Safety is one of the most important things to consider when you are looking for a new boat. Pontoon boats are extremely popular due to their low prices and low weight.
But how about pontoon boats and safety?
Are Pontoon Boats Safe?
Pontoon boats are generally safer in rough water than V-hulled vessels of the same size. Their use of two hulls and a flat boating surface make them more stable than other single-hulled vessel types. However, they are not built for open oceans.
However, in certain conditions, even a pontoon boat can be dangerous in rough waters and high winds.
How does a Pontoon Handle Rough Water?
Because of their design, pontoon boats handle pretty well in windy conditions and choppy or rough water.
Two hulls allow the boat to be more stable and sit on top of the waves while a mono-hull vessel sits in the waves.
When you are sailing, this can make all the difference as the displacement is different for a pontoon than more traditional vessels.
A smaller water displacement means that the pontoon boat has to fight through less water to move forward and can be less impacted by the rough waves.
For this reason, it is highly unlikely that your pontoon will flip, tip, or capsize.
What Conditions Are Dangerous For Pontoons?
Just because it is unlikely that your pontoon will flip or capsize, doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
If you do get hit by a large wave at the front of your pontoon, your boat could go under the wave instead of riding on top of it. This could lead to a possible flip, tip, or capsize.
Like all boats, there are conditions that are not ideal for sailing a pontoon boat. This includes extreme or severe weather conditions.
In certain cases of extreme weather where you experience heavy chop, your pontoon boat can be less safe than its multi-hull counterpart.
It should be noted that in all vessels if a storm is approaching, you will want to get to shore or safety as soon and as safely as possible.
3 Tips To Keep Pontoon Boats Steady and Safe in Rough Waters
1) Maintain an even weight load:
Make sure you maintain an even weight load on your vessel and that your passengers know the importance of maintaining balance on the pontoon, especially in rough waters.
The weight of your boat, includes your equipment, cargo, and even your passengers.
The weight can also be affected by any modifications or add ons made to your pontoon. Make sure you know whether or not any add ons have an effect on your pontoon’s center of gravity.
With a center of gravity issue, your pontoon can be more prone to tipping and other possible issues.
2) Make modifications:
If you anticipate rough water being an issue on a more regular basis, or you just want to ensure the safety of your pontoon at all times, you can make modifications that will assist you in rough waters.
Modifications could include:
- Installing a higher horsepower engine.
- Add power-assisted steering devices.
- Add positive angle lifting strikes. These devices are used to help give your boat more lift. This can help with speed as well as handling in rough waters.
- Consider under-skinning your pontoon. Under-skinning is the addition of an aluminum sheet to the underside of your pontoon. This will help reduce drag, water spray, and debris damage under the boat.
- Add barracuda nosecones. These increase efficiency and help the ride become smoother.
3) Keep an eye out for the weather:
You should not be out on a recreational vessel during a storm if at all possible. Make sure you check the forecast before setting sail each time.
If you see a storm coming, immediately get to safety or shore. The sooner you act the more likely you are to not put yourself or your passengers in danger.
Make sure when you are trying to go back you are conscious of the possible difficulties docking. Because a pontoon boat can be large, bulky, and have a high profile it can be hard to dock while during a storm.
High winds can move the boat or push it against the dockside. To protect your boat, you should use bumpers between your boat and the dock.
If getting back to shore seems impossible, or you don’t have enough time, you should think about anchoring where you are. Even though you will still be out in the storm, you will be less likely to boat straight into waves or rough water and will be safer in the long run.
How to drive pontoons in rough waters
Don’t try to force yourself to face the oncoming wind. Sailing directly into the wind means you are more likely to encounter rough waves head-on.
Make sure you take your turns wide. Pontoon boats do not turn easily in smooth water and forcing it to in choppy waters can be more dangerous.
Do not slow down. You might think that it is safer to slow down in rough water, but this is not the case.
If you slow down, you give a chance for the nose of your pontoons to dip in the water. If the noses dip underwater, you have the potential for the water to crash over the bow of the pontoon.
Instead of slowing down for big waves, you should instead ride the waves at an angle from the boat’s center. Riding the waves at an angle helps to keep your bow high. It also keeps one of your tubes higher.
With the bow and tube high, you should be able to glide more smoothly through the wave’s troughs and peaks.
Pontoon Handling in the Ocean:
A pontoon boat is an ideal boat for traveling on inland lakes and rivers. This does not mean they cannot be taken out on the ocean.
If you do decide to take a pontoon boat out on ocean waters, you would be better off sticking close to shore or other inter-coastal areas. These can be areas such as bays or inlets.
If you do decide to venture out farther, you will want to know how long it would take to get back to shore. This way you know how long it would take to head back in case of unfortunate weather.
There are a few factors that determine a pontoon’s readiness for ocean sailing.
Much like in the advice listed above, you will want to make sure your pontoon has a high enough horsepower if you plan to consistently take it out on the ocean.
Ocean water can often have larger waves than inland bodies of water. This means that you will need sufficient horsepower to overcome the wave.
It is recommended that you do not go out on ocean water with any less than 150 horsepower.
The Construction Makes A Difference
The proper construction can also make a difference when it comes to large ocean waves.
A triple-hull pontoon can offer even more stability than a double-hull pontoon. If you are planning to purchase a new pontoon, you should consider a triple-hull pontoon.
If you already have a double-hulled pontoon, there are other construction aspects that you will want to consider before you go out on the ocean waters.
Larger tubes are recommended for larger ocean waves. Make sure your tubes are at least 25 inches in diameter.
You should also consider thicker tubes for your vessel. Aluminum sheets that are made to be at least .09 inches thick is better for ocean travel.
You will also want to continue to keep up on the maintenance required for your pontoons. Saltwater can cause aluminum to corrode. This can cause issues for your boat over time without the proper precautions.
This includes coating your aluminum tubes in anti-fouling paint. If you have added an aluminum under-skin to your boat, you might also consider coating this in anti-fouling paint.
After your vessel has come in contact with saltwater, you will want to make sure you rinse your hulls thoroughly with fresh water.
It is also wise to check your manufacturer’s warranty to determine if it includes saltwater corrosion.
Pontoon boats are highly safe in rough waters, except in extreme conditions.
Pontoon boats would be ideal for boat owners who plan on doing a majority of their boating in lakes and rivers. But this does not mean that you cannot take your pontoon boat out on ocean waters if you stick close to the shore and do not venture out too far.
If you choose a pontoon boat, you will want to make sure you have the proper equipment and weight distribution for your vessel.
You will also want to make sure you understand the proper handling technique for a pontoon boat, especially when there is rough water or high winds. Properly handling your pontoon boat through rough conditions can make all the difference when it comes to the safety of your travel.
Improper operator handling is one of the biggest causes of boating accidents in all weather types. Improper knowledge or technique can increase your chances of boating accidents. This is especially true in unfortunate weather conditions.
Overall, a pontoon boat with the proper construction, performance, add ons, and operating techniques will be safe in rough waters that have high wind and large waves.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.