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For Centuries Pontoons Have Been Around | Pontoon-Depot

For Centuries Pontoons Have Been Around | Pontoon-Depot

The pontoon experience stretches from ancient times to the modern age of powerboats and encompasses aspects such as utility, travel, and recreation. The modern pontoon boat is the product of centuries of experimentation and innovation.

Although they were not used as boats, ancient peoples used pontoons for various transportation needs. The ancient Greek poet Homer mentions the use of pontoons in his writings that date back to 800 BC and describes how the Greeks used them to create bridges for marching armies. King Wen of Zhou, the ancient ruler of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, used a pontoon bridge in the 11 th century BC and the Chinese used pontoon bridges extensively in other military engagements. In 482 BC, the Persian King Xerxes needed to transport an army numbering 400,000 across the strait of Dardanelles and his engineers obliged by constructing a pontoon bridge over a mile long. Famously, Cyrus the Great used animal skin-covered pontoons in 536 BC to get his Persian forces to pivotal historical battles.

These ancient uses of pontoons set precedence for the military use of pontoons as temporary bridges. The U.S. Army has used pontoons for bridges starting as early as 1846 when U.S. engineers experimented with rubberized pontoons for flotation. The Union General F.P. Blair used a rubberized pontoon bridge in the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863. In 1941, the U.S. Army started using collapsible pontoons with rubber fabric and the U.S. Navy started using pontoons for ship-to-shore transportation. In fact, military leaders on every side of the conflicts in both World Wars used pontoon bridges to transport their forces.

The use of pontoons for bridges has found civilian applications as well. Permanent bridges have been built across America that use pontoons for flotation. Several pontoon bridges currently span the Mississippi River. Pontoon bridges are especially suited to locations where a river is narrow and it is difficult to sink a pier. Also, much like pontoon boats, pontoon bridges are often utilized in shallow waters.

Ancient Polynesians were the forerunners of the design of the pontoon boat. Through trial and error, this ancient people found that two logs tied together reduce the possibility of capsizing and discovered that hollowing out the logs greatly added to the buoyancy of the pontoon boat. These discoveries led to a phenomenal sailing culture and to this day, the Polynesians are regarded as some of the most accomplished mariners in history. Their multihull designs inspired many pontoon boat designs still popular today, such as the catamaran.

This excerpt was taken from a longer article on -

Pontoon Boats A History - Minnesota Invention and Innovation

Pontoon Boats A History - Minnesota Invention and Innovation

Minnesota invention

Luxury was far from Ambrose Weeres’ mind when he invented the pontoon boat in Richmond, Minn., in 1951. He simply theorized that a wooden platform set atop two columns of steel barrels, welded together end to end, would make a sturdy pleasure craft more stable than a conventional fishing boat. He tested his first boat on Horseshoe Lake in Stearns County. His theory proved correct. He formed Weeres Industries the following year to test another hypothesis: That Minnesota, with its 10,000 lakes, would have some sales potential.

Sure enough, Weeres took 40 orders in 1952 for his Empress boat. He took another 100 shortly after displaying his pioneering craft at a show in Chicago. In the years to come, tens of thousands of Weeres pontoons would be made in Minnesota and sold throughout the nation.

Minnesota innovation

Though Weeres invented the pontoon, Minnesota’s Bob Menne fast-tracked its evolution. A former professional snowmobile racer and Forester Boat executive, Menne launched Premier Pontoons in 1992 in Wyoming, Minn. His vision focused on a faster and more alluring pontoon.

“Dad offered colored carpets, high-quality furniture, creative seating configurations, larger outboard engines, high performance packages and boats that arrived at dealerships fully assembled,” said Lori Melbostad, Menne’s daughter and president of Premier Pontoons. “Those innovations and others led to strong sales immediately, and we’ve never looked back.”

So when did pontoon boats become cool?

Lori Melbostad, Menne’s daughter and president of Premier Pontoons surmises the shift in perception began in the 1980s. “Our family grew up on a Minnesota lake,” she said. “We always had boats. One day my dad watched as my brothers argued over who got to use the pontoon. That’s when dad knew he was onto something if he entered the pontoon business.”

Among Minnesota’s pontoon boat owners are Corey and Shana Krantz of East Gull Lake, who routinely ply Gull Lake in their Bennington pontoon. Parents of four children ages 15 and under, they say the pontoon is a perfect fit for them.

“We call our pontoon the floating fun vessel,” said Shana. “We use it for family days on the lake, dining and tubing. It’s the perfect niche boat for friends and family.”
This excerpt was taken from the article -

A Minnesota invention, the pontoon boat is redefining modern boating -By C.B. Bylander