Are Pontoon Boats Salt Water Safe?

Barletta Coastal Edition pontoon boat

Barletta Coastal Edition

 

Ashley Lizzi Barletta Boats Content ManagerAshley Lizzi
Barletta Content Manager, 6+ years Manufacturer Marketing, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Customer Experience

February 15, 2021 

 

If you’re one of the lucky ones who get to live in a coastal region, you might know a thing or two about salt water and the effects it can have on vehicles of all types.  

 

Let’s say you are looking to get into boating, and you’re wondering if putting a metal-based boat into the ocean, bay, or intercoastal water is a good idea.

 

Fiberglass has always been a popular choice as it is a safe play and can hold its own in salt water.  But alas, you’ve got your eye on a pontoon boat.  What now?

 

Is it possible to use a pontoon boat in salt water?  Are there certain types of pontoons that are better suited for salt water?  So many questions!

 

I’m here to tell you that you can use a pontoon boat in saltwater, you just need to know a few of the facts before you take the plunge.  

 

I’ve explained why this works and debunked some of the myths surrounding pontoon boats in salt water.  

 

Misconceptions About Pontoon Boats in Salt Water

If you live in a saltwater region or are familiar with how salt water affects metal, you may have some hesitation when it comes to owning a pontoon boat.  Even cars are prone to corrosion because of salt in the air.

 

That said, you might be surprised to hear that pontoon boats are more flexible than ever and can be used in salt water regardless of their metal construction.

 

Another misconception about pontoons in saltwater regions is that they cannot handle the big water that comes with this type of boating.  While that may be true for the two-toon boats of the past, newer performance pontoons can handle big water like never before.

 

Lastly, the popularity of pontoons and other types of boats have been overshadowed in these areas by center-console fiberglass boats.  These boats can handle big water and salt water, so they were the most popular choice for many years.

 

I’m going to break down these misconceptions with some facts about today’s performance pontoon boats.  You may be surprised to learn that you can use a pontoon in salt water with little to no issue.  

Aluminum Toons and Rust

A common misconception is that aluminum toons won’t hold up to salt water as well as a fiberglass hull boat. Aluminum is not susceptible to rust, so where did this notion come from?

 

Although rust isn’t the issue when it comes to pontoon boats in salt water, this type of boat is more prone to galvanic corrosion.  

 

Corrosion occurs when there is a chemical reaction between the metal and the salt water.  Corrosion can be damaging, so it’s important to keep up with maintenance and rinse the boat regularly with fresh water.

 

To combat this, pontoon manufacturers include zinc anodes on the bottom of the boat to attract the galvanic corrosion caused by electrolysis.  By doing this, the anodes act as a sort of decoy shielding the engine and boat’s components from damaging corrosive buildup.

 

Along with anodes, some manufacturers will include a solid keel and sealed lifting strakes.  These components are built to keep salt water and marine life from settling into the boat and creating corrosive buildup.

 

Additionally, because marine life cannot get into the keel or lifting strakes, there’s less of an issue with the foul smell left behind from dead sea particles.  This is a common complaint among those who boat in saltwater.  

 

There are additional precautions you can take to protect the toons and ward off oxidation and corrosion.  Hull protection products such as Metal Jacket will help act as an extra barrier between the metal and salt water.  

 

Some pontoon manufacturers take extra measures to protect the components on board.  Look for brands that swap exposed metal components for saltwater-safe materials such as aluminum seat bases and armrests or high-grade stainless steel components.  

Big Water, No Problem

Big water, large waves, lots of chop, these things don’t stand a chance against today’s performance pontoon boats.  That said, here are some things to know before taking off into the deep blue sea.

 

Pontoons are great for the intercoastal, bays, rivers, and so on.  They are not made to go 30-40 miles offshore.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can always see the shore and boat in waves no larger than 3-4’.  Anything higher and you could run into issues.  

 

If you plan to boat on big water, I highly suggest upgrading to a triple-tube pontoon boat.  The third toon adds stability while floating and underway.  It will also help cut through chop and create a smoother, dryer ride.

 

Something else to consider for salt water use is a large engine.  Having higher horsepower will help for long distances and allow you to handle the boat in big water.

 

This is especially true if you go with a triple-tube model, this and large engines go hand-in-hand.

 

The extra toon, high profiles, and large engines are ideal for intercoastal cruising, beaching on your favorite island, and really anything outside of offshore boating.  

 

Engine Care

Today’s outboard engines have evolved right along with pontoon boats.  That said, outboards have always been a popular choice for saltwater boating. 

 

Outboard engines are easy to maintain and access, which makes them ideal for salt water use.  Like with any engine, you should clean it regularly and flush the system.  This will help keep the salt water from sitting in the engine and baking onto its components.  

 

Keeping up with flushing the engine and getting regular service check-ups will ensure that your outboard will continue to run smoothly in salt water.  

Center Console Boats

Over the years, center console fiberglass boats were very popular in saltwater regions.  They hold up well, have large engines, and are built for offshore boating and fishing.  That said, they were the goto boat for many.

 

Nowadays, there has been a shift in these areas to a need for a family cruiser that is comfortable for long days on the water.  The center console layouts are not conducive to comfortably hosting a large crowd and beaching it on the sandbar all day.

 

That said since pontoons have evolved into performance pontoons they are much more popular among saltwater boaters who plan to visit Crab Island and lounge for the day.   

 

The image has changed from pontoon boats being the putt-around “mini vans” of the boating world, to a high-performance, multifunctional boat that can handle big water.  

 

They continue to gain popularity in saltwater regions.  They’re also the number one choice for rental boats which is huge in saltwater vacation areas.

The More You Know

I hope this article has brought some clarity to using a pontoon in salt water.  You can maintain a pontoon boat in any type of water as long as you take proper care and know what you’re looking for before you buy.

 

Make sure the brand you decide upon spells out what their saltwater-ready pontoon boats entail.  Anodes should be standard along with solid construction features and salt water safe materials on board.

 

The last thing you want to do is buy a brand because they have slapped a saltwater sticker on the side of the boat and that’s it.  Make sure they are living up to the saltwater edition name.  

 

If you’re ready to start cruising the intercoastal, find your nearest dealer today.

 

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