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Pontoon Boats Are Perfect for Kids and Dogs — Just be Safe

Pontoon Boats Are Perfect for Kids and Dogs — Just be Safe

Pontoon boats are undoubtedly the ultimate family marine vessels.

No boat is more accommodating to friends, family, kids and even pets than a pontoon with a ton of deck space and good seating.

But just as with everything else, when kids and pets are involved, the safety stakes are raised.

First thing's first.

No matter how good a swimmer your child or dog is, they need to wear a life jacket. That is non-negotiable. Feel free to reread that sentence. Yes, we said "they." Your pooch needs a life preserver, too. If you have an infant, you must with a capital M invest in an infant-specific vest.

Talk to your kids about the difference between pools and open water. They may be incredibly comfortable in the pool, but completely unprepared for the lake. Teach them about the potential of steep dropoffs, currents, marine life, uneven surfaces, rapid changes in depth and, of course, changing weather on the water.

Unfortunately, you can't have these conversations with your dog. You will, therefore, whether he likes it or not, have to invest in a harness and tether. Even the best-behaved dog in the world could jump — or fall — into the water unexpectedly. A tethered harness will also keep your four-legged friend from tearing around the deck of your boat willy nilly.

Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries. Slow-moving or stagnant pontoons are especially vulnerable if there's a buildup of fumes in the engine.

Finally, don't drink and boat with kids or dogs — or preferably ever. Booze and boats seem to go perfectly together, but like their four-wheeled brethren on land, a ridiculously disproportionate number of accidents can be attributed to alcohol-induced poor judgment.

Pontoon boats beckon the whole family. That's why we love them. When dogs and kids enter the equation, however, everyone on board has to be extra vigilant. Learn CPR, teach your kids to swim, use common sense and have fun!

Every Pontoon Boat is a Fishing Boat Just Waiting to be Released

Every Pontoon Boat is a Fishing Boat Just Waiting to be Released

People fall in love with pontoon boats because you can pile everyone you know and their pets onto the deck, shove off and have some fun. They float a ton of people, they're comfortable and cozy, and they just ooze party.

One look at a pontoon boat full of people passing, and your first thought is, "Man, they look like they're having a blast!"

One thing that people tend to forget, however, is that a pontoon can double as a mighty fine little fishing boat — all it takes is a little jazzing up and a some imaginative accessorizing.

You're going to need a fishfinder, like the Lowrance Mark-5X. That little beauty will reveal even the most closely guarded underwater hiding spots.

Then there's music. If you go fishing with purists, they'll sometimes yell at you that the music is scaring the fish. Yeah, well, let them be scared then. This is pontoon boat, for goodness sake, and we need some tunes.

Set yourself up with a Boss receiver and some marine speakers and you'll be good to go — frightened fish and all.

If you're going to be out there chasing fish all day and into the evening, you're going to want some lighting. Whether it's a fold-down light, an LED utility strip, a pole light or a combination sidelight, you'll have the upper hand.

If there's one thing that separates fish from man, it's mechanized illumination. And gills.

Finally, there's flooring.

When you finally haul one in, and he's there flopping around on your already-scummy boat carpeting, that slimy little fish is not going to make that primitive marine flooring any easier to clean.

When you upgrade to MariDeck vinyl flooring, however, that slimy sucker can flip and flop until his little fish heart's content. All it will take is a quick rinse to get right back to brand new.

So, there you have it. You love your pontoon boat because it's a floating getaway and a waterproof party — but don't forget, somewhere inside is a fishing boat just waiting to break free.

Pontoon Boat: Your Floating Stay-Cation

Pontoon Boat: Your Floating Stay-Cation

You don't have to go too far to get away.

You, after all, are among the elite. You have the hardware required to bring the party wherever you go. You invested in a floating memory-making machine.

You're a pontoon boat owner.

Leave the "all-inclusive" cruises to the schmos who are willing to settle for cramped cabins, crowded dinners and hack entertainment. Let the landlubbers scour Travelocity for the can't-miss, can't-wait deal of the century that comes along every four days. Let the masses pack their SUVs and head to their secret, pristine vacation hideaway that's a secret to everyone except for all the people who have Facebook.

You're a pontoon boat owner. For you, the vacation starts as soon as you shove off from the dock.

On regular boats, kids get bored quickly because they can't move around. Your floating living room, however, gives them all the stay-cation space they need to spread out and have some fun.

What would you do on vacation? Go fishing? Go water skiing?

Check and double check.

Unlike most boats, with their rigid seating structures, pontoon boats are comfy and cozy. Cuddle up and watch the sunset — or sunrise, depending on your stay-cation itinerary. Grab a pair of binoculars and see what kind of birds or other wildlife you can spy from your maritime sanctuary. Explore a channel or tributary you've never cruised before, or cut the engine and just relax, talk and enjoy each other's company — cell phone and iPad free.

The point is, spring is here. The kids will be out of school soon and a vacation doesn't sound like a bad idea. But you don't need to go very far to get away. When you invested in your pontoon boat, you entered an elite fraternity of adventurers and enthusiasts who don't need to travel to find excitement, adventure and relaxation.

You've got a pontoon boat. All of that goes wherever you go.