After their three kids had grown and left the nest, Paul Gronvall and his wife Lynne decided it was time to treat themselves. The couple decided to pay Wilson Marine in Howell, Mich., a visit to check out their pontoon lineup a few years ago. It was a spur of the moment decision they came to after a Saturday breakfast.
Paul had originally wanted a sailboat because his parents had one on Lake Erie, so he’d been looking at ones in the 30-foot range. However, he soon realized that if he were going to get something he wanted, it meant he would need to buy something 20 years old, which would end up being a ton of work. Plus, they’d have to drive an hour to deep water lakes. For this reason, Paul decided that a pontoon boat might be a better option. And it was.
Once at Wilson Marine, Paul and Lynne found some 2018 pre-release models, and some of them even had 2017 prices on them. After browsing through several models, Paul came across the Harris Sunliner 200. He knew this was the one for him and his family.
“The boat was perfect for us,” shared Paul. “The rear swing lounger is awesome since it’s usable on both sides and expansively comfortable.”
He was ready to commit, but he first had to make sure Lynne was on board too. She was not as easily convinced, but after talking it over that night, they both agreed that the Sunliner 200 would make a great addition to their lives.
Wilson Marine didn’t open until noon on Sunday, so Paul called them once they opened to let them know they wanted to buy the boat. Unfortunately, Wilson Marine had already sold the Sunliner 200 the night before after Paul and Lynn left, which was understandably disappointing for the couple.
“But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” explained Paul, “because I was able to order one and get exactly what I wanted. I learned more about them, and I made some changes and added some features that weren’t on the one they had.”
Paul and Lynne were able to order their dream Harris Sunliner 200 online and make it exactly the way they wanted it. Harris was just releasing their 2018 models at the time and they put in their order for the pre-release model in the first part of September. Paul was so excited about the customization options he ended up submitting six change orders while it was being built.
He was very impressed with all the options Harris has to offer and he’s never looked back. In the end, the couple got the boat exactly the way they wanted it without having to make any compromises.
The boat came into Wilson Marine in November where it stayed for the rest of the winter. Paul spent a great deal of time that winter buying boating accessories to hold him over until summer. Needless to say, he was more than ready to dive into some serious boating fun once the summer came the following year.
Paul loves the offered upgrades and customizations that Harris offers for its pontoon and he took advantage of them when designing their Sunliner 200. In order to improve the boat’s performance, he added lifting strakes to the pontoons and upgraded the engine to a 115hp Mercury Pro XS model. He also opted for the double batteries and added under skinning to the boat himself.
“I went to the factory to see how they did it,” described Paul. “After I ordered my boat, I went to the factory twice more. It’s in Fort Wayne, Ind., and they’re happy to give you a tour. It’s a pretty amazing place.”
Paul also changed the stern gate, the swim seat, and he added flagpoles to the back. He organized an umbrella stand for the boat with the help of Umbrellas4Boats.com. This company offers a terrific system that they are able to adapt to fit pontoon boats. Paul added some dock bumpers as well, which have come in very handy over the years.
Then he upgraded the captain’s chair to a high-back chair that swivels, raises and adjusts. Of course, he changed the upholstery color to what he and Lynne prefer as well.
Eye For Quality
Coming from a background in sailing, Paul prefers the Sunliner with the open stern that they can dive off. It seems more open and he also appreciates Harris Pontoons’ methods of sturdy construction.
“The more I learned about Harris, the more I liked them,” shared Paul. “I learned about their construction techniques and the way they build things much better than most brands do. Then going to the factory and really seeing it was also nice.”
Being a cabinet maker, it makes perfect sense that Paul would have a practiced eye for quality, especially when it comes to fit and finish. When he was shopping around for boats, he never just looked at the top of the boat, but crawled underneath the different brands to see how the pontoons were attached to the frame, how the frames were constructed, and to check out the under skinning.
Paul has been doing cabinetry for more than 30 years and owns his own business, Cabinetry By Paul LLC. With this kind of background, finer details jump out at him more than they would for an average person.
“Most people just come in and feel the furniture and see if they like the floorplan,” observed Paul, “but they don’t look underneath, which is pretty important.”
Now Paul and Lynne enjoy their one-of-a-kind pontoon boat as much as they can in the summer months on Whitmore Lake in Michigan. They often entertain family and friends like Paul’s niece Katie Talmadge and her three kids, ages 9, 6 and 4.
“We try to get out boating almost every day in the summer,” smiled Paul. “When you have it, you want to use it, and summers are short, so you want to get out there.”
With their 115 horsepower Mercury Pro XS engine, Paul and Lynne’s Sunliner can reach speeds over 30 miles per hour, and it can easily pull skiers and tubers. Katie’s kids all love the boat and cannot get enough of tubing. However, most of the time they just like to relax and put around at their leisure.
“It makes me want one of my own pontoons,” admitted Katie, “some day when we’re not paying daycare fees.”
Paul and Lynne’s three kids also make a habit of boating with them in the summer. The whole family enjoys getting together and hanging out on the boat. They love cruising out to the middle of the lake and just relaxing. The boat is incredibly comfortable and capable of all the watersports they enjoy.
Looking back on their decision to go with their Harris Sunliner 200, Paul and Lynne have no regrets—except that the summers don’t last longer.