The following story and accompanying photos were contributed by Gary Baldwin at Lakeview Marina, a Manitou dealer in Noblesville, Indiana. Gary brought a Manitou X-Plode tritoon to the 11th annual Lake Cumberland Poker Run, a large powerboat poker run, the weekend of September 8-10, 2017. Read on for his thoughts on bringing a pontoon to run with powerboats. Thanks for sharing your experience, Gary!
I work part time as a salesman at Lakeview Marina in Noblesville, Indiana. Being retired and a boat nut, the job gives me the opportunity to enjoy boating more than I normally could. Yes, I have a lake house, and yes, we have multiple boats – but of course if you are a boat nut, the more boats you get to enjoy the better.
The boats I’ve had and have are small and slow compared to what I would be up against on this particular weekend at Lake Cumberland. My home lake is Lake Freeman in Monticello, Indiana, and like on most small lakes, 95 percent of the boats are under 26 feet. Very few can exceed 50 mph. So I knew this would be a challenge.
Why bring a pontoon to this poker run?
Lakeview Marina has a history with performance boats, with many friends in the powerboating industry. As a sponsor for this year’s Lake Cumberland Poker Run, and not having a larger powerboat in stock (I sold it), we decided – with owner Jeff Lingenfelter’s nervous blessing – to take a Manitou pontoon boat. This was not your typical pontoon, but a 25 foot dual outboard with 600 HP. This would be my first time taking any boat to a powerboat poker run. I was given the opportunity to run with many 1000 HP boats, quite a few bigger boats with 2000 HP, and just for the thrill of it, seeing boats with over 3000 HP thunder across the water at well over 100 mph. The challenge for the weekend was not to keep up with these guys, but to keep myself and my passengers SAFE in the wakes of mega power and heavy cruisers on a big lake.
The pontoon is a 2017 Manitou X-Plode SWR SHP, 25 feet long with two Evinrude 300 HP G2 outboards, sport arch, joystick assist steering, and a nice big stereo. A very impressive pontoon for the small lakes in Indiana I’m accustomed to boating on. In the weeks leading up to the poker run, I was warned many times about how big and rough the event would be, how crowded it would be in many areas of the lake, and DON’T run into multi-million-dollar boats!
Challenge #1: Maneuvering the Pontoon in Tight Spaces
The Manitou X-Plode and its joystick assist steering coupled to the Evinrude outboards was such a joy. Maneuvering a pontoon on a windy day in tight spaces can be a challenge for even the most experienced pilot. Entering a marina, I would push the Command button to engage the joystick and place the pontoon where I wanted, never having to touch the steering wheel or the two shift handles. Our slip was partially blocked by a very big Fountain powerboat, and beside us were two very expensive show boats. The paint jobs on these boats likely exceeded the cost of our pontoon. More than once, I backed the Manitou pontoon into the slip, past the beak of the Fountain and beside the two other show boats.
Getting gas in a crowded marina on a busy Saturday morning was a typical task made more difficult by windy and tight conditions. I held the Manitou pontoon inline in a cross breeze, and once it was our turn to get gas, I used the joystick to spin the boat counterclockwise about 60 degrees on its center to get parallel with the dock. Then I moved the boat backwards and to the right while staying parallel to the dock to get gas. Getting out of the marina with other boats struggling to maintain “No Wake” and keep thousands of horsepower under control was a predicament. I would side shift out of line and let them pass, shifting back in line once they passed and gave us the thumbs up. This happened many times during the weekend.
On Friday afternoon, when parking at another marina to get food, my choice was either a long walk or once again docking between two boats costing many times more than our pontoon – and it was an easy choice. I went straight to the space, spun 90 degrees, and side shifted into the space. This was not as hard as the maneuvering to get gas, as there was no wind involved, but it’s still something you could not do without the joystick assist.
Challenge #2: Running at Speed with a 600 HP Pontoon Boat
On Friday, we spent most of the day running together. Running with a professional I could trust on my first day at such an event help me get accustomed to running long distances at speed in rough conditions. The Manitou with 600 HP and a V-Toon hull easily kept up with him and many other cruisers and hot boats, running up to and a little over 60 mph. In the Manitou pontoon with the Evinrude G2 outboards, I would hit the Sync button and use one shifter to control both outboards.
We spent much of the day running in the range of 50 to 60 mph. Loaded with gas and coolers, we exceeded 60 mph on clear water many times. In a heavy chop, I would do as the powerboats do, trim down, and the V-Toon hull cut the swells down for a better ride. As the swells cleared, I would trim up and enjoy the ride. I’ve ridden on many a pontoon, and this is the only one I’ve driven that reacts to trim in such a positive way.
Many of the boats we passed could exceed 90 mph on good water, so it was fun to see them catching air and a pounding trying to keep up with Grandpa in a pontoon boat that weekend. We did get a “thumbs up” from many – just not the ones holding on with both hands trying to keep up.
Challenge #3: Keeping My Passengers Safe
Manitou pontoon boats are built differently than any other pontoon. There are too many build details to go into here, but the enjoyment they give is what counts. On Saturday, with many more boats and winds getting stronger as the day went on, I put the pontoon through its biggest test all day long. Late Saturday afternoon, we were exiting the party cove with a flotilla of boats of every size.
We had miles to cover in the worst of conditions. Houseboats, cruisers, power cats, and deep v racing boats were making waves, with troughs as deep as 5 feet coming from all directions. The wind was not letting the lake settle down. With the cruisers rocking and rolling at speed, and the hot boats catching air as they crested the waves, this was not the place for the average pontoons to be. This is not the place to be crazy. This water will roll boats over, swamp your average runabout, and break anything that is weak.
I again put the trim down and used the responsiveness of the Evinrude G2 outboards to keep my passengers safe. I used the throttle to quickly change the attitude of the boat. The Evinrude G2 motors are two-stroke motors, and they respond so much faster than your typical four-stroke outboards. The Manitou V-Toon hull helped make the ride more comfortable, and coupled with the fast steering of the dual outboards, I was able to get across the bad to the little bit of good water there was. Through a lot of this, we were running 25 to 30 mph, above most boats less than 30 feet long.
I kept setting my sights on the next large boat. Watching them rock and roll, rise and fall, I would know what to expect and what to do to make the best of a dangerous crossing. Passing the last large cruiser just before entering the marina no wake zone, again we were greeted with thumbs up.
Powerboat Poker Runs: Not for the Average Pontoon Boat
So, should you take a pontoon to a powerboat poker run? I would not suggest it for the normal pontoon owner. These events create extreme conditions. You have to have great situational awareness. Running at 60 mph in a pontoon seems fast until you get passed by a boat doing 150 mph. Relax at the wrong time, and bad things can happen – and not just for you.
Would I do this poker run in any other brand of pontoon? The answer is NO. I’ve driven many different brands and know how they are built. I have trusted the Manitou pontoons in all types of conditions on our small lakes. I know they are strong and will take care of you and your passengers in rough conditions, even if you don’t know how to run through rough water. During the weekend at the Cumberland Lake Power Run, I ran this Manitou X-Plode through the worst. Now I know it is stronger than I ever thought. I pushed it at times, well above what I would do on a normal busy day on our Indiana lakes. It never flexed, as I’ve had other brands do. It never rattled or squeaked. It never submarined the nose in the worst waves on Saturday, even with all seats occupied, coolers filled, and plenty of gas on board. And I never felt like I was putting my friends or other boaters in peril.
Would I do it again in a performance pontoon? A big THUMBS UP.
Maybe next year I can do it with 800 HP.
Thank you, Lakeview Marina. Thank you, friends, for riding along. Thank you and a big THUMBS UP to Manitou for building a great pontoon.
While choosing a name for your pontoon boat may not seem very important, many boat owners consider it a critical step in getting a new boat. With all the money, maintenance, and care involved in boat ownership, and all the great times you’ll have on your new pontoon, it just seems right to give it a name. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite names for pontoon boats that we found or made up ourselves. While some names are fit for all boat types, many on the list are fit for pontoon boats only!
Called in Sick
Dances With Waves
Dark Side of the Toon
Drivin’ Miss Lazy
Eat Drink and Remarry
Finally A Wake
Hot Air Pontoon
Knot So Fast
Knot Too Shabby
License 2 Chill
Man of the Toon
Men Who Stare At Boats
National Pontoon’s Vacation
No Plane No Gain
Over the Toon
The Incredible Hull
Thing 1 | Thing 2
Toon Much Toon Soon
What’s Knot to Like?
This article was originally posted on December 4, 2013. It has been updated to fix broken formatting and include more names.
When many people think of pontoon boats, they see a wooden platform stabilized on wooden or steel barrels. While these were definitely the start of pontoons decades ago, the technology has advanced to give people a faster, smoother, and more luxurious experience out on the water. Nowadays, pontoon boats are made entirely with fiberglass to reduce weight without sacrificing stability. Like in other types of boats, pontoons now have traditional hulls to help with steering, and furniture built into the fiberglass to maximize space and efficiency.
Luxury pontoon boats are growing in popularity because they allow families to take part in all of the activities they want. In addition to fishing, you are able to use your pontoon boat for entertainment and watersports. Newer models come equipped with fire pits, cooler space, a barbecue grill, and even a waterslide. Rather than having to slowly float on the water, a 300-horsepower engine allows you to travel up to 65 mph. Learn more about how pontoon boats are redefining boating today.
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.
Spending a hot summer day on a pontoon boat sounds very enticing. You can relax, go fishing, jump into the cool water, and simply enjoy the company of family and friends onboard. That’s the great thing about pontoon boats; they offer versatile uses for any water activities and are spacious enough to carry more passengers than other regular boats. The downside is pontoon boats can be expensive, BUT you can save a lot more if you set your sights on a used pontoon boat instead. It’s less expensive, plus if you are a great negotiator, the seller can include radios, ladders, lightings, and other pontoon accessories together with the boat. Continue reading “Buying a Used Pontoon Checklist”
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen floating atop a pontoon? Maybe you’ve witnessed a double-decker party boat full of good-timing people, a deck smack-dab in the middle of the lake or a military pontoon bridge supporting heavy-armor traffic. While those spectacles are all outstanding, none come close to Manitou’s list of 10 ingenious floating creations. Prepare for pontoon preeminence. Continue reading “Cool Pontoon Boat Uses”
Getting your pontoon ready again for the start of the new year might seem like a chore, but it’s an important chore to make sure that you don’t get stuck out on the water fixing a simple problem that could have been taken care of months ago. That’s why we’ve provided some tips for de-winterizing your pontoon to make sure that the spring cleaning of your pontoon boat will go as smoothly as possible. Continue reading “De-Winterizing a Pontoon – Some Helpful Tips”
While when we talk about pontoons, we are almost always referring to pontoon boats, the buoyancy of pontoons allow them to be used for a wide variety of uses. A pontoon is a device that can take on various shapes that is buoyant in the water and can be used for practical purposes to support a various amount of weight. Pontoons are designed to displace a large amount of water, while at the same time being light. The majority of pontoons are hollow, but can be filled with foam or other light materials. Continue reading “What’s a Pontoon?”
Tis the season of stringing up lights, hanging your stockings by the fireplace, and illuminating the Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments. If you find that your tree is a little bare this year, or if you’re looking for a last minute Christmas gift to a pontoon boater that you know, we’ve assembled a few pontoon boat Christmas ornaments that we thought would make a great addition to your Christmas tree, and provided links to where you can purchase them. If you find any of these pontoon boat ornaments to be sold out, or if you have a few recommendations of your own, let me know. I’ll do my best to keep the list updated through the holiday season. Continue reading “A Few Pontoon Boat Christmas Ornaments”