The world of pontoon boating has changed drastically over the years. In the beginning, pontoons were often referred to as "floating barges," and in most cases, it's true. Pontoon boats are built for size, comfort and luxury. But these spacious and often times hefty additions detract from the available power and performance of a pontoon. Over the last few years, however, big names in the pontoon boating industry have taken up a new approach and radically redesigned some of their pontoons with the luxury of the typical 'toon with the versatility, speed and maneuverability of a fiberglass V-hull. By engineering new performance hulls, manufacturers have taken pontoon boating to the next level in watercraft evolution. While each manufacturer has taken their own unique approach to the performance hull, the outcome has had boaters in a frenzy to make their next pontoon a performance pontoon.
Elliptical Sports Package
Bennington Marine offers the Elliptical Sports Package (ESP) for a selection of its pontoon boats. The ESP combines specific performance steering options along with its completely re-engineered hull. The center pontoon has been upgraded with a 32-inch elliptical pontoon equipped with lifting strakes, which provide better turning and handling while in the water.
“The Bennington ESP is a three-logged pontoon that utilizes cutting-edge technology to create a performance hull seldom seen in the pontoon industry,” says Amanda Welles, marketing assistant at Bennington. “The center elliptical tube equipped with the strakes increases turning capabilities and has fiberglass boat owners astounded with how smooth and versatile the ESP really is.”
Along with the newly-designed center tube and strakes, each of the three pontoons in this package has solid keels, plus the hull is equipped with an under-deck wave shield. Also, the steering is made more comfortable with SeaStar hydraulic steering. It is suggested that owners looking to equip their new Bennington with the ESP should also include a few steering and fuel system options, especially if their 'toon is equipped with an outboard greater than 150hp. These options include Power Assist Steering and a fuel tank upgrade, which are not included in the ESP package price, but greatly increase the level of performance and ease of use. (www.benningtonmarine.com)
The Manitou V-Toon hull took the dead-rise angle of a fiberglass boat's V-style hull and redesigned it for its pontoons. This wasn't as simple as making a V-shaped hull, however. Precise measuring, along with the inclusion of strategically-placed lifting strakes, became necessary to create optimum performance for its V-Toon package.
“V-Toon technology utilizes much of the same platform design that is found in fiberglass hulls,” explains Greg Vanwagenen, advertising assistant at Manitou. “The center tube is 5-1/4-inches deeper, with positive lifting strakes mounted to the side. This V-shaped hull allows smooth banking while in a fast turn. No one wants to have limited capabilities and the V-Toon is nearly limitless.”
The V-Toon hull configuration comes in two different available packages. The Sport Handling Package (SHP) and VP packages offer much of the same design, but are equipped differently for different styles of boating. The SHP can handle outboards as powerful as 300hp, and each pontoon is equipped with Barracuda nosecones. Each pontoon in the SHP also comes with lifting strakes. The VP package comes with standard nosecones with welded side keels, lifting strakes are only located on the center pontoon, and the package is rated for outboards at 150hp and lower. Although this package may seem a little more modest, it comes at an incredibly competitive value, leaving a more affordable option for consumers. (www.manitouboats.com)
The Trifecta Package from South Bay offers a full center tube, lifting strakes for quicker planing and maneuverability, as well as longer nose cones to enhance speed and power-assisted hydraulic steering to create a simple and powerful ride. It also comes with an under-deck performance skin to manage water and airflow to the propellers.
“The Trifecta package has opened up a one-boat-can-do-it-all scenario,” says Greg Barsoda, an engineer at Forest River Marine. “With its specific pontoon design and lifting strakes, full radius underbelly, and rugged construction, the Trifecta provides quick and easy maneuvering and better overall performance on the water.”
The Trifecta hull package also comes with a 52-gallon fuel tank and electric operated I/O engine access. Now owners have more than just the versatility of a performance hull; they’re given the comfort and luxury of more time on the water and ease of use in every aspect of their 'toon. (www.southbaypontoon.com)
PlayCraft's performance design took a slightly different approach from other manufacturers. The center pontoon has been set back from the outside two, which increases smooth water flow to the propellers, which gives them more water to "bite on" and help the 'toon powering fast through the water. An under skin runs the entire length of the hull, which even further promotes smooth water and air flow between the pontoons. Lifting strakes help the pontoon to reach plane while providing stability and maneuverability. It's safe to say that this hull was designed with optimum performance in mind.
“Everything in our performance package has been engineered to optimize the experience,” says Jim Dorris, owner and CEO at PlayCraft. “Each addition and design aspect provides great performance at any speed, while still giving the driver maneuverability and control. The best part of it all is there are so many options that take PlayCraft performance even farther. How far the performance goes is really based on how far the boater wants to take it.”
Their performance hull itself gives incredible handling, turning, and provides smoother water flow to the propellers, which allow more efficient propulsion and greater power. But PlayCraft has taken it a step farther by offering a plethora of performance options to create a truly unique, high-performing pontoon. (www.playcraftboats.com)
PTX Performance Package
The PTX package from Premier has taken the center tube design and made it significantly larger for more surface area. More surface area in the pontoon design means more water displacement and greater flotation. The unique design also creates a flat planing surface, and with the addition of lifting strakes on the outer pontoons, the PTX package gives boaters incredible maneuverability, control, quicker response and better fuel economy.
"The PTX is more than just another triple 'toon,” says Mike Menne, the operations director at Premier. “The unique hull design gives boaters an advantage on the water that other triple pontoons just can't offer.”
To make the PTX package even easier to use, Premier has included hydraulic steering in every package sold. The responsibility of performance isn't solely left to the hull, and Premier made sure that boaters can enjoy the full range of possibilities available from the PTX. (www.pontoons.com)
Greater performance is at the top of every boater’s list. Pontoon owners enjoy the space and luxury of their 'toon, but for years had to sacrifice power and performance for that luxury. Big names in the pontoon industry have taken notice and created an eclectic and amazing variety of high-performance 'toons that have taken pontooning into a new era. Each performance package offers a one-of-a-kind experience that has changed the way owners look at their pontoons, and has other boaters turning their heads for another look. The industry will continue to push the limits of performance with each new design, and create even better-performing pontoon platforms in the future. But as for now, that's the hull story.