12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat
By: Boat Test
First and foremost, a pontoon boat is about having plenty of seating space.
Pontoon boats have been among the most popular models for the past few years and there are no signs of that trend slowing down. Manufacturers are listening to consumer requests for more performance, more styling and more luxury. Regardless of whether a family is looking for a boat to putt around the lake at sunset or a do-everything model that can run fast enough to surprise some bowriders and tow watersports, there are some features that we would want in any pontoon boat.
1. Match Boat Size to Number of Guests
A smart captain knows how many people he’s going to have aboard. As boats increase in size, their passenger capacity usually goes up. For example, Sun Tracker’s Party Barge 18 DLX is 20’ (6.0 m) long and it is rated for nine people. Step up 2’ (0.6 m) and the passenger capacity goes up by one. In other words, it’s a good idea for a captain to know how many passengers he’s planning to have on board before deciding on a size. Most boats have a capacity plate. Check it to verify a boat’s passenger capacity. Do not exceed it.
A capacity plate is the best way to know how many passengers a boat can hold.
2. Seating Configuration
Not only should owners know how many people they are going to be carrying, but they also need to know what their passengers want to do when they’re on board. If maximum numbers are the priority, get as much seating space as possible. If the family is made up of teenage girls who like to sunbathe, get a boat like the Regency 220 LE3 that has aft-facing chaise-style lounges. Got some kids who like to fish? Get a fishing package that has two fighting chairs up front.
What grade of captain’s chair is required? They vary wildly from the basic to the super luxurious.
Where to put the wheelchair? Pontoon boats are ideal for old salts, but you will need a gate wide enough to get them aboard and then once aboard a place to lock them in place.
Sunbathers would love the aft-facing lounges on the Regency 220 LE3.
Shown here is the bow of the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX, complete with fishing chairs, rod racks and a trolling motor.
This is a pretty conventional floor plan layout for a pontoon boat with the focus on providing as much seating capacity as possible.
3. Raised Helm
A captain needs to be able to see over the passengers sitting in front of him, so we prefer boats with a raised helm like the one found on the Regency 220 LE3 Sport. The captain’s chair mounts to the elevated fiberglass console, putting the driver in a position that gives him better all-around sightlines.
This helm station is raised 3” off the deck, which puts the driver in a better position to see over the people seated on the lounge ahead of him.
4. Boarding Gates
Pontoon boats are about convenience and one of their most attractive attributes is that they are easy to board. Most have a minimum of three gates, bow, stern, and port (or starboard) side. Additionally, you should also make sure that side boarding gates are wide enough (32”) to accommodate a wheelchair.
Gate latches can be easy or somewhat difficult to operate. Make sure you like the device on the boat you buy.
Side gates make it easy to board from the dock and should be at least 32” (0.8 m) wide to accommodate a wheelchair.
5. Bow Deck
It is surprising how many pontoon boats are on the market that have no bow deck. That is to say that the fencing or superstructure goes right up to the bow so there is no deck upon which to walk to tie-up or to set an anchor. Obviously, this has been done to maximize seating space and keep costs down. That is a trade-off we don’t recommend. Every boat needs a bow deck and a 12” (0.3 m) minimum fore-and-aft measurement for this purpose.
A small platform on the bow makes it much easier to board a pontoon and to work with dock lines. The deck seen here is the minimum size we recommend.
6. Provision for Storing and Setting an Anchor
Every boat should have an anchor and a dedicated place to keep it. That includes pontoon boats. Yet, virtually no pontoon-boat builder makes provision for one. Obviously, one reason for this is that most users take their pontoon boats from dock to dock, or from the launch ramp, back to the launch ramp — and don’t anchor out much.
Required for Safety. Nevertheless, there are times — even on protected lakes when going from marina to marina — when an anchor might be a required item of safety equipment. What if the engine fails and the boat is being blown onto a rocky shore, a marina, or toward a dam on a water reservoir? What if the boat is being used in a river, the engine has failed, and the current is strong? The times when an anchor is necessary are too numerous to mention.
Further, there is no boating pleasure quite so fine as anchoring in a cove for lunch or anchoring for sundown cocktails with family and friends. It cannot be done without an anchor.
We recommend that the forward, portside seat locker be used as the dedicated anchor locker. Be careful to keep the rode coiled properly and not tangled with the anchor. Most pontoon boats have small cleats for mooring lines on the two corners of the bow, and they will have to do, as we almost never see a proper anchor cleat on the bow centerline. We would like to see a stout pull-up cleat for this purpose. Alternatively, a bridle using the port and starboard cleats will probably work best.
7. Reboarding Ladder
The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) guidelines call for a re-boarding ladder on all boats to extend 22” (0.56 m) below the waterline. So that is the minimum requirement. Additionally, we’ve seen ladders made from sturdier material and larger stanchions with heavier-duty grabrails. Not everyone is an agile 150-lb. (68 kg) teenager and having a heavy-duty ladder makes it easier for a larger number of people to use it.
There is a great difference in the ladder and re-boarding apparatus from one boat builder to the next. Check them out before buying.
This is a good example of the heavy-duty re-boarding ladders that more pontoon manufacturers are using. Notice the thick handrails that will be easy to grab and will support a large person.
8. Two Pontoons or Three?
Recreational Pontoon boats had just two pontoons in the beginning, but 20 years or so ago builders started introducing tri-toons. Tri-toons cost more but they have many advantages when it comes to load capacity and speed.
Twin-pontoon boats rarely can plane and generally are design for slower displacement speeds. They are fine for cruising around the lake at sedate speeds and to provide a stable platform for swimming and entertaining. Putting large engines on a twin-toon boat will make it go marginally faster, but generally, it will not provide satisfactory performance for tow sports.
Tri-toons, if properly powered and propped, can go as fast as most sport boats and can get on plane fast. These boats make good platforms for tow ports, but don’t expect them to make big wakes for wakeboarding. However, they are fine for water skiing and tubing.
This Sun Tracker tri-toon has multiple chambers. Note that the diameter of the toons is 26” and the center toon has a flat “pad” on the aft section of the center toon. This will aid in planing and provides an ideal well for the outboard.
9. Match Outboard Engines to the Task
Twin-toon boats require little power, depending on the load and the speed required. Outboard engines of 50- or 60-hp can generally push an 18’ to 20’ (5.4-6.0 m)twin toon at 15 or 16 mph. That is about as fast as they will go and putting a larger engine on and winding it up will make the boat go a little faster, but it will do little more.
For those who want to go fast or tow skiers and tubers, we recommend a tri-toon with a 150-hp outboard or larger. Larger tri-toons can easily handle 300-hp engines and some models now handle two large outboards, and we have even tested a 32’ (9.75 m) tri-toon with three large outboard engines.
High Torque Matters. . All pontoon boats are hard to get moving fast and this fact places a premium on outboard engines that have high torque in the low RPM ranges. Owners who want to engage in tow sports would do well to consider 2-stroke engines or those with superchargers. Both are well-known for creating greater torque at the low end. That, together with four-blade props will probably provide the best performance for nearly any pontoon boat application.
This 2-stroke Evinrude E-TEC G2 250-hp outboard engine pushed the 25’ tri-toon pictured here at over 46 mph. It went 0 to 30 mph in six seconds.
10. Pontoon Tube Size Matters
Pontoon boats obviously get their buoyancy from the pontoons, and the greater their diameter generally the more satisfying the experience. 23” (0.58 m)pontoons are about the smallest diameter we see and they are generally on smaller boats, those under 20’ (6.0 m). More typically we see 24”-25” (0.6-0.63 m) pontoons on both twin-toon and tri-toon vessels. Occasionally, on some of the more expensive boats, we will see 26” (0.66 m) toons.
In some tri-toon models the center toon is of a greater diameter. This aids in turning with a slight inward lean, as well as giving the boat the buoyancy it needs to go fast.
The greater the size of the diameter of the pontoon the more stable the boat will be and the faster it will go. All pontoons should have three or four air-tight chambers. This not only gives the tubes more integrity but also provides a measure of safety should a chamber be punctured.
This Sun Tracker has a 24” pontoon diameter. Note how it rides with four adults and one child aboard.
11. Bimini Tops Are a “Must Have”
Virtually all pontoon boats have a Bimini top available either as standard or as an option. They are important to the guests’ comfort and we recommend getting the biggest one available. Look for one that is easy to deploy. Some boats even have power Bimini tops. Make sure to operate the Bimini prior to purchase as some can be aggravating to set and put in their boot when it is time to call it a day.
All boats should have canvas to protect the upholstery from UV degradation to say nothing of the soot and grit that might be in the air. Those living near highways will be familiar with the light rain of tire rubber and unburned diesel carbon that settles on everything. While a playpen-style full cover might seem like a good idea (they are certainly the cheapest), individual seat covers are much easier to deal with. Unless a boat is stored in an area where the deck can get covered in leaves or pine needles, go with seat covers.
This Bimini top provides some protection but consider the optional Bimini extensions that some builders offer.
Individual seat covers are easy to handle and stow.
12. Comfort Amenities Are Important
Boaters should think about family and guests and ask themselves how they can get the most enjoyment out of the boat they plan to buy. Heading our list of welcome amenities is the changing curtain so that guests can wiggle out of wet bathing suits and get into dry cloths. Most builders make these available as an option, if not standard. Also, a Porta-Potti can be fitted in some of them, but not all.
Other convenience items worth mentioning are portable cup holders that sit on the seats and pedestal tables. Generally, the pedestal tables are small and are limited to drinks and snacks. Those wanting to serve dinner al fresco will need to find a boat with a proper table and a grill.
These days builders of pontoon boats are providing more and more amenities. Sinks, running water, refrigerators, gas grills, and more are available in the premium-level pontoon boats.
These cup holders can be moved anywhere on the boat and are quite handy.
A table adds to any boat’s versatility. On most pontoons, there are receptacles fore and aft for a table.
Coveted for the privacy it provides, a pop-up changing curtain is often a welcome feature on a pontoon boat. Some are large enough for a Porta-Potti.
For All Your Accessories and/or Vinyl Flooring Visit Pontoon-Depot's Shop Site.
- Amy Cabanas
- Tags: Boating Boating Safety DIY Entertainment Family pontoon boat Pontoon Boat Operating safe boating habits Swimming tips
Search For Kelsey Starling Continues Since Boat Wreck on The 4th of July
WINSTON COUNTY, Ala. – A Decatur man was arrested Friday in connection with a boating accident on Smith Lake.
Our news partners at AL.com report William Jackson Fite, 23, was booked into the Winston County Jail. He faces a charge of boating under the influence.
Kelsey Nicole Starling, 26, was reported missing when the crash happened around 10 p.m. Thursday.
Her little sister, Meghan Starling says her family is hopeful that they'll find her.
"We're just really thankful for the people who are helping find her, that they're still looking and that they say they won't stop because we really want Kelsey back," said Starling.
Authorities stated she was still missing after their search concluded Sunday night but the search is still ongoing.
Please remember to always boat responsibly.
- Pontoon-Depot Team
For All Your Accessories and/or Vinyl Flooring Visit Pontoon-Depot's Shop Site.
- Amy Cabanas
- Tags: Boating Boating Safety pontoon boat tips
10 Best Cities to Watch Fourth of July Fireworks by Boat
By: Discover Boating
When it comes to fireworks, Independence Day celebrations are hard to beat. As great as they are on land, though, they’re even better from the water. Here are 10 of the best boat-friendly places for watching fireworks this Fourth of July.
The pyrotechnics show off Navy Pier lights up Lake Michigan. If you’re close enough to shore, you might hear the music to which the spectacle is synchronized. Navy Pier hosts fireworks shows every Wednesday and Saturday night this summer, too.
Grab the kids and spend the day at the Kemah Boardwalk before returning to your boat at the adjacent Kemah Marina to watch the fireworks. The show, over Galveston Bay, starts at 9:30 p.m. Like Chicago’s Navy Pier, the Boardwalk hosts fireworks every Friday through July.
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada Border
The Lights on the Lake literally lights up the southern waters of Lake Tahoe. Between the highly touted display and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s no wonder the show is considered among the country’s best.
Marina del Rey, Califorina
This 20-minute spectacle attracts onlookers from miles around. Start time is 9 p.m. Check the Visit Marina del Rey website for tips on when to arrive, as well as options for kayak and paddleboard rentals if you decide to spend the day.
South Floridians have lots of options when it comes to boat-friendly places for watching fireworks. The Fire on the Fourth Festival, over the Atlantic Ocean in North Miami Beach, is popular. You can also raft up with fellow boaters at Miami Marine Stadium.
New York, New York
The largest display in all of the USA is the annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. Because the show encompasses the Brooklyn Bridge as well as four barges along the East River, there are lots of good vantage points.
Rockaway Beach, Oregon
USA Today names Rockaway Beach’s celebration one of the nation’s best. The city, in northern Oregon, sends up the fireworks after a day marked by a big parade, wiener dog races, beach treasure hunts, and more.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Seafair Festival, so you know the fireworks over Lake Union will be extra special. They start at 10:15 p.m., visible from both the Gas Works Park and Lake Union Park areas.
Tampa’s new mayor has big plans for the first city-run Boom by the Bay celebration, encompassing four different fireworks displays over 2.5 miles along the water. Since the event was just announced this month, keep tabs on the official Facebook page.
This year the iconic show, which promises to be bigger and longer, too, takes place from West Potomac Park, rather than the Washington Monument. That’s great news for boaters. You’ll be in good company on the Potomac River, since several sightseeing boats organize trips, too.
Regardless of where you go, be mindful of possible Coast Guard waterway restrictions, and remember to follow these simple safe boating tips. Have a happy and safe 4th!
For All Your Accessories and/or Vinyl Flooring Visit Pontoon-Depot's Shop Site.
- Amy Cabanas
- Tags: Boating Boating Safety Entertainment Family pontoon boat tips
Pros & Cons Of Pontoon Boats – Why Other Boats Don’t Come Close.
Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite subjects, the pros, and cons of pontoon boats.
Boating was definitely something that I did not grow up doing. In fact, I grew up in a town that had no lakes or rivers that were big enough for a dingo.
Well, I guess you could use a dingo but you would be doing it at your own risk. River Bosnia, as you guessed it, in Bosnia, was not very friendly for swimmers, let alone boaters. It is filled with underwater plates that create whirlpools and take lives annually.
But my passion for boats, I believe, comes from my genes and ancestors that lived on Croatian coastline and the islands. Also, the fact that I spend every other summer of my life there. Also, the honeymoon.
By the way, if you have not visited Croatia you don’t know what you are missing, the country is amazing. Living there for a few years made me love it even more.
When we moved to the states a couple of decades ago, we came to Boston. And as you may know, Boston has plenty of water.
There are rivers, like Mystic and Charles, countless lakes, and of course the ocean. I know you are not supposed to touch Charles River for its pollution but boating is safe. Right?!
When I started looking at boats I always thought about Croatian coastline and its beauty. Deep blue sea, rocky beaches, and crystal-clear water. I imagined having a small yacht that I could use to take my family out for some island hopping. Enjoy the sunset while sipping a homemade wine and authentic seafood.
But then I woke up and I realize there are no such things here.
The Atlantic Ocean is not The Adriatic Sea. There are no rocky beaches, crystal-clear water or islands that you could go visit. Well, there are a few but there is nothing exciting about it, nothing that I would want to go see and enjoy.
What you can find here are large waves and the smell of rotten algae during the low tide.
At that point, I decided that the ocean sailing is not something that we would enjoy.
Yet, I did not want to give up on my dream of owning a boat. And I knew how awesome that would be for our daughter and the memories we could create.
So, I kept on researching my options.
Massachusetts has a lot of lakes, and so does New Hampshire, which is only an hour away. So, I figured, why not explore that option.
I’ve talked to friends about their vacation spots and a lot of them mentioned Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Everyone said they loved it.
So, I decided to take my family there on vacation for the firsthand experience.
We loved it!!
There was so much we could do there. There are beaches everywhere and to my surprise, a lot of boats.
The First Encounter
There I saw, for the first time, a pontoon boat.
I must admit I was not overly excited about it. I had this idea in my head that boat should be V-shaped and I was sticking to it. I am not buying that thing on those 2-round things. No Way.
However, it looked very comfortable.
So that night, thanks to Google, I found out what that thing was. It was a pontoon boat.
I have never heard of one before but looking at some pictures it piqued my interest. And the more I was looking at it the more I liked it. And the most important part is, my wife thought it was great. She loved it.
Every year Boston hosts many different shows in its Convention Center. Among others, there is a boat show. We usually only see the car show and sometimes the RV show, but this year we decided to check out the boat show. We have decided to buy a boat after all.
I must tell you if I knew the boat show was this great I would have spent my money on this rather than cars. It was amazing. The selection is insane and you can find just about anything that you are interested in.
Walking around we stumbled upon pontoon boat. It was beautiful, shiny, almost glowing in well-lit convention hangar. I wanted to say something to my wife but she was already getting up there and talking to one of the hostesses. (Is that what you call them?)
Anyhow to make the story short, my wife loved it, I had no say in it, and we now own a pontoon boat. Isn’t that a story of us guys?
But here is the thing. I loved it too. I just pretended I was interested in something else while adding extra accessories to this boat. It works every time, you should try it with your significant other.
Here are some pros and cons of pontoon boats that I looked at when making the final decision.
Advantages Of Having A Pontoon Boat
There are so many pros of getting a pontoon boat that I don’t know where to start. I loved my boat from the first day I got it.
The most important advantage of the pontoon boat, for me, is that it is perfect for family and kids. It is safe, spacious, and you can do many things on the pontoon that you can’t do on a regular V-shaped boat. You could install a portable boat toilet or a nice pontoon enclosure to keep you warm and dry.
Great For Fishing And Skiing
I’m not a big fisherman but I like to cast a line from time to time and fishing from a pontoon boat is as good as it gets. Having so much space, and a chair, in the back of the boat makes that even more enjoyable. I don’t think you can get more comfortable than that.
If you get a strong enough engine it is great for watersports like skiing. Yes, you can actually do that with a pontoon boat.
Simple To Use And Maintain
So far I never had any problems maintaining my boat. I was listening to many stories about how it will be hard, but, with a little bit of patience, it is a smooth ride.
If you are boating at a lake or river you can expect that you will have dents and holes sooner or later. Pontoon boats reduce chances of those situations because they sit high in the water, not as deep as V-shaped boats, so damaging your boat is not very common. This also allows you to go into much shallower waters.
Also, the big plus is that fixing of a pontoon boat is cheaper in case it gets damaged.
One more thing that I consider as the big advantage of a pontoon boat is that they are very easy to clean. Now I don’t know how hard it is to clean V-shaped boats but I’ve heard some horror stories.
Pontoon Boat Last Longer
Longevity is one of the main reasons why I bought a pontoon boat. When we are talking about longevity, there is no better boat.
If you own a boat for many years or you bought used pontoon, you might have holes in furniture and carpets may be faded. It is very simple to replace those things in a pontoon boat. Imagine that you have to replace cushions on your ski boat. Good luck with that.
You don’t have to be very handy to renovate your boat. I usually do everything I know, and after that, I just take my boat to a mechanic where professionals finish the rest of the work. Many other boats have problems with getting on and off the boat on a beach. That problem is “v” shaped edge. With pontoon that is not a problem at all.
People who have ski boats are trying to replace it every few years with a new boat. Having a pontoon boat there is no need for that.
Pontoon Boat Is Really Comfortable
Comfort is one more important reason why I choose the pontoon boat. It is spacious and very comfortable. One person can lie down and take the whole couch, while there is enough room for 7 more people. The comfort of the pontoon boat is unbeatable.
It is so comfortable that sometimes we have a problem leaving the boat for the whole day.
Opportunities are endless on a pontoon boat. You can swim the whole day with your friends, changeup in a little handmade cabin. After that, you can make a barbecue right on the boat. A pontoon boat can really make you feel like a millionaire, without spending a lot of money on a boat.
They are also very comfortable during the ride. If there are no strong winds, the ride will be very smooth.
Pontoon Boat Is Very Safe
Especially for people who have kids, this is a very important segment. Pontoon boats are much safer than others because there are less “don’t go there” parts on the boat. Fence with high rails on a boat reduces chances of falling over into the water.
The weight of pontoon boats makes them extra safe. They are easy to drive, and chances of pontoon boat flipping are not very high.
Since the turning radius is not very tight, and the speed of the pontoon boat is around 30mph you can make full speed turns with ease. You can look this up in US Coast Guard statistics. It shows how pontoon boats are much safer than regular boats.
Perfect For Storage
In case you are a new to the boating world you won’t make a big deal out of this. But if you are more experienced with boats you will know how important this is.
If you have many guests on your boat and everyone brings something like blankets, food, cooler, clothes, on the ordinary boat you wouldn’t have enough space. A good thing about the pontoon boat is that you will have plenty of free space for everyone. That is a great thing, especially if you are staying outside for more than just a day.
Disadvantages Of Having A Pontoon Boat
There are not many disadvantages to pontoon boats in my opinion. Below I have described my biggest issues. If you are first time buyer you have to be unbiased and you got to know what you are looking for.
So here we go.
I’ve seen some fast pontoon boats, but those are very rare and hard to find. They are also very expensive.
Pontoon boats are great for water sports, but if you want to impress someone with speed, you will not. My boat has a top speed of about 30mph I believe. Typical speed of pontoon boats is around 28-35 mph. As you may notice, they are not speeding devils.
Some of the newest models of pontoon boats have larger engines with three tubes which improves speed.
Pontoon Boat On A Rough Water
The pontoon boat is very safe when the waves are small but when the waves get bigger, watch out. During the storm or heavy rain, pontoon boats are more dangerous than ordinary “V” boats.
Large waves cause problems because pontoon boats are diving into the wave, and not go over them. That can cause capsizing but on very extreme occasions.
The best thing to do during the storm is to get out of the water.
For me personally, the wake on my boat wasn’t something I was thinking about when I bought it. But, I understand that for some people this is important.
The wake behind pontoons outboard is very similar to ordinary ski boat, but the difference is that pontoons have wake on both side. Which means that pontoon boats wake is much wider than normal boats.
Handling Might Be Challenging
Handling may be tougher than traditional boats. Pontoon is wider and heavier than your typical “V” boat.
My boat turning radius is approximately 25′.
Outboard Engine Noise
If you are buying a pontoon boat for the first time, try to avoid outboard engines. They can be very loud, much louder than inboard engines definitely.
The newer models of outboard engines are improved in that aspect so if you are buying an outboard engine, make sure that you are buying a new model.
So there you are. Those are my thought on the pros and cons of pontoon boats. If you agree or disagree with my views make sure to let me know by commenting below. I promise I will take your critique with a smile 🙂
If you want to know how Pontoon stacks against Deck Boat make sure you read Pontoon vs. Deck Boat Comparison.
For All Your Accessories and/or Vinyl Flooring Visit Pontoon-Depot's Shop Site.