MAKING WAVES: How Pontoon Slide-Outs Became a Reality
Featuring an exclusive interview with President & Co-Owner of Barletta Boats, Bill Fenech
By Mary Willkom
Want to make your pontoon wider with just the push of a button? Now you can.
Barletta Boats and Lippert Components have teamed up to make pontoon slide-outs a reality. The companies are set to unveil their unique pontoon slide-out at the Minneapolis Boat Show in January and you won’t want to miss it.
Because of this partnership’s expertise and unique capabilities, pontoon boaters will soon be able to enjoy over 120 additional square feet of floor space on their pontoon boat. Lippert Components has long been known as a leader in the RV and motorhome arena, and with their acquisition of mega-boating manufacturer, Taylor Made, they’re primed and ready to bring their innovative engineering feats to the maritime stage. Barletta Pontoon Boats, one of the newer pontoon boat manufacturers, is quickly becoming an industry leader and was the perfect partner for this joint venture.
I spoke with Bill Fenech, President & Co-Owner of Barletta Boats, to find out more.
1: MW: Discuss the pontoon slide-out. How does it operate?
BF: Very similar (if not exactly the same) as the commonplace RV slide-out mechanisms. The Barletta EX23Q pontoon boat will utilize a hydraulic slide-out mechanism. It only requires one motor/pump assembly to operate both pontoon tube slides, and because they are hydraulic, they can generate more pushing power.
The boat can be expanded from its original beam of 8¢ 6” to its fully expanded beam of 14’ 10” and will feature a first-of-its-kind flush-floor integration on a pontoon boat. This means no step or stair action when the slide-out is extended – the integration is nearly seamless and really adds to the visual appeal of the deck.
As an additional fail-safe, the boat will be equipped with a manual crank, in the rare instance of pump failure while the boat is fully expanded.
2: MW: What benefits does the slide-out provide the boater?
BF: The most obvious benefit is the immense amount of additional floorspace that is added to the boat, almost 128 square feet. Let’s be honest, with the typical pontoon boat beam of 8’ 6”, at full person capacity (somewhere between 12-15 people on a typical pontoon boat) the boat still feels cramped at times. With the EX23Q, that is no longer the case. Meet all your friends at the sandbar, or at the dock, and enjoy the ability to host EVERYONE on your boat.
And what’s better is that the boat, no matter if expanded or not, is still completely functional and will perform just like a normal pontoon boat. The Barletta EX23Q is completely trailer-able and can be stored on a lift. Sunset cruises, morning coffee, pulling tubers or skiers, or just wasting the day away at the sandbar… just a few of the options at your disposal.
3: MW: How much additional space does the slide-out create on the boat?
BF: Approximately 128 square feet of floorspace inside the fencing.
4: MW: Why is Barletta inspired to manufacture slide-outs for pontoon boats?
BF: One of the “pillars” of Barletta Pontoon Boats is innovation. We strive every day to be innovative in our approach and in our products. We have a whiteboard in our product development room filled with hundreds of unique ideas that we believe will change boating as you know it today. Our first production pontoon boat was awarded “Most Innovative” in the pontoon boat category by the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) in January 2018.
When we were first approached with the idea of the slide-out boat, we were lukewarm on the idea. Not because it wasn’t a great idea, but because it didn’t fit into our philosophy of keeping things simple. Our business model is rooted in building products that meet the demand of the consumer. Early on, we thought it might be more of a niche product. However, there was some pretty substantial retail interest in the concept of an expanding pontoon boat, and as a team we always want to be open to thinking outside of the box. We decided to take a ride on the prototype boat, and it really exceeded our preliminary expectations. The performance was great, the ride was great, the functionality was great … it checked all the boxes for us. And because of that, we knew that in combination with our Barletta products, we could build a really EXCEPTIONAL product.
And finally, as another way to test the appetite for this concept, we placed the prototype model in our dealer meeting in front of a very experienced, veteran group of dealer partners. The response was amazing. While there were many questions, in the end, there were several dealers that would have placed orders for the concept boat, on the spot. At the dealer meeting follow-up, the Barletta executive team decided to pursue the expanding deck pontoon boat as an offering beginning January 1, 2019.
5: MW: Discuss the partnership with Lippert Components. What prompted Barletta to team up with Lippert?
BF: Not enough can be said about our partnership with Lippert Components. Obviously, as one of the larger, if not largest, suppliers in the marine industry, they have the horsepower needed to be able to pull this off successfully. LCI has been the furniture supplier for us from day one. With their help, in a variety of ways, they have helped transform our fledgling company into perhaps one of the marine industry leaders in just over 18 months.
6: MW: Which make/model of pontoon boat will we see the slide-out technology integrated with?
BF: The Barletta EX23Q will feature the slide-out technology. Currently, our first floorplan offering will but utilizing the Q seating configuration, which is four chaise lounges (two in the bow, two in the stern). We are working on other floorplans to offer as well for future development.
7: MW: Any other upcoming marine innovations we can look forward to?
BF: Nothing we can share at this point, but as I mentioned before, the whiteboard is full of ideas we are hoping to bring to market. Rest assured, if you are looking for innovation, Barletta Pontoon Boats will be leading the way.
MORE SPACE FOR ENTERTAINMENT
Want to play ping pong (or beer pong) on your pontoon boat? Have a dance party? Lounge even more spaciously? When extended, the pontoon slide-out provides a full eight feet of floor space – enough room for a multitude of shenanigans and fun. What would you do with eight feet of pontoon floor space?
You might be wondering if the slide-out affects the pontoon’s floorplan or seating capacity. It doesn’t.
The pontoon slide-out was designed and integrated with Barletta’s boats in such a way as to maintain the seating space and core functionality we all know and love about pontoons.
For now, the expandable capabilities will be incorporated into Barletta’s 25’ 6” pontoon boat and should be hitting the market in early 2019.
The hydraulic slide-out system is operated from the helm of the boat with a switch to effortlessly extend and retract, using the same proven technology that LCI has mastered within the RV industry.
I also spoke with Carl Yoder, R&D Technician with Lippert Components since 2001, and the mastermind behind recreational vehicle slide-out technology for the company.
“For the past several years, I’ve been working on engineering LCI’s slide-out technology for application in lateral markets. We knew we wanted to evolve the system and work towards maritime innovation. When Barletta took interest, we went ahead full force.”
Carl told me that the system is constructed with 100% aluminum, even the cylinders. A major bonus because unlike steel, aluminum is less susceptible to corrosion.
Carl’s 35 years of RV and slide-out knowledge were up to the task for this unique technology crossover and his hard work will soon materialize. Carl said, “The biggest advantage is LCI’s engineering department, our testing, and our partnership to ensure all requirements are met, if not exceeded.”
The hydraulic pontoon slide-out on Barletta’s EX23Q pontoon boat is now patent pending. Boaters can get a sneak peek glimpse at this marine wonder during the 2019 Minneapolis Boat Show at the end of January where Barletta will be seeking its second consecutive NMMA Innovation Award.