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.
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:
Generally speaking, pontoons can handle much better in choppy water than other recreational boats since they have at least two hulls, providing more stability to the boat than one hull could. If a pontoon (with two ‘toons) is more stable than a monohull, imagine how much better a tritoon’s third tube can make it!
Of course, while a pontoon boat itself is generally safe, a little common sense goes a long way on the water. Besides ignoring common sense, what can get you in trouble on a pontoon is not knowing how to handle the boat when the water gets rough.
Can a Pontoon Flip Over?
Sure, it’s possible to flip your pontoon. It certainly has happened. But it’s highly unlikely if you’re being responsible. While forces of nature cannot be controlled, there are steps you can take as a boat owner and captain to make sure you reduce the chance of these types of accidents on the water.
Here are a couple factors to keep in mind:
Keep an even load on board. This applies to cargo loads, as well as loads of passengers. Consider how weight distribution can contribute to safety on choppy waters. Make sure your passengers know the importance of maintaining balance on board, especially in rough conditions. Keep in mind that any modifications you make to the boat can also affect its balance or center of gravity. For this reason, “Double decker” pontoon boats with a second level, while they offer additional options for fun on the water, are much more prone to tipping.
The bigger the boat, the more weight the elements have to contend with, and the larger the pontoons, the greater the boat’s stability. If your pontoon is on the smaller side, you’ll want to make sure conditions are safe before going out on the water.
Keeping Your Pontoon Stable in Rough Waters
To keep your pontoon safe in rough waters, the key of course is to keep the pontoons above the water and avoid the risk of burying the nosecones. If you’re cruising straight into big waves, and you slow down before hitting a trough, chances are you’re going to dip the pontoon’s nose below water and will take some of that water on board when it crashes over the bow. Depending on the force of the waves, this can cause damage to the pontoon’s playpen, which can cost a considerable amount to fix. Rather than slowing down when riding into the waves, trim up just before hitting the wave. This will help lift the boat’s bow more.
Adjust your course so you’re riding properly into the waves. When possible, rather than riding head-on into the waves, cruise so the waves are at a 30 to 45 degree angle from the center of the boat. Taking the waves at an angle will allow you to keep your bow high more consistently. At this angle, one of the tubes will also ride high, allowing the boat to glide into and out of the waves’ crests and troughs more smoothly. There is still potential to dip the corner of the boat, however.
It is possible to get a special handling package on your boat to handle the elements better. For instance, our Sports Handling Package (SHP) allows higher horsepower and includes power assisted steering, positive angle lifting strakes, and barracuda nosecones, all of which are better for handling rough waters. Underskinning can also help reduce drag from water splashing up beneath the boat.
Watch the Weather and the Water
This is obvious, but you should always check weather and marine forecasts before going out on the boat. When you are on the water, keep an eye on the skies and look for any changes in the water. If conditions start to turn, it’s always better to prioritize safety over pushing for a little more time on the lake.
There is nothing better than spending time with family and friends out on the water. While you’re enjoying the sun and the water, why not bring along your dog to join in on the fun? Before heading out on your pontoon boat, though, it is important to get your furry friend the stuff he or she needs so your dog can have fun and be comfortable, too.
Start by purchasing a doggy life jacket, which will make it easy for your dog to float around in the water even if he is not a strong swimmer. Next, be sure to add a floating dog ramp to your boat so that your dog can easily get back on board without issue.
Everyone knows that dogs love jumping into water, especially when you throw their favorite toy. A floating ball is the perfect accessory because you can easily keep the game of fetch going all day. When on the pontoon, your dog also needs a tether and harness to stay safe, as well as a cooling bed to keep from overheating. Learn more about how to get these accessories from Manitou!
There is nothing better than spending a day on your pontoon boat. But as you may know, it can be very stressful if you don’t properly plan your excursion. Imagine a day on your boat where you visit the same area and do the same activities as the time before, more for lack of imagination than because of the fun quotient. Not to mention the chaos that can ensue if there isn’t enough food, water, or sunscreen for everyone in the party!
Aside from the “dos” and “do nots” for planning a day on the water, there are numerous fun ideas you and your family can try:
- Explore: Instead of visiting the same place every time, mix it up and boldly go where you haven’t been before.
- BBQ: If your pontoon boat has a grill on it, why not enjoy a beach BBQ?
- Scavenger Hunt: Invent a scavenger hunt where you stop at various places and solve clues. Will there be buried treasure at the end?
- Mega Raft: If your friends all have pontoon boats, tie up all the boats together and make a mega raft.
- Waterproof Camera: There is no better way to capture the day and take some memorable underwater photos.
Remember proper and creative planning, and you are sure to have an exciting day on the water. Keep reading or download our infographic below for more tips for family fun on the water.
Involve Your Kids from the Beginning
Kids want to be included, and giving them small tasks can be rewarding for them. These can be little things, like making sure everyone has their life jacket on, or looking for wildlife.
Plan Activities for Your Boating Adventure
Boat trips work best when there are planned activities for you and your family. These will prevent everyone from getting bored.
Bring the Sunscreen
Water can reflect the sun’s rays and amplify them. Make sure to apply sunscreen throughout the day, and spend time in the shade. It’s better than spending an evening tenderly applying aloe.
Bring Snacks and Drinks
Drinking water throughout the day, especially when it’s hot, can prevent dehydration and other heat injuries. Also, a day on the water can pass by quickly, and kids will become hungry. Bringing food with you means more time on water, instead of heading back sooner than you want.
Teach Nautical Terms and Rules
Since you’re on a boat, it’s an opportune time to teach your kids about nautical terms and science facts—everything from which side is starboard, to nautical safety rules, to why the tides go in and out.
The Do Nots
Do Not Leave the Dock without Life Jackets
Aside from obeying child life jacket requirements, there’s always a possibility that little ones can fall off the boat accidentally. It’s important to keep them safe.
Do Not Sail All Day
If you’re planning a longer trip, try to mix it up so you’re not on the water all day. Even if it’s docking or going to a beach for 30 minutes, let the kids run around.
Do Not Ignore Safety
Don’t let your kids stand or walk around while the boat is moving. Pontoon boats can be very safe, but you can never be too careful.
Do Not Trash the Beach
Littering on your excursion to the beach isn’t just rude, but it can hurt environment. When you see floating trash on the open water, pick it up.
Do Not Bring the Whole Neighborhood
Pontoon boats have a set number of people who can safely travel on the boat. Don’t go over that number.
Spending a day on the water can be exciting for everyone aboard, but taking time to plan ahead can make all the difference for creating a successful and memorable family experience.
This article was updated with links and more information on 6/20/2018.
As the winter begins to fade in the rearview mirror and summer approaches, now is the perfect time to brush up on safety tips for your pontoon boat. It is important to make safety your top priority so that you can enjoy your time out on the water and ensure that everyone onboard is risk free. Make sure to have an ample amount of life jackets on your pontoon, because more than 80 percent of people who die in boating accidents are drowning victims.
Don’t forget that it is illegal to operate your pontoon while under the influence, and keeping your attention on the water and other boats is essential. In California, alone, more than 50 percent of boating accidents occur when one boat crashes into another. Here are some other important safety tips:
- Make sure passengers are seated and wearing proper safety gear before leaving the dock.
- Use the anchor when you want to remain stationary.
- Avoid excessive speed and sharp turns.
These tips and other will help you stay safe out on the water when enjoying your pontoon.
Taking your pontoon boat out on the water is one of the best ways to spend your time during the summer. There is nothing better than relaxing with friends and family while beating the heat on your pontoon. However, it is also important to ensure that everyone aboard remains safe so that you can avoid accidents and injuries. Last year alone there were over 4,000 recreational boating accidents, with a total of 610 deaths, including 97 injuries aboard pontoons. These happened due to a number of reasons, including alcohol, speeding, and negligence.
In order to avoid accidents and injuries, be sure to compile a safety checklist that includes all of the equipment you need in case of 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 you next take out your boat, consider compiling a safety kit that includes items such as a pocket knife, radio, battery charger, and more.
Heading out for a day on the lake is an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. As you float on the water, you can sit back and relax after a hard week at work, or you can focus on getting active and having some water fun. Unfortunately, that relaxing and fun day on the water can quickly turn into a nightmare when disaster strikes. If you’re planning to head out on your boat, be sure to follow these boating safety tips to help prevent accidents on the water.
In order to help prevent an accident from occurring during your outing, you need to be a smart boater. If you’re unfamiliar with the area and the rules, make it a point to discover what you need to know in order to have a fun and safe time. You’ll also want to make sure your boat is ready for an outing. A great way to do this is to perform regular safety and maintenance checks so you can spot any problems before they start. Safe boaters also make sure they have the equipment needed for an outing. This includes food, supplies, and safety devices that might be needed for the trip.
Once you’re on your boat, remember to stay alert and focused, just like you would on the road. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can increase your chances of getting into an accident, and, if you’re caught, you can face the same charges as you would if operating a vehicle. Encourage your passengers to follow safety procedures, especially young children. By preparing your boat and following these tips, you’re ready to have a fun and safe boating experience!
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