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Ashley Lizzi

By: Ashley Lizzi on April 13th, 2022

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Can You Take a Pontoon Boat Out on the Ocean?

Let’s say you’re packing up the car and taking the kids to Florida for Spring Break.  Maybe you’ve had enough of the northern weather and you’re headed to the west coast to live by the sea.  Either way, there’s a potential you will want to be on the water.


As pontoon boats have become increasingly popular throughout the country, this type of boat will be readily available in just about any saltwater location.  It’s the boat of choice for most boat rental companies and therefore, there’s a good chance this will be your best option for taking the family out over Spring Break.


Just the same, with the innovation in the pontoon industry over the last handful of years, performance pontoons have taken off.  They are no longer the putt-around boats of yesterday and therefore have become increasingly popular in areas that they weren’t in the past.  


There has been an uptick of pontoon boaters on the west coast and experts say that this will only continue to grow.  With all that said, there’s been a question that keeps coming up over and over.  Can I take a pontoon boat out on the ocean?


Remember, I already told you that pontoon boats are popular in saltwater locations, so the question is not can this type of boat be in saltwater, but rather on the ocean.  I’m going to break this down for you as the answer could be detrimental to your family's safety.


Pontoon Boats in Saltwater

First, let’s debunk the myth that pontoon boats cannot be in saltwater.  That’s not the case, pontoon boats can successfully be used in salt water without the threat of damage to the metal.  


As long as you maintain the boat properly and take the necessary steps to protect the metal ahead of using it in salt water, you will extend its lifespan.  Most pontoon manufacturers will offer added protection in their saltwater packages.


For instance, Barletta’s Coastal Edition includes Metal Jacket toon protectant, extra-large anodes, and furniture donned with saltwater safe metal.  All of these items combat the effect that saltwater has on metal.


[For more information on why pontoon boats are safe for saltwater read our article: Are Pontoon Boats Salt Water Safe?]


Can Pontoon Boats Be Used On the Ocean?

The quick answer to this question is yes, any boat can go out on the ocean.  However, is it safe?  Should you take your family out on the ocean?  Those are the real questions you should be asking yourself.


The very first thing to consider is why.  Why do you want to take a pontoon boat out on the ocean?  When I say ocean I’m not referring to any saltwater area.  I’m talking about offshore, miles into the Atlantic ocean.  


Pontoon boats are great for intercoastal areas, inlets, sandbars, and any other saltwater spots that are not the ocean.  That’s because the ocean itself can bring conditions that no pontoon boat on the market is made for.


There are times the ocean isn’t even safe for boats that are built specifically for offshore use.  It’s important to know that so that you don’t get the misconception that pontoons aren’t built for rough water, that’s not the case.


I simply want you to understand the dangers of blindly taking a pontoon or any boat out on the ocean if you’re not experienced with this type of water.  If you have experience with offshore boating, you already know what I’m saying.


Know the Water

As I just mentioned, if you are familiar with navigating a boat on the ocean, I really shouldn’t have to explain why it could be dangerous to take a pontoon boat out there.  If you’re unfamiliar with the ocean, that should be your first queue as to why you should stick with inlets or lakes.


There are many factors to consider when boating on the ocean.  Do you understand how the tide works?  Did you know that wind direction and speed can significantly change your day on the water?  Understanding both of these occurrences will make or break your day on the water.


Consider the weather, not only what it’s like at the beach but what it’s like 10 miles out into the ocean.  The weather directly impacts the water conditions and if you’re not prepared, things could turn dangerous within minutes.  


Things like the tide, wind, and weather can change in an instant and you don’t want to be caught in the middle of the ocean on any type of boat if you don’t understand how to navigate these changes.  Remember, weather conditions directly affect the water conditions.  


This is not to say that pontoons can’t handle rough water, because many of them can, but the ocean is a totally different animal when it comes to this. 


Know Your Boat

The next big factor to consider is how well you know the boat you’re on.  When it comes to pontoon boats, do you know if you’re on a pontoon or a tritoon?  The difference between these two boats is how many toons are under the boat.  A pontoon has two and a tritoon has three.


The third toon makes a world of difference when navigating rough water.  Something to note is that most rental boats are pontoons, not tritoons.  Rentals are usually not equipped to handle the worst of the worst conditions.


They will typically be stripped-down versions of the brand’s original build.  That means the boat will most likely not have the navigation equipment that’s necessary when boating on the ocean.  The rental pontoons usually have a lesser built frame as well.


That means you won’t get the usual components that help the boat get on top of the water like lifting strakes which can make a big difference in heavy chop.  It’s important to know that these are the things that will make a difference when boating on the ocean.


Many people think that the size of the boat will be the biggest factor in being safe in rough water.  Although it helps, the size of the boat doesn’t always ensure a better experience when it comes to the ocean.  


Keep in mind, even if you’re on the biggest rental pontoon they make, you’re still small potatoes up against a 60-foot yacht.  The wake that big of a boat will put out alone could put a smaller recreational boat in danger if you’re boating too close.  


That’s why pontoons and smaller recreational boats 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’.  Even on a clear day, the ocean can easily produce waves that size or larger.


Knowing the boat you’re on is incredibly important no matter where you’re boating.  Even if you’re planning to rent a boat just for the day, I recommend doing your research via YouTube and Google to learn as much as you can about the vessel before hitting the water. 


Jump Aboard

Now that we’ve broken down the main consideration points for boating on the ocean, I hope you have some clarity before heading to the coast and jumping on board.  There are a million reasons why boating on the coast is a great outdoor activity that you and your family will love.


There will be plenty of options in areas like this that allow you to safely take a recreational vessel out on the water.  My recommendation is if you’re planning on taking out a smaller boat like a pontoon or a towboat, stick to bays, inlets, rivers, or lakes.  


These types of boats are meant for pleasure and by taking them offshore into the ocean, more than likely, you won’t be having much fun.  Keep this in mind as you head to your Spring Break destination or you’re planning on buying a boat to use in a coastal town.


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About Ashley Lizzi

Barletta Content Manager, 9+ years Manufacturer Marketing, Brand Management, Customer Experience, and life-long boater.