No one operating a watercraft of any size wants to get stuck, whether the vessel is as small as a personal watercraft or as massive as a cruise ship. Getting stuck can not only be harmful to your boat, but depending on the circumstances, can be extremely dangerous as well.
Thus, it’s important never to drive your pontoon boat into water that’s too shallow. Still, there are reasons you might want to get into shallow water, so it’s best to do so safely.
In general, you can probably take your pontoon boat into water as shallow as two feet of real depth, but this, of course, depends on several factors.
What is Real Depth?
Real depth is exactly as it sounds: The actual depth from the surface of the water to the floor of the lake or pond. Because of the way light refracts at the surface of the water, you can’t judge real depth simply by looking down (the perceived depth is called “apparent depth,”), so you must ensure a true measurement of real depth.
If your boat is equipped with a depth gauge, the water depth is likely read from the rear of the boat, so take that into account as you start approaching shallower depths.
Also, you should take special care to make sure the depth is consistent throughout the path you want to travel. If debris, seaweed, sandbars, or anything else get in the way, you lose your depth and risk getting stuck.
If you are unfamiliar with the waters, discuss potential hazards with other boaters who are accustomed to the area. Then proceed with caution.
Reasons to Take Your Pontoon Boat into Shallow Water
For some, maybe shallow water will never be a concern, as most of the activities you enjoy take place in deep water. Still, it’s likely you’ll be docking your boat in shallow water, or using a boat launch to get in and out. So, it’s important to know your depths wherever you go.
For those who enjoy fishing, you may find it advantageous to get into shallow water for your catch of the day. Likewise, if you want to spend some time on the beach during your voyage, it makes sense to anchor close to the beach, where the water is shallower, than to anchor way out and try to swim a ridiculous distance in (and then back out).
Precautions to Take in Shallow Water
When we mentioned two feet of real depth earlier, we were speaking in generalities, as we noted. Three feet is better, and four is better still, but as you get to know your boat and your habits, you’ll be able to find your confidence level.
Consider How Much Weight You Have on Board.
If two people had an easy time gliding through two feet of water, that doesn’t mean a full boat of 10 or 11 people will have the same carefree ride. Always take into account the weight of the people and objects on your boat before entering shallow water.
Consider Your Hull’s Draft.
With a hull that sits deeper in the water, you will need more leeway with the real depth of the water. Note that the hulls of triple hull pontoons in particular often sit lower; for example, the center tube on our V-Toon models is 5.25” lower than the outer tubes.
When you move into shallow water, make sure to trim up the engine, but don’t go all the way up (if you get stuck with the engine tilted as far as possible, you’re stuck for good). Try trimming up far enough that the propeller gulps for air, and then lower it a minimum of two inches. Check that the outboard is still spitting water out of the valve to ensure the engine does not overheat.
Finally, make sure your path doesn’t have any obstructions. Seeing underwater is difficult even when crystal clear, so be especially careful in darker waters.
Read Your Pontoon Boat Owner’s Manual.
The manufacturers specifically design their boats for your pleasure, and they want you to enjoy them as much as possible. Heed their recommendations, and if you have any questions at all about the capabilities of your pontoon boat or your future boat, feel free to contact your local dealer as well.
Pontoon boats wouldn’t be called the most versatile watercraft in the world if they weren’t customizable, right? Of course not. Especially with the advancements in manufacturing we enjoy today, you can customize your pontoon boat design to fit exactly what you like to do—whether it’s cruising and lounging, fishing, socializing, skiing and tubing, or anything else you can do on the water.
A Layout for Every Activity
When designing the layout of your pontoon boat, it’s important to determine how you plan to use your boat. While you can use it for everything listed above, you probably don’t need to incorporate any fishing seats or accessories if you don’t ever plan to fish, for example.
Whether you plan to design a boat for a single activity or create a layout that is optimized for several activities, you’ll be able to do it. Seating layouts that face each other (or don’t), create an open common area (or don’t), put you in prime position to catch fish (or don’t) will not only make your pontoon boat exactly how you envision it, but will also enhance your enjoyment on the water.
Consider the Length of the Boat and Deck
Pontoon boat floor plans must, obviously, fit within the size of your deck. As such, how you maximize your space depends crucially on your deck size. Most of our pontoon boats are available in 23-, 25-, and 27-foot lengths, allowing you to decide how much space you need for seating, storage, and open areas.
For reference, take a look at how a floor plan can vary between 23 and 27 feet on our 2018 Legacy LT SHP:
Types of Seating and Furniture
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you realize how many options there are, but it’s also easy to narrow your choices if you know how you’re going to use your boat. Choose from chairs, benches, lounge seats, fishing seats, seats with storage, seats that convert to tables, bars, stools, a sundeck, and more.
Fishing seats are essential for anglers, but probably take up too much space if you don’t fish. To build a comfortable floating living room, vary your benches and chairs to create ideal social settings. A sundeck is a popular option for almost any pontoon enthusiast, and you’ll probably want to leave a little extra room if you’re predominantly using your boat for water sports.
To see how a similar space can be used for different purposes, compare the Aurora, an ideal versatile model for new pontoon boaters, in 20 and 22 feet, with the Aurora Angler LE, in the same lengths, built specifically for fishing.
A Luxurious Ride
Are you looking for the ultimate in pontoon luxury? Seats that convert into sun lounges, elegant fiberglass touches, and a built-in swim platform can put you on the water in superior style.
Build the Boat You Want to Use
With so many options, buyers can get caught up in wanting a little bit of everything. That’s natural, and adding certain elements that enhance your many activities is a good idea, but your absolute best option is to design the boat you will want to use over and over. You need to focus on the features you will use most often, and design your floor plan to accommodate your boating lifestyle. When you do that, you will have dramatically enriched your summers for years to come.
Searching for your first pontoon boat doesn’t have to be overwhelming, even if it may seem like it at first. You know pontoon boats are the most versatile craft on the water, so whatever you get will be able to accommodate your specific desires. Still, you can hone in further to make sure you get the ideal boat for what you like to do, while maintaining the versatility that will allow you to enjoy other activities, as well.
Call it a “starter boat” if you want, but with all the possibilities available, you’ll consider yourself a boating veteran in no time.
What Do You Want to Do with Your Pontoon Boat?
If you plan to use your boat for skiing, tubing, and other water sports, you need to look into a model with a powerful engine and easy access in and out of the water.
Prefer lounging, entertaining, or fishing? If so, you can focus less on the boat’s power and more on its deck space, seating capacity and configuration, and specialty fishing accessories like a live well, fish locator, and fishing chairs.
Again, because pontoon boats are incredibly versatile, you won’t be sacrificing one activity in order to get another. Instead, think of it as maximizing the activities you will do most often.
For more of the basics to consider, check out Four Questions to Ask Before You Buy.
First Pontoon Boats: Get a Lot for a Little
One of the best features of pontoon boats—at all price levels—is how much you get relative to the cost. The value of a pontoon boat is unbeatable.
When looking for a starter boat, there are three Manitou models we recommend you look at right away, to get Manitou’s industry-leading performance at an affordable price:
Known as the most accessible pontoon boat on the water, the 2018 Aurora has all the craftsmanship and performance you expect from Manitou, but at the most attractive price in the line.
The most customizable Manitou line, Aurora LE, lets you choose exactly what you want while getting unmatchable performance at this price point.
Aurora Angler LE
Built for the fisherman, the Aurora Angler LE is extremely customizable and adaptable to all pontoon activities. This model gives you the fishing chairs and accessories you need to spend the day angling on the water.
Find Your Pontoon Model
Pontoon boats are versatile, accessible, and affordable. If you’re looking for your first pontoon boat, the Aurora models will give you value you can’t find anywhere else.
When you want your pontoon boat to go faster, or ride smoother in rough waters, you would benefit from having lifting strakes. But what are lifting strakes? What do they do? And do you have them already?
Chances are, if you’ve purchased a 3 tube pontoon boat in the last several years (and certainly if you bought it from us), lifting strakes were already installed and are doing their job.
As pontoon boats continue to get more versatile, allowing for owners to leisurely float, casually cruise, or play water sports like skiing and tubing at high speeds, outboard motors are getting bigger.
With bigger outboards, the pontoons need some help generating lift. Without lift, the boat would be limited to floating and slow cruising. That’s where lifting strakes come in. The strakes, welded directly onto the pontoons, produce lift at the bow by displacing water, allowing the boat to, in essence, glide above the water rather than lumber through it.
Many lifting strakes use negative angles, which can generate lift, but can hurt the quality of the ride due to increased slamming loads.
Manitou’s lifting strakes work to not only create lift, but also to make the ride smoother.
Manitou V-Toon Lifting Strake Design
Instead of using negative-angle strakes, we designed strakes that work in concert with our V-Toon technology to give boaters the speed—and the smooth ride—they want. The key is creating and maintaining balance.
Because our V-Toon tritoon boats are the most agile and predictable at high speeds on the water, we attached strakes to the inside and outside of all three pontoons of our SHP (sports handling package) hulls, enhancing the agility and predictability to keep you moving exactly as you want, whether you’re skiing, cruising, or anchoring.
Benefits of Lifting Strakes
When your strakes are installed properly and working effectively, you get several tangible benefits:
- More speed. When you’re above the water rather than trying to plow through it, you can generate significantly more speed.
- Smoother ride. Especially with V-Toon technology, the balance and lift you get from the strakes keep your ride smooth.
- Better fuel efficiency. Simple: when it’s easier for your boat to move, it requires less fuel to do so.
Lifting strakes can be retrofitted to your pontoons, but as mentioned earlier, most new models will come equipped with them. If you decide to add them to your current model, you’ll of course want to make sure they are expertly positioned and that the welding is top-notch to get the true benefits of the modification.
Are you in the market for a new (or new to you) pontoon? Strakes are a feature you’ll want for an optimal experience on the water.
Did you know that May 19-25, 2018, is National Safe Boating Week? We take safety very seriously here at Manitou, and we wanted to share some statistics and tips to to promote pontoon boat safety—not just this week, but throughout the year.
In 2016, there were over 4400 recreational boating accidents, which resulted in 701 deaths, along with an estimated $49 million in damages. Of these accidents, 120 injuries and 47 deaths were reported to happen upon a pontoon boat. Don’t become a statistic—make safety your top priority to ensure a fun, secure trip for everyone!
Top Reasons for Boating Accidents
According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s most recent Recreational Boating Statistics Report, the major contributing factors to boating accident fatalities in 2016 were all related to operation of the vessel. The top 5 contributing factors for fatal accidents were:
- Alcohol Use: 282 Accidents, 87 Deaths
- Operator Inexperience: 480 Accidents, 62 Deaths
- Operator Inattention: 597 Accidents, 45 Deaths
- Excessive Speeds: 360 Accidents, 39 Deaths
- Improper Lookout: 475 Accidents, 20 Deaths
Machinery failure was also the #3 contributing factor to all reported accidents, resulting in 323 accidents and 9 deaths.
Boating accidents don’t need to be fatal to be devastating, as accidents can also cause significant injury and property loss. Do your part to ensure safety on the water, whether you’re the captain or a passenger.
Pontoon Boat Safety Tips
- Always have enough age-appropriate life jackets on board for every person in your party. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, meaning life jackets are better worn than stowed when out on the water. As drownings can occur even when life jackets are worn, make sure to regularly inspect the condition of your life jackets.
- Know your pontoon boat’s capacity so you don’t overload your vessel and risk sinking.
- Create a float plan for each trip—or at the very least, tell someone where you are heading and when you plan to return.
- Make sure your passengers are seated and wearing proper safety gear before taking off.
- Be an attentive and informed operator in all circumstances. If it’s been a while since your last boater safety course, consider brushing up on what you need to know. When using your pontoon for water sports, designate another passenger as your extra set of eyes on the water.
- Don’t drink and boat; just like on the roadways, driving under the influence on the water is illegal.
- Use an anchor when you want your boat to remain stationary.
- Keep an eye out for weather changes. Knowing how to manage your vessel in heavy winds or other intense circumstances is always a smart choice.
- Stay up-to-date with routine maintenance on your boat.
Boat Safety Checklist
Avoid accidents and injuries by keeping a safety checklist, including all of the equipment you need in the case of an emergency. Ensure your pontoon has a fire extinguisher, ring buoy, and first aid kit so that you are prepared. In addition, perform routine maintenance on your pontoon so that the engine, navigation lights, and other systems run smoothly. Before taking out your boat, consider putting together a safety kit that includes items like a pocket knife, radio, battery charger, and extra food and drink.
Download and print our Boat Safety Checklist and to keep as a reminder throughout the season:
The power and performance of pontoon boats is becoming less of a secret and more of an expected feature for potential buyers. Nobody wants to give up the social aspect of the floating living room, but as engines get bigger and designs get sleeker (particularly with our V-Toon technology), pontoons—already the most versatile vessels on the water—are even more versatile.
Add More Speed
The maximum speed of your pontoon boat is affected by several factors, mainly the size of the engine, the number of tubes beneath the deck, and the amount of weight the boat is carrying.
[Related reading: How Fast is a Pontoon Boat?]
If you’re looking for a faster pontoon boat, the easiest way is to lighten the load. That is, fewer people, fewer coolers, less furniture, etc. One of the best aspects of a pontoon boat is its versatility. While socializing with large groups of friends and family is a great way to spend time, you can also grab just a few friends, some tubes, some skis, and spend the day on the water with speed.
Increasing the power of your engine will also add speed to your boat. Most performance pontoon boats come with engines that provide plenty of power for speeds of 18-30 MPH, which is enough for tubing and skiing, but if you have a less powerful engine and are ready to speed things up, you can look into adding more horsepower.
Increase Performance with V-Toon Technology
Our V-Toon technology is designed to act like a v-hull boat. With a center tube sitting lower in the water, the tritoon design can lift and plane like a fiberglass boat while maintaining the stability of a pontoon boat.
Pontoon boats with V-Toon hulls give you quicker acceleration and higher overall speeds.
Reduce drag from splashing water by adding underskinning, and reduce wind resistance by lowering the bimini cover. By making sure your pontoons are clean below the water line, you increase the smoothness of the boat’s movement through the water, with the end result being a faster pontoon.
By keeping up with necessary maintenance and adapting your boat to the needs of the day, you can maximize its performance to the exact purpose of that day. Slowly cruising with friends is just as accessible as waterskiing. It’s completely up to you.
[Check out our performance pontoon boats for the best of both worlds!]
One of the most confusing topics in all of boating, pontoon or otherwise, deals with gasoline—particularly ethanol. Can you use it? If so, what percentage of it is okay to use in your boat engine? We’ll try to alleviate the confusion by breaking down the essential points.
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is added to fuel to diminish pollution. Acting as an oxygenate, ethanol—which is essentially 200-proof grain alcohol—reduces hydrocarbon emissions. We should note that ethanol used for fuel is not safe to drink.
The most common ethanol-blended fuel is E10, which means the fuel is made of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. E15 (15% ethanol and 85% gas) has been the source of much debate in Washington, D.C. lately, with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) lobbying hard against the sale of E15.
Is Ethanol Gas Bad for Boat Motors?
This is where it gets confusing. E15 is not good for boats. Do not put E15 into your boat’s motor. Using E15 in your boat’s motor can cause unfixable damage. You could find yourself with complete engine failure and all the safety risks that come with using a fuel incompatible with your boat’s engine.
However, E10 is good and compatible with all marine engines built in the last 10 years or so. Because a fuel’s ethanol content is not always obvious at the pump, it’s important to make absolutely certain you’re using E10 before filling the tank. This confusion, and the potentially damaging effects of putting the wrong amount of ethanol in your boat, is just one of the reasons the NMMA is so adamantly opposed to the sale of E15.
If E15 is So Bad, Why the Controversy?
The fight is over whether to allow the year-round sale of E15. Because there is more ethanol and less gasoline than in E10, E15 is better for the environment, and proponents also say selling E15 all year would lower prices. Further, a demand for a more environmentally-friendly fuel might help the industry work to produce even better fuels.
Currently, E15 cannot be sold all year largely because it can’t be produced all year. Its fuel volatility in the summer months is too high, leaving too great a risk to produce it.
The NMMA’s worry is that year-round sales of E15 will add further confusion to the issue and potentially lead to accidental and unnecessary destruction of recreational boaters’ vessels. When boaters fill their tanks, they don’t always thoroughly check to make sure their fuel is E10, and one mistake can lead to complete engine failure.
As the NMMA continues to lobby for recreational boaters and the industry, it’s important to know how to keep your own boat safe when fueling.
- Given a choice between E10 and E15, always use E10. However, certain engines may require other fuels, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual first.
- Make absolutely certain you’re filling your tank with E10. Check at the pump. It’s easy to make a mistake, as some gas stations will have E10, E15, or even another type of fuel, so double (or triple) check before fueling.
One of the absolute greatest attributes of a pontoon boat has always been its versatility. There is no other boat on the water that lets people do as many things as a pontoon boat does.
Fishing, of course. Cruising with family and friends (and fitting a lot of them comfortably), yes. Socializing, swimming, dining—pontoon boats are floating parties, sanctuaries, or anything you want them to be.
And yes, you can waterski behind a pontoon boat.
Well, not every pontoon boat. Obviously, you need enough speed to be able to ski behind a boat, and to get speed, you need enough horsepower in the engine. Many people don’t associate horsepower with pontoon boats, but it’s time we change that belief.
Fun Skiing, Not Competitive Skiing
Let’s get this out of the way first: If you’re a competitive waterskier or wakeboarder, buy a ski boat. Serious skiers will want the wake generated by and maneuverability of a ski boat. For families and friends who enjoy tubing, skiing, or wakeboarding for fun, a pontoon boat could be exactly what you’re seeking.
Horsepower and Speed
In general, for someone to waterski or wakeboard, the boat needs to be moving at least 20 miles per hour, usually closer to 26 or 27. Tubing doesn’t require quite as much speed, and you can start to have fun at around 15 miles per hour.
A pontoon boat with a 70 horsepower engine is plenty for tubing. At that level, you might be able to get up on skis too, but 90 HP will serve you much better. After that, the more HP in your engine, the more adventurous you can get with your water sports.
It’s important to note these numbers are generalities. For example, if you’re entertaining 12 people on your boat, it’s going to be harder to reach speeds ideal for skiing. Ninety HP with 12 people on the boat moves a lot more slowly than 90 HP with two people. And 90 HP might be enough for a 20-foot boat to pull a skier, but you’re going to need more engine to ski behind a 26-foot boat.
Differences Between Skiing Behind a Pontoon Boat and Ski Boat
There is no doubt you can have fun wakeboarding, skiing, and tubing behind a pontoon boat, adding water sports to the long list of activities pontoon boats can accommodate.
As noted before, though, the shape of the wake won’t be what you traditionally think of in waterskiing. Essentially, this means you’ll have less rough water to play with on your skis. Likewise, pontoon boats generally aren’t as sharply maneuverable as a ski boat, so you won’t be flying side to side as much as you might on a boat designed specifically for sports; but for most people, a pontoon boat’s larger turning radius is plenty for a good time on skis. Only experienced, serious skiers will notice much of a difference.
Pontoon boats continue to get more versatile, more powerful, and more fun. Skiing, wakeboarding and tubing are just three of an ever-growing list of activities you can enjoy on your pontoon boat.
If you’re looking to invest in a new boat, there are several factors to consider. Many people narrow their options to choosing between a pontoon boat and a deck boat. Which is right for you? Obviously, it depends on what you’re looking for in a boat.
Consider these factors:
In general, a deck boat will be more expensive than a pontoon boat. However, more luxurious pontoon models will begin to approach a similar price point to a deck boat. And, depending on what type of engine you choose for either, that alone could cost up to 50% of the price of the boat itself. Obviously, prices vary among both styles of boats, but in most cases, a deck boat will cost more.
Size and Space
The actual size can be quite similar from a deck boat to a pontoon boat, so if this is your deciding factor, consider the purpose of your boat. Deck boats can usually accommodate up to 12 people, but the more-spacious layout of a pontoon boat can comfortably and safely fit up to 16 people on large models.
Pontoon boats have always been known as one of the best values on the water because of their ability to hold so many people at such an attractive price point.
With deck boats able to entertain up to a dozen people as well, you’ll want to consider what type of space you’re seeking. Most deck boats have all seating facing forward, which is especially nice when cruising at a high speed, whereas pontoons have the flexibility to face any direction, even re-arranging furniture while entertaining friends or family on the lake.
Both types of boat will have a fair amount of storage space, but generally speaking, a pontoon boat will have more.
Hull, Stability, and Ride
The decks of most pontoon boats lay flat across the two pontoons (also known as a multi-hull design), which makes them ideal for socializing. The flat hull keeps the boat steady in the water, both while moving and sitting still.
Deck boats, however, use v-hulls, which cut through the water while moving, allowing deck boats to accelerate more quickly than traditional pontoons. A pontoon boat trying to reach the same speed as a deck boat will require more fuel to do so; however, pontoons are much more fuel-efficient overall.
The downside of the fiberglass v-hull comes from its central axis, which leads the boat to rock with wind, waves, or movement of the passengers on the boat.
You no longer have to choose one or the other, though. Manitou’s V-Toon Technology, available on many of our models, mimics a traditional v-hull in shape while maintaining the stability of traditional pontoons.
Generally speaking, because of the different types of hulls, deck boats are better for slicing through the water, but pontoon boats keep you steady, whether you’re in motion or not.
With the recent increases in power on pontoon boats (again, depending on the type of engine you select), the disparities between what you can do on a deck boat as compared to a pontoon boat are shrinking, especially when you consider V-Toon performance.
For instance, a pontoon with a 150-horsepower engine is plenty for tubing or water skiing; however, it’s worth noting that if you’re an experienced tuber or skier, you may not catch as much air as you’d like. Deck boats are still superior in that respect, as they slice through the water and give you some wake to navigate.
If your water sport of choice is fishing, a pontoon boat is the way to go. Not that you can’t fish from a deck boat, but the stable platform and additional room on a pontoon boat will definitely be to your advantage as you try to reel in tonight’s dinner.
As with any watercraft, it’s essential to keep your boat clean and in working order. This requires effort on both deck and pontoon boats, but the difference here is most noticeable on the hulls. The aluminum pontoons are far easier to clean and maintain than the fiberglass hull of a deck boat, which needs to be wiped down after every day spent on the water. If you don’t wipe the gelcoat meticulously, water spots become ridiculously difficult to remove later.
Which is Right for You?
Pontoon boats remain the best value on the water and continue to advance, both in style and power, without losing the essential wide-open spaces perfect for entertaining socializing. Deck boats give you a little less space for socializing, but in many cases will move you through the water faster, even if you have to sacrifice a little stability and keep up a meticulous maintenance regimen. And if you find yourself wanting the best of both worlds, explore Manitou’s performance pontoons.
Pontoon boats are ideal for inland lakes and rivers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fit for ocean waters. In fact, they’re often used on the ocean, though generally close to shore and in inter-coastal areas such as bays and inlets.
A pontoon’s seaworthiness and safety on the ocean depends on the boat’s size, performance, and construction. Is it built to withstand the harsher conditions of salt water?
As the performance and handling of pontoons and tritoons continues to improve, people are starting to venture farther out. In addition to the quality of the boat, how far to go away from shore is up to the captain’s discretion and depends on the weather conditions. The captain should take into account how quickly they can navigate back to the marina or harbor if bad weather were to arise. (With dual engine models, this can be done pretty quickly).
Another brand took their pontoon boat from Florida to Cuba last year, and we do not recommend nor promote this as something you should do with a pontoon. We often say that on calm days, you can be safe within a couple miles of shore.
Construction and Performance Considerations
With larger bodies of water can come big waves, but the right construction makes a difference. While the greater stability that comes with a triple-hull pontoon can help, larger tubes – at least 25” in diameter – are also recommended for venturing onto bigger waters.
The pontoon tube thickness should also be considered for boating in ocean conditions, as in the sheet aluminum used to make the tubes. We make some of the thickest pontoons in the industry, beginning at a minimum of .090”
Having adequate horsepower to overcome waves when you need to is also important. The larger the better here, with 150 HP being the bare minimum we’d recommend for traveling any distance away from shore on a pontoon.
Protect Your Investment
Aluminum pontoons will react to salt water by corroding. Before going out on the ocean, extra care should be taken to protect the boat, including coating the tubes with an anti-fouling bottom paint. Equally as important is rinsing the hull thoroughly in fresh water after it has been exposed to salt water.
Finally, before you decide to take your pontoon boat out into brackish or sea water, be aware of the terms of the pontoon boat manufacturer‘s warranty. It may not protect your boat from corrosion due to salt water.