Pontoon rental offers boating experiences to everyone

Published online: Aug 16, 2011 News Molly Snyder - onmilwaukee.com
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The best part about renting a pontoon is that it allows even the most novice boaters to experience and escape the city at the same time. For less than $100, people can spend hours relaxing on the river while seeing Milwaukee from a new perspective.

"A pontoon is a really easy boat to handle," says Bob Gates, the lead captain and general manager of Riverwalk Boat Tours and Rentals. "It's an easy getaway and you don't have to spend a lot of money to have your picnic lunch or dinner out on the water."

Riverwalk offers four aluminum, 21-foot pontoons - which are flat-decked, rectangular boats - and a fiber glass catamaran. They have a capacity of 10 people and the catamaran has an on-board bathroom.

A one-hour rental is $55. Half-day rentals (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) are $160 and a full-day rental (from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) is $295. Riverwalk offers an after-work special on Monday through Thursday nights that costs $90 to rent the pontoon from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

If interested in renting a pontoon, call ahead, and note that customers are not charged if they are unable to go out on the water in the case of bad weather. Pontoons are picked up at Pere Marquette Park on North Old World 3rd Street.

On a recent Wednesday evening, I took a pontoon boat for a test run. I had never driven one before, and indeed, it was extremely easy to operate. Because the speed limit is only 5 m.p.h. and boaters must adhere to strict safety rules, it makes driving a boat on the Milwaukee River extremely relaxing and enjoyable.

I drove the catamaran which featured two tables, padded bench seating for 10 and a bathroom.

You can bring food and drinks onto the pontoon - or inquire about catering options - and it is legal to bring alcoholic beverages on board. However, the same rules apply when drinking and boating as when drinking and driving. Boaters must adhere to the legal drinking limit.


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