PlayCraft family centered on twins

Published online: Nov 09, 2012 Feature Brandon Barrus
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Meeting the Bairds, it's apparent this family of four is into orange. Orange for the University of Illinois, orange for the school's mascot, the Fighting Illini, and orange for their love for their new PlayCraft pontoon boat.

If you're ever on Lake Shelbyville in Illinois and see the Baird family speeding by, the orange will likely be the first thing you see. The second thing you'll notice are the two giant 350hp Mercury Verado outboards. That's right, twin 350hp outboards, for a whopping total of 700 horsepower, pushing this 'toon to limits rarely seen.

The outboards aren't the only twins involved in the Bairds' lives; no, dad John and mom Joli are the proud parents of twin sons, Jordon and Jerrod, both sophomores at, you guessed it, the University of Illinois. If you had one guess as to what this enthusiastic family was wearing while on their boat being interviewed for PDB,  you'd jump right to bright orange U of I shirts, and you'd be right.

"What I liked about the orange, was I wanted something that no one else had on this lake," says John. "I knew going to PlayCraft that we wanted orange."

Joli is usually a major decision-maker when it comes to boat color, but this time around, she handed over the design reigns to John.

"This time he said he wanted to do it, and I said, 'Okay...'" adds Joli.

Hard Cutting

The Bairds have a family history on the water, starting with John and Joli both growing up boating. It didn't take them long to get Jerrod and Jordon on water skis, either. Ski boats started when the twins were just two years old.

"We had them both up when they were five," Joli recalls.

The family has gone through quite a number of boats over the years (they still own a Baja 33 Outlaw), but none of the other boats can combine the speed and space available on this PlayCraft PowerToon Xtreme.

All members of the family are avid slalom skiers, though none of them have had the desire to get behind the twin 350's just yet. A question about which one of them will be first to get pulled by the PlayCraft was met with laughter and talk of how fast you'd get up out of the water.

"I was a big skier growing up, but I don't think I'd like to ski behind this thing," Jordon confessed.

Room And Beyond

But when it comes to entertaining family and friends, it's the space and many amenities that make the difference for this PlayCraft. Joli explained they usually have guests aboard nearly every weekend, and the plentiful seating makes it so everyone can relax and feel free.

"Once a year we have a big family get-together on the lake," says Jordon. "Mom's family comes down a few times a year."

One feature that everyone seems to like is PlayCraft's patented special stair-step design for the rear entry. Instead of a ladder, as is typical, those in the water can simply walk up steps that are embedded into the starboard pontoon, all the way up to the rear gate.

"A lot of people compliment us on how easy it is to get into," Jerrod says.

The ski locker is also plenty deep and long, with enough space to store several pairs of skis and a wakeboard or two, if you have the courage, that is.

In addition, the trash receptacle is  good size, something that didn't escape the notice of John.

"Usually if there's a trash can on a 'toon it's tiny, and you question what it's really for," says John.

"But ours is big and it's also bright orange, which goes along great with the theme."

Service

John was especially impressed with Joe Dorris, who manages the PlayCraft business in Missouri, and his dedication to making sure the Bairds are getting everything they can out of their boat.

"The top speed is around 74 miles per hour," John explains, "and Joe is going to take it back and rework it. He thinks they can get 77 or 78 mph out of it."

While the outboards came standard with three-bladed propellers, Dorris is of the opinion that going with a four-bladed model would take out a lot of the porpoising (rising up and down) the 'toon can experience at high speeds.

"Joe even said he'd buy the props and get this dialed into where it needs to be," says John.

While the top speed of this boat is around 74 mph, with 8 to 10 people loaded and a full 100-gallon tank of gas, the Bairds can still get up to 65 mph, easily outstripping most performance pontoons on the market today.
"The motors have a lot of punch," Joli exclaims. "I like the speed a lot."

Origins

The Baird family 'toon came about mostly due to a lot of talk and thinking during one winter. A family friend, Austin Apgar, lives nearby and is a fellow speed enthusiast. Apgar's first boat was an E-Ticket, and his desire to go real fast on the water has not subsided since.

Apgar and John were discussing the idea of getting twin outboards on a boat, and one winter day Apgar convinced John to head on down to a dealership in the area with him to see what was available.

"We were discussing what we were going to do, maybe get 300's, and Austin said, 'Let me buy half the boat, we'll put 350's on it and call it a done deal,'" John recalls. "So that's what we did."

On that agreement, the PlayCraft was born, and the Bairds have never looked back. John and Apgar finalized the deal on another day, and the next thing they knew, they were walking out of the dealership with a brand-new speed demon of a boat. It all happened so fast, some members of the family felt a bit left out of the process.

"I didn't know anything about the boat until they did it," Jordon says.

And speaking of the twins, what are the odds that they'll be allowed to take the 'toon out on their own anytime soon?

"I don't think they trust us with that speed," Jerrod says with a smile. "Maybe once it's broken in a bit more."

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