Pontoon Boats: The Do-It-All Machine - BoatingIndustry.com
By: Boating Industry
Pontoon versatility continues to drive popularity, growth
In an industry-wide seventh consecutive year of growth, the pontoon segment continues to get more people on the water and keep them there.
Pontoons remain a key driver for the marine industry, and that’s going to continue in 2019, Statistical Surveys, Inc. (SSI) director of sales Ryan Kloppe said. “Pontoons will top 56,000 units in 2018. They just keep getting better, and have truly become a crossover boat.”
Kloppe said that SSI is anticipating around another 3 percent in growth for 2019. “It’s one of the categories that’s actually carrying the industry in year-over-year growth,” he said.
From first-time boat owners to longtime boaters switching segments, the pontoon segment refuses to be left behind.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is that the segment has been firing on so many different cylinders and is so broad based in terms of where its drawing its business from,” Info-Link director of client services Peter Houseworth said.
In terms of consumers in other segments converting to the pontoon life, Houseworth said that the segment bleeds are very balanced all-around. “We’re not seeing a single group from a single segment converting,” he added.
Houseworth said that growth within the pontoon segment has been going on for the last 20 years, however it hasn’t always been as visible because of all of the other gyrations of the market during that time period.
Hand-in-hand with pontoon popularity, the continued demand for outboard power certainly helps continue to make pontoons an appealing choice for today’s consumer.
“Pontoons are ultimately one of the key driving forces in outboard popularity,” Kloppe said. “However, it’s definitely a combination of outboard popularity driving pontoon popularity, and vice versa.”
Aside from raving popularity that began in the Great Lakes and Texas markets, the pontoon segment has been branching into new markets in increasing popularity over the last few years.
“Pontoons and their popularity are now a nationwide thing, rather than just occurring in certain places,” Houseworth said. “Florida, for example, hasn’t been a big pontoon state historically, but is now seeing big growth as a segment.”
“These boats will be around for a long time and in more and more territories,” Houseworth added.
EXPLORING NEW TERRITORY
With the popularity of pontoons continuing to rise, the industry has seen new players enter, or re-enter, the market at an accelerated rate.
After exiting the marine business in 2004, Polaris Industries Inc. busted its marine doors back open in May 2018 after signing a definitive agreement to acquire Boat Holdings, LLC, boat manufacturer of four well-recognized brands: Bennington, Godfrey, Hurricane and Rinker, in an all-cash transaction valued at a net present value of approximately $805 million.
“We started looking at Boat Holdings in early 2017,” said Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Inc. chairman and CEO during a conference call discussing the acquisition. “We’ve been looking at the marine space for four or five years. We look for great products and great brands, and they have both.”
During Q3 2018, Polaris reported that Boat Holdings was already tracking to its early expectations.
Polaris reported boat segment sales were $134 million in the 2018 third quarter, slightly better than expectations, the company stated in a news release. Reported gross profit for the boat segment was $20 million, or 15.1 percent of sales in the third quarter of 2018.
“We were pleased with the early performance of Boat Holdings, the largest manufacturer of pontoon boats in the U.S. that we welcomed to our growing powersports portfolio earlier in the quarter,” Wine said.
Although not completely new to the marine industry, following the creation of a new Marine Group and the acquisition of Alumacraft, BRP entered the pontoon segment with the acquisition of pontoon manufacturer Manitou in August 2018.
“Manitou’s strong brand, high quality pontoons and recognized technology made it a natural fit for BRP’s newly formed Marine Group,” said Tracy Crocker, President of the Marine Group. “With the acquisition of Manitou, we are strengthening our marine portfolio by entering the fastest growing segment in the boat industry.”
The segment also saw the return of the Premier pontoon brand, when the manufacturer emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2018.
The company announced that the reorganized Premier was to remain a Wyoming, Minnesota-based company with its current workforce in place. Premier’s exit from Chapter 11 authorized a change in ownership to a Minnesota-owned company, Premier Pontoon Holdings, LLC.
“The Premier team has worked tirelessly over the nine months to assure we continue to build high-quality pontoon boats as an industry leader,” said Rick Gallagher, Premier’s new chief executive officer.
Gallagher served as Premier Marine’s financial advisor while the company was operating in Chapter 11. The company filed for Chapter 11 on June 19, 2017. Unlike Chapter 7 and Chapter 9 bankruptcies, Chapter 11 bankruptcy gave Premier Marine a chance for a
Following the announcement, Premier quickly moved to establish new agreements with most of its existing vendors.
Relatively new to the market, Barletta Boats of Bristol, Ind. made a name for itself rather quickly in the pontoon world, signing on dealerships in over 70 locations in its early stages, with no signs of slowing down.
Barletta’s 110,000-square-foot manufacturing facility roared to life in June 2017 and the company hasn’t looked back since.
Most recently, Barletta penned a partnership with Walkers Point Marina, taking the company international and into Canada. The company continues to assemble its network of dealers across the country, and is now pushing to start adding high-caliber dealers in the Canadian market.
“We’ve have a very deliberate approach to adding new dealerships to our network,” stated Jeff Haradine, Barletta’s vice president of sales. “One of our guiding principles is too ensure that if we are going to partner with a dealership, we are able to provide the resources and product necessary to form a strong, mutually beneficial partnership. The timing felt right, and the Walkers Point Marina is exactly the type of dealership we love to partner with.”
SUV OF THE WATER
Today’s consumer in the boating world is consistently looking for one boat to handle a multitude of tasks. New technologies, designs, features and more in the pontoon segment are meeting those demands of the consumer.
“A combination of better engineering, fuel efficiency, speed and all-around versatility make pontoons a kind of SUV, do-everything type of boat for consumers,” Houseworth said.
From the luxurious lines and ample space of Bennington pontoons, to the sleek and sporty Manitou designs, to the classic-look pontoons of Lowe, Misty Harbor and more, consumers are finding everything they need in a boat in today’s pontoons.
Pontoons offer the boater a large social space for entertaining, a wide array power options, fishing applications, favored accessibility, near-endless options for customization and much more.
“Pontoons especially offer older boaters — which are the primary owner in today’s market — the opportunity to take everyone out on the water, with accessibility, comfort and all-around easier boating,” Houseworth said.
Ranger Boats recently announced the coming together of the fishing and cruising pontoons worlds with the introduction of the new Ranger Reata 223FC and 220FC.
The new boats combine features for both cruising and fishing into multi-use designs to accommodate families and anglers.
“We pride ourselves on listening to our customers and dealers on their wants and needs in our product lines,” said Bart Schad, Ranger Boats vice president of sales and marketing. “We have incorporated that feedback into these new models to create an ideal fish/cruise line that exceeds the needs of everyone on board. Combined with the upgraded aesthetics throughout the entire pontoon line, we have seen tremendous response and look forward to officially bringing these new boats to market.”
The new pontoons’ fish-and-play design brings together a host of creature comforts for pleasure cruising and fishing features valued by anglers.
Pontoons also offer a variety of options for the entry-level boater, with ease of use and lower price points than entry-level boats in other segments.
In March 2018, Crestliner unveiled its new Sprint Series, an entry-level pontoon for novice boaters and those looking for on-water versatility. The Sprint came nearly a year after Crestliner re-entered the pontoon market with its Rally Series.
“The Sprint fills a hole in the pontoon market,” said Crestliner President Eric Hendrickson. “There is a large contingent of boaters out there looking for an accessible pontoon they can hop into without hassle and use for a variety of on-water activities–from fishing to cruising and everything in between. Add to that an exceptional value, and the Sprint is exactly what a lot of families are looking for.”
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
In an effort to further push the versatility of the pontoon segment, Minnesota-based Montara Boats announced an industry-first game changer.
In early October 2018, Montara announced it developed a patent-pending design that blends the worlds of surf boats and pontoons in the industry’s first surf pontoon, including the comfort and space of a pontoon boat with the performance of an inboard surf boat.
“For the past 15 years I’ve watched neighbors and friends buy tow boats for water sports in addition to pontoons for entertaining. We’ve cracked the code on this and figured out how to blend these, creating the Surf Boss that does it all,” said Montara CEO Mark Overbye.
Overbye is no stranger to the tow boat and tow sports world after serving as the founder and former CEO of both Moomba and Gekko. Overbye also serves as a chairman and trustee for the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation.
Montara’s new Surf Boss is available in three lengths: 21 feet, 23 feet, and 25 feet.
Equipped with PCM inboard engines, the Surf Boss features competitive surf wakes, a fully enclosed head, over 100 cubic feet of storage, dual swiveling captains chairs, jumbo-sized dual transom loungers that flip from forward to aft viewing.
Overbye told Boating Industry that PCM sent two engines to Montara Boats for use in Surf Boss prototype testing. “I’ve had a great relationship with them for 20 years,” he said. “We represent a potential entree for them into a huge market segment. The tow boat segment is roughly 10,000 units; the pontoon segment last year was roughly 52,000 units. If we have success with this, this should really open up some market floodgates.”
Features of the new pontoon include a 110-gallon fuel tank, a changing room, Zero Off GPS speed control, a 5,000-pound plus ballast system, custom tandem trailer, Rockford’s premium audio system, carrying capacity exceeding 20,000 pounds for people and gear plus a top-end speed that tops 40 miles per hour. A custom tower with dual Biminis, speakers and lights that retracts into the hull compliments the Surf Boss’s design.
“The concept of combining surfing and pontoons clearly struck a positive cord with the marine business at large,” Overbye said.
Since announcing its Surf Boss surfing pontoon in mid October, Minnesota-based Montara Boats has welcomed 27 dealers to its retail network and has more than 23 additional dealerships pending.
Overbye said that the team at Montara already has more ideas on the drawing board to further the limits of pontoons that the industry could see even four or five years down the road.
With the segment showing no signs of slowing in growth, and continued versatility and new technology coming to market, pontoons will remain a major player in the future of the industry.
Heavy Boat Traffic Expected For Labor Day Weekend
Statewide Iowa — Boaters heading out for the Labor Day holiday will likely find busy waterways across the state.
Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said boat operators need to operate with caution and to watch for hazards in the water.
The weekend weather forecast is favorable for boaters and combined with a three day weekend should produce heavy boat traffic. Stocker said ramps will likely be busy, placing boating etiquette at a premium.
“Everyone is excited to get on the water,” she said. “Be patient, and when it’s your turn be ready to launch. Courtesy on the water goes a long way in avoiding problems.”
She said an obvious way to prevent problems is for boat operators to avoid alcohol while operating the craft.
“We want boaters to have fun on the water, but we don’t want that fun to end in a boating tragedy. Boaters need to keep safety in mind while on the water,” Stocker said.
Preparing for a safe day on the water begins in the driveway. Make sure to have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on board and that all of the safety equipment, including a properly working fire extinguisher, is on board.
“Remember, life jackets only work when worn,” Stocker said. “Life jackets float, you don’t.”
Pontoon Changing Rooms: How to Pick the Best One for You!
By: Better Boat
Have you ever been in a situation when you realized you need a pontoon changing room?
How ‘bout the time you tried changing behind two friends, who couldn’t stop giggling because they’d already downed a whole bottle of wine!
How’d that work for you?
You were probably either (A) mortified or (B) didn’t care. (‘Cause you helped them down that bottle of wine!)
Either way, your changing room is meant for privacy, to do anything that requires privacy. The style and size will determine how much privacy is provided and sets the tone for its uses.
This guide can help you find the perfect pontoon boat changing room, discussing reasons to consider and questions to ask yourself before picking your own. Plus, I’ll touch on three different examples.
Reasons to Consider a Pontoon Changing Room
There are many reasons you might want a changing room on your pontoon, some you may not have previously considered:
1. Clothes changing. While you’re on your pontoon, anybody on board might wanna change. It’s nice to know you have a private place to go, instead of hiding behind friends.
2. Portable toilet. A changing room is perfect for housing a portable toilet, which can be a necessity, especially for long outings or if you have small children. It’s always a plus for parties, too; some invited guests may not come if they’re worried there won’t be a bathroom.
3. Diaper Changing Area. For some parents, diaper changing requires privacy; other parents don’t care. But, if a passenger has a baby in diapers, a private changing area is a nice option, especially when it requires more cleaning (or bathing!).
4. Breastfeeding. This is another gray area; some mothers don’t mind breastfeeding in public, but others wouldn’t dare. A changing room is a great place for privacy for both mom and baby.
5. Seasickness. Have you ever gotten sick in front of somebody? Talk about embarrassing! If you have a portable toilet in your changing room, a passenger has a place to go if nausea won’t subside (even after using a seasick remedy) and until you can get back on dry land.
6 Questions to Answer Before Purchasing a Pontoon Changing Room
1. What Size Changing Room Do You Need?
This depends on the size of your pontoon.
Naturally, you might wanna get a huge one, thinking the more space, the better. While that’s probably true, it might not work for your pontoon’s size.
You need to consider the deck size and layout of your pontoon. How can you comfortably fit a changing room into your floor plan without compromising too much space?
Determine the best spot for setting up a changing room, as this will help determine the ideal type.
2. What Will You Use Your Changing Room For?
Will you use the changing room just for changing, or do you plan on adding a convenient portable toilet? Will it be a room to escape a torrential rain? (And if so, how many will need to fit in there?)
Consider all your needs, then determine the type and size you need.
Consider any pontoons accessories you may want to house in your changing room, too.
3. What’s Your Budget?
What can you afford? With endless varieties on the market, you should be able to find one that’s budget-friendly.
And remember: Unless you have a custom changing room built into your pontoon, you can always upgrade later.
4. What Weather Conditions Should You Consider?
You need to consider environmental factors that might affect the sturdiness of a changing room.
Do you live or go boating in an area prone to high winds? If so, you need to consider the durability of your changing room, as well as how it’s installed. You want it to withstand your area’s typical weather conditions.
5. Do You Have Safety Concerns?
If you have young children using your changing room, consider safety precautions before buying. Read labels and packaging thoroughly. Study zippers, hooks and hardware to determine safety. Call the manufacturer to ask questions. Make sure there have been no safety recalls or complaints.
6. Where Is the Best Location?
Another thing to consider is the placement of your changing room. Where will you need to place it, according to your needs and the installation instructions? Then decide if the type you buy provides enough privacy for your needs.
5 Pontoon Changing Room Options
Changing rooms come in all forms, shapes and sizes. You can find them in pop-ups, drop-downs/partitions, privacy screens/dividers, combos, bow-enclosures and even custom built.
Your choice of changing rooms will depend on your budget, your pontoon size and your overall needs, so the ultimate choice is up to you.
Here are five top-notch choices you’ll want to investigate.
1. Collapsible Pop-ups
Pop-up changing rooms are like camping tents; they pop up when you need them and collapse to take up minimal space—perfect for smaller pontoons.
This GigaTent Pop Up Pod (Available on Amazon) is a pretty affordable changing room option.
There’s no installation or mounting involved. None. Just find the best spot and open it where you want it. (Some have no floors, and some have removable mat floors.)
This pop-up pod can be fully enclosed for privacy, accessible by a zippered door.
Made to be taken onshore, this changing room has sand-bag pockets to make the pop-up much sturdier. Alternatively, it has sewn-on loops with stakes. Now, as a warning, the stakes are short so if you plan on taking it onto the beach, I’d highly suggest longer sand stakes (Available on Amazon) to keep it from catching wind.
The downside to certain pop-ups (and this one is the case) is the lack of screen ventilation or windows, so it can get pretty hot in there!
2. Changing Room Combos
These are similar to pop-ups, but contain a little something extra, offering more features and accessories.
There’s a floor mat for showering, should you ever need to rinse off sandy feet or go pontoon camping and sleep multiple nights on your boat. There are even extra storage compartments for keeping toiletries and a hanger for towels and a fresh change of clothes. (Do you know a lady who brings extra clothes? I know I take extra!) Plus, a built-in clothesline is awesome because spilling a drink on your clothes is par for the course on a boat.
This Campla Portable Pop up Dressing/Changing Tent (Available on Amazon) is an affordable pontoon changing room option.
This changing room also comes with a convenient carrying bag!
For taking onshore, there are stakes but I’d recommend getting longer sand stakes to secure it in high winds.
Drop-down changing rooms are made to attach to your pontoon bimini top. Some boaters feel they look best and provide more privacy.
One such drop-down changing room is the Carver Industries Boat Bimini Top with Adjustable Privacy Curtain (Available on Amazon). This drop-down partition has a universal fit that should work with any bimini top and one-inch polypropylene straps for easy-peasy attachment and installation.
The straps even have quick-release buckles for taking down when storms hit! In fact, this drop-down partition is made of marine-grade polyester (Poly Flex), which makes it durable with high tear strength, allowing it to last for many boating seasons!
4. Pontoon Bow Enclosures
Pontoon enclosures can fit over the lounge area and even across the bow, providing shade and shelter for passengers. But with the variety of pontoon enclosures available, you can also find one that doubles as a changing room!
This Taylor Made Bow Enclosure (Available on Amazon) with a zippered entryway allows passengers some extra privacy. The best part about using this enclosure as a changing room is its overall size and height, meaning you don’t have to shimmy into a swimsuit while performing a balancing act in a 4-foot square box! You can actually rest on the pontoon bench seating.
Like most of these changing rooms, however, they’re not made for long-term use or while underway. While the hardware is permanently mounted, it’s not strong enough for high winds and is safest when removed.
5. Custom Built
If you know a handy carpenter, you can have a changing room specifically designed, built and installed on your pontoon.
Depending on design and installation, it may or may not be permanent.
While they’re often more expensive, they’re also built sturdier and considered more convenient.
The Best Pontoon Changing Room for You
With lots of changing rooms available, you’re sure to find one to suit your needs and budget. But always do your research before buying.
A few more tips before making a final decision:
- Check all reviews on as many sites as possible.
- Ask your boating friends for their opinions.
- Visit marinas and ask owners who own what you’re interested in.
- Get current owner contacts from manufacturers.
A little research goes a long way. There’s a changing room for all your pontoon needs. Happy hunting!
The Finer Things In Life Qwest LS 820 Lanai Cruise
We all enjoy the finer things in life—those simple pleasures with a touch of elegance and luxury mixed in. Whether it is a five-star meal or a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, we all enjoy some sophisticated quality in our lives from time to time. Qwest recognized this universal tendency to seek out classy comforts, and it definitely shows when you take a look at their Qwest LS 820 Lanai Cruise.
Qwest Pontoons are known for their high-quality vessels and this high-end, luxury pontoon is the perfect example of what helps their brand stand out. Every boat this manufacturer builds is designed and engineered in-house at their factory in
The PDB staff was lucky enough to test drive the 820
Light As A Feather
The triple tubes coupled with the lightweight design and furniture allow the boat to ride impressively high in the water, and the SeaStar hydraulic steering makes turning the boat a pleasure. In addition, it also has a great turning radius. Plain and simple, it’s just an all-around fun boat to drive.
The captain’s area is enough to make any pontoon enthusiast swoon. Stepping up to the helm, the Humminbird Helix 5 Sonar Color Combination GPS/fishfinder is the center focus. It’s situated in the perfect location, always providing necessary information. Then you’ve got your other gauges with rocker switches on either side, along with the Infinity PRV Bluetooth stereo system controls just to the right of the steering wheel with a convenient USB port alongside it. Additionally, the handsome stainless spoke steering wheel offers soft grip and wood-grain accents along with an adjustable tilt steering system.
Having a smaller helm definitely saves some space in the cockpit, but despite its compact size, everything you need is still right in front of you at your fingertips. The helm is an all-fiberglass design with a lovely wood grain dash that also matches your table and some of the other panels. The gauges are all stainless steel, and the Infinity stereo comes standard with four speakers that are ready to get the party started.
The helm offers a personal stainless cupholder for the captain with a dry storage right above it for boat papers or other personal items. The RAM universal cell phone mount is also a convenient feature, giving you easy, hands-free access to your phone. Then don’t forget the PTM Edge rearview mirror. We feel like all pontoons should come standard with a mirror like this because it makes it much easier to keep an eye on things for water sports or even just cruising around.
Going right down to the very threads of the furniture in the 820 Lanai Cruise, the hand-crafted quality and innovation could not be more apparent. The Ultra Flow seat ventilation encourages optimum air flow inside the seat bases which helps to dry items stored beneath the seats. This prevents mold or mildew from forming and helps keep your boat spick and span. The seat bases are made from proprietary Dura-Lite composite material which keeps the boat lighter and stronger while providing generous amounts of storage space.
Even the mount pedestal for the wood grain table is worth noting for its low profile that stays out of the way when not in use. You’ll never have to worry about stubbing a toe because it’s flush with the floor and it’s even got a nice little rubber cap for when it’s not in use.
Naturally, all of the tables and posts store comfortably under the seats, so everything’s nice and out of the way but still ready to use whenever you want it. The boat also has Diamond Seagrass luxury woven vinyl flooring which is a lovely touch. All of these details make it easy to see why this is part of the Luxury Series from Qwest.
From Front To Back
The 820 Lanai Cruise is packed with tons of great features from bow to stern. The boat is rated for up to 11 passengers which is a fantastic capacity for its size, supplying plenty of comfortable, soft-touch vinyl seating throughout.
At the stern of the boat in the swim deck area, there’s a large bench-seat section with great storage below. As mentioned before, the pontoon comes with a solid ski/tow bar, and our test boat was equipped with a big Suzuki engine that provided the boat its ample power.
It also has a comfortable contoured aluminum rear ladder which has four big steps that swing out. This is actually the same ladder Qwest used for its Avanti model last year. Qwest had such success with this particular ladder they decided to bring it over to the Luxury Series along with the stainless steel corner caps. This ladder has been hailed for the ease that accompanies getting up and down out of the water. This is yet another example of one of the luxury items that became standard in this series.
Qwest clearly infused its LS 820 Lanai Cruise with comfort, performance and sophistication, never straying from their reputation for quality pontoons. Right down to the details, the boat is peppered with small luxuries that contribute to a fantastic boating experience.
From the lightweight design to the fit and finish, this boat quite simply provides pontooners with some of the finer things in life.