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
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.
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.”
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.”
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,”
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.”