What is a Cuddy Cabin?


When my family and I decided to upgrade our boat and enter the Cuddy Cabin buyer’s market, we were overwhelmed by the number of options. 

Having not been exposed to more than a typical bass boat or deckboat when growing up, the first time someone told me about a “cuddy cabin” being a reasonable upgrade, I wrinkled my forehead and said, “cuddy what?”  

Off to research, I went!

What is a cuddy cabin?

A Cuddy Cabin spans 18′ to 25′ in length and serves as a great small-family recreation, overnighter, and fishing boat.  The “cuddy” is a small enclosure below deck that typically consists of a V-berth (a V-shaped bed along the bow), a porta potty (the head), and possibly a freshwater sink.

This seemed like a perfect compromise between a standard fishing boat that I was used to and a full cabin vessel!

Anyone who has brought their family out on the water knows that everyone’s expectations of a good time will vary greatly.  Some like the sun and tubing, some hate the bugs, some just want to fish, and some would rather read a book in in bed in the shade.  

Let’s take a look at why a Cuddy Cabin might just be the boat you were looking for to meet your family’s needs!

What is the Sleeping Area Like?

Typically, Cuddy Cabins have a V-shaped berth for sleeping and storage that contours itself along the inside edges of the bow (front of the boat).  One berth will be on the port (left) side, and the other on the starboard (right) side with a porta potty often situated directly between them.

The porta potty (the head) can have bow-filler cushion placed on top to expand the width of the overall sleeping or storage area.  

Underneath the cushions of the V-berth are typically storage compartments for gear and sleeping essentials. 

Do Cuddy Cabins Have a Toilet?

Cuddy Cabins rarely will come equipped with a head, but if yours does, it’s not going to be anything large.

Since Cuddy Cabins are the ideal compromise between a deck boat and a full cabin cruiser, everything is downsized and kept at the bare minimum to attempt to be the “Jack-of-all-trades” at meeting everyone’s specific needs.

Most will find the head to be cramped by any other standard, but it surely beats not having one at all! Again, with the Cuddy Cabin, think of fundamental NEEDS and not WANTS.

When doing my research, I found that most Cuddy Cabins have the porta potty located right inside the cuddy itself between the V-berth.  When not in use, the filler cushions can be placed on top of the head to increase the width of the berth.

Since you have the cuddy itself, which is enclosed and below deck, the privacy that it offers mitigates the awkwardness of using a porta potty.

The boats that really got my attention when researching were the ones that had the head located under the passenger side console and completely isolated from the cuddy itself.  This allows for complete privacy for the user and cuts down on any unpleasant odors in the sleeping area!

However, these boats were technically considered Cabin Cruisers and are the next class of watercraft above a true “Cuddy Cabin”.  Still, the 2014 Cruiser’s Sport Series 259 was only 25’ and had that feature. It’s something to think about, but you’ll definitely see an increase in price!

Do Cuddy Cabins Have a Galley?

Overall, most cuddy models won’t have anything besides a possible freshwater sink. 

Items like a mini-fridge, a microwave, cabinets, alcohol burner, counter space are all relegated for Cabin Cruisers and other upgraded models.  Each cuddy and cruiser is like its own poker hand and it’s rarer to find one that has it all. In general, the larger the vessel, the more of these perks you’ll find.

Do Cuddy Cabins Have Air Conditioning?

Unfortunately, nearly all true “cuddy cabin” models are not equipped with air conditioning.  AC tends to be a perk that becomes more common as you migrate up in the boating classes such as the Cabin Cruisers.  However, cooling yourself via convection can easily be achieved with a 12-volt DC fan hooked to the battery.

If you were lucky enough to find one with AC (which is rare – if not impossible to find in my research) it can only be run with 110-volt shore power or a portable generator (typically an inverter generator).  

Still, just having the enclosed and shaded cuddy offers a microclimate that drastically helps to mitigate the stresses of a hot day – even without the use of AC.

Most people that I talked to said that after purchasing their cuddy cabin, the lack of AC was generally not a big deal and wouldn’t be for future purchases even for larger Cabin Cruisers.  Using the open door to the cuddy and opening the forward hatch to create a cross-breeze, the combined use of a simple 12-volt direct current (DC) fan(s) was more than enough to keep things comfortable in the small cuddy anyway.

How Large is a Cuddy Cabin Boat?

Usually, in the 18’-25’ range, Cuddy Cabins are a natural progression up from the typical bass boat, bowrider, or deckboat.  What really appeals to me and my family is that we are not going to feel like we’re going from a canoe to the Titanic! We’re just adding maybe 6-10’ in total length to what we’re used to, but getting a few essential features that will appeal to the whole family.

On top of that, in my area in Michigan, we have just as many small lakes as we do large ones.  With a Cuddy Cabin, we’re not going to feel like we’re dwarfing the lake with our watercraft. It just feels like the perfect compromise to allow us the most basic overnight amenities with our fishing and recreation.  

What can a Cuddy Cabin be used for?

I’ve found that the Cuddy Cabin is the literal Jack of all trades at meeting my family’s expectations of a good time out on the water.  Dad and son will be pleased with its fishing capabilities. Mom and sis will have a place to rest in the shade after basking in the sun.

Cuddy Cabins boast motors plenty strong enough for pulling someone on skis or in a tube.  To add to this, the Cuddy Cabins that feature a sterndrive engine are most favorable to those seeking to do watersports.  These setups are very common on the market.

Unlike an outboard motor which is attached to the transom at the rear of the boat and hangs behind it, a sterndrive motor is located under a hatch at the stern of the boat, the propeller extends farther down, and the swim platform at the back of the boat is much larger.

If fishing the shallows with the family is your primary objective, you might want to give more consideration to simply having a Cuddy Cabin with an outboard motor.  Outboard motors have a shallower profile in the water and will allow you to fish in the shallows more easily without damaging your boat.

Advantages of a Cuddy Cabin

  • Most cuddy cabins are of a size that is still easily portable enough to tow in between outings.  You don’t generally need to rent a slip at a single lake for the year.
  • Fewer features on a Cuddy versus a Cabin Cruiser means there’s less to go wrong (see, I’m trying to be an optimist about the lack of features!)
  • You only need a single or a double axle trailer depending on the size of your Cuddy and probably will not need a triple axle.  Generally, a single axle will work for 18-21′ cuddies, and 22-25′ can use a double axle.  Above that, you’ll want to consider a triple axle.
  • If you’re not intending to sleep overnight in your cuddy, the cabin itself makes an excellent storage location for all of your gear to keep it dry and out of the elements.

Disadvantages of a Cuddy Cabin

  • If your intention is fishing, you’ll find it very difficult to find a cuddy cabin with a trolling motor – especially a bow mount trolling motor.  This might not affect everyone who plans to fish, but some people’s fishing methods depend on that type of trolling motor.
  • Although they have sleeping quarters, this will generally be too small for more than 2 adults — even with the filler cushions to expand the berth.  They do make enclosed covers for up top though in case anyone wanted to sleep on the deck, so make sure to see if your Cuddy can have one fitted.
  • Nearly all Cuddy Cabins on the market, from my research, are not equipped with AC.
  • Most cuddy cabins have a portable head (porta potty) and it is located in the middle of the V-berth.  This means that the sleeping quarters can get stunk up and it will be an inconvenience for everyone if someone has to go in the middle of the night.  Not to mention, you will need to deal with emptying the porta potty by hand if your cuddy isn’t equipped with dockside pump out.
  • Using the head might also mean that the hatch to the cuddy won’t close while the toilet is in use.  This all depends on the model, but be prepared to use a curtain for privacy.
  • Cuddy cabins lose the floor space at the bow of the boat.  Typically there is a railing where you can still walk out onto the bow, but it isn’t at floor level like in the cockpit.  
  • Though it isn’t too big of a leap, if you’re upgrading from a smaller boat and already have a storage shed or canopy built, the cuddy may or may not force you to spend some more money to upgrade your sheltering areas due to the increased size.

Bob Van Nuck

Bob lives in central Michigan and enjoys running, woodworking, fixing up small engines, and getting out on the water with family, of course!

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