So you have a pontoon! The greatest thing about it? Taking it out for a ride, obviously. The worst thing? Before you can even leave the dock, you have to unsnap the millions of snaps around the cover, find a storage spot for the tent poles and then wrestle with the cover. Oh, and after the ride you have to do it all over again.
If you’re like a lot of boaters, this hurdle between you and your time out on the water can sometimes make or break whether you even climb onboard. But if you could be ready to boat with no more effort than pushing a button for under a minute, would it increase the number of your outings?
Meet the Easy Cover. This system is your mooring cover, double Bimini, regular Bimini, and bridge top all rolled into one, and it takes no effort to switch between these positions. Sound a little too good to be true? We’re here to tell you it’s not!
Designer Bruce Jones first got the idea for this patented product when he and his wife purchased a summer cottage on one of the many lakes dotting southeast Michigan.
“We’d go for a lot of pontoon rides and I’d see everyone had all the boats, the pontoons the jet skis and everything, but nobody was really using them. At first I couldn’t understand why,” he shares. “I finally figured out that when my wife would say something about going for a boat ride, I would think of all the things I was going to have to do to make that happen. And then when you get back, you’re going to do the reverse. Unless we had company, it often ended up in just not going for a ride.”
Bruce luckily had some experience in the automotive convertible top business, so his mind was primed for solving this issue. He first thought to himself, Well, gee, there’s got to be a way to automate this. Someone must have this.
But when he looked around, there was a conspicuous lack of solutions. And that’s when he first started dreaming up the idea behind the Easy Cover.
“Right around 2002, I started doing some preliminary design work on the actual geometry of the mechanism and how it might work. I messed around with the idea for a few years, and then my son graduated from college with a degree in engineering. We fooled around with it a little bit more together,” he remembers.
When his son moved on to his first job in his field, Bruce had enough of a start that he decided to keep going. When he was convinced the system could work, Bruce applied for a patent and began the process of attempting to market his idea.
“Of course, just as drawings on paper, not everyone could see what I had in mind, so I realized I needed a working prototype. That winter I built one and put it in my boat,” Bruce shares.
And thus Easy Cover 1.0 first came into the world. From that original prototype to now, the design has become more and more streamlined—for example, evolving from a hydraulic system to being completely electric and automated.
“The original worked well, but it was kind of like a model T compared to what we have today, which is more along the lines of a Lexus,” Bruce jokes.
So how exactly does the Easy Cover work? It goes like this: you walk down the dock toward your neatly covered pontoon bobbing in its slip, holding the button of a wireless key fob remote as you stroll and the kids gambol ahead of you. In under a minute, the cover has lifted up and changed positions to become a double Bimini top, perfect for giving some relief from that hot sun overhead. Everyone climbs onboard, you start her up, and away you go.
While out exploring the lake, a chilly breeze starts whipping up off the water. You hold another button on the key fob and voilà—the double Bimini is now a single Bimini, bathing the bow of your boat in warm sunshine. Everyone gets in plenty of sunbathing and tubing before you’re ready to wind things down with a little cruise. By now, the wind has really started to pick up and the waves are getting choppy. You hold another button, and this time the Bimini extends and lowers into what is called the bridge setting—giving you more cover from the elements without compromising driving visibility. Everyone stays out even longer than normal, thanks to this extra bit of protection. When the crew finally decides to call it a day, you dock at the slip, everyone hops out, and you hold the button one last time. The Bimini lowers the rest of the way into the cover position, neatly settling into place, and you stroll back to the car with visions of Dairy Queen hot fudge sundaes dancing in everyone’s heads. And there you have it.
As company founder, Bruce partnered with Business Principal Mike Apling and the rest of the team at Devil’s Lake Water Sports in Manitou Beach, Mich., to create Vision Marine Products, LLC. Being one of the largest pontoon retailers in the state of Michigan, Devil’s Lake Water Sports was a great fit for this venture. Their slogan is, after all, “Experience the Water Sports Lifestyle,” and getting people onto the water more is exactly what the Easy Cover is all about.
“That’s one of the things we hear most often, that this cover really expands the usage of people’s boats,” Mike shares.
Bruce likes to explain it this way. “If you had to deal with your car the way you had to deal with a standard mooring cover, when you wanted to go for a ride you’d have to go out and put the tires on, and then when you got back home you’d have to take the tires off,” he says. “We try to make it so you’re just 40 seconds away from your boat ride.”
Of course, the benefits go even further than just convenience. Mike adds, “We’ve found that the Easy Cover also keeps the boat much cleaner and it really keeps down the mold because the boat stays dry due to good air flow. I had a customer the other day who thought it would really help in terms of resale value because it would keep their boat that much nicer.”
Vision Marine Products started converting several of the Devil’s Lake Water Sports’ Crest models to carry the Easy Cover system onboard, and thanks to the success they’ve seen, they’re busy making plans to start converting other manufacturer brands as well.
“We wanted to start branching out, so we picked Bennington as a second brand and we were really able to make a nice fit on some of their models with much of our existing components and design,” Bruce shares. “The capability we have at Vision Marine Products will make it possible for other dealers to have this product. As we started branching out into what other people sell, we picked up a couple of dealers and I think we’ll have more dealers as America becomes aware of us a little bit more.”
As word about the Easy Cover continues to spread and the team has put on some promotional exhibits, seeing people’s reactions is a promising sign for this year’s boating season.
“They’re just amazed, and it’s precipitated into a number of presales. We’re really excited about it. I mean, we think that pontoon boaters are definitely ready for this,” Mike grins. “We expect the Easy Cover to fit other brands of boats in the near future.”
If you’re not in Michigan’s neck of the woods and wish you could see the Easy Cover in action for yourself, don’t worry. Just visit www.visionmarineproductsllc.com or www.devilslakewatersports.com and click on the Easy Cover tab to watch a great video.
Vision Marine is also exploring the possibilities of retrofitting older pontoons, though as Bruce puts it, “Logistics are still being ironed out and it depends upon the actual configuration of the boat that we’re considering for conversion. And primarily that revolves around the location of the side door opening, the length of the boat, and the width if it’s not a 102-inch-wide boat.”
You might be wondering about higher powered pontoons as you read this. Can the Easy Cover stand up to some decent horsepower?
Good news—they’ve got it covered.
“If you’re in a high-powered boat or if you’re in rough seas or heavy boat traffic, we provide quick-connect straps for the three Bimini positions and stabilizer arms for a lot of added stability. So we design to accommodate and tolerate speed,” Bruce explains. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure that the Easy Cover is a very reliable, fully-functional device so that when the owner goes to use their boat, they’re never disappointed. I just tell you from the heart, this thing is intended to provide people with a means to use their boat rather than just own one.”
And really, what could be better than that?