Sanpan: Where did the Name Come From?

Published online: Apr 16, 2014 Feature Katie Burke
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With some pontoon manufacturers, it doesn't take much to decipher the name on the side of the boat. For example, the JC in JC Manufacturing stands for John Cripe, who created the company back in the 1970s. Aqua Patio makes sense as well, a patio built for the water. It really is the perfect name. On the other hand, there's a handful of companies that leave you wondering where their name originated from. Sanpan falls firmly into that category. We asked our Facebook fans what their thoughts were and most agreed it must have something to do with the Chinese term sampan. 

sampan is a relatively flat bottomed Chinese wooden boat. Sampans are generally used for transportation in coastal areas or rivers, and are often used as traditional fishing boats. It is unusual for a sampan to sail far from land as they do not have the means to survive rough weather.

The word "sampan" comes from the original Hokkien term for the boats, literally meaning "three planks", although this term is no longer used in modern Chinese. The name referred to the hull design, which consists of a flat bottom (made from one plank) joined to two sides (the other two planks). 

We reached out to the team at Nautic Global Group so we could settle this once and for all. Guess what? Our Facebook fans were spot on. 

"Sanpan is a derivative of the Chinese boat name Sampan," said NGG marketing rep Judi Lykowski. 

Now we all know. If you ever have a question about a pontoon name or anything pontoon in general, let us know at We love to hear from our readers and take great pride in getting you the answers you want to know. 

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