How to Drive a Pontoon Boat for the First Time? – Boatingbasicsonline

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how to drive a pontoon boat

Have you ever ridden a pontoon boat and thought, “Hey, maybe it’s no different from coasting with my Toyota? ” Well, while driving a boat is certainly not like driving the car, it’s still arguably a skill that anyone can learn.

Learning how to drive a pontoon boat means you get to be the captain and save money on hiring one. With everything considered, it’s not at all hard to drive a pontoon boat.

This complete guide proves as much. It covers the basics of driving a boat, walks you through every essential step, so you’ll be comfortably cruising soon.  

Table of Contents

Things to Bring Aboard

  • Anchor with suitable chain and rope
  • Safety equipment and tools required by the US Coast Guard
  • Boater’s safety certification (temporary or permanent)

Step-by-step to Drive a Pontoon Boat

Step 1: Confirm every thing you need to have before driving.


This applies to all boaters, even those that aren’t technically driving a pontoon boat for the first time. Most states in the US require you to carry the certificate mentioned above, which serves as your license to drive a pontoon boat.

The anchor is a given, but do you have enough life jackets, flares, flags, audio distress signals, and fire extinguishers aboard? Make sure you and your passengers have life jackets on all throughout the trip.  

If you’re renting the boat, the rental company should point you toward the compartment containing all of these security tools. The same goes for the anchor plus its rode.

Also, assuming this isn’t the first time you operate a pontoon boat and aren’t renting, make sure that the fuel tank still contains enough gas for your entire excursion.

Step 2: Get comfortable with the fundamentals at the helm.


The steering wheel’s pretty much straightforward, and you turn it where you want to go. What about the word “throttle” or “controller” that gets thrown around a lot?

Basically, the throttle lever functions like gear shifters found in cars and lets you control the direction of the boat. Most pontoon boat throttles are configured in such the way that pushing this down causes the boat to move backward plus pushing it up moves it forward.

There’s a neutral gear located in the middle of the particular lever, which is where you need it to become prior to running the boat’s motor. Otherwise, the particular vessel won’t start at almost all.

Past the throttle, you should also know what the gauges stand for, such as the speedometer, tachometer, and depth finder if you’re also fishing. Explaining each one takes a bit associated with time, obviously.

I’ve looked for good videos that expound upon them, and I can’t recommend this one more, so watch it for a first-hand look:

Step 3: Trim the motor down then start it.


Now that we have taken all the preparatory steps, it’s time to fire up the engine and get going! Before you turn that key, though, know that the motor’s prop needs to be in the particular water in order in order to help the boat accelerate.

It’s likely trimmed up, so a person have to let it down into the water by pressing the trim switch on the throttle lever. Then, ask a companion if you have one to see if the prop is fully submerged.

The motor must no longer budge as you press the trim-down button; that’s a sign it’s positioned correctly. Afterward, ensure the boat’s in neutral and then start the motor by turning the key.  

Step 4: Get to the particular plane and get the hang of accelerating and turning.


Make certain your passengers are safely seated before getting the motor in gear.

Depending on how your boat is docked at present, you may need to back it down or just pull the lever forward to start going. If it’s the latter, you have to put it in reverse plus start turning the wheel so that the bow is facing the open sea and not the particular shore.

It’s important to back it straight down slowly, and if you’ve driven a car in reverse before (like getting out of a parking lot space), it is actually a lot like that.

Once your boat is ready to go forward, shift the throttle forward. The majority of pontoons will get up on plane pretty quickly.

Remember These Driving Guidelines

Here are usually a few driving tips I want you to remember when turning and accelerating:

  1. Once a person hit speeds of around 28 mph, you need to trim your motor so that the vessel will run smoothly and quickly and stop porpoising.
  2. Click on the trim up switch a few times until you start feeling the bow rise up and with regard to the boat to start driving more smoothly plus accelerate more. Adjust accordingly.
  3. Trimming in waves can be difficult and requires the use of trim tabs most of the time. It is important to know how to make the most of these gadgets to push optimally. Often, people lower the tabs when the water will be rough.
  4. Many modern pontoon boats turn sharply, like a car. However , I recommend you avoid turning too tightly (i. e. turning the steering wheel all the way), as it may cause you or your passengers to keel over and go overboard. At the same time, lower the trim during turns.
  5. You have to maintain a good visual of everything ahead of you plus in your periphery as you’re driving, so as to avoid collisions.

Step 5: Learn how in order to dock properly.


To start a pontoon vessel and drive it might become easy as pie before long. Nevertheless , this can be quite tricky to master how to dock it, so much so that it has become a staple Reddit discussion over the particular years.

Most of the time, going nice and slow does the trick. If you’re just starting out, I suggest a person keep the boat within neutral gear while steering to adjust how you are going to position the vessel on the dock.

If you have family along with you, don’t hesitate to ask them to lend a helping hand. Having someone grab the dock post, wrap a rope around the cleats, or give that needed push in order to get going will help the lot already.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice the “pin the dock” maneuver, assuming the local dock owner is alright with it. It should end up being fine most of the time, since most pontoons come with fenders designed to absorb the impact.

Basically, this maneuver involves slowly driving toward the dock simply by going in and out of gear. Once your own pontoon’s bow touches the particular dock, you keep it inside gear so that it will stay in place, enough for the boat to remain stable even in windy conditions and for you to unload plus load passengers.

Step 6: Continue boating and learn more because much as possible.


There’s really no better teacher than experience. If you look back and think about it, what allowed you to create driving a car or riding a bike an everyday activity?

The same can be said for pontoon boat operation. Much like how it’s not really that will hard to get the suspend of accelerating and switching, docking (i. e. motorboat parking) gets easier with practice.

Moreover, familiarize yourself with the waterway(s) you frequent.

  • What are the usual water plus weather conditions in the particular ocean in your locale?
  • Are there no wake zones in your area where you need to limit your speed? Where are their boundaries?
  • Are a person more comfortable riding on the lake? Usually, it’s easier to practice in calmer waterways, unlike out in the ocean, where you’ll likely be in rough water if the weather’s not cooperating.
  • Don’t take the fun out of the equation when driving a boat.
  • Assuming one’s available in your area, go ahead and practice docking in local docks with not too many boats and people about.


Is it difficult to drive a pontoon ship?

As the steps above readily show, not really. Besides the obvious difference from driving land vehicles, a lot of dread that may come from driving the boat may stem through the thought of “captaining” a boat, which immediately makes us think we possess “big” shoes to fill.

Thankfully, much like learning how in order to drive a vehicle, once you get the hang of it, it becomes automatic. For most people, it only takes diving into the basics coupled with consistent practice to master it.

Are pontoons good regarding beginners?

Compared to most other motorized sea vessels, pontoons definitely deserve to be listed as the more, if not most, beginner-friendly of the bunch. Most models are designed for easy handling and navigation, especially the modern ones that turn on a dime.

You’ll without the doubt agree with this particular once you put the steps above into exercise and begin boating by yourself regularly.


Now that you possess all this knowledge on how to drive a pontoon boat, I hope you take the time to apply it.

At best, the entire process can be summed upward into the initial preparations such as getting all protection items and passengers within check. Afterward, with the particular throttle in the right position, you can begin up the motor and begin driving!

I can’t stress this particular enough: you actually have got to get out there plus start boating! Most associated with the steps can become routine in time – even docking.

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