Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pontoon Boats

By Thomas Ludens

It is no accident that pontoon boats are commonly referred to as party boats. With their flat and open decks, they are designed like floating patios and they function like a back porch that extendsover the water instead of the yard. All space and comfort, the ease of operation and shallow draft of pontoon boats has earned these sturdy vessels a reputation for their functionality and low cost.

So, it should perhaps come as no surprise that this no-frills design was invented by a Minnesotan farmer in the early 1950s. Ambrose Weeres had the simple inspiration to put a wooden deck on top of two columns of steel barrels welded together end-to-end. The outcome would be—and was—a sturdy deck and a stable boat.

Living as he did in the state with 10,000 lakes and at time when recreational boating was beginning to boom, he was, as they say, in the right place at the right time. The rest, as they also say, is history. He founded a company called Weeres Industries to build these boats. A host of imitators followed in his wake.

Today, the number and variety of pontoon boats is staggering. Some are catamarans. Some are trimarans. Some have cabins. Some have heads. Some are fast and powerful enough for watersports. Some are outfitted for fishing.

There’s one thing, though, that no one has improved upon: the genius of the basic, simple design. A deck and two or three floats—that’s all it really takes to get out on the water and enjoy being there. Pontoon boats give you that and, in the case of the boats featured here, a whole lot more.

verandamarine.com Veranda: V20SE Series

There is a company located in Hot Springs, Arkansas called Aluma-Weld. This may seem irrelevant here, in a story about a pontoon boat, but this fact is integral to understanding the design success of Veranda’s boats. You see, Aluma-Weld holds a patent on an interlocking flooring system that gives the decks on Veranda models unparalleled strength and stability.
With this system, interlocking aluminum planes are welded together and then directly to the floats beneath. As will be clear from a day out on the lake, this makes for a sturdy, durable floor that doesn’t warp, flex, sag, rattle or heat up.

On Veranda’s V20 Special Edition, this provides the base for a host of amenities. At the helm, there’s a barrel style seat, a Jensen stereo with CD and two speakers, a tilt wheel and full instrumentation. This keeps the captain as comfortable as his crew, which can seek shade under the nine-foot Bimini top or relax on one of the three chaise lounges. There is also a sun pad aft and a removable table with two bases, which add even more room to spread out. For those looking to spend their time in the water, instead of on it, there’s a handy rear entry gate with boarding ladder to make coming back aboard a breeze.

Twenty-feet long and with an eight-foot, six-inch beam, the V20SE is big enough for 10 passengers at a time. Under-console storage and ample cup holders help keep the roomy deck uncluttered. Available with either a 150- or 200-horsepower performance package, this is a sporty, smart pontoon that delivers great times on the water.

And the options offered on the V20SE can add to the fun. A ski tow bar, a refreshment center and an entertainment center only make an already well-equipped vessel that much more accommodating for a long day spent out on your favorite waterway. And with this model’s low price tag, these add-ons are within reach.

So, if you’re looking for a pontoon that holds its value, the Veranda V20SE is a great place to start your search.

Manitou: 22 X-plode SHP manitouboats.com

If you’re going to call a boat the X-plode, you better back it up. With this powerful and dynamic 22-foot model, Manitou does exactly that. Equipped with a Honda, Yamaha or Evinrude 225 E-Tec engine, it has a maximum of 225 horsepower and a lot of muscle, especially for a pontoon boat. And you can give it even more: there’s an available MerCruiser 350 Mag that boosts the boat up to 300 horsepower.

When you add to that the Sport Handling Package, which is what the “SHP” appended to the end of the model name means, this boat really begins to take off.

The components of the SHP work together to create a hull design that acts like a planing hull you’d more often find on a fiberglass speedboat than a pontoon boat. As an SHP model, the 22 X-plode is underskinned with triple tubes. The center tube is larger than the outside tubes and mounted lower to prevent ventilation during sharp turning. Lifting strakes are standard on the inside and outside of all three tubes, allowing for quicker planing, graceful banking and a better hole shot.

The final component of the Manitou SHP is a Teleflex Sea Star Hydraulic Steering System with power assist unit. Similar to those found on many automobiles, this hydraulic system uses an electric pump to allow steering with your fingertips.

Add all of this together, and you end up with a fast boat that’s easy to handle. What more could you ask for? How about a V-bow, a brand new race boat helm and a bevy of standard features? The 22 X-plode SHP has all of that.

The compact entertainment center includes a JBL radio with one gig of internal memory, an MP3 interface and cradle, as well as four Kicker speakers. Also at the helm, there is a Dino steering wheel, a stylish captain’s chair and a clean instrument panel with performance gauges that have color-matched bezels. There is also a 55-gallon gas tank, an activity locker, a privacy station, a ski tow bar and a Sunbrella top and mooring cover.

With power and handling, style and comfort, the 22 X-plode SHP combines convenience and performance in a single package.

pontoons.com Premier: 250 S-Series

A pontoon boat with a wraparound windshield? Well, now they’ve thought of everything. With their S-Series, Premier has made this simple but ingenious innovation and, in so doing, has pushed pontoon design toward the sportiness of a runabout or ski boat. Performance doesn’t follow far in the wake.

Propelled by an engine that has as much as 300 horsepower and set on a 25-foot triple tube package that amps up performance while increasing stability and handling, the S-Series will take you to the open water. The lifting strakes and ski tow bar can only add to the fast-paced excitement of this vessel.

Don’t forget, though, that this is still a pontoon boat. It may have the power of a runabout, but it retains the open-deck and ample room of a pontoon. The S-Series protects its aft passengers with the full wraparound glass windshield. Fore of the walk-thru windshield that’s amidships, there are curved bench seats, both port and starboard.

At the dual-console helm, there is a pair of Flexsteel 7-Star chairs, a soft-touch steering wheel, a CD stereo with four premium speakers and an easy-to-read instrument panel. The windshield works with the elevated cockpit to create distinction usually not found between bow and cockpit on a pontoon boat. By adding a six-inch platform from the walkthrough back, visibility is clear over the tallest bow passengers.

Aft, there’s additional seating (including optional wrap-around stadium seating) that varies depending on the model. The ES is a slightly smaller vessel that features a U-shaped bench seat behind the helm and a boarding ladder positioned as a side mount just fore of the helm. On the 250 Fish, there is a pair of swivel chairs at the stern. On the RE model, a permanent stainless steel ladder is placed at the rear, right beside an L-shaped bench.

Other standard features on S-Series models include a Bimini top, brushed rectangle table, directional speaker mounts, stainless steel hardware, marine-grade Illusions 28-oz. carpet
and a pop-up changing room. The options allow you to add everything from an iPod interface adapter to a Lowrance GPS unit.

The S-Series gives you all the power and performance you need to push the limits of traditional pontooning. And it does so without sacrificing the relaxed style and comfortable layout that are the hallmarks of this kind of boating.

Princecraft: Versailles SVX Series princecraft.com

Just because something’s designed for a family doesn’t mean it has to be blandly functional. Or so Princecraft shows with their Versailles SVX Series, a group of family-oriented pontoons that are new for 2008. These boat offer luxury and comfort without compromising the fun factor.
The extra wide beam offers both a smoother ride and plenty of interior space for the entire family—and for everyone’s gear. On this big deck, you’ll find an ultra-plush reclining captain’s seat, chaise lounges and L-shaped rear seating. On the SVX 27 model, there is even room for an optional 12-volt refrigerator.

The Rotocast plastic storage compartments are vented to allow for draining as well as cross circulation, which helps to prevent mold and mildew. Portable, integrated cup holders and a pedestal snack table keep favorite libations and munchies close at hand; and the fiberglass galley that’s built into the console features a sink, faucet and portable freshwater tank.

Sun seekers will enjoy the Versailles SVX Series’ rear sun deck that incorporates a pop-up privacy enclosure for changing in and out of swimwear. The rear deck also houses an optional chemical head with pump-out system, meaning total comfort and privacy for the entire family. There’s also an optional full camper enclosure that can provide an overnight stay onboard or offer protection from the elements in bad weather.

With a new catamaran-like fiberglass bow styling, these boats look like fun. This design is also functional: it provides recesses that house and hide navigation and docking lights, as well
as two fender racks to keep boat bumpers handy for docking. Similarly, inset recessions strategically placed on the interior individually protect the four, 6.5-inch speakers driven by a 200-watt M475 Clarion AM/FM/CD player that is satellite radio ready and MP3/iPod compatible.

All this luxury and style does not mean the SVX series pontoons are anything other than sturdy and strong. Constructed using the highest grade 5052-H36 marine-grade aluminum alloy, each pontoon tube is a full 25-inches in diameter with a “dolphin-style” nose piece, integrated deflectors and a full-length keel on each pontoon for added strength.

With on-board fuel capacity at 125 gallons and a variety of fuel-efficient engine options, the Versailles SVX O/B and I/O models can keep you—and your family—on the water and away from the fuel dock.

southbaypontoon.com South Bay: 900 Series

In 2006, South Bay’s then new 900 series was named Boating Life’s “Best Breakout Boat.” Since then, the series’ flagship model, the 925CR Trifecta, has become the company’s most popular performance pontoon. After even a quick look at this sleek, classy vessel, it’s easy to see why.
From the sweeping railings to the swim decks at both bow and stern to the plush interiors, the many models in the 900 Series are immediately striking. They range from 21-feet, 8-inches in length to just an inch shy of 30 feet, and they can accommodate anywhere from 11 to 22 people. From the 922CR to the 93CPTR TT, there is a range of floorplans and a host of options. Whatever your choice, though, it’s hard to go wrong.

The performance and handling on these boats far surpasses that of traditional pontoons. To achieve that, engineers began their ingenious design at the bottom, with the tubes. What they
came up with is the Trifecta hull, a three-float design that gives these boats the kind of handling you more often find on a boat with a V-bottom mono hull. The result is reduced drag, tighter turns and increased performance all the way around.

This innovative triple-tube design also allows the use of a wide array of power options. Depending on your needs, the engines on models in the 900 series can range from 135 to 600 horsepower.

Despite these high-powered performance characteristics, the 900 Series has the roomy comfort that make pontoons so attractive in the first place. You’ll find tilt steering, a Sunbrella Bimini top, a built-in Garmin fish/depth finder, a changing room sundeck and stainless steel hardware, including pop-up bow cleats. For entertaining, there’s a molded fiberglass sink with an eight-gallon freshwater holding tank, as well as a stainless steel faucet that uses a 12-volt pump for water flow.

There’s even a hide-away trash receptacle that fits conveniently in the chaise lounge arm. And if you’re looking to really maximize space, go with the optional in-floor storage that, at 20-by-40 inches, is long enough for skis and is ready for all your water toys.

Wherever you look, you’ll see the results of good design and quality engineering. Even where you can’t look—for example at the cross members that are spaced just 16 inches apart to keep the deck stable and the ride smooth—you’ll find evidence of South Bay’s excellent boatbuilding. Out on the water, you’ll see the results.