The more, the merrier.
Sharing a good time with friends and family is the boater’s dream.
Well, not for the lone wolves out there, but for plenty of us this holds true.
Having loved ones on board always makes the experience more enjoyable.
Some of us even buy our boats for the purpose of spending more uninterrupted, quality family time together.
So, the more people you can seat on your boat, the more fun you can have on the next aquatic outing.
How to Consider Your Boat Seating Options
It might not come as a surprise to learn that bigger boats can accommodate more passengers.
A compact, single-person kayak can only seat one person, for example. (That’s why it’s called “single person,” right? Right.)
A full-sized canoe can usually hold three adults or an adult and a group of kids—and, more often than not, a dog, too. A good-sized pontoon boat can seat as many as eight to ten adults.
The most recent addition to the US Navy’s modernized fleet, the USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 guided missile destroyer has a complement of 142 sailors. And, for a bit of perspective, the MS Allure of the Seas cruise ship can accommodate around 6,300 passengers when fully loaded.
In case you’re enjoying the boat and ship trivia, the longest ship ever built was the Seawise Giant, a supertanker that was 1,504 feet long. Yes, that’s a ship that was well over a quarter of a mile in length.
Most people are more interested in the seating capacity of a boat in their price range and that can fit at the local marina and be towed by an SUV with a boat trailer, so we’ll take a few steps back from the cruise ships and supertankers and instead focus on boat seating options that are a bit more practical.
If you’re considering purchasing a new boat, you have some latitude in controlling how many people you’ll be able to have aboard.
If you already own a boat, you might be able to accommodate more passengers than you think—and in comfort and safety, too—especially if you think outside the box for boat seating options.
Safety First: Know Your Boat’s Maximum Capacity Limits
Your boat, whether it’s a 24-foot pontoon boat or a 52-foot yacht or any other type of vessel, will have a maximum number of passengers specified by its manufacturer and/or by the United States Coast Guard.
This maximum capacity information was calculated carefully—there’s actually a surprising amount of math involved!—and is not to be taken lightly.
An overloaded boat is unsafe in any condition.
So, you need to know the capacity before looking at your seat options.
Also be sure to take into account any weight added to the boat by extra gear or supplies, from fishing tackle to food to extra fuel and so forth. Just because you can figure out how to seat more people on a boat does not mean you should do so, necessarily.
Always think of safety first. Then we can move onto creative boat seating options.
How Many People Can You Seat on a Boat?
Take these figures as a guideline, not hard and fast rules, and remember that a given person’s size must be factored in as well. In general, a smaller pontoon boat, one that’s under 20 feet long, probably has a maximum safe seating capacity of six adults, perfect for most family outings.
A pontoon boat measuring up to 25 feet can usually accommodate eight or ten people. A larger pontoon boat, one that measures over 25 feet and up, is usually stable enough for larger groups of 12 to 15 people.
Check the recommendations of the manufacturer, and remember to keep people spread out evenly on the deck. Even a large, stable pontoon boat can list dangerously to one side or the other if too much weight (i.e. too many human beings) end up on one side of the boat.
When you install your seating on your boat, you should keep all of the following in mind:
- The weight capacity of your boat
- How much the items currently on your boat weigh
- How much the additional seating will weigh
- How many people can comfortably be on your boat at one time
- How to keep the weight distributed evenly on your boat with smart seating placement
9 Creative Boat Seating Options for Boaters Who Think Outside the Bench
This is the standard type of seating you’ll find to add to your boat. Benches are available in a variety of sizes, usually somewhere from 28 inches in length to 65 inches in length.
When you buy online, keep in mind that you may need to purchase the base for the bench seat separately. For example, the Wise bench seat above comes with this bench seat base (check price on Amazon).
2. The captain’s chair
Ah, the captain’s chair—the best seat on the boat. You can opt to steer from a bench seat, but where’s the fun in that?
Check out this classy Wise captain’s chair (check price on Amazon). It just needs the base to be installed permanently on your boat’s deck.
3. Lounge seats
Lounge seats aren’t always the big lazy boys you might be expecting from the name. Rather, they’re just comfortable seats that allow your passengers to stretch their legs out. Here are the classic, comfortable Wise lounge seats (check price on Amazon).
4. Casting seat
A casting seat is a simple swivel chair that lets you fish with ease. These are often very small, space-saving chairs that can be detached or folded away when not in use.
Here’s a simple Wise casting chair (see on Amazon), though it requires permanent installation on the deck.
As with the captain’s chair, you’ll need a seat base and a post to complete the installation of a little, lightweight chair like this.
Now, just think about how these standard boat seating options would work on our example pontoon.
One of the main benefits of the pontoon boat tends to be generous seating capacity. The flat, open deck of these boats allows for multiple seating arrangements, including benches, captain’s chairs and even lounge-style seats.
The pontoon boat offers easy rearranging of seating positioning too. You can quickly change the types of seating on the deck, so you can design a boat that will seat all your passengers in comfort. Pontoons have plenty of deck space for this, but of course, many other types of boats can accommodate these seating options.
How to Add Boat Seating Options That Stow Away Easily
Not willing to tear your seating arrangement up at the moment?
If your pontoon boat, or any other type of boat, has its seating arrangement locked in place for now, don’t worry: You can still add additional seating options, and often without any significant expense.
If you want to add boat seating options that are decidedly temporary and that won’t take up extra space when not being used, look to the campsite as your inspiration.
5. Camp chairs
A camp chair like this affordable classic Coleman Oversized Quad (check price on Amazon), is designed to fold away into compact little packages when not in use.
Even so, many camp chairs can be deployed into full-sized, comfortable seats in a matter of seconds. Many such seats come complete with sunshades, cup holders and other accessories that make them so comfortable, your friends perched on the regular boat seats might even be jealous.
6. Stadium chairs
Another boat seating idea is a stadium chair (check price on Amazon). These are also called bleacher seats and can be affixed to the gunwales of a boat or even plopped onto the deck to create another comfortable spot for sitting.
Like the camp chair, the stadium chair folds up small enough to tuck away under a bench or in a corner of the boat when not in use, and it can be tossed in the trunk of a car for transport to and from the water, too.
How to Maximize Boat Seating Capacity With Multipurpose Gear
7. Cooler seats
If you and your friends or family are headed out for a day enjoying some boating on the lake, river or ocean, chances are you’re going to bring along some food and beverages in a cooler.
Most coolers have hard sides and a solid top and can be used as a seat in a pinch, though not necessarily as the most comfortable seat ever known.
So, why not instead opt for a cooler designed to serve as a comfortable seat?
There are myriad cooler seats available that not only feature padded seat cushions but that even feature backrests. Your cooler seat might just be the most comfortable seat on the boat, in fact! We recommend the Wise 70-Quart Swingback (check price on Amazon).
Yes, it’s a bit expensive for a cooler, but it’s cheap for a big, comfy seat that will last for years and years.
You can also check out this other beautiful seating option by Wise Seat (check price on Amazon), which has a roomy storage unit beneath the chair which can serve as a cooler, livewell or baitwell.
8. Storage seating
For even less expensive multipurpose seating options, consider a storage ottoman (there are many available on Amazon).
Ottomans designed for use in the home as a convenient way to create a lightweight, easily portable seat that can stow some extra gear aboard your boat and accommodate a seated adult in comfort, too.
An ottoman serves as seat, a footrest and storage that you can move around your boat easily and take on and off the vessel as needed. This cool Geartist waterproof ottoman (check price on Amazon) is a nice choice for boaters.
For a fantastic option designed specifically for a boat, try this Frabill combination trunk-seat (check price on Amazon). It’s the ideal blend of storage, seating and portability.
9. Seating off-boat with a great float
Just because you want to add more comfortable boat seating options for your passengers doesn’t necessarily mean you need to add more seating aboard your boat itself. Consider getting a giant raft-style float that you can tie to your boat and can even tow along at slow speeds.
There are many inflatable rafts, often called floating islands, to choose from out there. For one, this CoolerZ Tropical Breeze from Bestway (check price on Amazon) can comfortably accommodate multiple people (even several full-grown adults or a whole passel of kids), comes with a cooler and yet only costs $150 to $200.
The Fiesta Island raft (check price on Amazon) is extra heavy duty, and lets you stay cooling off in the water while lounging off the boat. It also comes with an inflatable cooler so drinks can be kept handily nearby.
These large rafts are both fun and practical, essentially adding more square footage of living space to your boat as well as easy access to the water for swimmers.
Just keep in mind you really will have to keep the pace slow if you want to tow one along. They’re not designed for high-speed aquatic adventures!
Choose the best seating options for you and your boat, and you’ll be all set for your next outing.
And you’ll be able to invite as many friends and family members as you could possibly want on board!