Gas prices push trend toward pontoons, smaller craft

March 2011 News
Boaters heading to some of the area's many lakes and ponds this summer may see more pontoon boats and smaller craft on the water as people look to save money on gasoline prices. 

Ryan Crawford, whose family owns and operates Winnisquam Marine, said pontoon boats have grown in popularity among boaters over the last two years. 

"We used to sell a lot of fiberglass boats, but pontoon boats have taken over our business," Crawford said. 

Because of the increase in pontoon popularity, last year was a good year in terms of sales, he said. 

"The year before was challenging," he said. "It was the biggest part of the (economic) downturn ... the fiberglass market was slowing down and pontoon boat sales hadn't picked up yet."

He said last year, it was like somebody threw a switch and everyone began looking at pontoon boats. 

"This year sales look to be up again," Crawford said, adding that their business has had success at regional boat shows, including several in Massachusetts and one in Salem. 

There are a few reasons why pontoon boats have become so popular, he said. 

"You can bring a bunch of people on them; there is room to move and they have smaller engines that are more efficient," Crawford said. 

He added that pontoon boats are versatile - they can be used for leisurely trips with many people; they can be anchored out in the middle of the lake, they can be used for fishing, and the newer engines, some of which have up to 300 horsepower, allow them to go faster. 

"You can have a boat now that does it all, instead of three," he said. 

He added that the new outboard engines on pontoon boats are more fuel-efficient. 

"They consume probably half the fuel as stern-drive boats," he said. 

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