A Visit From the Riddler

Published in the July 2011 Issue July 2011 Ask The Expert

At a boat show this spring I got into a debate with a guy who quizzed me on what was the most important amenity, feature or quality on a pontoon boat. Which element, if it failed or went bad, would destroy the value of the boat or cost a ton of money to be repaired?

He also said that this "thing" could cost as little as $2 when first constructed, but that on the boats he represented it was closer to $135. As the editor of PDB I think he expected more from me, but to be honest, he had me. As I quickly scanned his boat, the helm console came to mind as I tried to justify what would be the most important element on a boat that couldn't be replaced economically. I figured if your steering goes, the boat won't be much good to you. But he quickly squashed that idea and reminded me that replacing a steering wheel is a simple fix, but what he was thinking of would take a lot more time, money and effort to repair.

Ooohkay, let's try again.

I was getting a little frustrated and just a tad flustered by this question. I looked over the boat even more closely the second time around as I tried to find an answer that would satisfy the riddler. Over and over in my head I kept repeating, "What could possibly cost as little as $2 originally, but would cost hundreds to fix?" This was getting awkward now. With a dozen or so Shootout Boat tests behind me, I still had nothing for this guy.

Am I alone here?

I felt like the adults who get burned on the show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? and who become a punch line for Jeff Foxworthy.

Do you know the answer? If so, good for you, because I sure didn't. If there was a white flag I would have gladly waived it. I just wanted the answer so I could move on with my life.

His reply was short and sweet: thread.

Something as simple as the quality of the thread used to stitch the seating can really make or break your boat and for some reason this never crossed my mind. If your year-old pontoon furniture goes bad because of cheap $2 thread, so does the entire value. His argument was some manufacturers spend very little on thread and this is something that you'd never really notice or pay attention to when the boat is all shined up and looking good on the boat show floor.

The riddler was Wade Davenport, owner of Leisure Kraft Pontoons in Crossville, Tenn. and he was of course proud to say his boats use industrial-strength thread. Then he made it very clear that if he's willing to go the extra mile for something as simple as quality of thread, you can bet the rest of the boat is well thought out as well.

I'll admit it: he got me with his question. And chances are good that even some of you seasoned boaters (who will, of course, never admit it) didn't know the answer to his question either. But seeing the value in this information, I wanted others to be aware so they can ask the right questions the next time they're shopping for a new pontoon. So if admitting that I overlooked the importance of thread leads to one potential buyer asking the right questions the next time he's shopping for a new boat, it was all worth it to me. And the least I can do is give Davenport a plug for putting me on the spot that day. To learn more about Leisure Kraft Pontoons visit www.leisurekraft.com and if you get a chance, take a look at the location of the onboard gas tank. This is another feature that left me puzzled at first, but impressed as I took a closer look.

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