A Zip-Lock bag provides protection from the elements for an exposed fish-finder while this pontoon boat is docked between trips.
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…
WHAT IT IS
Pontoon boats have evolved beyond just a form of recreation and transportation. They have come to represent a lifestyle, one that provides relaxing days on the water, free of worry and stress.
The beauty of the pontoon lifestyle is that it can be lived anywhere. While that lifestyle may conjure up images of palm trees and the sounds of Jimmy Buffet playing on your boat’s surround sound, that slice of heaven is within the reach of every boater.
WHY IT WORKS
There is a certain sense of tranquility that comes with a trip out on the water in a pontoon boat. It can be any body of water and does not necessarily have to be an actual tropical paradise. The smooth ride will let passengers sit back, relax and enjoy the day. That kind of experience can make any body of water a welcomed sanctuary.
The setup of a pontoon boat allows guests to actually sit back and have a cocktail while enjoying some pleasant conversation. There is no need to speak over the buzzing hum of an engine and no need to worry about choppy seas. The stability of a pontoon boat can give all passengers their very own pair of sea legs.
There is always the option to throw a line in the water and catch an afternoon meal. Fishing can be done while you kick back and relax underneath the sun. Pontoon boats also offer plenty of shade, which allows passengers to stay cool on a hot summer day.
But cool is a constant theme when it comes to pontoon boats. Style combined with comfort makes for a truly unique boating experience.
There is even plenty of room on a pontoon boat to do some grilling. That kind of functionality provides everything that is needed for a day of leisure.
STARTING LIVING THE PONTOON LIFESTYLE TODAY
Boating has become a very popular pastime, but the image of speedboats and revving engines is not all that this recreational activity entails. There is a new image of boating, one that showcases a laid-back lifestyle where people can leave their troubles ashore. And at the heart of that lifestyle is a pontoon boat.
Recreational boating has changed and in a fast-paced world, the sea provides a leisurely getaway. And pontoon boats can be a vehicle that leads to that serenity. Boaters no longer have to travel to a place like Key West to enjoy that kind of atmosphere. It is right in front of them every time the set foot on a pontoon boat.
By: Pontoon Living
Generally speaking, pontoons can handle much better in choppy water than other recreational boats since they have at least two hulls, providing more stability to the boat than one hull could. If a pontoon (with two ‘toons) is more stable than a monohull, imagine how much better a tritoon’s third tube can make it!
Of course, while a pontoon boat itself is generally safe, a little common sense goes a long way on the water. Besides ignoring common sense, what can get you in trouble on a pontoon is not knowing how to handle the boat when the water gets rough.
CAN A PONTOON FLIP OVER?
Sure, it’s possible to flip your pontoon. It certainly has happened. But it’s highly unlikely if you’re being responsible. While forces of nature cannot be controlled, there are steps you can take as a boat owner and captain to make sure you reduce the chance of these types of accidents on the water.
Here are a couple factors to keep in mind:
Keep an even load on board. This applies to cargo loads, as well as loads of passengers. Consider how weight distribution can contribute to safety on choppy waters. Make sure your passengers know the importance of maintaining balance on board, especially in rough conditions. Keep in mind that any modifications you make to the boat can also affect its balance or center of gravity. For this reason, “Double decker” pontoon boats with a second level, while they offer additional options for fun on the water, are much more prone to tipping.
The bigger the boat, the more weight the elements have to contend with, and the larger the pontoons, the greater the boat’s stability. If your pontoon is on the smaller side, you’ll want to make sure conditions are safe before going out on the water.
KEEPING YOUR PONTOON STABLE IN ROUGH WATERS
To keep your pontoon safe in rough waters, the key of course is to keep the pontoons above the water and avoid the risk of burying the nosecones. If you’re cruising straight into big waves, and you slow down before hitting a trough, chances are you’re going to dip the pontoon’s nose below water and will take some of that water on board when it crashes over the bow. Depending on the force of the waves, this can cause damage to the pontoon’s playpen, which can cost a considerable amount to fix. Rather than slowing down when riding into the waves, trim up just before hitting the wave. This will help lift the boat’s bow more.
Adjust your course so you’re riding properly into the waves. When possible, rather than riding head-on into the waves, cruise so the waves are at a 30 to 45 degree angle from the center of the boat. Taking the waves at an angle will allow you to keep your bow high more consistently. At this angle, one of the tubes will also ride high, allowing the boat to glide into and out of the waves’ crests and troughs more smoothly. There is still potential to dip the corner of the boat, however.
It is possible to get a special handling package on your boat to handle the elements better. For instance, our Sports Handling Package (SHP) allows higher horsepower and includes power assisted steering, positive angle lifting strakes, and barracuda nosecones, all of which are better for handling rough waters. Underskinning can also help reduce drag from water splashing up beneath the boat.
WATCH THE WEATHER AND THE WATER
This is obvious, but you should always check weather and marine forecasts before going out on the boat. When you are on the water, keep an eye on the skies and look for any changes in the water. If conditions start to turn, it’s always better to prioritize safety over pushing for a little more time on the lake.
An evening cruise to watch the sunset or do a little stargazing can be an unforgettable experience. But navigating home can be challenging. Everything looks different in the dark, and it can be easy to lose your way or hit an obstacle you just can’t see.
To make it home safely, follow these guidelines:
Before you head out, find out what the nighttime speed limit is in your area. Once you’re underway, if you feel you need to go slower than the limit, that’s certainly OK. Going slower at night just makes sense. After all, you can’t easily see the landmarks you need to navigate, and underwater or floating debris can be next to invisible. Safety first!
If you don’t know what the combinations of red, green and white lights mean, you shouldn’t be driving a boat at night. These lights help you know if a boat is coming toward you, moving away, or crossing your course - and which direction it’s going. Access your state or US Coast Guard resources to learn more, but a good rule of thumb is that if you see a red light, stop. That boat has the right-of-way.
It’s easy for your pontoon to be a party on the water. And most of the time, that’s OK. But when you’re piloting your boat at night, it’s important you’re able to concentrate. So make sure any lights on the boat (NOT your navigation lights) are dimmed, look over the windshield so you can reduce glare, and turn down the stereo.
Your first trip on a waterway should never be at night. If you’re at a new place, go out during the day first and take a compass with you. Make note of the direction you travel. Or, go high-tech and use a GPS system to drop a pin at your dock or boat launch. That will make it much easier to find your way back after dark, when everything looks the same.
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy fun on the water any time of day.