The weather is sunny, the food and drink are flowing, the music is rocking and everyone is ready to have a good time. Summer is pontoon boating season, and there’s nothing like taking your boat out on the water and having a good time with family and friends.
Before you cast off, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and make sure that you and your guests will be safe on the water and that you have everything you need if you’re faced with the unexpected.
1. Don’t Forget Flotation Devices
Before you make your guest list, make sure you have enough safety-vests for everyone on board. Make sure everyone is seated and wearing a vest when you cast off and have a life preserver on deck just in case.
2. Have a Designated Captain
It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence, so if you’re planning to serve alcohol at your pontoon boat party, have a designated captain to keep you on course.
3. Watch the Weather
Check the weather reports, do your research before you sail and keep your eye on the horizon. If you use your boat frequently, you may want to invest in a boat weather station. If you expect rough weather, make sure you know how to manage your vessel.
4. Don’t Rush
Pontoon boats aren’t built for speed, but they can move faster than many suspect. Be careful when you accelerate, excessive speed, especially when navigating turns is one of the key causes of boating accidents.
5. Watch Your Weight
Know your boat’s weight capacity and make sure you don’t overload it. This applies to people as well as equipment and recreational gear like water skis.
6. Drop Anchor
No matter how calm the water may seem, remember to drop your anchor if you’re planning to stay in one spot for an extended period of time. Otherwise you may find yourself pushed by the current into unfamiliar waters.
7. Stay In the Shade
According to the CDC, the sun’s UV-radiation can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. With the average pontoon boat trip lasting over five hours, and when you add in the reflective properties of water and fiberglass, the chances of getting sunburned increases while you’re on the water. Keep yourself covered and use sunblock whenever you’re on the water. Even on overcast days.
8. Buy a Bimini Top
One of the easiest ways to stay in the shade is to install a bimini top when you’re on the water. A bimini top combines a lightweight, collapsible frame with a UV-resistant top and many can be installed to cover a pontoon boat.
9. Try a T-Top
One issue for pontoon boats is that a Bimini often doesn’t always cover the center console. Adding a T-top frame can provide extra shade so the captain can keep his hands and attention on the wheel.
10. Don’t Burn the Boat
Not satisfied with sandwiches? One of the great things about a pontoon boat is that the extra width allows space for a grill. Before you fire up the burner, make sure that you play it safe. Only use the grill when the boat is tied up or anchored, keep the grill downwind of bimini tops and other boat fabrics.
Consider purchasing a grill designed for boating. Many are designed to attach to the rail and hang out over the surface. That way, you run less of a risk of hot embers or ashes falling onto to your boat and causing a fire.
11. Have the Must-Haves
Whether you grill or not, a fire extinguisher is required by law. You should also have a first-aid kit on board and some kind of distress signals like flares or flags.
12. Keep Your Pontoon Boat Covered
When not in use, it’s always a good idea to keep your pontoon boat covered. This prevents UV-radiation, weather or other environmental pollutants from damaging your finish or causing undue wear on your boat. Want to keep your guests comfortable? Boat seat covers can keep seats clean and prevent fading when not in use.