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Choosing the Right Pontoon Boat Engine
Six Key Pontoon Powering Challenges
Keep these concerns in mind when buying a new pontoon boat, or repowering your current boat.
1. Preventing prop ventilation with crew seated forward
2. Minimizing vibration
3. Delivering low-speed thrust
4. Determining optimum mounting height
5. Providing directional control
6. Selecting the right propeller
Pontoon boat size and power requirements are growing as fast as the presence of these watercraft on waters all over the world. Offered in lengths from under 15 feet to more than 30 in length overall, with double- and triple-tube configurations, pontoons are currently “hot” with boaters. To find out what you should look for when buying one with outboard power — or repowering your existing ’toon — we convinced some outboard industry experts to share the “hull truth” about powering pontoons.
What makes powering pontoon boats special? The fact is that powering every boat type has its subtleties. Part of the equation is how different types of boats are generally used. Another component is the design of the boat being powered. For instance, a pontoon boat has a vastly different physical configuration than a runabout’s. “With a monohull, you have deadrise and strakes and chines to help the boat get up on plane and carve the water and hold an edge,” explains Jim Hergert, the Mercury Marine category manager. “With a pontoon, you basically have two or three rounded surfaces to work with, so you have to rely more on the motor to get the boat on top of the water, and to point and direct the boat,” Hergert says, adding, “On a pontoon, the engine is doing more of the work than when matched with a monohull. Selecting and properly installing an outboard for a pontoon is even more critical than for traditional boats.”
Of course, many pontoons are available with specially designed tubes featuring flatter sections. Many also have tubes with running strakes. Features like these provide lift, so just how much performance is engine-dependent versus boat-dependent varies with the specific boat. But Hergert’s wisdom stands: One cannot treat pontoon power as a commodity.