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By: Brad Roberts

 1. Bennington 22SSRXP

Bennington pontoon boats are available in hundreds of floor plans with thousands of configurations, so as a buyer you can choose the layout that best fits your family.

The Bennington 22SSRXP comes from their most popular line and offers incredible seating space for a dozen in two forward facing radius benches in the bow, and two more facing aft at the stern (great for water sports with the optional Turbo Swing ski tow bar). Either location will accommodate the usable-sized and shaped rectangular table –you can actually do dinner on the boat.

One of the things I like about this layout is that it provides for a captains’ chair for the co-pilot. If you want to out for a cruise alone with your sweetheart you want them sitting beside you!

The Bennington 22SS comes standard with 25” tubes and a 115hp rating, upgrading to the Premium Performance Package or the 32” Elliptical tubes raises that to 150hp. Centre gates fore and aft, along with a port side gate, provide easy access.

Having had the pleasure of being at the helm of many Bennington models over the years, what sets them apart is their attention to quality, and the performance foils on the tubes really get them up and onto plane quickly.

2. Escape-Larson 21 TTT

Escape pontoon boats always have excellent styling – that extra flair which really turns heads. The 21 TTT is no exception, laid out in a fairly standard way, but with the details and build quality to set it apart.

Starting up forward, there are two curved benches with a
recliner on the port side. An optional teak table can mount between the benches, creating a nice space for entertaining.

At midships, the helm station with Captain’s chair sits to starboard, while a very well cushioned swivel chair complete with cup holder sits to port.

At the stern of the boat, you will find a corner bench on the port side, and a love-seat on the starboard side facing to port. All of these benches have hand-contoured upholstery for exceptional comfort.

There are gates at the forward and aft ends of the boat, and the swim ladder is on the stern to starboard. If you are looking for something different, there are a total of four different layout options, each with different uses in mind.

For those curious about what TTT stands for, it is Tapered Tube Technology, Escape-Larson’s proprietary pontoon design that creates a very stable and streamlined hull shape, which translates into a smoother and faster ride, all while reducing your fuel costs.

3. Harris 180 Cruiser

It’s easy to catch a case of two-footitis, even in the pontoon world, but Harris may have the cure. Their Cruiser line of luxury pontoon boats is versatile and the 180 is a great example.

You’ve got four unique floor plans to choose from on the 180. Two for entertaining, one for fishing, and one for enjoying both activities at the same time. Regardless of your choice, you’ll have plenty of room for family and friends.

The 180 is rated for a 60 horsepower outboard when equipped with the sports package. Harris loaded the boat with standard features and then added an extensive options list. You can design the perfect pontoon.

The fisherman in me wants to pick the Fish & Cruise layout, then check all the boxes for the tackle station, upgraded fishing seats and aerated live well, but that means no stereo upgrade. It’s not available with the livewell.

If you all about entertaining, the Polk stereo and lighted speakers are a great choice. You might also want to opt for the pillow-top furniture for ultimate comfort. Regardless if you fish or cruise, Harris has packed a ton of features into the 180 and possibly found a cure for pontoon two-footitis.

4. Lowe SS 210

Lowe’s Sport SS series sits at the heart of the company’s pontoon lineup. The SS210 offers many of the features found on the higher level boats, but at a lower price point. The highlight of this model is its no-nonsense design.

Seating areas are functional and comfortable. The forward section features a chaise lounge on the starboard side. The port side settee is slightly shorter to make room for the side entry gate. The rear space has an L-shaped configuration beginning at the companion’s position and wrapping around the aft of the playpen, ending at the walkthrough to the swim platform.

Ahead of the walkthrough is the fiberglass-reinforced helm station. The captain will enjoy the supportive bucket seat with folding armrests. There’s a large aft sunpad with plenty of storage beneath.

The swim platform features a wide aluminum ladder and doesn’t feel cramped as the outboard is mounted quite far back. Lowe has 45 years of experience designing and building aluminum boats.

The SS210 might not have any standout features, but if you’re in the market for a well-built, do-it-all pontoon boat from a quality manufacturer, this might be your next boat.

5. Manitou 23 Oasis SR VP

Manitou’sP Oasis line offers four very different floor plans in lengths from 20 to 26 feet. The very versatile and sporty platform of the 23 Oasis SR VP is my favourite. Starting at the bow there are some classic wrap-around seating areas, ideal for when you’re sitting down to a meal or entertaining larger groups onboard.

Next, at midships, you have the Captain’s chair to starboard and another nice long bench on the port side. Once you get to the stern, you see the Split Rear, or SR. There are two large convertible seating areas, one to either side with a walkway down the centreline. This feature opens up the aft end in a whole new way. It provides excellent access to the stern with its swim platform and ladder. The unique rear seats can be upright to provide seating for four in a great conversation-style settup, or they can be reclined to create two loungers.

The VP model has the additional upgraded pontoon logs, providing a more stable platform that is able to mount up to 150 horsepower on the stern.

6. Four Winns HD 240 OB

You’re going to have a hard time finding a better-looking deck boat than the Four Winns HD series. Deck boats often make design compromises to find a balance between bowrider performance and pontoon capacity. Four Winns has figured out how to do both, without compromise and packed this boat with features to keep the entire crew entertained.

Fore and aft swim platforms bookend an interior design meant for fun. The spacious bow seating has a pair of loungers with an icebox hidden under the center cushion. The passenger-side console hides a head compartment with a porta-potty and vanity. The helm features standard gauges and a Bluetooth-capable stereo system. The highlight of the helm is the deluxe 3-spoke tilt steering wheel, wrapped in soft-grip material.

7. Hurricane SunDeck 187 OB

Hurricane originated the deck boat back in 1974. They continue to be the number one deck boat builder in the world, so it’s no surprise that the SunDeck 187 OB is a solid and well-rounded boat.

The broad beam is constant over the entire length. The bow seating area is spacious with full wraparound seating. There’s a wide swim platform up front with a foldaway ladder. I appreciate a design that keeps the swimming and playing away from the drive system. It also makes beaching the boat a much easier process.

There’s a seat base for a pedestal seat that will convert the swim platform into a great spot to fish. Hurricane skipped the dedicated companion seat and went with an L-shaped seating area that starts at the port-side console and continues around the aft of the cockpit. The captain gets a bucket seat and functional helm layout with fog-resistant gauges. The aft swim platform is split into two smaller areas due to the outboard. The starboard has a swim ladder, but except for water sports, you’ll want to stick to the bow platform for swimming.

If watersports are your thing, the optional wakeboard tower and upgraded stereo system should be on your list.

Functional seating wraps around the rest of the cockpit, save for a narrow walkway to the aft swim platform. The platform is spacious, considering the allowances made for the outboard engine. Any compromises here are offset by my favourite feature, the double-wide, rear-facing seat.

I’m inclined to check the boxes for the vacuflush head, bimini top, and upgraded stereo system, but even in standard trim, this is a fine example of what a deck boat should be.

8. Princecraft Ventura 224

Princecraft has a new model of deck boat with their Ventura 224. Well suited for a range of uses on the water, this design has a large and flat deck, with a full bow that makes for a lot of room for a boat this size.

The layout is traditional, a Captains chair at midships to starboard, with benches either side up forward, and an ‘L’ bench just behind the Captains chair to port. A table option is available to make the ‘L’ into a dining area. The after bench folds down into a chaise lounge that spans the width of the boat, the boarding ladder is on the stern, on the starboard side.

If you plan on using this boat for fishing, it comes stocked with plenty of features designed to help reel in some big ones. There are swivel seats at each of the corners for an unobstructed cast, and plenty of room to net any that come aboard.

In the deck you will find a lockable rod rack, an aerated live well and a large icebox. Trolling motor and fish-finder options are available as well to up your fishing game.

9. StarCraft 221 I/O

Floating at the dock, the StarCraft 221 I/O might seem like another deck boat with a watersports twist.

It wouldn’t be until you peeked under the deck, or under the water, that you realize this is a whole lot more than a sporty deck boat. This is a serious wakesurfing machine.

Let’s start under the water. StarCraft outfitted this Crossover Surf model with Volvo’s Forward Drive. A new standard in tow boat propulsion, the Forward Drive moves the propellers under the boat, away from the surfer. The design also vents exhaust below the surface, keeping the fumes out of the surfer’s face.

Under the deck, StarCraft further refined this boats wake-sculpting abilities by installing three inflatable ballast tanks. There are also surf tabs to help shape the perfect wave. The tanks and tabs can be controlled from a touch panel on the helm.

On board the boat, the customary deck boat spaciousness is easily noticed, especially with the single console design. Passenger seating begins forward of the helm and then wraps around the entire boat and across the stern. There’s plenty of seating to get everyone out on the water, but the best place to enjoy this boat will be on a wakesurf board.

10. Montego Bay Cruise 8522

Montego Bay pontoons are proudly built in the town of Gillett Wisconsin, right alongside Mirrocraft Boats. The company offers three lines of pontoons: sport tri-toons, cruise and fishing. The standard and deluxe cruise lines come in lengths from 16 to 22 and 16 to 24 feet respectively.

The 8522 features a three-gate layout (stern, port and bow), twin-facing sofas forward, a captain’s chair and an l-shaped sofa aft set right against the stern sidewall for maximum floor and seating space. The compromise for the increased space is a lack of any rear sunpad.

With space for up to 12 guests and a maximum horsepower rating of 115, this is a family–sized ‘toon. All models are 8.5 feet wide regardless of which floorplan you may choose to customize, and all come with 25” tubes and fully-welded all aluminum transoms.

There are a myriad of options to choose from including six carpet and flooring options, and four colour choices. The 8522 features a very usable sized aft deck, complete with optional ski-tow bar (on all but the 16 foot models) and the option to choose your fuel tank size, including removable above deck tanks.

11. Princecraft Sportfisher 21-2S

The Sportfisher 21-2S from Princecraft is a classic pontoon boat.

Rated for an 115HP engine, it is sure to provide countless hours of comfort and fun for your guests. There are plenty of seats onboard, including the benches along each side, an aft facing recliner at the stern, and two swivel chairs on the foredeck. The Captain’s chair lies to starboard, while there are access gates through the rails forward, to port and aft of the Captain’s chair.

A ladder comes standard for the spacious stern which makes for a great swim platform. There are options available to tailor the boat exactly to your wants on the water.

For those into fishing some excellent options include a range of trolling motors, fish-finder sonar, an aerated live well and rod storage. Tow sports and swimming options include a stainless steel tow bar and a privacy enclosure for getting changed out of the wet gear.

If you’re looking to extend the time spent away there are half and full camper options are available, as well as a portable head. This is a simple and truly versatile platform for fun on the water.

12. Starcraft SL3

Starcraft Marine has a sporty, performance driven pontoon with their SLS3. Coming in at just under 24 feet in length, this platform can mount up to 250 horsepower, giving plenty of speed and power.

The floorplan is laid out in an innovative symmetrical pattern, both fore to aft and side to side. This results in a ring of benches surrounding the central point of the boat. The centre area has the Captain’s chair on starboard and another high-backed swivel companion chair to port. There is a removable table, which can be mounted at either the forward or aft end.

At each end of the boat there are open decks, each accessed by gates. The standard supplied boarding ladder is mounted on the starboard stern deck, which can be extended further if you need a little extra space for gearing up or storage.

The ski pylon comes standard, though if you are serious about your tow sports there is a Wake Tower Package available, which comes with all the bells and whistles to make your SLS3 the ultimate wake boarding platform.

13. Sunchaser 8522 Lounger DH Sport

The Lounger DH Sport is laid out to maximize the comfort of you and your guests, while still keeping a great aesthetic appearance from the outside. In the overall layout, there is a stern deck with a boarding ladder to starboard, and then the rest of the deck space is taken up with the fenced in seating area with gates at the bow and stern.

The chaise lounge benches wrap around the outside in total symmetry, making four great lounging spots that allow for reclining or upright seating. In the middle section there is the Captain’s chair to starboard, with a well-appointed helm station that has all the bells and whistles needed.

To port of the Captain’s chair there is another high backed swivel chair, and both of these have plenty of height and legroom. The 8522 lounger does not come specialised for any one specific interest, but there are packages available if you want to tailor the boat to your wants.

The Big Water edition is meant for those on larger lakes, there is the Salt Water edition for the coasts, and quite a few Performance packages to increase the speed and power up to a single 150hp outboard.

14. Stingray 192 SC

Stingray Boats is one of the few remaining truly independent boat builders, and as such their boat designs respond to the buyers needs and desires not those of the distantly removed corporate shareholders. And it shows! Their 192 SC deck boat is built on Stingray’s famous Z-plane hull that offers up to better fuel economy and a higher top speed compared to competitive models with the same power.

The hull design carries its’ 100” beam far forward almost to the bow for maximum deck space. Seating space is plentiful with two forward lounges set behind the large foredeck complete with a reboarding ladder under a hatch cover. My daughters would use this area to suntan very comfortably. The side console helm features a swivel chair behind a small windscreen and a well laid out dash including 2 cup holders.

To port, an l-shaped sofa brings the seating capacity up to 10 people. You’ll find ample storage under all the seat bases, and a large in-floor space for boards and skis. At the stern, four cupholders and two storage compartments flank the centre mounted ski tow bar, and there is a second reboarding ladder to starboard.

15. Sylvan 8520 Mirage LZ

The Mirage Cruise might sit at the lower end of Sylvan’s pontoon boat lineup, but this 8520 Cruise LZ is anything but entry-level. The 8520 stretches two inches short of 21’ and has a full 102” beam.

The fore and aft seating area feature U-shaped lounges. The gate openings which divide the seating areas are 30” wide for easy access. The captain and companion will enjoy the high-back swivel seats with padded armrests.

The fiberglass helm console features standard gauges and a windscreen. It also houses an AM/FM Bluetooth stereo. Several different lighting options are available to brighten things up.

I’ve recently discovered under-deck lighting and would include them as a must-have upgrade. The underwater lighting would also be on my list. Sylvan includes a bimini top and you can option a half or full camper top to add further protection from the elements. There’s also a playpen cover available to protect the interior when moored.

The 8520 is rated for a 125 horsepower outboard, but Sylvan knows some of us might want more fun, so they’ve given us a few upgrade packages. The top-end RPT PR25 Performance Package increases the horsepower rating to 200, adds hydraulic steering, a 60-gallon fuel tank and a ski pylon. How’s that for fun?

For all your accessories and/or vinyl flooring visit Pontoon-Depot's shop site.

Women at the Helm | Pontoon Depot June 2018

Women at the Helm | Pontoon Depot June 2018

By: PdbMagazine

I recently read an article that said only 23 percent of women ever put themselves in the captain position on their own boat and only 12 percent of watercraft are registered to females. Can that be right?

I promise you I’m not an over-the-top feminist but this seems a little off to me. To be honest with you, my husband gets in my way on the water, probably because our agendas are different. He sees the lake as one big fishing hole, but after a tragic fish hook to the finger accident where I had to be taken to the Urgent Care Center because I refused to calm down, I would rather avoid the sport altogether. Plus after 30 minutes of being on the boat with him, he’s already interrupted me 31 times letting me know the part of fishing he enjoys the most is the silence. I can’t handle just sitting there—not doing anything, not moving and just being bored. So while we enjoy each other’s company for the most part, we don’t agree about time spent on the water. The point of this story is that I don’t depend on my man for stuff like this. Brace yourself for the motivational statement of the day: You don’t have to either.

Women Do Own Boats

So I set my sights on finding a woman who owned her own boat. I reached out to our Facebook fans and asked if women felt comfortable operating their boats. When Pam Thomas from Algonac, Mich., responded with, “I own my own Manitou. No man needed to operate it, but they are certainly welcome aboard to serve me cocktails and clean,” I knew I had to track her down.

Thomas shared some great thoughts with me on women in the boating industry.

“In this area many women do captain their own boats. If a woman likes to boat and can afford it, she should get one!” says Thomas. “It's just that simple. There's no reason why women should have to wait for an invitation to do what they love.”

The area she’s referring to is a canal in the Anchor Bay area of Lake St Clair. Thomas and her dog, Jazzy, boat around the Lake St. Clair Flats, the largest freshwater delta in the United States.

“I love the water, have been on or around it most of my life. Family members lived on lakes and had boats. As I got older, many friends had boats,” says Thomas. “When I was married we were avid boaters. After my marriage ended I bought my very own boat, a Yamaha Exciter jet boat.”

But when the jet boat was no longer appealing, Thomas set out to find her next boat. She knew she wanted a pontoon but wasn’t quite sure which would be the best.

“I like to be an informed consumer; I thoroughly researched all pontoon makers,” says Thomas. “I was looking for comfort on the water and the Manitou 22 Aurora VP met my needs.  My Manitou dealer, Bill Rose Marine, is right around the corner. Mark Santavy, my salesman, was very informative and made the purchase process easy.”

Part of the appeal for Thomas was Manitou's V-toon technology. It allows for a smooth, stable ride through the rough water from the weekend boat traffic. She went with a 150hp Evinrude E-TEC motor to give her the speed she desired.

“The deck layout is spacious, comfortable and great for entertaining,” says Thomas. “It's like having your living room on the water.”

I ended our conversation by asking Thomas what advice she would offer other women looking to be more comfortable behind the helm.

“First, take a Boaters Safety Course to learn the rules,” she replied. “Then you just have to do it! Get behind the helm; get comfortable with steering, maneuvering through traffic, and practice docking the boat.”

That’s great advice from someone who’s been there. 

Do Some Research

I ran across a book called It's Your Boat Too: A Woman's Guide to Greater Enjoyment on the Water by Suzanne Giesemann. While the book is written from more of a sailing aspect, Giesemann addresses common fears and self-limiting attitudes that apply across the nautical lineup. She clearly outlines how everything on a boat is gender-neutral with this great statement:

“There is nothing on a boat a man can do that a woman can’t. Well actually, I’m wrong. There is one thing. We can’t pee over the rail. But considering that doing so can easily lead to a man-overboard situation, I don’t recommend it for either sex. All other boating activities, however, are gender-neutral. Driving, docking, navigating, performing maintenance…you can do it all. You, too, can be an equal partner aboard your vessel.”

Make A Day Out Of It

Doesn’t a girl’s day sound like a blast? If you are one of those women who don’t feel as confident in the captain seat as you would like, keep your first outing small. Invite a few close friends that will be understanding of the learning curve. Depending on your locale, pack a picnic and take the ladies out for a day they won’t forget.

Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve found over the years that the best way to learn is to just immerse yourself. You will get better. It’s okay to be scared but you can’t let fear dictate your life. Take the boat out for a spin by yourself when someone you know is available close by to help out if need be. Ask questions when you’re out with someone who has more experience and be ready to take control. Even if you are comfortable with your current role, you may have to take over one day in the event of an emergency. If you are one of two people onboard and the other person loses consciousness, it becomes your responsibility to get to safety.

Now that you’ve read this whole story, I hope you don’t feel like I’m a man basher. That is exactly the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish. I want both sexes to feel like they are on an equal playing field on the water. Except for my husband, just because I’m sure he didn’t make it to the end. He probably got through the first paragraph, read the part about my horrific fishing accident, rolled his eyes and then turned the page. So I can freely tell you that I’m confident I have a better understanding of the technical aspect of boating. Yes, he’s rebuilt an outboard before but I can define “displacement.” And since there can only be one captain, I guess it’s me. Yay for being female.  

Low-budget pontoons designed to maximize family fun

Low-budget pontoons designed to maximize family fun

By Lew Freedman, Chicago Tribune

The large necklace Cathy Santogrossi wore was a miniature neon sign. Much like a flashing sign that might be seen in Las Vegas, her few-inches-long advertisement grabbed the viewer's eye with rotating letters: "Boats = Fun."

Such a description may be true of all boats--and because her family business is Fox Valley Marine in Naperville, Santogrossi would tell you that--but it's possible that no boat is more fun for more people than a pontoon.

Large, stable, slow-moving, seemingly indestructible, pontoons really do live up to the cliche of "fun for the whole family." It is a curious quirk of nature and commerce that the best time to buy a boat is when the water is frozen. The annual Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show takes place in January so it won't interfere with prime boating time and a purchase will be ready for delivery when there's actually water available.

Maybe it's because my knees are senior citizens, but I confess to a growing fascination with pontoons. Once it was easier to identify with cigarette boats (thank you, Don Johnson) and their high-speed capability. Now I'm partial to the Volkswagen of boats.

There were a variety of pontoon boats on display at the recent show at McCormick Place, but even though they barely register on the price chart next to the million-dollar yachts, they seem to be inching up in cost.

Still, when I compare the price of a pontoon with the cost of a new car, I don't feel badly about the potential investment.

"Women like the boats because they're safe and they're like a home on the water," Santogrossi said. "Women like something safe and enclosed. There is more interest. It's going up. These people just want fun on the water. They can bring Mom and Dad with."

I lump pontoons with VWs because of their general lack of glamor. But I compare them to Hummers for their sturdiness. Basic pontoon boats measure 18 feet. They grow a bit longer from there. All models are 8 1/2 feet wide. Most accommodate wheelchairs. They are high-sided and, depending on the motor (25 horsepower and up), usually travel at speeds of around 10 m.p.h., or slightly faster than Fred Flintstone can go with foot power. When the Pontoon Boat Racing Circuit is started, I want to know about it.

The price is $10,000 to $40,000. Try to buy a 2007 car for 10 grand.

It is no surprise that the young, single guy with a sports car is not the target customer for pontoons.

"The demographic for the pontoon boat is Grandpa and Grandma," said Wayne Libera, who operates Water Werks boat sellers in Country Club Hills and Naperville. "They want to take the grandkids fishing and riding. You're going out there and puttering around on the water. And young parents buy that pontoon boat for large families.

"It's real safe and an 18-footer will hold 10 people. But that's no boat you would want to put in Lake Michigan."

Libera said a solid pontoon can be found for lake and river use for $12,000. Whatever happened to the old $5,000 model?

"Five thousand dollars will buy you junk," he said.

Some pontoons come with individual fishing seats at front and back to complement couch-style seating in the middle. Others have couches all around.

Pontoons are for the low-budget buyers whose only connection to fancy yachts is admiring them in magazines. If they want to live it up, they pay extra for an on-board portable toilet, a changing enclosure or a canopy for weather protection.

Tom Tepe and his wife, Priscilla, of Oak Park are looking toward retirement next year. They were window-shopping at the show for a pontoon of about 20 feet long and a $16,000 to $22,000 hit to the pocketbook.

"He wants to fish all day," Priscilla said.

"Maybe twice a day," Tom said.

They do plan to take the grandchildren out and want four seats.

"But it would probably be the two of us most of the time," he said.

Brad Frystak of Great Lakes Yacht Sales said parents of very young children set up playpens and that pontoon boats are ideal for wheelchair boaters.

"They're floating living rooms," Frystak said.The market is seeing the first signs of the young single male pontoon buyer, he said, as long as modifications are made.

"Believe it or not," Frystak said, "they are buying these because they're becoming performance-oriented with 175-horsepower engines."

Somehow that seems like equipping a yellow school bus with a jet engine.



by Manitou Pontoon Boats

There is nothing better than spending a day on your pontoon boat. But as you may know, it can be very stressful if you don’t properly plan your excursion. Imagine a day on a pontoon boat where you visit the same area and do the same activities as the time before, more for lack of imagination than because of the fun quotient. Not to mention the chaos that can ensue if there isn’t enough food, water, or sunscreen for everyone in the party.

Aside from the “dos” and “do nots” for planning a day on the pontoon, there are numerous fun ideas you and your family should try:

  • Explore: Instead of visiting the same place every time, mix it up and boldly go where you haven’t been before.
  • BBQ: If your pontoon boat has a BBQ on it, why not enjoy a beach BBQ?
  • Scavenger Hunt: Invent a scavenger hunt where you stop at various places and solve clues. Will there be buried treasure at the end?
  • Mega Raft: If your friends all have pontoon boats and families, tie up all the boats together and make a mega raft.
  • Waterproof Camera: There is no better way to capture the day and take some memorable underwater photos.

Remember proper and creative planning, and you are sure to have an exciting day on the water.

Download our infographic for more tips for family fun on the water.