truck and these hard-wearing vessels will tough it out against all the odds. Jon boats are finished in a standard olive-green or camo-type paint scheme.

Popular Brands of Riveted or Welded Jon Boats –

Available in several different configurations, the manufacturers (Alumacraft, Crestliner, Lowe, Lund, Princecraft, etc) of the flat-bottomed boats offer a wide beam width, a spacious deck area, and multiple storage options for rod lockers and gun boxes. Multiple seating options are also available. Fish-based options consist of the fish finders, trolling motors, moveable pedestal seats, and aerated livewells.

  1. Alumacraft manufacture a series of ultra-light, smooth-handling, and solid-working traditional flat and V-bottom Boats, at 10 to 16 feet in length, with a toughened construction (wider and stronger ribs) to create one of the most dependable options in the marketplace. Paint finish is often an olive drab green.
  2. Crestliner manufacture a series of 15 to 20 ft all-welded Jon Boats to create unmatched versatility for fishing or hunting in shallow waters – and available in several different configurations to match the planned use. Paint finish comes in a resilient olive drab green or camouflage.
  3. Lowe Manufacture a series of all-welded aluminum Jon boats, at 14 to 20 feet in length, with extra-wide bottoms and beam widths for a stable and reliable performance. Built for all applications – hunt – fish or both, these tough-as-nails boats are perfect in the toughest waters. Paint finish is often drab, green enamel paint.
  4. Lund Manufacture a series of 10 to 18 feet high-strength, alloy-riveted Jon boats to give a high degree of performance and stability in shallow bodies of water. Constructed with extruded ribs, formed-in keels, and spray rails, these utility boats are perfect for the series fowl hunter or angler. Paint finish is in a choice of standard or optional color schemes.
  5. Princecraft manufacture a series of solid built riveted aluminum Jon boats, at 10 to 14 feet in length, offering maximum strength and durability for all-types of shallow water applications. A series of utility boats that is highly efficient with an ability to run smooth and run steady. Paint finish is a hard-wearing olive drab coating.

Self-build Utility Boat Plans

Elsewhere, for the DIY enthusiast, an authentic set of boat plans or complete kits offer the perfect opportunity to self-construct a 10 to 15 feet flat-bottom boat for several different applications. DIY plans, with complete step-by-step directions help with each stage of the build process, and include advice on constructing the gunwales, seat stringers, frames, chine logs, etc.

In Summary

Overall, the all-purpose, dependable, and economical aluminum Jon boats are built to survive all on-water applications – from hunting or fishing activities to hauling loads or commercial activities – and exhibit a high degree of ruggedness and stability.