The coldest weather in two decades swept through earlier this month and got me to thinking that once things thawed, I might want to swing by the boat club where the family pontoon is up on blocks for the winter. The combination of water, cold and wind can do significant damage to boats and gear without proper pontoon covers and I wasn’t alone the weekend I paid a visit to the grounds where a hundred of my fellow pontoon boat club members keep their craft in the off season.
From cracked lower units on outboards that had not been properly drained and winterized to shreds of Bimini top materials and colorful tarps snagged in the treetops shrubbery that had been more or less secured to serve as boat covers, the damage was apparent.
In my case, the boat and motor were ok, but several seat covers were AWOL. I don’t cover my boat completely, figuring a self-bailing deck is one of the advantages of pontoon boat ownership. Combined with a tough vinyl deck covering, I’ve never had issues with winter damage or wear in the past – as long as the covers remained in place to protect the more vulnerable vinyl-covered helm console and furniture.
I eventually located the missing covers in a honeysuckle bush downwind of the boat, along with a gimmee cap I recognized and a bright blue Sunbrella motor cover I didn’t. Apparently, in the case of my seat covers, the elastic in the hems had out-lived its flex-abilities and allowed the breeze to get underneath the no-longer-snug-fitting poly covers and blow them up and off. In fact, the only covers that stayed put were those that had allowed rainwater to pool and freeze, providing enough ballast to weigh the covers down and keep them in place in the face of the blow.
The covers I had purchased for the pontoon boat seats were intended for use on lawn furniture, and were about a third the price of comparable “marine grade” covers. I just measured my bench seats, love seats, flip-flop and helm chair and purchased covers designed for protecting patio furniture of similar dimensions. By doing so in the fall, I was able to get an even deeper discount on the shrewd post-season purchase. For four years of use in summer and winter, the covers served the job well. Now that it’s time to replace them, I figure it’s time to get ‘real’ pontoon covers that are designed for use on boats this time and see if the difference is worth the price.
Until the next big blow, I figure I’ve got time to study up on the subject and shop around a bit before installing a new set. I’ll let you know how that works out when I do -- preferably before the next Alberta Clipper sails through.