Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

A conversation among Whalers
jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby jimh » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:55 am

I was having coffee this morning about 8 a.m. Northport Bay was like glass. There was no wind, and the water surface was flat. A pontoon boat motored by, going unusually close to shore but at a slow speed, less than 10-MPH. Three thoughts came to mind:

—why is that guy running so close to shore?

—that pontoon hull was leaving almost no wake, just three little ripples in the water from the two hulls and the outboard gear case; and

—why do all those pontoon-hull boats have to be fitted with a topsides that looks like a patio from a bad trailer park and have a sun top that looks like a 1920’s baby carriage?

A few minutes later I went down to the shore. I discovered why the pontoon boater was hugging the shoreline: there was serious fog this morning on the water and visibility was about 200-feet. The boat didn’t have RADAR, and it probably didn’t have a GNSS receiver and chart plotter. Staying in sight of the shoreline was a prudent way to navigate.

With the long waterline and narrow beam of the pontoons, the boat must have been very efficient to operate at the slow speed it was making through the water. Almost no horsepower was being wasted in wave making. There are many times in boating when going along at 8 to 10-MPH and making almost no wake would be very pleasant. With my 24-foot Boston Whaler boat (a REVENGE 22 Walk-Through Whaler Drive) there is no option to go at those speeds except to create a very big wake and see fuel economy drop to the worst possible case.

I think the rather non-nautical appearance of pontoon boats is a legacy of their initial construction by boat builders located far inland from the sea and intending them to never be run on open water in rough conditions. Carpeted decks, square aluminum tubing for railings, and moveable plastic lawn chairs for seating have doomed pontoon boats to a category of boating that seems at the extreme low end of the nautically chic scale.

It is too bad the efficiency of a pontoon hull couldn’t be put to better use.

Masbama
Posts: 233
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:33 pm
Location: Mobile, Al

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Masbama » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:20 am

I agree Jim. One other attribute of pontoon boats is their smooth ride in small choppy water.

Jefecinco
Posts: 994
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 6:35 pm
Location: Gulf Shores, AL

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Jefecinco » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:24 am

We see a lot of pontoon boats here in the Gulf Shores, AL area. We see most of them in the bays and inlets and in the Intracoastal Waterway but some go into the Gulf of Mexico to fish. Now, during Red Snapper season, we see perhaps a few dozen going offshore on weekends. The pontoons seem well suited for inshore boating but I would not go offshore on one other than to cruise the beaches. I'm sure they lack the electronics needed to detect approaching storms and that makes offshore trips risky even when conditions seem perfect for them ie. light breezes and cloudless skies.

Properly rigged and equipped they provide a good fishing platform but most are rigged for family day cruises. There is a local pontoon rental company that equips all their boats with forward boarding ladders, water slides and enclosed showers with plenty of seating and shade. They really are perfect grandfather boats for the days when the grandchildren are visiting.

Almost all the newer pontoons are called tri-toons referring to their three hull or tube configurations. Some are quite fast when equipped with the right engines. We see them zipping past our home moving as fast as all the high powered bay boats.

The can present a challenge at the launch ramp when crosswinds are blowing. They have a lot of windage.
Butch

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby jimh » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:46 am

The traditional pontoon boats always seem to have circular tubes for the pontoons.

Is there some underlying reason for using circular floats?

Are circular floats used because there is a standard aluminum large-diameter tubing being fabricated for some other purpose (such as transporting liquids) and the early pontoon builders just adapted those circular tubes as a simple form for the flotation hulls?

dtmackey
Posts: 374
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:29 pm

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby dtmackey » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:21 pm

jimh wrote:The traditional pontoon boats always seem to have circular tubes for the pontoons.

Is there some underlying reason for using circular floats?

Are circular floats used because there is a standard aluminum large-diameter tubing being fabricated for some other purpose (such as transporting liquids) and the early pontoon builders just adapted those circular tubes as a simple form for the flotation hulls?


Aluminum tubes can be manufactured very cost effectively compared to a V or box shape. The number of welds is kept to a minimum and internal reinforcement isn't needed (within reason).

They are very popular on lakes in NH and Maine and functional for entertaining.

D-

User avatar
Acassidy
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2015 10:25 pm
Location: Galveston, Texas

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Acassidy » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:05 pm

Pontoon boats have their purpose. I have rented them on inland lakes here in Texas and they were a blast for the kids when they were younger. They really are designed for just having fun on.

They make some monster pontoons boats now and can handle incredible speeds and horse power on the back like you would not believe, but they still look like pontoon boats. They have incorporated a third pontoon and some have a V in the pontoons. But no matter what the configuration they are still flat decks with pontoons.

One very humorous observation of pontoons In Galveston Bay and off shore is that they do not run through rough water well at all and instead of cutting through waves the deck easily slices the tops of the waves off and floods the deck with water. I have seen this and experienced this myself. It is not fun and is scary. Plus running through sloppy water I cannot imagine the torque strain that is put on the deck and pontoon construction.

They are not blue water boats by any stretch of the imagination, But I see them out on the water a lot.
Archie

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby jimh » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:03 am

Here is a modern "pontoon" boat as seen on the Indian River in northern Michigan:

tri-toon800HP.jpg
Fig. 1. A tri-hull deck boat with 800-HP: not your grandfather's pontoon boat. Photo credit: Con B.
tri-toon800HP.jpg (60.71 KiB) Viewed 7258 times

Jefecinco
Posts: 994
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 6:35 pm
Location: Gulf Shores, AL

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Jefecinco » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:36 am

800 HP and four blade propellers look mean. Those propellers look almost like cleavers, are they? Did I notice some cladding on the outer tubes giving them a shaped bottom?
Butch

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby jimh » Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:52 am

I think the propellers are REVOLUTION4 propellers.

Good observation on the hull shape being modified from the round tube on the running surfaces.

Masbama
Posts: 233
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:33 pm
Location: Mobile, Al

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Masbama » Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:26 pm

Goodness gracious. I wonder what it would be like to be on that when it’s WOT?

User avatar
Acassidy
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2015 10:25 pm
Location: Galveston, Texas

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby Acassidy » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:21 pm

Holy smokes that is just not right. I noticed that the center pontoon is lower than the outer on the water. I bet that thing looks funny going 80 mph across the the lake.

mwallac1
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:03 am

Re: Three Morning Observations

Postby mwallac1 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:36 pm

[The speculation the propellers are REVOLUTION4 propellers is] correct.

The outboard pontoons have lifting [strakes]. The center pontoon is a larger diameter and is 1.5-inch lower [than the outboard pontoons] for performance.

Greg’s boat was used as an anchor for my Montauk today at a Burt Lake sandbar.

The boat runs 75-MPH on a good day across the lake.
Last edited by mwallac1 on Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:47 am, edited 3 times in total.

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby jimh » Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:49 am

I don't think I have a photo, but several years ago when hauling out my boat at the ramp on the Cheboygan River mouth onto Lake Huron, another boater was hauling his very large three-hull pontoon boat. This 35-foot long monster had three Mercury VERADO FOURSTROKE engine, at least 300-HP each. I engaged the fellow in a short conversation. I don't recall the claimed top speed, but I do recall his comment as something like this: "I can get to Mackinac Island from here in about 15-minutes."

Mackinac Island by water from the Cheboygan River mouth is about 20-miles, so his boast would require a boat speed of 80-MPH. I am sure that is a bit of exaggeration, but maybe not all that much.

dtmackey
Posts: 374
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:29 pm

Re: Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby dtmackey » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:44 pm

Unless his Guinness World Record has been beat, Brad Rowland holds title to world's fastest pontoon boat at 114-MPH.

https://youtu.be/j136TTyG_E8

They do serve a purpose and some people seem to love them. Around here on the ocean, I never see them.

D-

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby jimh » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:56 am

That 25-footer had triple Mercury OptiMax ProXS 300-HP engines.

Masbama
Posts: 233
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 8:33 pm
Location: Mobile, Al

Re: Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby Masbama » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:07 pm



That vessel is one choppy wave away from going airborne.

jimh
Posts: 6906
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:25 pm
Location: Michigan, Lower Peninsula
Contact:

Re: Three (Morning) Observations About Pontoon-hull Boats

Postby jimh » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:37 am

I would like to see the mandatory USCG capacity plate on these pontoon-hull boats with 800-HP or 900-HP (or more) on their transom.

To know if the boat builder rated their boat for that much horsepower would be interesting.