A Zip-Lock bag provides protection from the elements for an exposed fish-finder while this pontoon boat is docked between trips.
Just as some northern houseboat owners are packing it in for the season, the folks at Tradewinds Marina, on Lake Thurmond, are gearing up for fall and winter. Lake Thurmond is a deep, beautiful, 111-square-mile-lake, located on the border of Georgia and South Carolina, near Augusta. With 1,200 miles of shoreline, surrounded by the Sumter National Forest and limited to 5 percent development, it is a magnet for bass fishermen and pleasure boaters.
Granted, it is hot in the Georgia summer, but its moderate weather the rest of the time, makes this lake a year-round playground for diehard boat owners. Tradewinds Marina is home to an interesting mix of houseboat owners who definitely consider themselves family, and tend to spend all their weekends and especially holidays, together.
When you want to find a poker game on Saturday night, there is no doubt you'll find a game (or two). Cigar smokers just need walk over to "D" dock, where the discussions are infused with the distinct smell of tobacco. Camaraderie abounds and thoughts of home or work seem to disappear. Holidays mean special times at Tradewinds Marina. Memorial Day and Labor Day are celebrated with beach-themed parties, as dozens of boats spend the weekend on one of the sandy shores around the lake. Sunning, swimming, barbecues, bonfires and movies under the stars bring everyone out.
New Year's Eve is a raucous and fabulous evening, but most people can't quite remember it the next day. As you can tell, holiday celebrations and parties are legendary at this marina, but none is more anticipated than Halloween, when being outrageous is an accepted practice, and creativity is applauded!
Plans for the 2011 Halloween Goblin Gala began in early September, when Mike Parlier suggested that the marina invite Houseboat magazine to its annual celebration of all things horrifying.
At that point, plans jumped into high gear. Although there was no formal "committee," a small group took charge of making this event memorable.
Each year, this party seems to get bigger, so the group decided to expand its party location. The plan was to have a "progressive" fright night that would kick off on "D" dock with spooky drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Then move to "C" dock for spookier drinks and Richard and Carla Smith's chili and fixins' dinner. Then cap off the evening on Sunset Dock for dessert, coffee bar, and actual Witches Brew.
One person from each dock took charge of their respective docks for the evening; Melanie Villamein for the first course "D" dock, Mike Parlier for the "C" dinner dock, and Meredith Ray took on the desserts to be served on Sunset Dock. Each of them was responsible for getting the word out to boat owners in their respective area, coordinate the various menus and music and to encourage boat owners to creatively decorate for the evening.
This group also organized a post Halloween brunch, which would be held at a cabin at the marina. One thing you can be sure of, you will never go hungry with this group.
Houseboat decorating began in earnest on the Thursday before the Saturday night party. It is amazing what is stored in boat holds! Out came colored lights, spider webs, skeletons, ghouls, assorted nooses and tombstones.
The docks and the ramps became creepy labyrinths. The houseboats completely transformed into haunted houses, complete with resident ghosts and goblins; eerily lit and emanating sounds of horror and fear. Ghosts flew in the wind, shrieking skeletons dropped to greet you as you boarded the boats, carved pumpkins flickered in the darkness, and each boat offered bowls of scary treats. Everyone seems to add to their collection of decorations, and the atmosphere gets more bizarre according to the regulars.
As the sun went down, the dock party began to get going in full swing. The costumes were amazing, and even in face paint, mummy gauze, witches hats and pirates leggings, everyone managed to be an adorable (if not scary), bunch.
The annual costume contest was won by Steve and Desiree Wolf, unrecognizable in their witch and goblin face makeup. They took home the coveted "Headless Pumpkin" trophy. There was an entire cast of Gilligan's Island, and Amy and Hannah Masiongale were pirates that would have put a spell on Jack Sparrow himself!
Mike and Angela Parlier made a gruesome twosome, and the real coffin, complete with body, on Tommy King's front deck, was a fright to behold. Costumes ranged from NASCAR to Neverland, cowboys to aliens, flower children to Flintstones and an absent Jim Masiongale head on a stick. Decorated tables held all the food and drinks of all types flowed endlessly.
Party participants traveled between docks by foot, or by decorated pontoon boats, which doubled as pirate ship water taxis. Dance music played atop many of the boats, with country songs mixing with Carolina beach "shag" tunes bringing out the dancers. Almost 250 revelers celebrated the spirit of the haunting season through the night and well into the morning.
Seemingly, none the worse for wear, the houseboaters met for the customary holiday brunch the next morning. Again, everyone attending brought a favorite dish. Southern breakfasts tend to be very eclectic, with everything from fried chicken to anything containing bacon. Between the biscuits and gravy, the eggs and the grits and hash brown casseroles, the world seemed to fly by in a carbohydrate laden haze.
Everyone was decked out in their new "I Love Houseboating" t-shirts, which we brought along. The pace had definitely slowed from the night before. The topic at brunch: how could they possibly top this party next year? With this bunch, there is no doubt; they will find a way!
By: Dan Armitage
As many of my fellow pontoon boat club members readied their craft for the off-season, I grew intrigued by the DIY, alternative and after-market solutions some came up with for protecting their boats and related gear. Some of these non-traditional apps are put into use by my resourceful fellow boaters during the boating season as well, and are of value for those lucky pontoon boaters south of the Mason-Dixon Line who don’t know the meaning of “off” season and may enjoy their craft year-round.
For example, you will find covers intended for back yard use on chaise lounges and Adirondack chairs protecting the furniture of some members’ boats. The patio furniture covers are less expensive than semi-custom covers designed for the job, wear well under typical conditions, and the fact that the generic one-size-fits-all covers don’t fit all that tight allows air to circulate and the upholstery to breathe a bit, which can help prevent mildew in the damp environs the boats are subject to. And when conditions aren’t typical, and a loose-fitting captain’s (aka: Adirondack) chair cover goes gone with the wind, it’s less expensive to replace.
If you’ve run across any non-traditional uses for items aboard a pontoon —or any other watercraft – we’d like to see ‘em. Meanwhile, here are a few I stumbled across during a recent late-season walk around the local pontoon boat club – and one photo I snapped last winter that reminded me that going with cost cutting alternatives may not be the bargain you, well, bargained on…
A place for everything, and everything in its place—here's 20 of the best onboard organization solutions for your boat.
By: Zuzana Prochazka
No matter how big the boat, onboard stowage options never seem to be enough. Some captains even insist that for each item that comes aboard, something has to leave. That’s when it’s time to get creative—and organized. Let’s see how some clever crews have managed to fill a boat almost to the point of needing to raise the boot stripe.
When it comes to boat organization, we think of space as being inside or on top of something but a good eye will spot spaces that are simply created. For small cockpit items like sunglasses, sunscreen and cellphones that are always sliding around in the cockpit, try making Sunbrella pockets. Canvas holders can be custom designed around the binnacle, handrails and dodgers. This keeps small stuff from getting lost or broken.
Even small dinghy outboards can be heavy so many boaters carry a davit to help raise and lower them to the tender (especially on a sailboat). But davits can be expensive to purchase and install and take up space on deck. Some sailboats can solve this with a shackle and block and tackle that will fit in a shoebox. Just hang the rig from the main or mizzen boom and you have a great lifting device for the outboard, dive gear, jerry cans of water or fuel and even coolers.
Boathooks, deck brushes and even dinghy paddles are awkward to stow and take up valuable space in the lazarette. Try leaving them on deck in PVC junction fittings. A row of 3-4 fittings can be lashed to the pushpit and hold these tools vertically. They’re affordable and hold up well in the sun. Just be sure to lay the brushes on deck before a photo op.
Another item that’s not lazarette-friendly is the bucket. Instead of bulky buckets that can crack when you jam them in, consider getting collapsible canvas buckets for deck duty.
Line is a space hog. What to do when every space and outside locker is already full of docklines and fenders and you need a stern anchor line? No worries, Quickline has a flat rope reel that can hold up to 265 feet of flat polyester or floating polypropylene webbing out on deck. The reels are 15” – 24” in diameter and only about 1” thick. They may be mounted to a railing or stanchion and have a handy etched measure on them to let you know how much line is out.
A set of wrenches usually comes in a bulky plastic case and if you have room for it, they’re nicely organized. But if space is tight, consider canvas wrench roll-ups. Fold, roll and tie wrenches up like a burrito and easily spot a missing wrench that’s not in its designated pocket.
Boats are fastener-hungry. There’s no end to the nuts, bolts, screws and hose clamps that a boat will consume and keeping them handy isn’t always easy. Why not use clear tackle boxes to organize the small stuff?
Sandpaper is another consumable that boats love. Most sandpaper comes in bulky cardboard boxes that get wet and ruin the paper inside and you can never find that half sheet of 80-grit that you knew you had leftover from the last varnishing project. A better way to keep lots of sandpaper is with an expandable pocket file from an office supply store. Label each pocket with the grit level and keep small leftover pieces where they belong.
While you’re at it, buy two pocket files. They’re great for organizing small manuals and quick reference cards for things like electronics. They’re also good for ship’s papers like insurance, registration and schematics.
We love pillows – they’re comfortable, decorative and really pull a “look” together. But they take up room as do sheets, blankets and towels. Why not combine them into one? Pretty accent pillows can be stuffed with towels and that leaves room in lockers for more jeans to mysteriously find their way aboard.
Piles of hats accumulate on boats and soon can smell musty. Why not hang baseball caps and sunhats on a single plastic hanger? Just clip them on with clothespins or Velcro. This works great for flipflops on the back of door handles too.
If you’re going to keep heavier items aboard year round, consider getting a vacuum sealer. Pack fleeces, jackets and blankets into special bags and suck the air out. Not only does that shrink the contents, it keeps them mildew free.
Galley organization is always a challenge. Not only do you have to find room for boxes and bags of basics like sugar, pasta and chips, you also have to keep them fresh and dry. Plastic containers are great but be sure to choose square ones that will butt up against each other without leaving precious space between round packaging. Label and date the containers if the food will be there a while—and toss out the cardboard that can bring cockroach eggs aboard.
There are never enough drawers on a boat. But you can create them by converting a locker into drawer space using wire rack drawers that are lighter, airier and take up less room inside than actual wooden drawers. Rail and rack solutions can be found in organization outlets like the Container Store.
Perishables, especially produce, can take a beating on long passages. But what to do when you just don’t have the counter space to stow all those vegetables and fruit? Hammocks utilize the space we don’t think of as space—air. String a veggie hammock near the galley. Not only does it make room out of thin air, it’ll keep produce well ventilated and swinging free so it doesn’t get bruised. Also, onions and potatoes may be kept perfectly in pantyhose. Place an onion in the hose, tie a knot, repeat. Hang the hose vertically. Just be sure to separate the two veggies because the moisture in onions makes potatoes sprout.
Silicone has become a “thing” in household kitchens and it makes even more sense aboard. Bulky galley tools like pot lids and strainers now come in handy collapsible versions that are easy to clean and you can even put them in the oven. Look for pots, baking dishes and even ice cube trays that can be folded and squished into tiny spaces.
A knife drawer is inefficient and unsafe on a moving vessel but who has room for a knife block? You do. Cut an existing block or make a new one and mount it on the side of a locker or bulkhead. Slip the knives in and make a canvas cover so you aren’t dodging flying knives in a rough seaway.
Throwing a party in the anchorage? Try the Docktail Bar. Manage your spirits, mixers, wine, Solo cups, limes and swizzle sticks in a handy tray that mounts on a gunwhale or rail or even slips into a rod holder. The bottles stay secure and you have more room on tables and chairs for food and guests.
Transporting the goods to your party can be tricky and noisy. Slip those wine and rum bottles into old socks and pile them into the bilge. They’ll be cushioned and silent. You can also build wine rack below the cabin sole. Oh, and glasses can be protected by hair scrunchies so you can pack them closer together even in bouncy conditions.
Finally, you can never have enough bungy cords. They secure everything from fishing rods to slapping halyards. An over-the-door clear pocket organizer will keep dozens of cords of various sizes, tangle free.
These simple solutions expand space aboard so you don’t need to worry about where to stow and hide everything down to the last M&M.
There’s a wealth of information online available and on Pontoonopedia about cooking on your pontoon boat, using a grill or BBQ. But what happens when you don’t have a grill on-board? You might need something that you can eat one-handed, that you don’t need to heat up on board, but still tastes delicious… if so I have some great ideas for you that are both tasty and convenient.
I can’t take the credit for most of these, as before I bought my pontoon grill set-up I just used to take pack lunches and small picnics to have when we beached our boat up. To be honest, I am a cheese and ham type of guy, and my family soon became a little bored of that. I asked them to investigate what else could be great food to take on a pontoon boat that doesn’t require heating ,cooking or grilling.
Here’s just some of their ideas which I hope to give you some inspiration if you are looking for pontoon boat food ideas for a party, picnic, or just a day’s fishing on the lakes. Whether it’s a snack idea, something for a lunch or dinner, or party food, you should find something interesting below you can try for yourself.
So here are those pontoon boat food ideas, in no particular order. If you do decide to use any of these ideas, then I recommend you have the following items at hand:
Some people won’t take bread for sandwiches, purely because bread doesn’t do too well in the heat. They will also worry about taking food with them that needs to be kept cool. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take a cooler box with you or keep things cold in a bag with frozen water bottles for a few hours.
Handy Hint: Scroll down past the food ideas as I have put together some recommendations on some great gear you can use make the food you take on your pontoon boat even more enjoyable.
I love this idea, it’s so ridiculously simple yet effective and you can do it before you leave your house really quickly. All you do is buy a cooler box (perhaps like this marine grade cooler on Amazon). Throw the corn in and cover it with boiling water. Then seal the cooler box back up.
Bring some spray butter with you, and when ready out on the pontoon boat, open up the cooler. Make sure you bring some tongs because the water is still going to be steaming hot. You can take this approach for a big party of people as well.
You can use exactly the same idea with hot dogs. Before you leave for the day, quickly boil up some hot dogs, then throw them into a smaller cooler with boiling water covering over them and they will start to cook. You can even use Thermos flasks (you can fit loads of dogs in this 64 oz bottle) for this as well. They will remain warm and cooked for hours and can be eaten at any point during the day.
Once ready to eat, place a bag of bread rolls in the sun for 15 minutes in the sealed bag and you have steamed rolls. Then bring the hot dogs out with ketchup and mustard! Just wow… just wow.
Handy Hint: We also have some pontoon boat grill ideas with meat and vegetarian options.
If you take chips, make them Pringles. Why? Because you have less mess as they kept in the tube rather than splitting open large chip bags where the crumbs can go everywhere. I hate crumbs on my deck!
Try filling cylindrical plastic containers that have lids with items like trail mix, popcorn and even M&Ms (from the cooler). These are perfect for placing in the boat cup holders and for passing around to your guests.
The food contents can also be poured out into semi-wet hands without making the rest of the dry goods soggy. This snack idea never fails. Simple, easy, and quick.
Fruit will help to keep you hydrated on hot day, and it’s easy to pack too, as is sliced veg. We always slice ours up before hand, and then take some form of dip, all wrapped up in aluminum foil and keep in a small cooler box.
Don’t be worried about taking warm food onto your pontoon boat. If you cook something beforehand and put it in an empty ice chest or portable cooler, then it will stay warm all day… just as long as you don’t add ice!
If it’s food that needs to keep cool, obviously you can use a portable cooling box, or even use individual foil packs or aluminum foil and keep the food out of the sun in a shaded area for a couple of hours.
You can create this mix in advance of your trip, and then bring it out once everyone is hungry. All you do is get a couple of cans of shredded white chicken, some sliced grapes, chopped almonds, diced celery, dried cranberries, chopped scallions, garlic salt and a little mayo to moisten it up.
When ready, spoon the salad mix up onto wheat thins.
Cook Jack Daniel’s pulled pork from Sam’s Club in a crock pot in the morning, and then bring the crock pot on board your pontoon boat. It will keep warm if left covered for quite a few hours.
We just slide our crock pot under a seat and leave it there. Then when ready to eat bring it out with slider buns a coleslaw.
This is an easy, delicious and portable idea. Simply make your taco meat mix up the night before and then put it into a sealed container.
When on your pontoon, open up a bag of Doritos and crush them up a little. Then you can add the meat, lettuce, onions and cheese in from your container to tacos in the Doritos bag. They will taste awesome – give the bag a shake up for maximum taco-ness (if that’s a word…).
This is one of our favorites. All you do is marinate some chicken the night before, then grill it up in the morning at home before you go on your boat trip. Alternatively, you can use thin steak slices, they work just as well.
You can then make some really tasty wraps with lettuce, onions, peppers, salsa, black beans, sour cream, guacamole, and virtually anything else that goes with it. It’s a big hit!
Make some Hawaiian bread rolls. Just slice the entire bread roll horizontally then layer with your favorite deli meats and cheese, mustard mayo or your preferred spread. Then put the layer of bread back on, put back in the cardboard tray, slice them into squares or leave whole for pull apart, slide tray back into wrapper and put in a portable cooler.
You can make a few different ones with various meats and toppings. Write on wrapper what they are so that there is something for everyone and they don’t get mixed up.
Break wooden kabob sticks in half and you can create snack kabobs with different fruit and vegetables, including grape tomatoes, olives, chunks of string cheese, slices of pepperoni and more.
Make sure that you wrap them in aluminum, clearly label them, and leave them packed into your portable cooler box.
Even if you don’t want to buy a grill and mount for your pontoon boat, you can still buy portable grills that you can set up on the beach, so you can the cook brats, hot dogs, burgers, and vegetable kabobs.
If you do decide to buy a portable grill then I would also recommend that you take cheese balls, summer sausage, cut up watermelon and cantaloupe. Anything tastes better on whilst on the beach and your pontoon is tied down!
In the past I have used the Smoke Hollow portable grill. It’s affordable, robust, and is easy to transport. It makes the cooking of burgers and sausages ridiculous simple as well as giving an awesome smoky taste to any meats.
Alternatively try wrapping some potatoes, beans, onions, spices, olive oil, and chicken (or other meat) into some aluminum foil. Then throw the foil package onto your portable grill once you are on the sandbar – it’s easy and tastes great.
Our pontoon boat is very much an extension of our home. What is easy for my home should also really apply to my boat. And that includes refrigeration. I have a small portable refrigerator that plugs into the cigarette lighter port. It keeps food frozen and food cold if we’re out for a few days or a weekend.
The one I have seen pontooners use most on their boat is this wheeled electric cooler fridge. It has tons of room inside, and once on your pontoon can be plugged in so it’s ready to go. You would pack it with food before you leave for the day as it’s also a standard cooler box, then get it connected to the power supply once on the pontoon boat.
If you’re preparing food for a group of people other than your own family, it’s important to consider what their dietary restrictions are. Not everyone’s diet is the same, so here are some things to think about.
Before you plan and prepare any food for the boat trip, ask the passengers if they have any allergies you need to consider on their behalf. One of the biggest ones you probably already know about are nut allergies, with lesser known intolerances including gluten, beans, dairy and shellfish.
If you get this wrong, it can be very dangerous so always check before hand to find out what the passengers own special food requirements are.
Older people in particular can have medical conditions that require a healthier approach to food. It could be that they suffer with high blood pressure or diabetes meaning you should be mindful of the types of food that you prepare and pack.
Lower salt food ideas are ideal for those with blood pressure; processed meats will have high salt levels so try not to include those. Diabetes sufferers will appreciate low carb and high protein food choices.
Passengers with vegan and vegetarian lifestyle choices should be made to feel at home with something that is specifically prepared for them. Both of these types of diet have become increasingly popular over the last decade, so make sure you can offer something in this range for your pontoon guests.
The Internet is a great way to find suitable options, and in particular for vegan diets where you might not be familiar with that can and can’t be included in a snack. Take a look at the Vegan Society website for some great ideas that are simple to prepare.
If you don’t want to spend money on a portable refrigerator, or just have concerns on how you can keep your food safely stored when on a long day’s fishing trip or day’s leisure on the water, then here are some tips.
By following the guidance below, not only will your pontoon boat food still taste great no matter when you eat it, but it will still be safe to eat!
By far the best way to ensure that you keep your food safely stored when boating, is to only pack stuff that doesn’t need keeping cold in a refrigeration unit.
If you also want to keep your belly feeling full for a long day on the water, it’s essential that you think about foods that are high in protein and have whole grains in them.
Peanut butter sandwiches are a winner here as they tick that box, but also don’t need to be kept cool. As long as they are wrapped in aluminum and kept in the shade, there should be no contamination risk.
On a similar tip, fruit is also a great food idea, in particular apples and oranges. They also contain higher than average amounts of fiber like whole grains do, keeping your passengers feeling full for longer.
In the list of food ideas listed above in this guide, there are some options that do need to be kept cool, ideally refrigerated. Now we know that’s not always possible on a pontoon boat, so what can we do?
As previously discussed, a portable cooler box will help, and I have listed a couple of recommendations further up the page in this guide. By using a cooler box with ice packs, you can pack your food with the peace of mind in knowing it will keep safe for hours.
If you don’t have ice packs, then a simple solution such as a frozen water bottle can work just as well when thrown into the cooler box.
It’s important to protect your food and snacks from the water. Why? Because fish, and fresh water in particular can have bacteria in them which could be very bad for you if ingested.
Pack everything into sealed plastic containers, zip lock bags, or at the very least very tightly wrapped aluminum foil. You don’t want any water to get into the packages or touching the food.
Where you store the food on your pontoon boat is also really important. Have it stashed somewhere away from the sun and water. If you are fishing then you don’t want the food to be close to the area where you are pulling fish out onto the deck.
When it comes to eating your snacks, always wash your hands before handling the food. Those anti-bacterial hand wipes work perfectly for this, as you want to avoid cross-contamination at all costs.