By Thomas P. Caldwell
The image that comes to mind is relaxing in the sun, diving into the water, sharing a cool drink, and enjoying company while at anchor on a calm lake.
Or maybe it’s gently moving along with fishing poles poised for catching bass or lake trout.
Perhaps it’s moving in a faster pace to tow a wakeboarder or even enjoy the breeze on a hot summer’s day.
All of these are possible with a pontoon boat, one of the most flexible watercraft out there.
Choosing the right pontoon boat, however, can be daunting. You will need to consider where you’ll be using it. For speed and stability on large lakes or the ocean where the waters may be choppy and there is a need in order to travel longer distances, the longer pontoon boat with a more powerful motor will be necessary. On smaller, protected lakes and rivers, shorter, easily maneuverable boats with less horsepower make more sense.
The size of the deck plus weight capacity also are important if you expect to carry passengers. Mid-sized boats offer greater flexibility in a number of situations, but if you do not plan to carry many people — or only intend to use it as a “party boat” — smaller or larger boats may be more appropriate.
As you consider the size, a person also have to think about the price, and here it is important to also keep in mind the cost of licenses and registration, fuel, annual maintenance, and off-season storage — amounts that could reach thousands of dollars.
Boat dealers and marinas can offer valuable advice on such decisions and also discuss the options in seating and electronics that you will certainly need to consider. Standard equipment such as lights and horn can be customized with specialized lighting, sound, and electronics.
A depth-finder will be useful in all cases, but for fishing plus navigating in unfamiliar areas, it is an essential tool with many levels of sophistication to consider. Fishing packages can include specialized electronics, fishing seats, rod storage, and a livewell.
Dealers also can advise those planning to tow tubers or wakeboarders on horsepower needs. Having at least a 150-hp outboard with an optional towing pylon or tow bar are usually things to consider.
In addition to audio systems and interior lighting, those planning to do entertaining on board may want to upgrade the standard upholstery and flooring for more comfort and luxury.
Whatever the particular intended use, a Bimini cover can be considered an essential option, providing shade from the sunlight and some protection from an unexpected storm.
Another useful option is usually a changing room to get in and out associated with swimwear. The most economical ones are pop-up enclosures, some of which offer enough space to accommodate a small portable toilet because well. Drop-down changing rooms offer more space, or even you can have custom-made changing areas for more ease and privacy.
Various floor plans and seating option are available, depending upon the intended use.
Boaters who simply want to enjoy an easy cruise on calm waters may have a great time on the common two-tube pontoon, but those looking for a lot more speed or wanting more control in choppy waters may favor three-tube pontoons, which offer better balance and weight distribution, and can provide greater stability with the more powerful engines.
Keep in mind that three-tube pontoon boats are larger and may require a larger trailer to support the middle tube and longer hull.
That brings us to the matter of the towing capacity of your vehicle. Unless you plan to buy a new vehicle as well, or on hiring someone to tow your boat truck, it is a good idea, before purchasing a pontoon boat, to check on whether you can safely tow it. To make sure the weight is within your vehicle’s towing capacity, add the particular weight from the boat in order to the weight of the trailer that will carry this. The boat also should fit completely within the trailer.
Besides towing capacity and truck size, make sure the boat you consider purchasing will fit your dock and vessel storage area.
Once all those issues have been addressed and a person have your new motorboat, you still need the boating license in order to operate it. New Hampshire requires the completion of a boating education course for those at minimum 16 years old and all those who will be operating a ski craft or a vessel with a motor of more than 25 hp.
The website learntoboat. com offers an online program that is approved by the particular state, making it easy to learn the necessary information to pass the boating examination. Students completing the training course will receive a voucher for a proctored exam. To schedule an examination, go to https://www.register-ed.com/programs/newhampshire/175.
Among those lessons is the importance of wearing life jackets (personal flotation devices) at all times while you are on a boat. The water can be extremely dangerous, especially if you are usually not a good swimmer. Drownings have occurred in this kind of minor situations as attempting to retrieve a hat that has blown off in the wind.
The online course teaches the types of navigational aids, such as buoys, that warn of dangers; proper procedures when encountering other watercraft; how to embark from and return to a dock; what to perform when weather affects visibility or threatens to get worse; and other things that a pilot must keep in mind.
One thing that boaters always have to keep in mind is the danger of intoxication. When a pontoon boat serves as a “party boat” that is an especially important lesson. Whoever is piloting the boat must avoid all alcoholic drinks, and even passengers should drink in moderation so they are prepared if there should be an emergency on the water.
With all these things in mind, there is definitely no reason not to obtain out on the water in a pontoon boat plus enjoy the weather, the drinking water, and good companionship. It is what lake living is all about.