Heading out to the lake? Well, there’s no better way to enjoy the day than from your pontoon boat. Imagine the fun you’ll have with family and friends cruising around in the sunshine. Even if you’re a novice, a pontoon boat is easy enough to maneuver.
What is a Pontoon Boat?
So, what exactly is a pontoon boat? I’m sure you’ve seen them before all over the lake. Pontoon boats are any boats with a large, flat deck that sits upon two metal tubes that are called pontoons. The tubes are very buoyant and that allows boat builders to increase the square footage of the deck. There’s been a recent boom for “fancy pontoons” that includes separate areas for lounging, sunning and eating.
As construction on the boats has evolved over the years, a better design and superior materials have made it easier to increase the horsepower of the boat. With that in mind, pontoon boats have added new prospective buyers to the field. It’s not just used for leisurely strolls around the water.
While the majority of pontoon boats are used for family-friendly fun, there is a market coming up for water sports and performance. These boats have an engine with high horsepower and are made for speed.
If you’re more into the sport than a fishing pontoon might be for you. Boats like these have a low draft and ample area to store fishing poles and tackle boxes.
Pontoon Boat Basics
While handling a pontoon boat isn’t difficult, you still need to be prepared. That means taking the time to learn the basics of your boat. You should read up on your boat, talk to others that are experienced skippers and either take to the internet to watch videos or read articles. Safety should always be your first priority and gathering as much information on your boat and the basics of driving it will ensure a great ride.
Provided below are some basic tips all boaters should know in order to make it a great day on the lake!
As soon as you get your new pontoon boat you’ll surely have a lot more friends. Everyone will want to go for a ride in the water. The thing is, there should be a limit to the number of passengers on your boat. There should be a sticker somewhere on your boat showing the maximum capacity. For the sake of safety, that rule should be followed. Not only that, but you’ll want to make sure you distribute a load of passengers and cargo evenly to make for a smoother ride.
2. Basic Rules of the Water
Just like driving a car, there are basic waterway rules that all boats should follow. You’ll need to make yourself aware of such rules before your first journey in the water. These rules include:
- Granting right of way
- Boating licenses
- Operator age restrictions
- Towing restrictions
Such guidelines are sure to change from state to state so it is imperative you’re aware of each rule before you take to the water.
3. Boat Launch
Launching a pontoon boat for the first time, or the next few times after that will require help from someone familiar with the process. Because of their metal tubes, pontoon boats don’t sink into the water upon launch like other boats. This can cause them to float away quickly if you’re not an experienced boater.
Some tips that may make the launch easier:
Be sure to load up all your supplies and cargo before you hit the ramp to launch. If it’s crowded, you’ll be sure to get some aggravated boaters if they need to wait for you to load while you’re on the dock.
There are several different positions for how to back down the ramp, with the time you’ll find the one that works best for you. The main goal is to back up until the boat is slightly in the water until the propeller is covered, but the whole boat should not be submerged.
This is when that second helper will come in handy. The engine should be started and your helper will want to make sure everything is functioning properly. If all is well, the trailer hitch can be removed and the driver can back down further into the water until the boat floats off.
Leaving the dock should be done slowly and in a controlled manner. Once you’re out into the open water, the fun begins!
Without a doubt, one of the key points, when first learning to launch, is to have another person help. Someone with knowledge and expertise will be able to guide you and provide tips and tricks along the way.
4. Driving the Boat
Driving the pontoon boat is similar to driving a car. It’s pretty much the same principals – steering wheel, throttle and the most important – be aware of your surroundings.
Some simple driving basics include the following:
When in open water, keep the engine trimmed down. This means the motor will be deeper in the water and will keep the boat’s bow from rising as you cruise through the water.
Avoid Sharp Turns.
Pontoon boats have a wide berth so the turns need to be navigated gently and sweeping to avoid the potential for tipping. It’s also imperative to check your rear and make sure you know if anything is behind you.
Increase Speed Slowly
Powering up in small increments allows for control of the boat. A quick increase in speed can potentially cause an inexperienced driver to lose control of the boat.
Always be aware of your speed. Just like in a car, your speed can catch up to you quickly. You need to know how fast you’re going at all times. If the water is crowded then it’s essential that you keep your speed low. When swimming near the boat the most important rule is to never swim anywhere near the motor. It’s also important that life jackets for all occupants be worn at all times. You should know the depth of the water before you allow anyone to swim. Jumping or diving from the boat into water that is unknown can cause serious injury or even death.
When the day is over and you’re ready to get back to land, docking your pontoon boat may be one of the most challenging issues for new boaters. The winds and water currents can make this job very difficult, even knowledgeable skippers can have problems bringing their boats in. Docking requires using the wind to your advantage while also steering at the correct angle. While this may be the most difficult part of your day, the more times you do it, the better you’ll get. Once again, having that experienced helper come on board with you the first few times can make all the difference in the world.
6. Maintaining your Boat
You want to be able to enjoy your boat for years to come and that requires occasional maintenance. To keep it in the best shape and make you and your passengers comfortable you’ll need to follow these tips:
It may sound simple but many boat owners don’t seem to follow this rule. A simple wash on a regular basis will have your boat looking good. Not only that but while you’re washing you can also do a quick check of the exterior. You may be able to notice a problem that only needs a quick fix before it becomes something major.
Cleaning of the inside should be done on a regular basis but a deep clean should be done at least once a year. The upholstery of the seats should be wiped down and cleaned based on the owner’s manual. Such cleaning will keep the seats looking fresh and can prolong their useful life.
When the boat is not on the water, it should be dried and aired out to prevent any mold or mildew from forming. Any dirt or debris can usually be cleaned using a mild detergent and a basic scrub brush or rag.
Preventative maintenance should be done to keep your engine running smoothly. It’s one of the most important parts of your boat because, without it, you aren’t going anywhere. Simple engine maintenance requires checking oil filters, spark plugs and looking for any wear and tear.
When winter comes it’s essential to prepare your boat to help prolong its life, but to also make it easier when you’re ready to get back out in the water come warmer weather. Winterizing the boat includes removing the battery, removing spark plugs, changing oil, cleaning and drying the inside and then covering the boat.
Finding the appropriate cover for your boat is essential to keep it in its best condition. It needs to fit tightly but still be able to expand with changing temperatures. The best bet would be to speak to a boating expert and find the best boat cover to fit your needs.
You’ll also need a place to store your boat during the winter months. While it may be as simple as keeping it on your property, not everyone has that room. You may need to rent a storage space and that may not be cheap. Either way, it’s another item needing to be dealt with before winter comes.
Pontoon Boat Cost
Sure, owning a pontoon boat sounds like a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday out on the lake with friends and family? While it definitely is plenty of fun it may be costly. Plus you’ll need to remember that it’s not just the upfront cost of the boat but also all the additional costs necessary to make your boat function in tip-top shape.
1. Actual Boat Cost
The actual price of the boat you buy will depend on all the extras and the size of the boat. You can expect to pay anywhere from $14,000 up to $50,000. The average price of a standard 22-foot boat is around $35,000. When buying a pontoon boat it’s obviously important to decide what your basic needs are first.
What will your boat be used for?
Fishing, speed or leisurely family fun? This is imperative to decide before you even begin looking. Knowing how you plan to use the boat will narrow down your choices and make it easier to move on to the next step.
What size do you need?
If you’re a beginner it may be a good idea to opt for a smaller one, you can always upgrade in the future after you become comfortable with the navigation. Plus, this “starter” boat will allow you to witness how often you use the boat and if upgrading is even worth it. Smaller boats are cheaper to buy and maintain but they’re also easier to pilot.
While deciding upon the size of the boat it’s also useful to consider seating arrangements. You may need to think about who will be using the boat and the seating that will best fit your desires.
Should you buy new or used?
Each one has its pros and cons. Buying new will cost you more but it may last longer. You may be able to get a great deal on a used boat but it may require more maintenance. No matter the route you decide you should take the time to research and shop around. Word of mouth is also a great way to find some of the best deals. Don’t be afraid to ask around and get the opinion of experienced boaters. They’ll have the knowledge regarding the best brands or know the retailers with great deals. This is a big investment and taking your time will help to ensure that you make a good decision.
2. Additional Costs
Unfortunately, there are many more costs associated with owning a pontoon boat. Some additional costs can include:
Unfortunately, solar-powered boats are just not that popular yet. So, you will need to fill up on gas. Depending on the size of the boat, this can be more expensive than filling a car.
These fees can range anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars into the thousands. You may need to check around for the best deal. Remember, the bigger the boat, the more money needed to dock.
If you wish to keep your boat elsewhere then you’ll need a trailer in order to transport it. Trailers can range anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the size your boat needs. Again, the larger the boat the more money to transport it.
Some of these accessories are essential to your boat and others are just cool gadgets that sound cool. Those cool gadgets can quickly add up though so you may need to pace yourself when shopping. Some must-haves on your pontoon boat are life jackets, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers. Other things like tools for general maintenance, blankets, and towels are also good ideas to keep on board. There may be some requirements that you need to have onboard based on your own state laws so it’s a good idea to check those out before buying.
You can really get your costs up when you start getting into water depth finders or GPS trackers. Fishing boats may look to add fishing rod holders or special chairs just to fish. Don’t forget all your swimming needs like tubes and floats.
All these accessories can quickly add up and have you paying way more than you ever thought you would. In order to avoid all these costs, you should make a list of what you need immediately, all the other toys and gadgets can be acquired in time making it easier on your wallet.
Regular maintenance but especially winter maintenance can be costly. Oil changes, basic upkeep and the cost for a cover or shrink-wrap can set you back a few thousand dollars. Also, if you don’t plan on keeping the boat on your property you’ll also need to think about storage fees. These costs can add up quickly so you’ll need to be aware and have a plan in place before you decide to get a boat.
Insurance – Just like vehicles, you’ll need to get insurance on your boat to protect you against any accidents or damages that occur. Boat insurance can be a few hundred dollars a year but can depend on the age of the boat and the history of the owner. As with any insurance, it’s a good idea to check around with different providers to find the best rate. As the premium begins to increase each year, calling your agent or even checking with other insurance companies can help to keep your costs low.
Pontoon boats are excellent choices if you’re looking to enjoy a relaxing day in the water. You can customize your boat to fit all your needs and the general operation of the boat is fairly easy. If you’re looking for the best boating option out there, a pontoon boat is a way to go!
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