Pontoon Performance..The Third tube

Boater's Chat Boat Buying Information Muskoka

On the hunt for a performance based pontoon at the 2015 Toronto Boat Show for this summer?  Looking for a best buy pontoon but not quite sure what I should be looking for or what to ask? Welcome back to Boater’s Chat as we continue our discussion on pontoon boat chassis, construction and best in class construction methods.

One of the main difference between buying a car and a boat in general is the smoothness of the surface that the product will be used on during its life.  Roads and highways are smooth…yes there is the occasional pot hole that seems to have no bottom….but there in little constant violent interaction with the roadbed like boats have to adequately deal with.   The effect of continuous tons of water impacting on the bow area of the pontoon is magnified exponentially when we now start looking at performance 3 tube editions.

Performance 3 Tube Pontoons…Speed and Watersports

The difference in construction standards required due to the increased torsional stress placed on the chassis with speeds approaching 50 MPH is significant and must be considered carefully by a pontoon builder.  The usual request by a buyer is simply for a tree tube model not understanding that there can be a wide difference in the build of 3 tube models.  A three tube pontoon is normally considered for family watersports activities as skiing requires speeds in the area of 30 MPH or more and situations were large passenger numbers are the norm.  A three tube pontoon will achieve an effective watersports speed faster than a 2 tube model with lifting strakes.  A properly configured and quality built full third tube will cost an additional $4k to 6K more just for the center tube and additional transom work required.   Buyers should note that there are short center tubes available that normally travel back 60 to 70% towards the stern only and should be considered a compromise for families with very light watersports in mind.

Required Construction of a Third Tube    

The key words are rigid will limited controlled flex, structurally very strong and unyielding to the pressure.  All pontoon builders should be doing this right?   Well the answer is yes and no!  We are talking about significant increases in welding and aluminum materials to do this to best in class status.  As I stated before all pontoons will go down the lake….some far better than others in terms of performance and some look and feel closer to new in 10 years than others.  Again if you are not in a rough water high stress situation from high loading of watersports….might not matter.  However is you are a maximum value for the dollar, rough water situation or looking for a pontoon that will last and perform like new for longer than a decade…it does matter.