Pontoon boats are undoubtedly the ultimate family marine vessels.
No boat is more accommodating to friends, family, kids and even pets than a pontoon with a ton of deck space and good seating.
But just as with everything else, when kids and pets are involved, the safety stakes are raised.
First thing's first.
No matter how good a swimmer your child or dog is, they need to wear a life jacket. That is non-negotiable. Feel free to reread that sentence. Yes, we said "they." Your pooch needs a life preserver, too. If you have an infant, you must with a capital M invest in an infant-specific vest.
Talk to your kids about the difference between pools and open water. They may be incredibly comfortable in the pool, but completely unprepared for the lake. Teach them about the potential of steep dropoffs, currents, marine life, uneven surfaces, rapid changes in depth and, of course, changing weather on the water.
Unfortunately, you can't have these conversations with your dog. You will, therefore, whether he likes it or not, have to invest in a harness and tether. Even the best-behaved dog in the world could jump — or fall — into the water unexpectedly. A tethered harness will also keep your four-legged friend from tearing around the deck of your boat willy nilly.
Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries. Slow-moving or stagnant pontoons are especially vulnerable if there's a buildup of fumes in the engine.
Finally, don't drink and boat with kids or dogs — or preferably ever. Booze and boats seem to go perfectly together, but like their four-wheeled brethren on land, a ridiculously disproportionate number of accidents can be attributed to alcohol-induced poor judgment.
Pontoon boats beckon the whole family. That's why we love them. When dogs and kids enter the equation, however, everyone on board has to be extra vigilant. Learn CPR, teach your kids to swim, use common sense and have fun!