Pontoon boats are among the most popular recreational vessels in the world. They are easy to navigate, they’re super flexible, and are often quite affordable.
But you still need to know your way around a boat when you operate a ‘toon. Knowing the potential risks of taking a pontoon boat out on the water is something you should bear in mind.
So what are the Pontoon Boat Dangers to be aware of, anyway?
In this article, we will discuss pontoon boat flipping, as well as pontoon boat safety, and other boat dangers in rough water.
We will review all you need to know about these vessels so you can safely use one.
Pontoon Boat Dangers: 5 Items to Be Aware Of
Before you purchase a pontoon boat, there are certain things you should keep in mind. Here are five big concerns.
1. Toons Are Designed for Calm Waters
For starters, you need to understand that pontoon boats are not designed for rough water. Toons are made for calm waters. That is why they are only meant to be used on lakes, inlets, calm bays, and rivers.
Tooling around in a pontoon boat across rough water, seas and oceans is a recipe for disaster.
If you make the mistake of traversing large waves or significant wake in a pontoon boat, you’ll quickly get in trouble. You need to be aware of the weather and where you’re going before you set out on your trip.
Even in cases where there is no storm, the large waves caused by large vessels can theoretically capsize a pontoon boat, particularly if the captain is a newbie.
2. High Buoyancy
Larger pontoon boats have higher buoyancy than most recreational boats. This includes ski boat, an ordinary boat, and other traditional boats.
This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
The advantage is that it makes a pontoon boat easy to tow. The disadvantage is that it is lightweight and at the mercy of the elements. This buoyancy make it vulnerable to high winds in rough water.
Inexperienced captains may struggle in nasty weather to get the toon to go where they want to!
You need some degree of navigation experience to navigate a pontoon boat. If the water is clear and calm, most anyone can drive it. But even then, accidents may occur.
For starters, toons are quite difficult to turn, and this requires experience. Secondly, they may look light and small, but they are much heavier than you think. This is why it is necessary to take safety and navigation courses before you even attempt to drive one alone.
4. Excess Weight and Stuff On Board
The average pontoon boat has significant space. Toons are maybe the most flexible craft out there, and it’s easy to be tempted to fill all that space with people, coolers, beer, and all that stuff. But you need to be aware of your weight limits and your capacity before you set sail. Overloaded toon’s are much harder to drive safely!
5. Accidents are Common
Accidents are common aboard pontoon boats. This is because there is space for partying and all kinds of fun activities. Let’s face it, pontoon boats are commonly used for fun, and often fun involves alcohol.
The captain still needs to be responsible, and drinking and driving a toon is not safe.
Don’t be stupid.
Boating Accident Statistics
To be clear, pontoon boats are very safe and ideal boats for clam waters, but accidents still occur. Yet, what the statistics from the American Boating Organization shows is that out of the 43,058 accident that occurred between 2010-2019 nationwide, only 2,792 were pontoon boats.
And for 2020, there were approximately 767 deaths from recreational boating. Only about 8% of those deaths occurred on pontoon boats. The stats show us that a whopping number of accidents happened with or aboard open or cabin motorboats.
These stats only further prove that pontoon boats are a lot safer than many other recreational boats.
The majority of accidents with pontoon boats happen due to improper navigation, as well as alcohol abuse. Good training and personal discipline should make your boating activities accident-free.
Pontoon Boat Dangers You Should Be Aware Of
1. Rough and Rocky Waters
We pointed out at the start of the article that pontoon boats are meant for calm waters. Taking yours to rocky shallow water is not advisable. If you do so, you will be putting yourself at risk. Rocky terrain is a bad idea.
Most toons are hollow, though some are foam-filled and some have chambers. If you puncture your air-filled pontoons, you run the risk of sinking it.
Traveling on lakes and rivers is the best region for you. If you take the wrong path, you risk accidents.
Use a depth finder if you’re going to be in shallow water, and don’t be stupid!
Another pontoon boat dangers you should be aware of are thunderstorms. If there is a cumulonimbus cloud gathering, that is a sure sign that a storm is coming. Pontoon boats (particularly aluminum pontoon boats) and storms are a bad combination. This is because these vessels are not built for such weather.
Amidst a storm, you will have a hard time moving through the rough waves, you’ll have a hard time going where you intend to go. Toons are already hard enough to drive, storms make that worse.
3. Windy Conditions
Storms often come with strong winds. We chose to address this point separately. Strong winds may appear out of nowhere even when the water isn’t rough.
Driving a pontoon boat in rough weather is dangerous. Just stay anchored or at the dock when the weather is unfavorable.
7 Pontoon Boat Safety Tips
Here are 7 safety tips to help prevent you from getting your pontoon boat in a dangerous situation.
1. Take a Boating Course
You need to know how to operate your boat. Take a special pontoon boat safety course before you attempt to drive a pontoon boat on your own. This is doubly important if you are a beginner.
You need to know navigation practices, laws and regulations, and other seafaring terminologies are things you will learn. The course will also teach you how to practice safe boating.
Suffice it to say that you significantly reduce the risk of injuries by taking the course.
2. Cool it on the Beers
If you are responsible for driving the boat, don’t drink.
Most pontoon boat accidents are alcohol-related. Alcohol clouds your judgment. If you can’t do without alcohol, let someone else do the driving while you enjoy and have a nice time with your drink.
Or better yet, wait until you’re moored or docked to have the pontoon party.
If you can’t do without alcohol, let someone else do the driving while you enjoy and have a nice time with your drink.
3. Double Check the Weather
Before you head out, always double-check the weather as you can never be so sure. Weather changes are common in regions with large water bodies, so be mindful of that. Makes it a habit to check the weather channel online and over the marine radio.
Remember that pontoon boats do not perform well in rough weather so take this tip seriously. If the weather looks unstable, abort your trip until another time. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. Maintain Focus at all Times
Maintain focus at all times when you are driving a pontoon boat. You can’t afford to be distracted for any reason. A split second is all it takes for an accident to occur.
Focus is necessary for crowded areas and rocky terrain. Yes, dirivng a toon is fun. But you need to keep your eyes ahead and maintain a clear head.
5. Let Your Passengers Know the Rules
Inform your passengers of the rules, especially if they are inexperienced. You want everyone to be safe so give them a crash course on safety before you sail out. Make sure they are aware of floatation devices and other protective gear.
In case of an emergency, head back to land and call the emergency numbers if you need to.
6. Maintain the Vessel
The only way your vessel will maintain its form is if you maintain it properly. Conduct routine checks and don’t wait until something doesn’t feel right! If you notice any damage, fix it quickly before it degenerates into something worse.
7. Bring Life Jackets Along
It is crazy not to bring life jackets along even if you have all the swimming experience in the world. Life jackets are lifesavers in the most real sense. In case of a mishap and you find yourself in the water, this is the most important safety gear available.
Also, make sure you bring enough life jackets along if you are going to have people on board.
Pontoon boats are relatively safe boats when they are operated responsibly. As long as the captain doesn’t do anything stupid, and you don’t have really bad luck, you should be fine on the water. But captains need to know what they’re doing and need to use their heads before they head out on the water.
Don’t be a statistic, be safe, and have fun!