Pontoon Boat Bimini Top Challenges

Docking a pontoon boat can be challenging depending upon how its equipped.

Pontoon Boat Docking Challenges

By design, pontoon boats are high-profile watercraft.John Linn

I towed a fellow pontoon boat club member back to the dock last weekend, and his outboard was working fine. Apparently in an attempt to protect both the upholstery and himself from the elements, this particular boater went a bit overboard when exercising the canvas option aboard his 22 foot 'toon, and erected a fully enclosed, stand-up height camper-type top over the entire boat, from bow to stern. The rig resembles a giant turquoise box of Kleenex on the water.

And, as he learned when the breeze kicked up last Saturday, it performs like one. All that canvas acts as a sail, and even when his outboard was at full throttle, he couldn’t make headway into the 10- to 15 mph gusts that blew directly from where he needed to go. Boaters using the city-owned reservoir we share are restricted to outboards of 10 horsepower or less, and being able to apply additional horses to the task by using a more powerful engine would have alleviated the headway problem. As it was, combining the power of both our outboards (a theoretical 19.8 hp) overcame that applied by the breeze and (eventually) got him back to the dock.

The incident underlined the point that our favorite style of boats share a higher profile than most, with fencing and furniture atop pontoon logs with ever-increasing diameters, to create a structure that appears designed more to catch the breeze than to avoid it. Top that with a Bimini and additional canvas and you can have a veritable "blow boat" underfoot, a rig that may offer less-than-optimal performance, often when it's needed most.

Keep that in mind this time of year as you head out when there is a threat of a blow or when you consider adding canvas to the craft to provide additional protection from the sun and rain.

As for the humbled high-profile pontoon owner, he vowed to keep his custom camper top and curtail his cruising to waters only upwind of the dock.

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