A Guide to Overnight Boating- For a true boating enthusiast, few experiences are as incredible as an overnight or all-weekend river cruise. The gentle rocking of the water and the waves lapping against your boat are sure to put you into a deep sleep after a day of fun and adventure. During the day, cruise, fish, ski, swim, grill, or do whatever it is you like best. The water is your playground.

Water camping is definitely more comfortable if your boat has a cabin, but you can still enjoy a night or two under the stars in just about any vessel by packing a tent and sleeping bag for on board or on land.  (See our tips for boat camping too)

Overnight boating does come with its own set of challenges, and rivers can be strong and unpredictable, so remember to:

  • Research your route
  • Triple-check your supplies
  • watch the weather
  • Bring a phone charger, flashlights and extra clothes
  • Stock up on food
  • Get the proper permits
  • Reserve spots at docks
  • Tell a few people where you’re going and how to reach you
  • Have an emergency plan in place



To plan your trip, practice anchoring, docking and tying off in the daylight before trying it out at night. If you can, practice at the location you’ll be anchoring and sleeping. Or at least familiarize yourself with multiple types of areas in order to best understand how your boat reacts in different conditions. These knots will get you through the night safe and sound.


Anchor knot:

Anchor Knot

Dock with cleat hitch:

Cleat Hitch

Dock with posts:

Dock Posts

To properly anchor the boat, you’ll need a sturdy galvanized chain that’s at least as long as the boat. Attach the chain to an anchor that’s one or two sizes bigger than what’s recommended for your boat. For a normal anchor, the rule of thumb is 1 lb. for every 2’ of boat. For overnight anchoring, you’ll want a 15 to 20 lb. anchor for a 24’ boat. The heavier anchor allows you stay put for much longer, so you can focus on sleeping instead of worrying about floating down the river. Finally, you’ll want a nylon rope that’s at least 10 times longer than the depth of the water. Tie this to your boat and the chain, and you’re all set to throw anchor and sleep well.

If you’re docking, practice during the day before you attempt it in the dark. Your boat’s lights and lighting on the docks will help, but you’ll still need some assistance when attempting it at night. Have a helper get on the dock and catch the boat to guide you in safely. Be sure to pack an anchor light to display during the night. We recommend a low voltage one that won’t drain the battery too quickly. (see docking tips here)


Where to Go and Where to Sleep


Overnight boating is best on rivers. There are plenty of places along the banks to dock, refuel and stock up on supplies. For sleeping, a dock is the safest way to go, but if you’re looking to rough it, try anchoring in a little cove and tying off to a tree to provide extra support. It’s much safer to be near other people in case the weather turns or there’s an emergency. Just make sure not to trespass on anyone’s property.


When to Go


Summer is the nicest time for an overnight journey. The weather is warm, and the nights are comfortable. There may be a little more traffic on the water, but not too many people do overnight trips, so you’ll rarely feel crowded by other boats.  (Read why we love autumn boating too!)


What Boat to Use


Any boat can be used for an overnight voyage if you’re well prepared, but Crownline SC or CR models make it even easier. They’re agile and maneuverable with plenty of space. The 294 CR is larger but has great handling. If you’re comfortable with bigger boats, then the Crownline 330 SY and 350 SY are the most comfortable options. Spacious, powerful and fun, these boats have it all. Just make sure not to get into shallow water. If you think you’re ready to do an overnighter without a cabin, then our Crownline XS series is a good choice. Incredibly fun, fast and comfy, these boats are a blast to drive and have extra space to store a tent.


Crownline 286SC

Crownline 286 SC

Crownline 350SY

Crownline 350 SY

Crownline E26XS

Crownline E26 XS


More like this:

Discover boating: Sleeping Onboard Your Boat

Boats.com: Overnighting the Easy Way: 10 Surefire Tips