Pontoon Redemption

Michigan Family Gets Second Chance

Published in the September 2015 Issue April 2021 Feature Brady L. Kay

If at first you don’t succeed, just give up and live with your decision. At least that’s what some people may believe, even if the old proverb suggests that you try, try again. That’s exactly what one Michigan family did after buying their first pontoon boat that just wasn’t the right fit for them.

Even though the Pfaff family enjoyed pontooning after buying their first boat, after one season they were left with some great memories, but also a few regrets. After purchasing a cottage on Higgins Lake in Michigan, approximately two and half hours away from their home, the next logical step for this family was to purchase a boat.

Jim and Heather Pfaff, who have been married for over 16 years, went with an entry-level 23-foot pontoon that was equipped with a 90hp engine. Even though Jim grew up on Higgins lake, this was his first-ever boat purchase and looking back now he sees clearly what his family truly needs.

“At the end of the summer we realized how much we all enjoyed the boat, but we also understood that we needed more horsepower,” recalls Jim. “So at this point we had a decision to make.”

When it came down to it, the Pfaff family had a few different options. They could buy a second boat, possibly some type of a fiberglass V-hull with a little more power so the kids could really enjoy being pulled on the tubes. Or they could head back to the dealership where they bought their entry pontoon and try to figure out a way to get what they needed—all in one ultimate boat.
Pioneer Hills Marine in Roscommon, Mich., sold the family their first pontoon and was more than willing to work with them once again to find them a boat that would truly make them happy and exceed all their expectations.
“Owners Bill and Kim Morley were great to work with; they’re great people with a great staff,” says Jim. “We shopped a little this winter at other dealerships as we looked at other types of boats, but it didn’t feel the same talking to other dealers. I would of course recommend Pioneer Hills to anyone looking to buy a boat. They helped us find the pontoon we were looking for.”

Ultimate Find
The answer to finding the ultimate boat that could do it all turned out to be a Harris Royal 230. Not only did this upgraded model have a lot more high-end features like a touchscreen helm console, complete stereo system and other great amenities, but it also had a third center pontoon and the extra horsepower they needed. With a Mercury Verado 225hp four-stroke, the family found exactly what they were hoping for.

“Our first boat got us out on the lake a lot last year, but kind of like a starter home, we feel like that pontoon was just our starter boat until we figured out what we really needed and didn’t need,” recalls Jim. “Honestly the power was the biggest issue. It didn’t have power steering with the 90hp engine and if we had other people on the boat we couldn’t really give the kids a good tube ride.”


Moose Crossing

Today the family continues to enjoy their Harris pontoon that they say feels tailor-made for them, including a perfect spot for Moose, the Pfaff’s 5-year-old dog that they rescued. Compared to their previous pontoon, the floor plan has a few similar features, but one change the family was particularly excited about was the off-set bow gate.

“The corner section is for Moose, our large dog so he can stand and look out without stepping on our toes,” says Heather. “He has his own lookout post and if he’s ever in the way we just tell him to go to his spot and he goes.”

Cottage Dreams

Jim grew up on the south side of Higgins Lake, so for him having a cottage here is like being home again. Depending on where you are on the lake, different areas have a specific feel to them. The Pfaffs like where their cottage is located because it’s in a “woodsy” area as different parts of the lake vary from place to place.

“We used to camp, but tenting it got old and so did sleeping on the ground,” says Heather. “We talked about maybe getting an RV, but decided the best thing we should do as a family is get a place on the lake. It seemed like the logical choice for our family, which led us to boating.”

Another benefit to owning a cottage is that the family doesn’t need a boat trailer. The pontoon stays in the water all summer and then Pioneer Hills Marine comes in the fall and picks up the boat and winterizes and stores it for them. Then come spring the dealer puts it back in the water when the family is ready, which is just another reason why they continue to enjoy working with Pioneer Hills Marine.

“During the school year we come up on the weekends, but now that it’s summer we’re here all the time,” says Jacob, who is 11 years old and the oldest of the three children. “My sisters and I love to tube; that’s what we love the most about having a boat.”

Heather is a stay-at-home mom and Jim is the regional vice president at ExamWorks, an independent medical evaluation company that gives second opinions to insurance companies. Together they work to provide unique opportunities like boating to keep them close as a family.

Any Regrets?
Even with the second boat there are a just a couple of things they wish they would have done differently, but overall they are still extremely pleased with their decision with no plans of trading in again in the near future.

“We’re not fans of the carpet and we wish we would have gone with the teak-looking vinyl flooring since it would be easier to get the dog hair out, but really that’s it,” says Jim. “We feel we got a great all-around pontoon that gives us everything we need in one package.

Instead of just living with the decision to buy an entry-level model when they needed more, the Pfaff family took charge and corrected the problem. They prove that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

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