It’s hard to beat a pontoon or deckboat for versatility, stability and elbow room while enjoying Heartland waters. Pontoons are a great choice for protected waters and family fun, while their hybrid deckboat kin combine the performance and handling attributes of runabouts with the roominess of a broad deck and forward seating. Here are a half dozen of the latest models we like in both categories.
Sun Tracker Party Barge 254 XP3
Sun Tracker offers two new pontoons for 2013, representing both ends of the size spectrum. At one extreme is the new Bass Buggy 16, the smallest in the buggy shop offerings. At the other extreme is the Party Barge 254 XP3. Measuring more than 27 feet in length, the big triple-’toon barge can handle engines up to 250 horsepower while accommodating parties of up to 15.
The 254 XP3 features an elevated helm station built of fiberglass, fitted with standard features any captain will appreciate, including a reclining helm seat with self-leveling armrests, power-assisted hydraulic steering with tilt feature and a premium Lowrance color fishfinder complete with a chartplotter.
An all-new refreshment center aft of the helm to starboard features an on-demand sink, food prep area, courtesy lighting and storage area. An aft-facing, doublewide lounge seat hiding a portable changing room dominates the boat’s comfy transom area to port. Overhead is an 11-foot bimini top fitted with integrated LED lighting, while below are a trio of 26-inch diameter pontoons constructed of marine-grade aluminum and fitted with performance strakes for better handling and spray-free cruising. www.suntrackerboats.com
Length Overall: 27 feet, 5 inches
Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 3,300 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 35 gallons
Max. Power: 250 horsepower
Base Price: $39,995 (w/200-hp Mercury Verado)
Hurricane SunDeck 2690 OB
The brand-new SunDeck from Hurricane, which first introduced the “deckboat” style back in the mid-1970s, is the company’s first wide-beam model. Available with outboard power only, it has an equally new hull design constructed using integrated, foam-filled stringers to handle a robust engine up to 350 horsepower and to carry the boat’s nine-foot beam and entertaining deck layout. The internal stringer system also offers a seamless gelcoat finish inside nearly every compartment, and the head flooring and outboard walls are integrated into the stringer system for reduced weight.
The boat’s broad bow offers plenty of forward seating and access to shore and water from the Sundeck via an integrated swim ladder. The large, fully appointed helm to starboard is complemented by an equally large console to port enclosing a surprisingly roomy head with electric-flush toilet, countertop with stainless steel sink and a ventilation/lighting port.
Aft of the helm is wraparound seating, a standard electric grill powered by an inverter, a sink and a compartment for an optional refrigerator. Aft of that, tucked into the portside lounge seat at the transom, is an innovative Integrated Cooler Enclosure that features a sliding lid beneath a small cushion panel to allow passengers seated there to grab something cool out of the 36-quart insulated compartment without getting up. Due to the nine-foot beam, you’ll need a permit to trailer the new SunDeck in some states, so check the regulations if you intend to tow it across the Heartland. www.hurricaneboats.com
Length Overall: 26 feet, 4 inches
Beam: 9 feet
Dry Weight: 4,150 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 96 gallons
Max. Power: 350 horsepower
Base Price: $72,500 (w/250-hp Yamaha F250XA)
Harris FloteBote Crowne 250
At first glance, the new Crowne 250 doesn’t resemble a pontoon boat — at least not your granddaddy’s ’toon. The lines and design of FloteBote’s new flagship, a 2013 NMMA Innovation Award winner, are all new and radically different from past models, led by a forward-raked radar arch mimicking the curve of the side panels.
The Crowne features a reconfigured helm station and a stylish, clean layout with a classic woodgrain steering wheel, Ultra Lux high-back reclining helm seat and intuitive Touch Screen Control with GPS-based cruise control feature. Plush bow seats with a woodgrain table greet guests seated forward, and dual loungers with their own entertainment center are located for aft.
Faux-teak decking is underfoot in the cockpit, which is gently illuminated by integrated lighting surrounding the wet bar, cup holders and Sony Platinum stereo speakers for dramatic after-dark cruising and entertaining dockside. A large, deep-cushioned, aft-facing couch allows passengers a view over the board swim platform, which is separated by a polished stainless-steel rail and gate.
Optional upgrades include a well-appointed entertainment bar with stainless-steel drawers and comfortable bar seats, sea grass flooring, snap-in Berber carpet, collapsible/telescoping teak table, electronics and appliance packages, hydraulic and power-assisted steering, Alpine Diamond sound system, ski locker, and sport arch with integrated bimini and sunshades.
The new Crowne 250 from Harris is available in two- and three-pontoon configurations and is sure to turn heads across Heartland waters. www.harrisflotebote.com
Length Overall: 26 feet, 9 inches
Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 3,800 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 45 gallons
Max. Power: 300 horsepower
Base Price: $60,960 (w/90-hp Mercury 90 ELPT 4S EFI)
SouthWind 212 Sport Deck
With an eye for saltwater use, SouthWind has constructed its new-for-2013 deckboat model without a grain of wood and employing all stainless-steel components aboard. The 212 offers a lot of features for a 21-foot deckboat, including a fully enclosed head with sink and shower, wet bar and insulated, integrated coolers located fore and aft.
The SouthWind’s transitional V-shaped hull offers a great hole shot, good tracking and stability under way or at the dock. The standard helm is well equipped, with a flip-up seat bolster, anti-feedback steering, Sony AM/FM stereo and CD player with four speakers, courtesy lighting and deluxe steering wheel overlooking speedo, tach, fuel and trim gauges. A full walk-through windshield leads to a bow area with wraparound lounges and a forward, four-step entry ladder.
Aft is a second entry ladder, offering three steps, and a freshwater washdown hose. Family Fishing and Premium Sport packages are available on the new 21-footer, offering Heartland boaters a near-custom choice for the on-water activities they intend to enjoy. www.southwindboats.com
Length Overall: 20 feet, 6 inches
Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 2,500 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 50 gallons
Max. Power: 250 horsepower
Base Price: $50,000 (w/150-hp Yamaha F150)
Qwest Pontoons LS Splash Pad
This all-new pontoon by Apex Boats looks a bit different than most 18-footer models, mostly due to open, three-stool bar built onto the stern of the “nauti” little boat. Since the aft Splash Pad section isn’t fenced, it’s to be enjoyed while the LS is at anchor or at the dock.
On the water, active passengers have a pair of boarding ladders at the stern to get back and forth from the water-based fun from the surprisingly roomy open aft deck — especially when the portable bar stools are removed and stowed under the boat’s front seats.
Forward, an L-shaped lounge with a recliner on the port side and a chaise recliner couch in front of the helm console offer comfortable seating rated for up to nine passengers while the 818 is under way, although in reality a half dozen guests is about all that can be comfortably accommodated. The helm console is built of fiberglass and comes standard with a Humminbird 385c sonar with GPS and an Infinity Bluetooth stereo system.
Underfoot is a pair of 23-inch diameter pontoons with full-length keels and oversized splash guards. That said, the 18 footer isn’t designed for open water use but is an able angler and tower and a comfortable cruiser in protected waters.
One of our favorite features of the Splash Pad model is its weight, or lack thereof. The petite party-boat weighs only 1,345 pounds, making for effortless towing wherever you wish to take it. www.apexmarineinc.com
Length Overall: 18 feet, 4 inches
Beam: 8 feet
Dry Weight: 1,345 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 12 gallons
Max. Power: 70 horsepower
Base Price: $20,995 (w/70-hp Yamaha F70)
NauticStar 223DC Sport Deck
This new-for-2013 deckboat offers a rare combination of spacious design with the handling attributes of a traditional V-hull runabout. NauticStar has a reputation for producing deckboats with what they refer to as Фair-assist‘ chines to offer excellent handling capabilities, and that’s exactly what the new 223 Sport Deck offers to appeal to boaters who plan open water and/or active watersports use.
The wood-free hull, featuring an all-fiberglass stringer system and complemented with all stainless-steel hardware and components, make this 22-foot model a good one to consider for saltwater use as well.
Standard features are ample and include freshwater pressurized sink, fore and aft boarding ladders, dedicated anchor locker, LED courtesy lights in the cockpit, a JBL stereo system with MP3 port and Infinity speakers, wraparound windshield with walk through, an enclosed dressing room/head compartment, easy-access cooler storage, in-floor ski locker and seven separate storage compartments topside. www.nauticstarboats.com
Length Overall: 22 feet, 7 inches
Beam: 8 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 2,873 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 66 gallons
Max. Power: 225 horsepower
Base Price: $52,296 (w/150-hp Yamaha F150XA)