Powerful pontoons

Published online: Jul 04, 2011 News Sandy Wells - wvgazette.com
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You've got a snazzy runabout or cruiser. Just ahead, you see a shiny new pontoon zipping along the river. Really zipping. No match for you, however. It's just a pontoon. You can easily outrun it, right?

Don't be too sure.

Powerful pontoons popping up on the Kanawha River give even the fastest boats a run for their money.

Designed with three pontoons, a V'd bottom and 225 to 350 horsepower engines, the boats slice through the water like a knife in soft butter. The sophisticated design gives them the ability to twist and turn and bank into corners with all the agility of their high falutin' counterparts.

"One customer told me it was more like driving a Corvette than a boat," said Riley Brothers of Charleston Marine.

Brothers sells speedy Bennington pontoons with 250 to 350 horsepower engines. He started carrying the line last year. One customer opted for a 250-hp Mercury motor that weighs 600 pounds. Another chose the 350-hp V-8 Yamaha at 800 pounds.

Those babies can scoot.

"These boats aren't for people who are out there to just idle around," Brothers said. "The standard pontoon will run 20 to 25 miles an hour. These go 50. A runabout will go 40 to 50. Forty is the top speed for cruisers."

Lou Wendell of Lou Wendell Marine introduced the Avalon version with a 225-hp Honda engine five years ago.

Avalon calls the boats "tritoons," he said, because they're engineered with three pontoons instead of the standard two.

 "For people who want a basic pontoon, this is not their cup of tea," Wendell said. "The person who had a big boat before and wants more room is going to the tritoon."

For social-minded boaters, the flat, roomy pontoon deck offers the feel of a floating lounge. Speed gives the boat a new personality.

"People have always liked pontoons for their space and convenience," Brothers said. "The drawback is that the pontoon wouldn't run fast. You couldn't ski behind them or get from one place to another very well.

"These new boats will pull skiers and tubes. They hold 10 to 15 people, and they have the performance people are looking for. So it's the best of both worlds."


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