How to Handle a Pontoon Boat Like A Pro

Pontoon boats are a fun, unique style of personal watercraft. They’re considered a breed apart from your average powerboat, which makes handling them a different beast to tackle. Before you start looking at a boat payment calculator, check out this article to determine if this type of boat is what you’re looking for.

Docking and Undocking

Pontoon boats leave the dock like any other vessel on the water. However, their body shape creates more surface area for the wind to push around. Namely, the vertical fences found around the deck act similar to a sail.

Adding to that difficulty are the boat’s logs, which are the pieces that reach down into the water and create buoyancy. Large gusts of wind are your mortal enemy here. They can knock you off course on the water, but their ability to push your pontoon into other boats means you need to know how to handle a pontoon boat and have stellar insurance coverage.

To counter those winds, you just have to be aware of them. The pontoon boat’s secret weapon is its exceptional control over short bursts of power. Point the drive, shift, then use those short bursts as you redirect the drive. Before you know it, you’ll be out of the dock.

Heading back into the marina requires the same understanding of the wind and maneuvers. Docking any powerboat (pontoons included) requires a little more side-to-side motion, though. You can learn more about these actions via this link.


Beaching or mooring your boat to swim is half the fun of boating no matter what type of vessel you own. When people search for sailboat prices or pontoon deals, they imagine both gliding on the open water and beaching their ship to explore islands or soak in the sun. Luckily, both are simple processes and the same for every type of powerboat.

Start by traveling slow when you hit shallow waters. You don’t want to damage your motor, though prices for used outboard motors are relatively low if you make a mistake. Beaching requires you to pull the front end of your vessel onto land, which should be done slowly like leaving the dock.

Don’t head onto the beach too far, allowing enough room to spin the boat around out into the water using the motor. For mooring, make sure you have the proper tools to secure your boat via the anchor. Since pontoons are more buoyant than other types of boats, rely on your fenders to keep from wrecking into another vessel.

Turning and Handling

Pontoon boats soar across the water, which makes handling them a ton of fun. Before you lose yourself in the moment, however, remember that there are no lanes out on the water. Always check your surroundings before making a turn or spinning your boat around.

With that safety tip in mind, you’re ready to tackle the sea. Pontoon boats are incredibly stable, which means you don’t have to worry about flipping or rolling the boat over in normal conditions. Harsh waves and tight turns mean you can’t rule out the possibility, but it isn’t much of a concern for the modern pontoon boat.

The one thing you do have to worry about is causing the propeller to leave the water when making a tight turn. You can either back off of the turn, deaccelerate or turn the engine downwards to remedy the issue. When making turns, keep in mind that items and people on your deck might slide around depending on your speed.


Once you hit open waters, you’re ready to pick up speed. Don’t treat your pontoon boat like a race car, though. Instead, accelerate slowly and steadily until you reach your desired speed. Keep in mind that the bow will level out, which means you’ll need to trim the engine if you want more speed.

Your engine might rise too far out of the water as you accelerate. That’s normal and easy to fix by simply trimming the engine. Your boat will either slow down, you’ll hear a howling sound near the propeller or the ship will lose a little stabilization when this happens.

If you’re somewhat of a speed demon, keep in mind that every boat comes with a manufacturer’s recommendation for top speeds or RPM. Most recommend 75% of a fully open throttle, but it helps to read up on this statistic before pushing your boat to its limits. For fuel efficiency, far less throttle is required.

Keep in mind that more crowded waters demand less speed. There are rarely legal speed limits on open water, so just be mindful of other boaters in the area.

Stability Tips in Rough Waters

Unlike other powerboat counterparts, the pontoon boat handles exceptionally well in rough or choppy waters thanks to their dual hull design. Even with that added help, however, you need to know how to handle a pontoon boat in these conditions responsibly.

To start, it’s highly recommended that you keep an even load on board. This includes both objects and passengers. When rough waters arise, make sure your passengers know to even out their weight on deck and sit down. The larger your boat, the easier this element is to maintain.

Try to avoid heading directly into larger waves, which can damage the electronics in your boat when they take on water. If you must head nose first into oncoming waves, trim the engine down to help keep the boat’s nose/bow upward. Otherwise, take the waves at a 30 to 40-degree angle.

Finally, sports handling packages are an enormous benefit here. Better nosecones, power assisted steering, positive angle lifting strakes, and higher horsepower all effectively combats choppy waters. Applying an under skinning also helps reduce drag, keeping water from splashing on the underside of your boat.

That being said, don’t head out onto the water when you know a storm is on the way. A pontoon boat is an investment, one that you don’t want to risk for a few more minutes of fun. If inclement weather strikes, head back to the dock and put your boat back on dry land if possible.