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’ long and it is rated for nine people. Step up 2’ 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 an owner know how many people he’s going to be carrying, he needs to know what his 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 wheel chair? Pontoon boats are idea 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 floorplan 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 visibility.
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” 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 12” in the minimum fore and aft for this purpose.
A small platform on the bow makes it much easier to board a pontoon and to work with docklines. The deck seen here is 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 the 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 a necessity 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. How do you do that 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 tangles 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. Re-Boarding Ladder
The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) guidelines call for a re-boarding ladders on all boats to extend 22” 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-pound 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. 2 Pontoons or 3?
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 towing 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 towing ports, but don’t expect them to make big wakes for wake boarding. However, they are fine for waterskiing and tubing.
This Sun Tracker tri-toon has multi-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 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. Out board engines of 50 or 60-hp can generally push an 18’ to 20’ twin toon at 15 or 16 mph. That 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’ 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 towing sports would do well to consider 2-stroke engines or ones with superchargers. Both are well-known for creating greater torque at the low end. That, together with 4-blade props will probably provide the best performance for nearly any pontoon boat application.
This 2-stroke Evinrude E-TEC 250-hp outboard engine pushed the 25’ tri-toon pictured here at over 46 mph. It went 0- to 30 mph in 6 seconds.
10. Pontoon Tube Size Matters
Pontoon boats obviously get their buoyance from the pontoons, and the greater their diameter generally the more satisfying the experience. 23” pontoons are about the smallest diameter toons we see and they are generally on smaller tunes, those under 20’. More typically we see 24”-25” pontoons on both twin-toon and tri-toon vessels. Occasionally, on some of the more expensive boats we will see 26” toons.
In some tri-toon models the center toon is of a greater diameter. This aids in turning with a slight lean inward, 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 toons should have 3 or 4 air-tight chambers. This not only give 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 ones available. Look for one that is easy to deploy. Some boats even have power Bimini tops. Make sure you operate the Bimini before buying 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.
Individual seat covers are easy to handle and stow.
12. Comfort Amenities are Important
Consider your family and guests and ask yourself how they can et the most enjoyment out of the boat you 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 cub holders that sit on the seats and pedestal tables. Generally the pedestal tables are small and are limited to drings and snacks. Those wanting to serve dinner al fresco will need to find a boat with a proper table, and long with 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.
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-pottie.
For all your accessories and/or flooring options visit our site pages. PontoonDepot.com
- Amy Cabanas
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THE PONTOON LIFESTYLE | PONTOON DEPOT
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
- Amy Cabanas
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The Fun You Can Have on a Pontoon Boat...
By: My West Shore
There’s nothing like a pontoon boat for a fun day on the water!
A pontoon boat is one of the most versatile water crafts available to all kinds of water enthusiasts. It looks like a large platform with guardrails, canopy, seating, storage and, of course, a motor. In other words, a pontoon boat has space for people to mingle like in a living room. Except it’s on water. And it moves!
Ideas for fun on a pontoon boat
Think that pontoon boats are a retired person’s leisure craft? Think again! Pontoon boats are increasingly popular with people of all ages. Why? Because pontoon boats now come with more amenities and comfort. They’re suited for a variety of activities, making it easy to stay entertained and engaged on short and long excursions.
Here are some ideas to help make your pontoon boat adventure a success:
Make it a party
The average pontoon boat holds about a dozen people. So, the next time you’re ready to go out on the water, why not invite some friends and have fun on a pontoon boat?
Hosting a birthday, anniversary or engagement party on a pontoon boat is easy. Even the most basic models have ample storage for food and supplies, a sound system for music, plenty of seating, and even room to dance. You can string lights and other decorations — as long as they are secure and don’t interfere with the vehicle’s operation.
If you’re invited to a party on a pontoon boat and aren’t sure what to wear or bring, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s (NMMA) Discover Boating offers tips on marine manners.
Snorkel and swim
Pontoon boats are perfect for popping in and out of the water. The platform at the back makes it easy to jump in the water, even for kids. And the rails along the side are convenient for holding on to the outside of the boat, if necessary. Following open water swimming safety will help to keep the day fun.
If you’re in an area with lots of marine life, don’t miss out on seeing them “eye to eye”. Have snorkels and masks on hand for a little underwater sightseeing.
Of course, ensure the engine of your pontoon boat is off before allowing anyone to swim, snorkel, or go in the water for any reason.
Pontoon boat as games room
There will be times when friends and family can’t or won’t want to be in the water. Help them stay entertained and connected by taking along board games and other diversions. Try to avoid games with paper money and other pieces that can blow away.
Instead, take playing cards, trivia games and social games like Boggle, Cards Against Humanity and travel Scrabble for your guests to play when the mood strikes.
The platform at the back of a pontoon boat is a perfect place for avid and casual fishermen to cast a line and relax. The ample storage gives you space for gear, bait and ice chests to keep your catch until dinnertime.
Naturally, be sure all swimmers are out of the water before fishing from your pontoon boat.
Quiet family time
Yes, you can invite a lot of people on your pontoon boat. But you don’t have to. Sometimes it’s nice to have a quiet day or afternoon with only your partner or kids.
Being on a pontoon boat with only a few people gives you the best of both worlds. You can be together for activities but have enough room when people need a nap or a little space from each other.
Advantages of pontoon boats
Not sure if a pontoon boat is the right water vehicle for you? Consider these advantages:
Easy to use
Learning to drive a pontoon boat is easy. The steering wheel works like it does in your car: turn clockwise to go right and counter-clockwise to go left.
While contemporary pontoon boats can travel at a good clip, you always want to move at a slow speed when leaving the dock and navigating to open water. The same is true when you’re ready to return.
Most pontoon boats can move a fairly high speed but are not intended for rapid acceleration. But if you are going to push down on the gas, give your passengers fair warning so they can secure loose items, including themselves!
Pontoon boats are very stable but they aren’t exactly nimble. Avoid trying to make sharp turns. And, if you do, make sure gear and people are secure before making the turn.
Easy to maintain
Pontoon boats sit high on the water. This reduces the chances of denting or otherwise damaging the hull. The same is true if you need to transport it on a boat trailer. It’s good practice to raise up the outboard motor when loading the pontoon boat onto a trailer. But if you forget, it’s usually not a problem because of the high clearance.
If the hull does get damaged, it is generally faster and less expensive to repair compared to a traditional v-shaped boat hull.
After use, pontoon boats don’t need to be wiped down the way other gel-coated boats do. So, at the end of a fun day, you can take your pontoon boat out of the water and get on with land-based activities.
Great for outgoings with kids — including teenagers
The best feature of a pontoon boat might be its size. With couches, tables, the platform at the back, covered areas and uncovered areas, kids can play on their own yet stay supervised.
This is especially appreciated for kids who invite friends. They usually want some time away from the adults and room to be active. On smaller boats, everyone is always close together and required to stay seated most, if not all, of the time.
In other words, on pontoon boats, kids can be more active and independent. This makes the outgoing more fun for them — and the adults!
It’s more than the size of a pontoon boat that makes it comfortable. It’s also that it’s essentially a floating platform. Higher end pontoon boats may also have an upper deck but generally, they are one level.
Having lots of open space makes it easy to take in views in all directions, spread out, and be active. Also, the amenities on modern pontoon boats are designed for comfort. Seating is usually upholstered. Tabletops make eating and playing games as comfortable as if you were in your own home.
No matter your definition of comfort, lots of storage allows you to take along all the food, games, equipment and clothing you need to make your time on the pontoon boat enjoyable.
Pontoon boats are by far the safest of multi-person water craft. In 2014, there were one-tenth the number of personal injuries involving pontoon boats, compared to open motor boats.
The pontoons are what make this water craft stable. The safety of pontoon boats makes them a desirable option for anyone who enjoys being on the water.
The storage on pontoon boats is outstanding. Its open design allows for a range of storage options for equipment, food and other supplies. Plus, marine craft manufacturers are continually maximizing the use of space and making improvements to match consumers’ needs.
Things to keep in mind
There’s no doubt that it’s easy to have fun on a pontoon boat. To help keep the entire adventure safe and fun, also keep a couple of things in mind:
The size and shape of a pontoon boat gives it a wide turning radius. This means that tight turns are difficult or impossible.
When entering shallow areas or areas with many other vessels — especially speed boats and personal watercraft like jet skis — leave yourself enough space to maneuver safely and follow general boating etiquette.
As mentioned, pontoon boats are very stable. However, in very choppy water and during significant storms, they can be dangerous.
Because of its design, the front of a pontoon boat can easily enter a large wave instead of riding over it. It is also more difficult to navigate in rough water because of its size and structure.
So, if there’s a forecast for high winds or any kind of storm, the best way to have fun on your pontoon boat is to not take it out on the water that day!
The versatility, comfort, and safety of pontoon boats make it easy to have fun on the water. Whether you’re looking for the occasional excursion or a floating cottage to use every weekend, you can’t go wrong with a pontoon boat.
If you want to dig a bit deeper and find out some more information come down for a visit as we have a large selection in stock and on sale – pontoon boats in all shapes and sizes.
- Amy Cabanas
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Meticulous Maintenance | Pontoon-Depot
You love your pontoon boat. You take pride in maintaining it. You do so to protect your investment, keep your family and friends safe, and to look good out on the water!
Replacing shabby old flooring and seating is a no-brainer. These prominent pieces can be the difference between cruising in comfort and style or drifting in dishonor! Still, there’s a lot more to peak pontoon performance than these most obvious objects…
Sometimes the smallest, most inexpensive component can save the day - or ruin it. Perhaps you know this all too well from past personal experience.
As you prepare your vessel for the summer boating season, be sure to look over every square inch of it. Is anything broken, missing, unsafe, or just plain ugly?
Consider the following list of inexpensive, easy upgrades/replacement parts:
- Cleats - Look for broken or missing cleats.
- Fence Savers - Cheap, easy way to defend against damage!
- Fender Savers - Cheap, easy, and precautionary parts.
- Battery Box - Keep it clean and contained.
- Lights - Do you need replacement lights, better lights, or more lights?
- Fuel Tanks - Do you need a new, larger, or auxiliary tank?
- Fuel Line Kit - Is it time to replace or improve?
- Fuel Filter - Often overlooked… Is yours due to be replaced?
- Primer Bulb - Is yours cracked, leaking?
Don’t put to sea until your pontoon boat is pretty, polished, purring, and properly prepared!
If you need any of the above-mentioned items, navigate over to our safe, secure online shop: https://pontoon-depot.com/collections.
Pontoon-Depot is your simple, one stop shop for all of your pontoon boating needs!
- Donna Callihan
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