High-end pontoons are becoming popular in Jupiter

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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) – Pontoon boats – those flat-deck vessels used for everything from dancing and fishing to gliding through the Intracoastal Waterway – are becoming increasingly popular.

“Pontoons accommodate more passengers than regular boats. They are affordable for more people. They are more comfortable. They have more shade. They’re sipping gas, ”said Bret Beach, owner of Beach Water Sports, a company that leases vessels along the Intracoastal Waterway, just north of the Palm Beach County line.

Once thought of as floating lawn chairs, pontoon boats are gaining in versatility and popularity. Some have bars. Mini-kitchens. Bathrooms. Televisions. They shoot water skiers.

“The type of boat is constantly changing. It depends on the price of gas. What type of fishing is popular. How well the economy is doing, ”said Chuck Collins, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

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A decade ago, pontoon boats were the ugly duckling of the boating industry.

No more, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Pontoon boats pulled the boating industry out of the Great Recession and the worst drop in boat sales in decades. Sales have continued to grow. Pontoons now account for about a third of new boat sales, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

American builders sold a total of 49,829 pontoon boats in the 2016 calendar year. That’s almost 10 percent increase over the number of pontoon boats sold in 2015. And in 2015, there are had an increase of about nine percent over the previous year, according to the NMMA.

Why?

The price is one of the reasons.

A new 26 foot pontoon costs about $ 25,000. A new 26-foot single-engine outboard motorboat with a center console of the same length would start at about three times more.

“Pontoon boats introduce the youngest to pleasure boating. Pontoon boats are very popular with families. They like to go out on a sandbar or a freshwater lake and totally relax, ”Collins said.

Comfort is another reason.

Pontoons are easier to enter and exit a dock. There is more room for coolers and other boat stuff. There are more seats for passengers than a V-shaped boat of the same size.

Usually around 22 to 28 feet long, they sit on two inflatable aluminum pontoons to float. Much of the flat surface is covered with a canopy. They usually have motors that can go about 25 miles per hour.

Then there are three pontoon boats. They are called – what else? – newts. The motors are a bit bigger. They are more stable than twin pontoons.

The trade-off is that the newts are not as maneuverable as the twin pontoon boats. They require larger trailers. And bigger docks.

And there are big pontoon boats, like the 50-foot Manatee Queen that takes up to 45 passengers for guided tours on the Intracoastal Waterway off Jupiter.

Then there are party pontoons, like the Pontiki, moored on the Jupiter River just south of the Guanabanas Restaurant. Advertised as a “floating tiki bar,” the 28-foot pontoon boat features a refrigerator, wet bar, grill, TV, and stereo. Beer and wine are available. Up to six passengers pay $ 30 each per hour.

“My most popular events are the bachelorette parties,” said co-owner Tom D’aLessandro.

While mooring his 26-foot pontoon boat at the Harborside Place public boat launch a recent afternoon, Jimmy Haywood said price was the main reason he bought his twin pontoon boat.

Haywood, 36, a traffic engineer from Port Salerno, can comfortably accommodate up to a dozen people. They can bring fishing rods, towels, snorkels, fins, coolers and more.

More stability means fewer people get seasick. He uses a lot less gas than his friends with V-shaped boats, he said.

“I’m less worried about the little ones falling overboard,” he said, tapping the thigh-high side rails that surround the inside of the craft.

There are disadvantages.

Pontoons don’t go as fast as motorboats. Their turning radius is not as tight. In other words, they don’t handle as well.

They are not safe on rough waters. It is not recommended to take them out in Jupiter Inlet or the Atlantic Ocean. This means no dolphin fishing or lobster hunting offshore.

But fishing is popular on pontoon boats in the Intracoastal Waterway and inland lakes, not only in Florida but in other states from Minnesota to Maine. Many pontoon boats are equipped with fishing rod holders, sonar mounts, small anchors, and other fishing gear.

Many say that fishing on a pontoon boat is more productive.

A pontoon boat is stable and does not scare off fish like a rocking V-hull boat does. And the flat surface gives anglers more room to roam.

The drafts of pontoon boats can be as shallow as eight inches, much less than a motor boat. This reduces the risk of running aground and potential damage to the hull when fishing or stopping on a sandbank.

“Pontoon boats are perfect for a family or group going out for a few hours on the Intracoastal Waterway or on a lake. I have been renting boats for 30 years. I see more pontoons now than ever, ”Beach said.

Pontoon boats are a Minnesota invention

Ambrose Weeres in 1951 wanted to make a rugged pleasure craft more stable than a conventional fishing boat in Richmond, Minnesota, Stearns County in the state of 10,000 Lakes.

Weeres placed a wooden platform on top of two rows of waterproof steel barrels. He welded the guns together end to end. Weeres tested his first boat on Horseshoe Lake in County Stearns.

He was floating. His profession was stable.

Weeres took 40 orders in 1952 for his boats. He exhibited the boat at a show in Chicago. In the years to come, tens of thousands of Weeres pontoons would be made in Minnesota and sold nationwide.

SOURCE: Stearns County Historical Museum

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Information from: The Palm Beach (Florida) Post, http://www.pbpost.com


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