Pontoon Boat shopping at the 2015 Toronto Boat show? A 2 tube cruise pontoon boat or a 3 tube performance pontoon? Perhaps this summer is when your family is looking to purchase. How do I know an exceptionally well build solid pontoon boat demonstrating best in class value that separates itself from the pretenders? We need to take a closer look at what is good construction…the type of construction that separates itself providing exceptional value. What is above minimum building code and how do I recognize it? Prepare to get down on the ground and look up! The starting point is the pontoons themselves!
The Pontoon…It All Starts Here!
Your new pontoon boat will glide down the lake on its pontoons. The pontoons are the largest single item construction piece in your purchase. The pontoon works in tandem with the engine transom pod connected to the supporting chassis to provide a structurally rigid platform that nice furniture rides on. Now that I am approaching 3 decades in the marine business and having sold pontoons that long as well, I have witnessed the evolution of the pontoon boat from basically a dock that floats with 15″ diameter pontoons to some really spectacular pontoons with the vastly superior 25″ tube.
Best in Class 25″ Diameter Pontoon
Here is the best in class standard for a 25′ diameter pontoon. For pontoons with a third center log pontoon, the same standard applies even if the builder utilizes a larger diameter pontoon.
- Fully welded, fully sealed, multi chambered with bulkheads and pressurized built with a gauge thickness of 0.80 with full length keels. A pontoon of this description does not need or have a drain at the bottom at the rear of the pontoon as condensation or leakage cannot occur. Condensation in a pontoon can only happen if it is vented to atmosphere. Why pressurized? Think of it this way….I have a pop or beer can in my hand and has been opened. A very slight squeeze and the walls crush inward. Try the same thing with the can not yet opened and you have to exert lots of very firm pressure to dent the can….very difficult to do! What does a pressurized pontoon do for me? When you are cruising down the lake enjoying the day those pontoons are experiencing thousands of impacts with the water and waves and a pressurized pontoon is very difficult to dent, holds its shape and due to holding its intended form glides down the lake with less resistance. A pressurized pontoon that holds its shape is more hydrodynamic in its efficiency, saves fuel and maintains its original look …something you really want after you made that purchase. An added benefit is when you hit the dock a little harder than intended….no harm no foul. What is the problem with this type of pontoon construction? Pressurized pontoon construction takes longer to fabricate ,significantly longer with a very high level of welding required to build plus even more time to tested to ensure it is water tight.
- A fully welded nose cone with a sharp point of entry with a tapered length of not less than 40″. The pontoon nose is where all the action is as it cuts the water as the boat moves forward. The leading edge should be double reinforced for added structural security. The higher the horsepower the more important this leading edge and nose cone design becomes. Splash guards or fins should be completely attached and very rigid and placed on the upper portion of the tube. Improper bow passenger loading in combination with poor pontoon and nose cone design can result in pontoon submarining which is where the pontoon nose dives under the water and is aided in this dive by the nose splash guards which act like diving plains on a submarine…very unnerving!
- When we consider a three tube model the center log is what the pontoon at speed actually floats on with the outer pontoons acting like outrigger stabilizers. There is a number of ways to achieve this including lowering the center pontoon from 2″ to 4” lower than the outer pontoons or increasing the diameter of the pontoon to accomplish the same bottom shape. The key is that this center pontoon must be extremely well-built and have a complex designed nose in combination with a technologically superior transom assembly. Lifting strakes are “V-shaped” additions to the lower pontoon edges normally on both sides of the center pontoon and on the inner edge of the outer pontoons. The lifting strakes on the center pontoon may be multi angled and be multi segmented. More detail work on the strakes is a very good thing. Lifting strakes on the outer edges of the outer pontoons will in many cases result in poor turning. The Larson Escape Pontoon is leading edge technology for 3 tube luxury pontoons and is unlike any other design. More on this in a following article.