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9 Different Types of Boat Seats

Zoom in photo of a motor boat boat seat with the steering wheel ang other navigations.

I am not a wealthy man, but over the years I have gained a few wealthy friends. One of them invited me out their boat the other day. I have rarely been on such a vessel, and I was struck by how well-designed and well-maintained the seats were.

At times, I could not tell if I was in an upscale night club or on a seagoing vessel. I am a writer by profession, and so I tend to take a deep interest in anything that strikes my fancy. The following is a summary of all that I went on to learn about types of boat seats.

Types of Boat Seats

This is not an exhaustive list of seat covers, but it does contain the most popular types on the market.

1. Bench seating

Top view of a yachts bench seating area with read sears with safety emergency gears.

This is the standard type of boat seating. Benches are available in a variety of sizes, and they are usually made of marine-grade vinyl that withstands UV rays, rain, wind, and other sea elements. It is easy to clean boat benches. All you need is soap and water, which can be rinsed with a garden hose.

If mildew creeps into the seating, you can attack it with mildew stain remover and a soft scrub brush. Day-to-day cleaning can be done with boat cleaning wipes.

2. The captain’s chair

Backview of the captain's chair of the small yacht with the steering wheel and other navigation controls.

This tends to be the best seat in the house—or, in this case, on the boat. Most such chairs are made of heavy-duty marine-grade vinyl, which helps protect it against weather. Most boat lovers want their captain’s chair to be pristine. It is not that hard to keep it so. Most stains, scuffs, and dirt can be removed with boat soap and water.

3. Lounge seats

Beautiful interior display of a yacht with pleasant lounge area seats to chill on.

The perfect remedy for a stressful week. Lounge seats are the lazy boys of the sea. They allow you and your passengers to stretch out your legs.

Lounge seats can often pull out and fold down into a flat or reclined lounge chair. This can make it easy for you to sit out in the sun on deck and read a book, sip your drink, or have a chat.

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4. Casting seat

A boy on the boat sitting on a casting seat fishing in the lake.

This is a simple swivel chair that allows you to fish with some ease. These chairs can often be detached and folded away when not in use, giving you more space on deck. Others can be installed permanently.

5. Camp chairs

A brand new camping chair that is very suitable for every place you'll go in a full red colorway isolated in a white background.

This type of chair is designed to fold away into compact packages when not in use, and can be deployed into full-size use in seconds. Many of these chairs come with sunshades, cup holders, and other accessories—in short, a little comfort kit to enhance your enjoyment of the sun and sky.

6. Stadium chairs

Orange and blue colored vacant bleacher seats on a passenger boat.

These chairs are also called bleacher seats in that they resemble the kinds of seats you find at ball games. They can be affixed to the gunwales of a boat or laid out on deck for additional seating. Like camp chairs, stadium chairs fold up into a compact unit that can be tucked away when not in use.

7. Cooler seats

Zoom in angel of two cooler cushion and back rest seats in the front of a yacht.

These boat seat have hard sides and a solid top that can be used as a seat in a pinch. Some of these types of seats come with cushions and back rests to make sitting in them a little more comfortable.

8. Storage seating

Zoom in photo of a storage seat in the front part of the yacht.

This type of seating offers storage options. It comes with an ottoman. The latter are designed for use in the home as a convenient way to create a lightweight and easily movable seat. Ottomans also tend to have storage compartments. This is the perfect options for people who like to stow extra gear aboard their boat.

The ottoman is a great piece of furniture. It can serve as a seat, footrest, and storage unit, and it can be easily moved around the boat.

9. Off-boat seating with a great float

Zoom in photo of a group of friends having fun in a raft-style seat tied up in the yacht.

This is a giant raft-style float that you can tie to your boat and tow along at slow speeds. This type of seating is both fun and practical. It is the kind of seating you should consider if your family and other families are the main passengers on your boat.

Having this type of seating will free up more space on deck and will also provide easy access to the water for swimmers. The most important thing to keep in mind with this type of seating is that you will have to creep along when underway. These seats can only be towed along at a very slow pace.

The Importance of Safety

Before you choose the type of seating you want for your boat, you should learn a thing or two about safety regulations. It is important to know your boat’s maximum capacity limits, and to understand the importance of being safe on the boat.

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Each boat has its own max passenger limit. This is calculated and promulgated by both the manufacturer and the United States Coast Guard. An overloaded boat is unsafe in any condition.

Even on the sunniest and calmest of days, you should not attempt to exceed the state max capacity. Just because you can figure out how to seat more people on your boat does not mean you should try to do so.

As a general rule, if your boat is around 20 feet long, you can probably safely seat six adults. A boat that is 25 feet long can seat up to ten people. Anything over 25 feet can seat a group of twelve to fifteen people. However, you should try to keep the numbers well below the max capacity.

You should also take such prudent measures as keeping people spread out evenly on the deck. Being on the water, boats are sensitive to an excessive piling up of weight on one side or the other.

If you install more seating on your boat than is allowed by the passenger restrictions, then you will be tempted to break the rules. Doing so will put people in danger. Instead, you should keep the following in mind before you install seating on your boat:

  • The weight limit of your boat
  • The weight of the current objects on your boat
  • The cumulative weight of the seats you will have installed on your boat
  • The number of people who can comfortably be on your boat at one time
  • A placement plan for the seats you intend to install

Related: 42 Boat Accessories that Makes Boating More Fun and Safe (by a Boat Owner)

Frequently Asked Questions

How are boat seats constructed?

Luxurious pontoon boat with 4 boat seats in the cockpit area.

The construction of every boat seat begins with a wood base. This is followed by a foam cushion. The firmness and height of the foam varies. If your seats are being custom made, the foam will be filled according to your preference.

At times, a moisture barrier is added as an extra layer before the final fabric is added. Marine-grade vinyl is used to cover the entire surface of the boat seat.

What type of wood is best for the base?

Marine grade wood is soft wood glued together with exterior waterproof glue. The wood is not waterproof, but the glue holding it together acts as a water barrier.

Pressure treated plywood goes through a chemical process to deter mold, mildew and rot. Insecticides are also sometimes applied to the wood, to prevent insect damage.

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Frames are also constructed of blow-molded plastic, which seem to last longer than wooden frames.

What type of foam cushion is best for boat seats?

Boat seats take high-density foam. The same high-density foam is also used in the cushions and back rests that often complement the seats.

What is marine vinyl upholstery fabric?

This is one of the more important parts of a boat seat. The fabric is what makes the seat comfortable and stylish. However, the type of fabric used on boats, which are constantly exposed to the elements, must be specially made.

Most boat seat manufacturers use marine vinyl. The material is fade-resistant and can withstand direct sunlight. It is also treated with special chemicals, so that it can withstand fungus and bacteria.

All marine vinyl upholstery tends to be around the same weight. Your biggest decision in this area will be the color of the fabric. You should keep in mind that some colors naturally fade faster than others, especially when exposed to weather for prolonged periods of time.

Are the seat seams waterproof?

No. If UV-grade thread it used, it will prevent the rapid breakdown of the seams from exposure to sun rays. However, if you want to keep water completely out of the inside of your seats, then you will need to use a seam sealer. You will need to apply it across the seams after they sewed.

What is the best way to clean and store boat seats?

If you take your boat out a lot, it will be constantly exposed to moisture and changing temperature. Over time, this can lead to the formation of mold and mildew on the surface. Such substances are not only unsightly; they are unsafe. That is why you will need to clean your seats regularly.

The best way to do so is with cleaning products that have been specifically made for boat seats. You should avoid the use of bleach or vinegar when cleaning marine-grade vinyl.

You can do permanent damage to the material. Stain removers with high UV protectant can help prevent the vinyl from drying, cracking, and fading. Most such product are available at boat stores, and can also be found online.

A final word about mold. You should be aware that there are different colors of it. Mold can be black, white, grey, bluish-green, and pink. The different types sometimes require specific cleaning methods.