Nestled deep in the south rests Lake Martin. Dubbed the crowned jewel of Alabama, it is one of the largest man-made lakes in all of the United States. It's a beacon for boaters, swimmers, anglers, water skiers and golfers alike. And it called Mark Smith and Joyce Guthrie-Smith names five years ago.
"Lake Martin is clean and beautiful," says Mark. "We really enjoy the peace and solitude of sitting on the deck and looking out over the water."
And of course, it wouldn't be home without a pontoon. So the Smith family set their sights on something that could accommodate their lifestyle. They needed a boat that would haul lots of people and hold up nicely under extended use.
"Our new boat was going to need lots of seating and storage space," says Mark.
With that in mind, they headed over to The Ridge Marina to check out their selection. The Ridge is strategically located along the shores of Lake Martin and can easily be accessed by water, which makes it the perfect setup to immediately be able to test drive anything they have in stock.
"Mr. Bo Bierley and Mr. Chris Griffin worked together to get us in the perfect boat. They are very accommodating and friendly and it's clear that all of the Russell Marine marinas are very customer-oriented," says Mark.
Knowing they were after a well-made boat, the Smith family decided to investigate the line of boats from Godfrey pontoons.
"We were super impressed with the Godfrey lines: Sweetwater, Aqua Patio, and Sanpan," says Mark. "We had our sights on a 24-foot Aqua Patio at first, but finally went with the Sanpan 2500 DL3. In our opinion, all are great choices with super features and upscale amenities, but this particular boat just spoke to us. We loved everything about it."
Built For The Future
Going with a top-of-the-line Sanpan means the Smith family owns a boat they aren't going to have to replace for a long time. Godfrey's luxury line is made with only the best materials and according to the manufacturer is designed for customers who have owned a pontoon before that didn't meet their expectations. Its boats are built to correct every inconvenience that has ever existed on a lesser model and it has been just that for Mark and Joyce.
"It's a dual lounger design with 3 doors," says Mark. "We hear it's the only one of its kind on the lake."
The Smith family enjoys traveling to their lake house most weekends during the summer. Keeping their boat in a private slip cuts down on the transport time so the family can spend more time enjoying the boat.
"We love sunset cruising, there is nothing like it," says Joyce. "We cruise around and stop to swim or use a rope swing. We also like to take picnic lunches with us."
The Smiths make their time on the water a family affair. Along with their 16-year-old son Zachary, they often
extend an invitation out to family
"Lots of friends and family like to go boating with us," says Mark. "We considered all of these things when picking out our boat."
Besides their human friends, the Smith's have opened their pontoon to a fury pal, Blue. Blue is a 10-year-old Chihuahua who enjoys spending time with her fellow Chihuahua siblings and adopted parents.
"If we can't find Blue in the house, we always know to look for her on the boat," says Joyce.
The Smiths are a perfect example of a couple who haven't always been `tooners but have fallen in love with the lifestyle during their adult years.
"My family did not own a boat or a lake house while I was growing up," says Mark. "I just found out in the last few years how much I love spending time on a pontoon."
While looking for a way to unwind from busy careers as a lawyer and an active-duty Air Force officer respectively, Mark and Joyce invested in their first pontoon.
"Our first pontoon was a 1998 Smokercraft Sunsport 24. We really liked the layout and the large open front deck," says Joyce. "It was a starter boat for us to see if we were as interested as we thought we were about owning a boat. It was a great boat, but we loved boating so much we wanted to upgrade."
Knowing that others may be in a similar situation of wanting to buy a pontoon but may be wary because of lack of experience, Mark offers this advice, "Start with something simple and relatively inexpensive until you are sure it's a good fit for you. Then just enjoy it as much as you can."
Next time you happen to be riding around Lake Martin and see a Sanpan cruise by with a little Chihuahua, it may be Mark and Joyce and their canine companion Blue. In the meantime, you are probably wondering what the couple calls their prized boat.
"We named our boat Happy Ours because it is," says Mark. And like all Sanpans, it will help contribute to a lifetime of happy memories for the family.