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12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat capacity

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat aft lounges

Sunbathers would love the aft-facing lounges on the Regency 220 LE3.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat layout

Shown here is the bow of the Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX, complete with fishing chairs, rod racks and a trolling motor.

 12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat floor plan

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat helm

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat side gate closed

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat bow deck

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat ladder

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat tubes

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat engine

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat diameter

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat bimini

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.

12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat cup holders
These cup holders that can be moved anywhere on the boat and come in quite handy.
12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat aft table

  A table adds to any boat’s versatility. On most pontoons there are receptacles fore and aft for a table.

 12 Important Things to Look for in a Pontoon Boat changing curtain

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.

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Yamaha’s “Summer Power” Sales Event | Pontoon-Depot

Yamaha’s “Summer Power” Sales Event | Pontoon-Depot

Promotion on select outboards purchased until end of August

By: PBDMagazine

Yamaha Marine Group announced today the “Summer Power” outboard sales event, valid from July 16, 2018, until August 31, 2018.

“The ‘Summer Power’ sales event gives customers the opportunity to purchase eligible, select, new Yamaha four-stroke outboards from our F2.5 through the F200 (four-cylinder model),” said Dale Barnes, Division Manager, Marketing, Yamaha Marine Group. “This is a great time to purchase some of our most popular models and spend the rest of the summer enjoying Yamaha power on the water.”

The “Summer Power” sales event provides the purchasing consumer with one of two sales incentives. Consumers who purchase eligible, new, select 90-200 horsepower four-cylinder, four-stroke outboards can receive a two-year Yamaha Extended Service (Y.E.S.) plan for additional warranty coverage. Consumers who purchase eligible, new 2.5-75 horsepower outboards, can receive a credit of up to $500 based on MSRP toward the purchase of goods and/or services available at the authorized participating Yamaha Outboard dealer that sold the outboard, at no extra cost to the purchasing consumer.

Additional terms and conditions apply. Consumers should see authorized participating Yamaha outboard dealers for complete details.

Yamaha Marine products are marketed throughout the United States and around the world. Yamaha Marine Group, based in KennesawGa., supports its 2,000 U.S. dealers and boat builders with marketing, training and parts for Yamaha’s full line of products and strives to be the industry leader in reliability, technology and customer service. Yamaha Marine is the only outboard brand to have earned NMMA®’s C.S.I. Customer Satisfaction Index award every year since its inception.Additional terms and conditions apply. Consumers should see authorized participating Yamaha outboard dealers for complete details.

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How To Protect Pontoon Boat From The Summer Heat

How To Protect Pontoon Boat From The Summer Heat

By: The Ocean Sailing Guide

I am excited about the summer of 2018. This summer brings new memories, adventures, and time spent on the pontoon with family. Now, with the arrival of summer, comes the staunching summer heat, which if you didn’t know, can be dangerous to a pontoon boat. Therefore it is important to know how to protect your pontoon boat from the summer heat.

While owning a pontoon boat is incredibly rewarding and fun, it’s important that you take the time to care and protect your boat, especially in the summer heat. We can all agree that the last thing you want to happen this summer is to find out that some part of your pontoon boat was damaged by lack of protection.

Today, I want to share with you my ideas and thoughts on how to protect your pontoon boat from the summer heat this year. As always, if you have any ideas to share with the crowd, feel free to add your comment below.

Shall we begin?

The Four Step Protection Plan To Help With Summer Heat

It’s important that, before the summer heat gets here, you develop a game plan for how you plan to protect your pontoon boat.

Once the snow has passed and the White Walkers went back home, I know that it’s time to begin getting my Pontoon Boat ready for the ocean blue.

I have developed what I like to call my pontoon protection plan. It’s an incredibly easy process that starts the moment the warm rays come out.

  1. Full-Scale Cleaning

pontoon seating in the sun

Like many other things in life, before you can apply any form of protector to a surface, it needs to be clean. So, what I like to do is take the boat out in the backyard and prepare it for a full-scale cleaning.

In the industry today, there are dozens upon dozens of different pontoon boat soaps, which can be found at your local boat stores, marinas, or even Amazon. The best products, in my opinion, are the ones that care for the gel coat and the surface of the material.

When it comes to the interior of your pontoon, treat and clean it based on the type of material on the inside. For me, I use a high-quality vinyl cleaner and polish from a local boating store. This helps protect the interior material from cracking or flaking.

  1. Apply A Protectant

Once the pontoon is spiffy clean, what I do is apply a protectant to help protect the gel coat and material of the boat from deteriorating or oxidizing, due to the Sun.

Again, there are so many different products on the market today that can do the job. I recommend purchasing a product that is heavy-duty. What you are looking for is something known as polymers.

This is the secret to protecting your pontoon boat, it’s your personal defense mechanism against the Sun. It’s the sunscreen for a pontoon boat.

Do keep in mind, the more you sail, the more you need to clean and reapply a protectant. Remember, this is your baby!

  1. Daily Maintenance

Now, I understand that this process can be time-consuming, and sometimes undesirable. To make it easier for myself, I take the extra step and perform daily maintenance on my pontoon.

So, what I typically do is use some daily maintenance products, also known as pontoon boat guards. These products act as the first line of defense to protect the boat and the original protectant.

My favorite part about using these cleaning products is that they have polymers in the formula. This helps reinforce the protectant, helping to clean the boat from harmful chemicals, and effectively protecting it from the Sun.

Since most of these products come in the form of a spray, it’s easy to use.

  1. Cover Your Pontoon When Not In Use

covered pontoon boatI have talked a lot about the importance of pontoon boat covers and the best ones out there. I can’t stress it enough. You do not want your pontoon boat exposed to constant heat. Otherwise, the sun’s powers and UV rays will expedite the oxidation process.

To protect your pontoon boat from the summer heat, purchase a quality cover that you can use year-round.

Try to get into the habit of covering your pontoon if you are not using it. Every time I come back from the water I take a few minutes to clean off the grime and bacteria, or salt if I was in the ocean. Once dry, I cover the entire pontoon until it’s next use or cleaning.

Most Common Mistakes Boaters Make

If you are want to avoid any damage or expensive repairs, avoid making any of these common mistakes that boaters make:

  • Dish Soap

Unless you intend to clean the dishes on your boat put the dish soap back where it belongs, the kitchen. Why would you use that product on your boat? Don’t be cheap, buy the right product!

  • Laundry Soap

Like that of dish soap, using laundry soap or detergent with water to clean a pontoon boat is a mistake. If you are seriously considering cleaning your boat, use the proper products.

  • Wrong Surface, Wrong Product

It’s important to know all of the materials in and on your pontoon boat. When it comes to cleaning, you need to know what types of materials you are dealing with.

You should also know the environment that your boat is around. For example, if you live close to the ocean, chances are, with the ocean and salt water, there’s salt in the area that can reach your boat.

Summer Pontoon Protection Checklist For 2018

With the anticipation of summer, I have prepared a little checklist for you all in case you need some help or are just looking for some helpful ideas. I’m going to call it Summer Pontoon Protection Checklist for 2018.

If you can follow the 4-Step process listed above and follow this checklist, your pontoon boat will be in great shape.

  • General Cleaning – Perform a general cleaning of the inside and outside of the pontoon boat.
  • Make sure all electrical outlets and batteries are functioning and working.
  • Inspect all gauges to ensure maximum operability.
  • Review oil and filters to make sure the pontoon is ready for maximum performance.
  • Check all essentials
    • Transmission Fluid, belts, cooling system, etc.
  • Make sure trailer is up-to-date on registration
  • Make sure pontoon is up-to-date on registration
  • Test all lights.
  • Inspect exterior and interior of pontoon for minor or major oxidation.
  • Reseal and add polymer protectant.
  • Purchase daily spray pontoon guard for each use.
  • Purchase quality boat cover designed to protect from UV damage.
  • Have fun!

Enjoy Your Pontoon This Season!

Overall, as a pontoon boat owners, it’s our responsibility to keep track and protect our baby. Your pontoon boat needs protection, like sunscreen, to play and function longer. If you don’t protect it, you risk things breaking down, resulting in a messy situation.

Trust me, this summer, that’s the last thing you want to deal with when you can be enjoying the summer rays on the ocean blue.

Overall, my hope is that with all the information and tips I shared with you in the article, you are properly prepared to protect your pontoon boat from the summer heat.

If you have any methods or ideas that I did not discuss above, feel free to drop a comment below and share with us! After all, we are a community of pontoon boaters!

Patriotic Pontooning | Pontoon Depot July 4th, 2018

Patriotic Pontooning | Pontoon Depot July 4th, 2018

By: Boating Magazine

Image By:

Some thoughts on pontoon boating over the Fourth of July.

If there is a category of boaters who are more patriotic than ‘tooners, I have yet to meet them.

At least “patriotic’ based on their displays of Old Glory and related red, white and blue hues.

I learned that the hard way, when my bride and I bought our first pontoon boat. The mid-winter purchase included the balance of the coming season’s membership in the local pontoon-only boat owners’ club where we found the FloteBote for sale. At that time, it was apparent that my wife and I were the youngest members of the modest, senior-dominated club, and the only couple with a toddler in tow, so we weren’t sure how we’d fit in. But we needed a place to dock the boat, since it didn’t have a trailer, and we decided to join – at least for the short term.

After spending the spring rebuilding the ‘toon from the deck up, we learned that the club’s summer social season kicked off each year with a gala July Fourth celebration on the club’s lakefront grounds. The festivities started with a parade of members’ boats, which were decorated and judged in several categories. As new members, we decide the best way to endear ourselves with our new friends, and show off our DIY rehab of the old Harris, was to enter the boat decorating contest.

We had recently organized a Hawaiian-themed party at home, and had lots of tacky Tiki decorations on hand, including bamboo torches, strings of colorful plastic leis, fake palm trees, grass table skirting, and grass skirt skirts. We figured our “Tiki ‘Toon” would steal the “most original” category – if not accolades for best decorated pontoon overall, and got to the docks early that July fourth to get the boat rigged for the occasion.


Other than the questionable decision to mount open-flamed Tiki torches at each corner of a boat surrounded with dry grass skirting and plastic hibiscus flowers enveloping the Bimini top, the craft looked dandy and definitely South Pacific. In fact, we had a cassette of that musical’s tunes set to play as we paraded our boat past the judge’s dock. We were so busy with the preparations that we didn’t notice the themes fellow competitors in nearby slips were adopting for decorating their craft – nor the quizzical glances we were receiving from same.

We motored out and took our place in the formation line of two dozen pontoon boats and noticed that more than one had decided to adopt the patriotic theme of the day. Ahead and behind us were pontoons festooned in all many of red, white and blue, including one that looked like a giant Old Glory, another sprouting more than a hundred little stars & stripes in full flutter, and yet another flying patriotic banners streaming in the morning breeze. But we saw nothing that led us to believe we would win anything but ‘most original’ honors for our dandily decorated craft. We fired up the torches and cued the “Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Talk” tune on the speakers and had little Ethan do a little belly dance on the bow, wearing a grass diaper with ukulele in hand. We figured the blank looks from the elderly judges was sheer awe of our unique Kon-tiki display, and as we returned to the dock we were sure we had the competition wrapped up and had won entry into the club’s inner circle of senior members.

As we walked to the clubhouse where members and their families and friends were gathering to hear the announcements of the parade winners and get the day’s festivities underway, one of the judges met us with a bewildered look on his face.


“What was THAT all about!?,” he asked. “You guys looked like a flaming duck blind out there! Where are the flags? The banners? There wasn’t one patriotic thing about your boat, not one bit of red, white or blue. Didn’t you read the rules!?”

No we had not. Otherwise, we would have noted that the club’s annual theme – the ONLY acceptable theme – for decorating the boats for the Fourth of July Parade was a patriotic one. There were prize categories for Most Flags, Biggest Flag, Most Use of Red, White and Blue and Most Patriotic boat of all. No “Most Original” and certainly no accolades for anyone who would dare decorate their craft for the day in anything but red, white and blue.

We received a token “Honorable Mention” award some sympathetic soul created at the last minute and were given after the major awards were doled out, which we humbly accepted before slinking back to our boat.

Those events took place more than a decade ago, and despite the initial social setback we endured, we have re-upped our membership annually ever since. In that time, we have learned that many of our more senior fellow club members served in World War II and the Korean War and are proud members of the Greatest Generation. We are equally proud to join them and respect the patriotic theme of “our” boat club’s annual celebration.