Looking for a pontoon boat that will make your heart pound with excitement at the Toronto Boat Show, the Barrie Boat Fishing and Outdoor Show? Crest, South Bay, StarCraft, Princecraft, Bennington, Cypress Cay, Harris and Manitou Pontoons to name a few are all looking for their pontoon boat to be tied up at your dock. All of these recognized brands offer three tube and two engine models…all promise performance and handling…but what are the features you should be considering?
The Need For Speed
The 150 HP outboard 3 tube pontoon has been a very acceptable choice over the last two or three years for light recreational water sports and speeds in the mid 30’s. Starting in 2018, performance pontoon enthusiasts were matching their pontoon boat more and more with 200 to 300 horsepower. What if I want 40 to 60 MPH with great handling? As we increase top end speed safe secure handling should become a very important consideration. Some aspects to consider:
- A full length 3 tube model is required with the center tube extending past the two outer tubes. A pontoon boat offering a short 3rd tube only part way down the length of the boat is a compromise that is available but does not provide the same level of performance and handling.
- Lifting strakes will be required and must be spaced to maximize speed, handling and performance.
- Due to substantially increased stress placed on the chassis….a poorly designed cheap build is not going to cut it. Hat Channel construction for crossmembers is best followed by “C” Channel and then “Z” Channel.
- Normally strakes on the outer wall of the outside pontoons will negatively affect high-speed maneuvering.
- All three pontoons at the same level in the water or in other words level pontoon bottoms when placed on a flat surface are not going provide maximum performance or handling. Level pontoon bottoms will not allow the pontoon to bank over on a high-speed turn as well as a pontoon boat with a center pontoon lower than the outside pontoons
- For maximum handling at higher speeds, the center pontoon must be lower in the water normally by a minimum of 2 inches….the best in the industry is 5 1/4 inches on the center pontoon drop.
- A sealed transom area in the center pontoon will be expected to provide superior speed as drag is reduced and overall structural rigidity is increased. This costs more money and most pontoon builders choose not to do this step.
The Secret That Boat Builders Do Not Want You To Know
Patents…..that’s right patents on pontoon hull design. Manitou figured it out first and best for three tube performance and were smart enough to patent the design. Manitou consistently wins the open competition barrel test each year and is known in the industry for perhaps the best welding and best performance….why? The secret is simple and at the same time complex. Here is an article on the McKainer Pontoon Barrel Race that has been held for a number of years.
Okay then….the pontoon brands Bennington, South Bay and Avalon to name a few claim that they have excellent performance pontoons. There are three aspects to performance pontoon boats…high speed handling or maneuvering, speed and rough water handling. Bennington Pontoons and Avalon are offering multiple pontoon hull designs to combat the Patent problem with Manitou Pontoons. If we accept the race results from McKainer…. then although close….other pontoon builders are still in second place.
Before we go any further….Huntsville Marine represents Cypress Cay and Manitou Pontoon Boats at retail. Huntsville Marine chose Manitou over South Bay Pontoons as well as a number of other brands as in our opinion the handling, speed and construction of the SHP Manitou models is superior. McKainer race results were part of this decision making…..the other is the construction. Construction includes materials and welding and there is no real dispute that Manitou is regarded as having the best welds…absolutely state of the art! In this we are not stating that if you choose to purchase a Bennington, South Bay, Avalon or Starcraft Pontoon boat that you may in fact be satisfied with your decision after the purchase.
Pontoon buyers should also know and realize that pontoon builders frequently build more than one brand of pontoon boat and usually fail to disclose this. In the Huntsville Marine example we offer Cypress Cay Pontoons. The parent company is Brunswick (Mercury Marine fame)…they also build Harris Pontoons in the same plant with the same materials with the same staff as Cypress Cay Pontoons. Brunswick has another pontoon line called Lowe Pontoons which operate out of a separate plant and market and build these pontoons as a basic value pontoon of lesser build quality and therefore less retail cost. Forest River Inc. builds three pontoon brands under one roof…South Bay, Berkshire and Trifecta Pontoon Boats. The other example is the Starcraft, Sylvan, Sun Chaser and in some cases Legend Pontoons built out of the same plant….confusing…..absolutely and not may dealers are going to explain this to you.
Click on this link to see a 2017 magazine review of the Top 20 Pontoons. Remember when looking at magazine reviews that no brand ever takes it on the chin due to most likely advertising reviews.
Want to have some fun in a pontoon boat…check this out…
We will continue on about performance pontoons and making an informed choice in the next article…Best Performance Pontoon Construction…Do You Know What to Look For?