If you are looking for a reliable shallow water boat that comes in all sizes, pontoon boats stand out as an excellent choice. With their shallow draft these watercraft can navigate bodies of waters that don’t have enough depth for many other boat types. But, with other shallow draft vessels available, what is it that makes a pontoon boat the best shallow water boat? Let’s find out.
- Pontoon boat – the popular pick!
- 8 reasons why a pontoon is the best shallow water boat
- Rounding up
Pontoon boat – the popular pick!
Pontoon boats are versatile vessels that are very easy to handle.
Pontoon boats can be used for many water based activities. Mini pontoons are excellent for a variety of tasks from mundane utility work to fishing while the larger luxury vessels can accommodate many passengers and work well as party boats or comfortable recreational vessels. Medium sized pontoon boats are routinely used for a myriad of boating activities from simple cruising and anchored partying to high speed water skiing and tubing.
Pontoon boats possess a distinctive structure with a flat hull which is why they are often referred to as flat-bottomed boats. However, strictly speaking a pontoon boat is not flat-bottomed because of the pontoons that are attached to its bottom.
Under the hull are attached either double or triple pontoons. The boat gets its name from these pontoons, also called tubes because of their shape and design, which offer buoyancy and support to the boat, lifting it out of the water.
Pontoon boats come in three basic types:
- The larger recreational boats.
- Mini pontoons for solo or limited crew use.
- Ocean going pontoon boats, like a catamaran.
Larger recreational pontoon boats are excellent shallow watercraft. They have an open plan deck, that can be upholstered or equipped in a variety of ways depending on the requirements of the owner that make them great for socializing on the water.
Mini pontoon boats are used mostly for solo recreational use in the same way a person may use a recreational kayak. Mini pontoons also come in 2-seater or 4 seater versions. Mini pontoons can made made from plastic, be foam filled or air filled inflatables. These type of pontoon boats are very popular fishing vessels. The simple design and smaller size makes mini pontoons a very affordable way to get on the water.
Pontoon boats have evolved from their initial simple design of floating platforms to the modern sleek and well-engineered powerboats we now see. Unlike most other shallow draft boats, which are either large workhorses of the water or personal utility boats, pontoon boats offer the same power and comfort as modern day power boats but with the ability to navigate very shallow waterways.
Advanced design features and robust contemporary manufacturing materials and methods means some of these shallow vessels can even be taken on open sea. These catamaran or trimaran vessels are now extremely popular for all sorts of marine recreation and are a particularly good choice for family boating and ocean-going voyages.
For the purpose of this article we will not delve too deeply into the subject of ocean-going pontoon boats as these vessels are usually too big to be used in inland shallow waters. We will cover recreational pontoon boats and mini pontoons and show why we believe they are the best shallow water boat in existence.
8 reasons why a pontoon is the best shallow water boat
Below are eight reasons for believing that a pontoon boat is the best shallow water boat on the market.
They have an ultra shallow draft
Pontoon boats are known for their very shallow draft. With its flat bottom hull that sits above the water on buoyant pontoons (tubes) there is very little chance of the hull snagging on anything below the waterline.
While a traditional v-hull vessel, like a bass or speedboat boat for instance, can run into trouble in shallow waters, with potential damage to the the hull, pontoon boats have no such worries.
Because the pontoons, or tubes, are extremely buoyant they tend to “sit” on the water rather than in the water. This means that only a very small part of the boat (the lower portion of the pontoons) is actually in the water. Hence pontoon boats can navigate very shallow bodies of water where other boat types would struggle or be unable to traverse. As many inland waters are shallow, or have very shallow areas, this means pontoon boats have become a very popular recreational boat for inland water use.
Even large recreational pontoon boats need not worry about navigating shallow water.
Large pontoon boats have a flatter design and the buoyancy of the pontoons along with the lightweight aluminium or fibreglass frame mean that this vessel truly floats on the surface of the water, allowing this vessel to slip into shallower waters with ease. A pontoon boat with an 18 inch draft, for example, can handle as little as 2 feet of water and can be safely beached for an on-shore barbecue or picnic.
However, when executing shallow water maneuvers in a pontoon boat care should be taken with inboard engines which could be damaged if the boat runs aground. Likewise jet engines can suck up silt and debris from the waterbed in very shallow waters. These precautions are less important on boats with an outboard motor as outboards can be trimmed up readily when entering very shallow water.
Mini pontoon boats are usually made of plastic (though not always) or are inflatables made from extremely lightweight material constructed in way that allows the entire boat to be filled with air. They are propelled by either an outboard engine or paddle.
Because pontoon boats have a real advantage over other recreational craft when it comes to navigating in-shore waterways or creeks, where depth is unpredictable and often very shallow, the smaller mini pontoon boats make excellent freshwater fishing boats while the larger, more luxurious ones, offer speed, comfort and stability for recreational pursuits in shallow waters.
They are versatile
Pontoon boats can be used for a wide variety of purposes as already outlined in this article.
Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy on a pontoon boat:
- Family outings.
- Kid friendly fun (like water sliding).
- Adult partying.
- Water sports such as water skiing.
They are easy to use and maintain
One of the key reasons pontoon boats are enjoying rising interest and popularity is their ease of use and the small amount of attention needed to maintain them. The simple controls and low maintenance needs make a pontoon an excellent choice for people who are new to boating and looking for a vessel that does not require a large amount of technical skill to handle.
How easy are pontoon boats to drive?
Pontoon boats are often the first choice for boat rentals because of their ease of use. Pontoon boat controls are straightforward and intuitive to use. The main controls consist of a dashboard, a steering wheel and a throttle.
Many mariners consider a pontoon boat to be easier to drive than a road vehicle.
Pontoon boat maintenance is very straightforward. The key areas to pay attention to on the boat are:
- Providing protection from UV damage (using this type of special polish and a boat cover).
- Aluminum polishing (using a pontoon boat cleaner that also restores paint). This is especially important if you intend to use your boat in saltwater.
- Deck cleaning and upkeep.
- Seat and upholstery cleaning.
They offer spaciousness and comfort
Unlike other non-commercial shallow water vessels pontoon boats are spacious and luxurious. The stable, level deck surface of pontoon boats makes them ideal for creating a luxurious space for cruising or entertaining out on the water.
Pontoon boats can be lavishly upholstered and fitted out with generous perimeter seating. The spacious deck allows for a table along with ample storage and can be configured for a variety of leisure activities.
The notable stability of a pontoon boat on calm water along with the large ‘playpen’ area means that passengers can stand or move on the deck with ease, making them a versatile vessel for water enthusiasts of all ages.
They make an excellent lake water party boat.
They have great longevity
Pontoon boats offer great longevity and retain their value over time better than many other boats.
The added buoyancy of the pontoons and their shallow draft mean that their suffer less wear and tear than other types of watercraft, such as V-hulled vessels for example. Because they are usually used as recreational vessels rather than working boats they tend to spend less time on the water and are subjected to much less abuse (if you don’t count spilled wine and beer on the deck).
Pontoons retain their value quite well and are easy to resale. Even a boat bought pre-used, which requires a little TLC, can be readily renovated by anyone with basic maintenance skills and resold quickly usually for a profit.
They offer speed with better handling
Modern pontoon vessels are no longer barge-like water snails nor do they resemble the boxy sedentary monsters of the past, but have been engineered and crafted in such a way that they can be easily maneuvered and can handled at speed.
Though many pontoon boat models are achieving faster speeds and tighter turning radii, these boats have yet to completely shed their slow and steady reputation. However, this reputation is totally unjustified.
Pontoon boat manufacturers are becoming increasingly adept at configuring the pontoon hull for great all round handling even at speed. Twin and three tube hulls can be altered with positive angle lifting strakes and barracuda nosecones to ensure smooth handling and efficient lift on the bow, even in relatively rough water.
Pontoon boats are now routinely being built with greater horsepower to match their larger, sleeker hulls and often come with power steering and high performance dual engines to match their sleek interiors.
Large and medium sized modern pontoons are able to handle powerful engines safely. Typical pontoon speeds average around 18 MPH but newer designs mean the latest boat models can easily exceed speeds of 30 MPH very safely in calm waters.
Due to the increasingly lightweight designs available fuel efficiency is also good, making pontoon boats fairly economical to run.
The lightweight frame
Because large pontoon boats are made from either fibreglass, aluminum or plastic (or a combination of those materials) and mini pontoon boats are made from plastic or inflatable materials these vessels are incredibly lightweight.
Because pontoon boats are light they offer great fuel economy, have great performance on water and are pretty easy to transport over land.
They are super safe
The well recognized safety profile of pontoon boats makes them popular with families and those who are new to boating.
These wide large vessels are advantaged by a wide stable level surface, and though it is not impossible, it is unlikely that a pontoon boat will capsize if loaded and handled properly.
The side rails that surround the pontoon boat are ideal for keeping younger passengers on the boat and safe.
As long as you drive a pontoon boat correctly they are very safe. Be cautious in rough water and you will always avoid nosediving the boat and/or sinking. Be sure to read our articles Why Did My Pontoon Boat Nosedive and Why Do Pontoon Boats Sink for more information on these safety issues.
A word about open sea use
A pontoon boat is essentially a calm water boat, like a Jon boat. However, this does not mean they cannot be used on the open sea.
If you are considering taking your pontoon boat on open water, or need a vessel that can handle fairly rough water but don’t want anything other than a pontoon, then you you must follow some simple rules.
Rules for taking your pontoon boat on the ocean:
- Avoid bad weather.
- Have sufficient safety equipment onboard such as life jackets and a radio.
- Coastal calm seas are the only safe ocean waters for recreational pontoon boats.
- Stay within sight of the shoreline.
- If the wind picks up and small waves start to turn to larger ones head for shore immediately.
For a more indepth look at how to use a pontoon boat in rough water read this article.
Of course not all pontoon boats are created equal!
There are a number of pontoon boats that are designed specifically for the the task of ocean-going use, with the most notable being the catamaran.
Pontoon boats undoubtedly lead their class as a safe versatile shallow water boat. The comfortable large open deck layout and luxuriant cruising offered by this vessel type makes recreational pontoons ideal for enjoying long sunny days out on the water.
The larger versions of these shallow-draft watercraft are the perfect pick for fast on-water recreational activities such as water skiing and tubing or for slow cruising on calm waters in comfort and style. They also come with a ton of pontoon boat accessories so you can use your boat for many different fun activities.
Recreational pontoon boats make excellent party boats! They are also great for water sports and luxury cruising.
The stability and ease of handling offered by mini pontoon boats makes them a great choice for solo navigators and for recreational pursuits such as fishing.
Pontoon boats are not only able to tackle shallow water with ease, but are now engineered for greater handling in rougher water and even on the open sea (though caution is advised).
With increasing horsepower pontoon boats are achieving better and better speeds meaning that they can even be used for high-speed water-sports such as paragliding and water skiing.
From boating novices to experienced anglers and water adventure enthusiasts, pontoons are increasingly appreciated as the leading recreational watercraft for all-round use.