The Boater’s Guide to Owning a Pontoon Boat

Owning a Pontoon Boat is easy and pretty low-maintenance. But it’s not that easy. Whether you’re thinking about buying a pontoon boat or you already have one of your own and can use some tips, you’ll enjoy this detailed guide to Pontoon Boating.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Pontoon Boat

Advantages

Comfortable

Pontoon boats are spacious, comfortable and can easily seat a good number of people. They offer good capacity and are family-friendly. The roomy, flat floors allow passengers to walk around with ease. These and the gated entries also help keep everyone, especially children, safely inside the boat. 

Versatile

With a pontoon boat, you get a party boat, sailing boat and fishing boat in one. You can sail, fish, enjoy various water activities. And yes, you can even go skiing or wakeboarding with the right engine.

Safe

The even floor and the gated entries keep everyone, especially children, safely inside the pontoon boat. The fences and high rails also reduce the chances of anyone falling over into the water. 

Statistics even show that they are safer than many other types of boats. The total weight, lower average speeds, and a wide turn radius make pontoon boats very stable and unlikely to capsize.

Affordable and Low-Maintenance

Compared to other boats of similar functions or size, pontoon boats are remarkably affordable. They also don’t cause a lot to maintain, store and fix. 

Downsides

Speed

Pontoon boats speeds are nothing to scoff at but neither do they eat up the miles like a speed demon. A bigger engine and triple pontoons are available options but can be quite costly.

Maneuverability

Nimble water gazelles, pontoon boats are not. Try not to get caught in a tight spot. The heavier total weight and wide turn radius that adds to the boat’s safety don’t contribute a lot to maneuverability.

Rough waters

Yes, pontoon boats are safe but don’t go around charging waves in turbulent weather. Pontoon boats are largely designed for lakes and rivers. You’ll be safe enough if caught under extreme weather conditions but it’s better to head directly to dock.

Pontoon Boat Buyer’s Guide

Pontoon boats come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to get the right one for you. With all the selection out there, it can get quite confusing. Here are some questions to ask yourself when buying a pontoon boat.

a. Where will you do most of your boating?

The lake where you plan to spend the most time in your boat plays a considerable role in choosing your boat, especially the boat size. Make it your business to know the requirements, restrictions, and anchorage, etc. in the area. If the boats docked on the lake are mostly big boats, chances are you’ll need a big boat too. If they’re on the small side, a smaller boat of around 20-feet would be more ideal.

b. How many people will be on board most of the time?

The average number of people that you’ll take on board also places a role in your pontoon boat size. If it’ll only be used by a family of four most of the time, then owning a pontoon boat that can seat 20 people would not be too practical.

c. For what purpose will you often use the boat?

Are you a leisurely lounger, adventurous cruiser or wild fun seeker? Or perhaps, all three?  The beauty of pontoon boats is that they are multipurpose boats. But if you’re using it primarily for one pursuit or the other, then you’ll want a boat made to be efficient in said activity. With how the industry is growing, there’s now a pontoon boat for most everyone out there.

A party pontoon boat will likely require lots of space. Diving board and sports towers are great additions too. Fishing boats will have live-wells, bucket seats, and rod holders. Boats for pulling skiers and tubers will have to be the fastest pontoon boats out there. While families would most likely want a sedate boat with various child-safeties in place. Motor size, capacity, layout, structure, accessories and the like all factor into what pontoon boat model would best serve your purpose.

d. How much do you want to pay?

How fast, big, accessorized and luxurious your boat will be depends on how much you are willing to drop. Note that aside from the initial cost of the boat, there are other operation and maintenance costs. These expenses include fuel, insurance, repairs and maintenance, docking and storage, accessories, and even upgrades. Usually, the pricier and bigger your boat, the bigger the increase in these other aspects. 

Pontoon Boat Safety

Safety Checklist

Before sailing, make sure that you have all sailing and safety equipment ready. Secure your life vests, fire extinguishers, first aid kit, toolbox, anchor, maps, flashlights, buoys, paddle, tow lines, food, and water, etc. More on these in the next section of the article.

Weather Forecast

Check weather predictions before continuing with your trip. It can be a bummer but you’ll know when to cancel the trip than risk getting stranded in the middle of the sea. Nothing’s worse than unknowingly sailing into an oncoming storm. Yikes.

Pre-Sailing Checks

Perform some routine maintenance. Check if your engine, radio, nav lights, bilge pump, batteries, etc. are OK and working.

Don’t Get Carried Away

It’s easy to get carried away in a party boat. Don’t. Stay within your pontoon boat capacity limit. Don’t drink while driving. Don’t over speed. In other words, be a responsible sailor. 

Boating Safety Course

It’s a good idea to get a boating safety course to cover all the bases. There’s always something new to learn!

Safety and Toolkit Equipment

Safety Equipment

Here are some safety equipment that you should always have on your boat: 

a. Personal Flotation Devices and Life Jackets

A selection of PDFs or Personal Flotation Devices and life jackets of all shapes and sizes should always be available for every single passenger in the pontoon boat, as well as some extra. Place them in a secure but visible and easily-accessible location for everyone on board.

b. Marine Fire Extinguisher

A standard fire extinguisher is good to have as an extra but by no means should it be the only one in the boat. A tested marine fire extinguisher made especially for marine use. Make sure that both are far from their expiration date, are in good working condition and all those boarding know where to find it and how to use it. 

c. Registration Certificate

 A certificate means that your pontoon boat is safe and water-worthy. A boat has no business getting on the water without a valid registration certificate. So check if yours is up-to-date and always bring it with you when pontooning. 

d. Signaling Device

If your boat is in trouble and needs assistance, some kind of visual signal or audible warning device should be ready at hand. A big, brightly colored flag, flare, and high-decibel whistle or marine horn work well.

Fully stocked first-aid kit. It’s easy for people to have an accident on board, even if it’s only a cut hand, so you need to have a stock of first-aid items close by.

e. First-aid kit

A basic first aid kit is a start but a full-stocked first-aid kit is ideal. After all, you have the space for it and it’s best to be fully-prepared whether it’s only a small cut or a full-on emergency.

Boat Tool Kit

Here are some tools that will be convenient to have onboard for small emergency repairs and the like:

a. Floating Knife, Scissors and Cutter

A good old knife is any sailor, fisherman, camper and or outdoor person’s friend. Scissors and cutters will also do a good job of cutting through wires, cable ties, hoses, etc. A Floating knife, scissors, or cutter is even better so you don’t lose ‘em when (and we say “when”) accidentally dropped in water.

b. Floating Flashlight

A floating waterproof flashlight is a must-have for when you need to turn on the brights.

c. Cable Ties

Cable ties with a selection of lengths and sizes are cheap and easy anchor savers, etc.

d. Motor Repair Kit

We’re not always so lucky to have a boat mechanic on board, so a pontoon boat driver should learn enough to fix the basics. A motor repair kit with an adjustable wrench set, spare nuts and bolts, a screwdriver set and extra screws, pliers, battery terminal puller, spark plugs and fuses, electric tape, duct tape, and hose clamps will come handy.

e. Emergency Survival Kit

Even if you’re in some of the safest boats in the calmest of waters, there’s really no knowing what freak accident happens. So it’s better to prepare than to despair. Ideally, an emergency survival kit should include an emergency blanket, emergency whistle, knife, food and water, compass, portable PDF, and firestarter, among others.

Popular Lakes for Pontoon Boating

So you got yourself a pontoon boat? It’s time to test drive that baby! Here’s a list of some of the most popular lakes for pontoon boating in the country.

Lake Tahoe

California and Nevada 

The largest alpine lake in North America is both beautiful and breathtaking. Lake Tahoe is famous for clear waters and grand mountain vistas.

Moosehead Lake

Maine

Escape the crowds at Maine’s Moosehead Lake where the local moose population often outnumbers boaters. Hike Mt. Kineo if you’re looking for a day activity on land.

Lake of the Ozarks

Missouri

Said to be the party capital for boaters, Lake of the Ozarks is the place to be if you’re looking for a charming country scenery. Head over to Party Cove for loud music and fun.

Lake Okeechobee

Florida

Lake Okeechobee is a fisherman’s paradise, home to alligators, the heftiest largemouth bass, and limitless sunshine. 

Lake Norman

North Carolina

The Social Olympics is hosted at Lake Norman. This summertime tradition is famous for its annual drinking games and all-out revelry on the lake.

Lake Cumberland

Kentucky

This premier boating destination is famous for two cool things: the Harmon Creek Party Cover that draws people by and large, and the Guinness World Record for the largest boat tie-up.

Caddo Lake

Louisiana

The largest naturally occurring freshwater lake in the South also contains the world’s largest Cypress forest. Enjoy the jungle-like maze and zero horsepower limit.

Lake Havasu

Arizona

In Lake Havasu, boating is always a season. The Bridgewater Channel near the famed London Bridge is the most famous attraction, along with beautiful hidden coves and beaches.

Addressing Common Concerns for New Owners

Exposure

A pontoon boat is relatively maintenance-free. It’s easy to clean. The machinery is not complicated and the mostly vinyl covering can be wiped down in a jiffy.

However, if the boat is not properly stored and left exposed to the sun and the elements for long periods, the vinyl will deteriorate over a few years. This can be expensive to replace. Store the boat properly, preferably where it’s not exposed to the sun directly.

Pollen and other impurities can stick to the boat and cause ugly, unwanted growths along its crannies and exterior. A lot of these can be pressure-washed easily. Be careful with using bleach or strong cleaners for stubborn patches. Cover your pontoon boat when in storage and when not in use to add a layer of protection against growth.

Handling and Docking

Because of their wide sides, pontoon boats can be more susceptible to wind than other types of boats. A strong enough wind can throw you off course. It also makes it more difficult to park in a crowded dock. Take the time to thoroughly learn and practice maneuvering your boat.

Boat Speed

Earlier pontoon boat designs make them practically torpedoes in the water. Many pontoon boats today are larger with higher capacities. Big diameter, triple pontoons with high horse-power make fast boats. However, they are also quite pricey. Small diameter and low horsepower boats are more affordable but they are also slower. But don’t despair because boats in the comfortable middle range are still really quick. Ultimately, the boat speed factor comes down to preference. If you want the fastest pontoon boat in town, it won’t come cheap.

Depreciation

Pontoon boats, to a great extent, actually have the lowest depreciation in the boat market. This makes owning a pontoon boat extremely practical and inexpensive. But believe it or not, high-end pontoon boats, the ultra-luxury ones, depreciate faster. The more reasonably priced units can offer more value in the long-term. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to take a look at this collection.

*(insert a link to store)*

Rough Waters

We’ve established that pontoon boats are extremely safe, buoyant and stable, even in rough conditions. However, when heading into a crosswind and with the wave coming at an angle to the bow, the tendency is the water sprays up and you and your passengers will get wet. 

Lifting and Transport

Pontoon boats are very narrow in between its pontoons and most trailers and lifting equipment slide up between the pontoons. If they’re not aligned right, the equipment can scrape up the inside. They won’t usually need repair but scratches are not ideal and it can be annoying. 

Another thing is that because these boats are fairly long, picking them up with a forklift can get quite tricky. If the balance point strays to the end of the forks, the majority of the boat’s weight will be placed on one cross member.

More Web Resources

Pontoon Boat Blogs to Follow

We’re on the internet, so of course, there would be blogs you can follow. Not only will you be able to share in the adventures of other people in their pontoon boats, these blogs are also chockfull of useful information, tips and ideas. Here are our top 3 favorite pontoon blogs and we recommend that you give them a peek.

Pontoonpedia

Pontoonopedia was founded by Bill Lewandowski in 2016 when he and his family bought a used 22-foot 2012 Sweetwater 200. He tells that he’s always been interested in owning a pontoon boat and was happy and excited that they have finally bought one for the first time. 

Just like a first-time owner, Bill ran into his own share of trouble, confusion, and mistakes. He began Pontoonpedia when he got frustrated when looking for answers to his questions and found almost no useful resource. Years later, it has grown to be an encompassing website that offers all sorts of advice, information and all thing pontoon boating to pontoon boat owners and operators from all over the country, and even the world.

A rich resource for beginner guides, how-to manuals, tip & advice, pontoon boat hacks, and many more articles with essential information, Pontoonpedia is definitely our number one favorite pontoon blog (besides this one, of course *wink*).

Better Boat

Better Boat began actually has three separate dedicated blogs for General Boating Blog, Pontoon Boat Blog, Deckboat Blog. We can say with good authority that all three are useful, informative and worth the read. 

The writers don’t actually introduce themselves, opting for anonymity. They do say that the website was born from their love of boats. They went on to say that it all started with a 22-foot 2015 G3 Suncatcher V22RF pontoon boat that they used to tow their kids around the lake, and fish for bass and trout, etc. BetterBoat is the place where they share everything they learn about boats as they go.

The pontoon boat blog is pack with information especially to first time buyers or owners. They have expansive beginner’s guides, buyer’s manual, pontoon boat review, and pontooning tips and tricks.

Pontoon and Deck Boat Magazine

Pdbmagazine.com is an online pontoon and deck boat subscription magazine that is a treasure trove of glitzy images and videos, useful information, and the latest news in the pontoon boating world.

This online mag is the brainchild of Harris Publishing, Inc., a “full-service media company specializing in niche print publications, websites and associated specialty events within the markets (they) serve”. Their mission is to promote passion through creative print and online content, cutting-edge marketing, and targeted distribution. The company focuses on spur growth, development and positive messaging. And yep, we’re inclined to agree that they do deliver.

Pontoon Living

PontoonLiving.com is a blog for pontoon owners and pontoon buyers alike. They offer pontoon boating tips and tricks, stories, pontoon boat models and accessories reviews, brand reviews, directory listings and many more. According to their website, you will find quality information that will be a big help in everyday boating life.

Other Sailing Blogs To Follow

There are so many great blogs to follow out there, not only the pontoon boaters. Some take it to the next level and sail around the world in their boats. Here are our three favorite sailing blogs that you should check out.

Swell Voyage

Liz is a surfer, captain, author, and environmentalist from sunny California. She learned to sail at the age of 7 and has now traveled 20,000NM (36,000km) to Mexico, Central America, and the South Pacific on her 40-foot boat sailing named Swell. Swell is powered by wind and solar power alone.

Sailing Kittiwake

Elena and Ryan quit their jobs to chase a dream aboard a 26-foot catamaran they named Kittiwake. This young couple decided not to wait until they’re older and better off. Instead, they sailed with a tiny budget on a simple boat, living a frugal but experience-rich life.

Sailing Britican

From corporate CEO to co-captain of her own boat. Kim is now sailing the world with her husband Simon, and their daughter Sienna. While voyaging around the world, the family also helps people become full-time live-aboard sailing cruisers on their websites.

Happy Boating!

See you out in the water! Stay safe and have fun. 

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