Launching a boat is something every boater needs to do in order to enjoy a day on the water. As such, everyone owes it to everyone else to know how to do it right and do it quickly. Every second spent dawdling at the launching ramp not only cuts into your day, but into everyone else’s day as well.
Once you get to the launching ramp, it’s too late to cram for your real-life test. By preparing in advance and knowing what to do when, you’ll be able to efficiently launch your boat free of angry horns and shouts from other boaters.
Before you Reach the Launching Ramp
Prepare your boat before you approach the ramp. This ensures when it’s your turn, you’re ready to go without any delay.
- Load your safety equipment, mooring lines, and other gear into the boat.
- Unhook and stow the transom straps.
- Disconnect any incandescent light-bulb plugs.
- Gather your mooring line and fenders, making them ready to use.
- Make sure your drain plug, if your boat has one, is in place.
While On the Launching Ramp
You’ve waited your turn, and ideally everyone in front of you followed all the same steps you’re following, continuing a friendly and efficient day of boat launching. Now, prepare yourself to get your boat into the water.
- Get a spotter. Move all kids and onlookers from the ramp area and put a spotter out there. Launching is easier with one person driving and another directing.
- Situate your vehicle and boat. Line up your vehicle and trailer as straight as possible, about the length of a trailer away from the water.
- Back into the water. Slowly back your trailer down the ramp, only making small, fine-tuned steers. If you need to straighten the trailer, driving forward a bit can be a big help. When the stern begins floating in the water, stop.
- Secure your vehicle. Set the parking brake. If you have an excessively large boat, chock the wheels on your vehicle.
Getting In the Water
At this point, you’re ready to get your boat off the trailer and into the water.
- Unhook the boat. Disconnect the winch strap and safety chain from the trailer. Next, back the boat away from the trailer. When the water is just above the wheels of the trailer, you’re ready for the next step.
- Launch the boat. Start your boat’s engine. Important: make sure the engine is in the water before you crank it. Shift into reverse and gently back up. All Manitou boats have to be powered with the engine into the water off the trailer—you can’t float it back by hand. If, after applying gentle power, your boat doesn’t move, you probably need to back up farther.
Securing the Boat
Now that you’re in the water, tie your mooring lines to the dock. Make sure all your passengers and supplies are nearby and ready to board. By getting everyone and everything on the boat quickly, you show courtesy to other boaters and help keep the launching ramp free of holdups.
While your other passengers are boarding, park your vehicle nearby and make your way back to the boat without delay. Join your family and friends on the boat, untie the mooring lines and off you go.
Before every trip out on the water, you should check (and double-check) to make sure you have the absolute necessities on board. These are the things you need on a pontoon boat that are not only required by law, but are also common sense and generally related to safety.
Additionally, there are plenty of nice-to-haves you will want on every trip.
When we say every trip, we mean every trip—especially when it comes to the needs. Whether you’re planning to spend 15 minutes or 10 hours on the lake, you absolutely must make sure you take all proper safety precautions.
For a quick guide on pontoon-boat safety, take a look at our Pontoon Boat Safety Checklist.
Pontoon Boat Necessities
Items you need to have on your pontoon boat are often things you hope never to need to use, but can keep you safe in case of an emergency. Some of these things, such as life jackets and flares, are required by law, and you definitely don’t want to (1) be caught without them when you need them or (2) face the fines and penalties if you’re caught without them by the Coast Guard.
- Boat registration and proof of insurance.
- Food and water. Pack more than enough non-perishable snacks and water for the trip.
- Life jackets for every passenger. Age-appropriate personal flotation devices (PFDs) need to be in good condition and readily available.
- Charged cell phone, in case you need to contact help.
- Signal devices such as flares and distress flags.
- Portable battery charger and flashlight.
- First-aid kit in a waterproof case stocked with gauze, antiseptic cream, bandages, scissors, latex or vinyl gloves, cotton balls, pain relievers, and tweezers. Anti-nausea tablets are a good idea, too.
Things That Are Nice to Have on Board
There are plenty of items that are not necessarily essentials, but definitely nice to have on your boat, whether for safety or convenience or to be kind to the environment. These include:
- Trash bag to prevent littering the water.
- Extra rope.
- Paddles, in case of engine failure.
- Change of clothes in a waterproof bag.
- Extra jackets or warm shirts.
- Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF protection.
- Pocket knife or tool kit.
- Hand sanitizer.
- Marine radio.
Primarily, check your local laws and make sure you have everything you need. This not only ensures you’re not at risk for fines or penalties, but because the laws only require things that are absolutely essential in an emergency, you’ll also have peace of mind knowing you have what you need.
After you make sure you’re compliant, add whatever you can to make your day on the water more enjoyable. Obviously, this includes fishing poles if you’re fishing, tubes if you’re tubing, food if you’re picnicking, etc.
Because pontoon boats are so versatile, you can do just about anything you want on the water. For the best experience, make sure you and your passengers have everything you need under any circumstances.
Though many boaters are never quite ready to end to their season on the water, at some point we have to admit that winter is just around the corner. Winterizing your pontoon boat is an important part of overall maintenance that needs special attention. The process certainly isn’t as fun as spending a day at the lake. But taking the right steps will protect your investment and ensure your boat won’t encounter problems over the colder months and into the spring. To help you out, we’ve put together a guide on how to winterize your pontoon boat before storing it for the off-season.
Step 1: Clean Your Pontoon Boat
Clean out the Interior
Remove any equipment from the pontoon, such as fishing or water sports equipment, flotation devices, ladders, accessories – anything that’s not bolted down. Leaving these extra items on the boat while in storage creates a risk for mildew to form with any moisture that becomes trapped.
You should also remove remove non-factory installed electronic equipment, such as external audio players, depth finders, or anything with batteries, and store these indoors to prevent damage or theft.
Give the floor and cushions a thorough cleaning, removing any dust, dirt, and food crumbs. Wipe everything down with a mild polish and let surfaces dry completely. This will reduce the chances of any mold or mildew growing in the interior of your boat and make your pontoon less inviting for any rodents looking for a place to call home during the winter.
You can leave a few mouse traps or poison out for prevention, but be sure to clean them up in the spring so any children or pets are not the first to find them. A non-toxic option is peppermint oil, which is a natural mouse repellent; mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle and spray the cracks and corners of the boat where rodents might make their nests.
Clean off the Exterior
After taking your pontoon boat out of the water, check the exterior for any plants or mussels attached to your boat, as they will be much easier to remove now than in the spring. Spray down the boat’s exterior and let it dry before putting a cover on. You can also apply a polish to the sides and beneath your pontoon boat to reduce the chances of any rusting and so your pontoon will look great when you unveil it in the spring.
Step 2: Winterize the Engine and Fuel Tank
Since your engine will be dormant for a span of months, you’ll want to make sure it’s properly protected. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on preparing your engine for storage.
In cold temperatures, any lingering water in your pontoon boat’s engine will expand, resulting in cracking and damage. Once your boat is out of the water, you will likely need to drain all water and the coolant from your outboard or inboard engine and replace it with an antifreeze product that is propylene glycol based.
Lubricate the engine cylinders by spraying fogging oil into the carburetors and spark plug holes, following directions on the fogging oil package.
Finally, you’ll want to store the boat with a fuel tank that’s about 3/4 full. If the fuel has ethanol, add a fuel stabilizer to protect the fuel. This will prevent phase separation, which causes buildup at the fuel pickup over time, creating real problems if the engine if you start up the engine in this state.
Step 3: Charge and Store the Battery
If you plan on taking your pontoon boat out of the water, remove your battery and store it in a dry environment that’s close to room temperature, like your basement or storage closet. Make sure that the battery is fully charged before you store it away. You can take it to a marina, or sometimes an auto center, for them to test the battery and charge it up if necessary.
Step 4: Use the Right Winter Cover
Putting a tarp over your pontoon boat is better than having no cover at all, but there are many pontoon boat covers designed specifically for handling extreme temperature changes and lasting through a harsh winter. A good cover should be able to fit your boat snugly and should be able to expand and contract slightly to avoid ripping from temperature changes.
You’ll want to patch or repair any cracks or holes in the cover to prevent rodents from entering, and spray the cover with repellent to prevent chewing. Mice love to make nests in seat cushions on pontoon boats, which typically results in damaged cushions and a mess to clean up.
The biggest concern if your boat will be left out in the open is the potential for a pooling effect on the cover. If water collects on your cover, it can weigh down on the cover and damage it, or leak through to your pontoon boat. You want all moisture to slide right off, which is why many covers come with poles to prop up the cover. Throughout the winter, check to make sure there isn’t any pooling on your cover, and tend to it the best that you can if there is.
Another great option is to shrink wrap the pontoon. This ensures there is no space for water to pool or leak in, and you don’t have to worry about damage to the pontoon cover that you may use throughout the year. Shrink wrap kits can be purchased at marinas and online, but many pontoon boat owners choose to have a professional do it for them.
So there you have it! You’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your pontoon boat inside and out for storage over the winter. Now the countdown to next year’s boating season begins.
This article was originally posted on November 20, 2013. It has been updated with additional information on the winterizing process.
What’s better than floating along in your pontoon boat? How about waterskiing or tubing behind the back of it while your friends drive you around? When you’re out on the lake cruising around, you can take things up a notch with a number of pontoon-friendly water sports, including wakeboarding and kneeboarding. There is more to it than just cranking up the speed, though. It is important to always put safety first and stay at the appropriate speed to keep things fun and friendly.
While traditional waterskiing is best done with the boat going between 21 and 26 mph, slow it down to about 16-20 mph when tubing. You should also equip your pontoon with an engine that is capable of reaching the speed you need, as well as equipment storage solutions and a tow bar. With the right gear on your pontoon, you and your friends will be able to enjoy your favorite water sports in no time!
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’s nothing worse than hitting the lake and realizing you don’t know how to properly launch your boat. By the time you pull up to the ramp, it’s too late to take a crash course in maneuvering. Instead, save yourself both time and embarrassment by taking a moment now to learn how to launch your boat the correct way.
That means preparing ahead of time by disconnecting electrical outlets and stowing all safety equipment, transom straps, and mooring lines inside the boat. It also means learning how to back up into the water slowly and in a straight line, making only fine-tuned corrections until the water is just above the wheels of the trailer. To get the best results, practice your moves ahead of time in an empty parking lot. That way, you’ll be ready for launching the moment you pull up to the ramp.
Follow these simple steps outlined in our infographic, and you won’t have to fiddle haphazardly with your mooring lines and winch straps to the tune of honking horns and the shouts of impatient drivers.
When warmer weather arrives, it’s time to head to the water. Whether you enjoy cruising along the river or floating around the lake, spending time on a boat is a great way to spend the summer. Don’t have a boat yet? Then we’re here to help you find the right pontoon boat for your summer fun.
Pontoon boats are a popular selection for many people. These boats have aluminum tubes, called “pontoons,” attached to flat decks, giving them the buoyancy needed to stay afloat. What many people don’t realize is the variety of models available. From a basic model for trips with small groups of friends and family, to luxury pontoons with all the bells and whistles, there is a pontoon that will meet your needs. There are even models designed specifically for a day on the lake fishing with your close friends.
Are you interested in learning more about the different types of pontoon boats available? Continue reading, or download the infographic below. You’ll learn more about what makes each type unique.
Types of Pontoon Boats
Don’t need a whole lot of boat, but still want a lot of fun? A value pontoon is for you. These no-frills boats—usually 18 feet or less—are perfect for you and a few of your closest friends. A smaller boat is also ideal for those who don’t require as much storage space.
Yearning for a day of fishing on the lake? An angler pontoon boat is for you. Angler models usually include rod holders, swivel chairs, and live wells. With plenty of space to move around the boat, pontoons are great for taking kids and individuals with mobility restrictions out on the water.
Want to be on the lake, but also host a BBQ? A leisure pontoon boat is for you. Leisure models come with features such as grills, sinks, and foldout picnic tables. Throw some patties on the grill—leisure pontoons are for those who really know how to do summer.
Love the finer things in life? A luxury pontoon boat is for you. To live in the lap of luxury, it’s all about the amenities. We’re talking high-tech audio systems, bar stools, LED track and seat lighting, and high-end seat cushions. Often, luxury pontoons have highly customizable floor plans to fit your lifestyle out on the lake.
Feel the need for speed? A performance pontoon is for you. We’re talking about a 300 HP engine, accompanied by hydraulic power assist steering, for a wild ride with exceptional control. Think of a performance model as a speed boat with roomy, ultra-comfortable seating.
If you’re considering a Manitou, you’ll find that many of our models often combine the best features of the different types listed here. More than that, you can build your own pontoon boat right on our website. First, check out all the options in our buying guide.
This article was updated with links and more information on 6/20/2018.
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.
What makes a great pontoon boat? If you are looking for a new boat to buy, or want to upgrade your existing pontoon, there are a number of features to incorporate to ensure that you have everything you need when you next go out on the water. Here are some features that make Manitou pontoon boats stand out from the competition.
- 24-can cooler on board
- Portable table to relax
- Marine Vinyl furniture
- Powder coated walls and rails
When picking out a pontoon boat, you want to be able to infuse your personality, as well. You can add on a BBQ grill for your pontoon, to cook for family and friends, as well as a water slide. If you’re interested in floating out on the lake in the evenings, you can also add a fire pit to keep warm. One of the best reasons to get a pontoon boat in the first place is that it gives you the opportunity to do the things you love whenever you are out on the water.
Now that summer has officially started, it is time to get your pontoon boat back into the water. When the temperature creeps up, there is no better way to spend time with family and friends than by making your pontoon the ultimate summer retreat. You’ll have the perfect weather for tubing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and more, so make sure that you have everything you need to rule the water this summer.
In terms of water sports, you’ll need a pontoon boat with an engine that can get speeds up to 26 mph. A 90-HP engine is a good start, while having 115 HP gives you a little extra. Interested in lounging on your pontoon all day, instead? Start by having the ultimate cookout at home and bringing a picnic aboard the boat, complete with sandwiches, burgers, salads, and drinks. Decorating your pontoon with themed accessories is the perfect way to throw the ultimate floating party.
For adults and children alike, ensure that you have plenty of life vests, and that everyone is aware of boating safety guidelines before you leave the dock. Remember to obey all laws and regulations concerning boating; doing so will allow you to turn your pontoon boat into the one-stop place for fun this summer.