Our Two Cents

PDB Readers share their best advice

Published in the August 2018 Issue December 2021 Feature Emily FitzPatrick

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on,” once stated, novelist and playwright, Oscar Wilde. “It is never of any use to oneself.”

Recently, the Pontoon and Deck Boat magazine staff asked loyal readers to share their best advice for boaters. This included things they wished they had known themselves before hopping on a boat for the first time and the best pieces of advice they were given by fellow boaters.

In the pontooning community, we all rely upon each other to get the best advice so that we can make the best decisions. Like Wilde says, advice isn’t really helpful unless we are willing to share it and luckily most boaters are excited to share what they know.

Helping The Newbies

Everyone has to start somewhere in the world of boating, but it can be a little overwhelming for a newbie to decide where that starting place should be. This is why it is good to ask for advice from veteran pontooners before making the leap into purchasing your own boat or planning a long day out on the good ol’ pontoon.

Here is some of the advice we hunted down for those just beginning.

Number One: Boats Aren’t Cars

Some newbies don’t realize that driving a pontoon is nothing like driving a car. Harry Alincoff of Wilmington, Del., and Dan Sanger from Jabez, Ky., expressed they wished they had known how to drive a boat before beginning their pontooning adventures.

Driving a car simply isn’t the same thing and preparing yourself is always a good idea before jumping off the deep end. Have someone you know teach you the ropes or take a boating class. However, be prepared to adjust whatever you learn to the pontoon you pilot.

“Pontoons handle a little bit different than a normal boat,” stated Robert Smith from Circleville, Ohio. “Being aware of the changes you will need to make to your driving skills is a helpful tool to making sure you have a splendid time on the water.”

Number Two: Know Your People

Forming relationships with others on or near the water is not only a way to have fun, but also remain safe. People are generally out on the boat to have a good time and are excited to get to know others that share their same interests. The friends you make will not only enrich your time on the water, but also help you if an emergency arises, such as towing or going on a fuel run for you.

“Get to know your local Department of Natural Resources and Sheriffs on the lake,” recommends Diana Beck from Lansing, Mich. These people know the lakes better than anyone else out there and can provide you with a wealth of information that will help you to remain safe during your time out on the pontoon.

Number Three: The Cost

There are multiple factors to consider when purchasing a pontoon, but what is perhaps the number one concern is the cost. Pontoons don’t come cheap and neither does their upkeep. From the cost of a quality trailer to storage in the winter, the bill for keeping a pontoon serviceable can be too long for some.

“The sun is also extremely damaging on boats,” advised John Peavy of Jacksonville, Fla. And, Bob Carrara from Berlin, N.J., shared, “The word BOAT is actually an acronym for ‘Break Out Another Thousand.’”

It is a good idea to be aware of the damages that are incurred on a pontoon over the years so that it can remain a fun addition to your family. Creating a financial plan for how you will care for your pontoon in the case of a need for repairs will be a valuable asset to you.

Number Four: Gear Up

The proper gear on a pontoon can make all of the difference. For example, carpeting is a big no if you want to avoid molding, purchasing a Bimini top is necessary if you want to survive the wrath of the sun, and forgetting a drain plug on your deck boat could lead you to spending your Sunday afternoon at the bottom of the lake.

And, you know…. “Get the biggest engine you can afford,” said Dave Pace of Spokane, La.

Number Five: A Labor Of Love

Just like anything that is worth your time, pontoons are a lot of work to care for. Added Beck from Michigan, caring for a pontoon is, “A labor of love, but your pontoon gives back.” Though the costs may make the entire enterprise seem worthless at times, putting your money toward the upkeep is a worthwhile experience.

Fred Frankland of Moses Lake, Wash., commented that he had no idea how fun pontooning could be, words that hold true for most boaters. Though maintaining a pontoon takes money and care, most pontooners can agree pontooning is a lifelong activity.

Best Of The Best

Though some of us have been in the pontooning industry much longer than others, it can still be helpful to share advice and get a new perspective on old ideas. The following is some of the best general advice we compiled.

Number One: Safety First

“Be aware of the situation,” shared Tim Winter of Oro Medonte, Ontario when asked his best advice for any pontooner, whether a newbie or the seasoned veteran. “Safety always comes first and depending on where you are pontooning the conditions of the water can change in a matter of minutes.”

Number Two: Take Your Time

Docking can be a pain and it can be tempting to rush, but the resounding advice of multiple boaters, including Charles Miller of Blandon, Pa., and John Baird of Hoover, Ala., is to take it slow. There is no reason to hurry, even if you think you are feeling the pressure to do so. Take your time and remember to be patient with others who might be struggling.

Number Three: Trimming

Randy Sabatka of Apple Valley, Minn., recommends learning how to trim a boat to pontooners. Luckily, trimming your engine is a universal skill, being the same on all boats, but it can be difficult to master. Trimming provides a number of benefits, including helping dial in the speed, avoiding cavitation and saving fuel. Though it is not considered by some to be a necessary skill, it is recommended for pontooners who want to get the most out of their vessel.

Number Four: Have Fun!

This last piece goes for all boaters. It’s simple, have fun! There is always going to be something attempting to put a damper on your day, but remember to relax and enjoy being out on the pontoon while you can. Winter comes all too quickly.

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