Can Pontoon Boats Go In The Ocean – What To Know About Rough Water


boat in high and rough seas

When I first started looking at pontoon boats I wondered if it can be used in the ocean. I’ve talked to some people but could not get a definitive answer.

It seemed like everyone had an opinion about it but since none of those people owned a pontoon before, they were not entirely confident in their answer.

So, I’ve decided to do my own experiment and take my pontoon boat into the ocean.

If you are looking for a short answer and an outright conclusion, the answer is no. You should not take your pontoon boat into the ocean.

However, the longer answer is yes. You can use a pontoon boat in the ocean, but, you have to be careful about it.

Despite their stability, pontoons were not constructed to be used out of safe waters. Actually, much of their construction, as you will see, is made for extremely relaxed leisure sailing.

What is a Pontoon Boat?

In order to understand what a pontoon boat is, we have to define the word “pontoon”. A pontoon does not belong exclusively to pontoon boats.

  • A pontoon is a device that can take on any shape and be buoyant in water. Pontoons are very practical tools that can help carry heavy weights over water.
  • Pontoons displace a large amount of water but remain light. What you will typically find is that a pontoon is hollow and can be filled with light materials.
  • They are much shallower compared to other boats. They usually only have an 8-inch draft.
  • A pontoon is extremely stable because they typically have a wider base. They are also very spacious. Their construction is built to carry large weights, like large groups of people.
  • Lastly, pontoon bots are made for people who appreciate a more relaxed boating experience.

I’ve written extensively about pontoon boat advantages/disadvantages and what separated them from other boats like deck boats, so you should check those out if you have not already.

Are Pontoons Safe in Rough Water

Here’s the best way we can frame it: pontoon boats should be used on inland rivers and lakes. But that does not mean they are not fit for ocean waters. As a matter of fact, pontoon boats are often used closer to ocean shores, like bays and inlets.

A pontoon’s seaworthiness is defined by its size, performance, and construction. The pontoon boat’s particular construction has to be made to withstand saltwater damage.

We saw earlier that one way your pontoon can flip is if it encounters big waves. Well, it goes without saying that the ocean is filled with those.

To counter the danger of larger waves, a triple-hull with larger tubes is ideal. If you plan on going out on bigger waters, use tubes that are at least 25” in diameter.

In addition to bigger tubes, you also needed thicker tubes. This way they can handle the beatings brought on by the ocean waves.

But that’s not all you need.

You also need more horsepower in your pontoon boat to make it through ocean conditions. 150HP is a good bare minimum to have if you plan on leaving shore with your pontoon boat.

Handling in Rough Water

So, now you have your pontoon boat completely ready for rough waters. What now? You can’t control the weather, but you can control your boat.

Some things you should be mindful of when maneuvering in rough waters are weight distribution and speed. If your pontoon boat is not balanced, it could be easily shifted on choppy waters.

When it comes to speed, do not slow down. A common mistake people make is to slow down when approaching a trough in the waves. However, this could easily result in the nose of your boat dipping in the water.

What to do With Pontoon in Rough Ocean

With that in mind, here is how you actually manage and maneuver your pontoon boat through rough waters.

  • First, if there is a storm coming, make the smart decision and get out of the water.
  • Second, if there is no time for you to return to shore, anchor yourself instead.
  • Third, keep your turns under control. Do not try to force any turns too much into the wind.
  • Fourth, keep an eye on your pontoon weight levels. If you have anyone on board with you, make sure they know the importance of maintaining balance.
  • Fifth, adjust your course so you can sail into the waves at an angle. Preferably, at about a 30-45-degree angle. This way you keep the bow out of the water and safely glide through the wave.
  • Sixth, just before you hit the wave, trim up.
  • Seventh, keep the pontoons and the nose cones out of the water.

Conclusion

Overall, pontoon boats are not built for ocean or rough waters, they are built for calm inland bodies of water. And if that calm inland water gets too choppy, your calm boat ride could turn ugly very fast.

But here’s the kicker: it is about how you prepare and handle the waves to prevent any danger. So always be sensible about your boat trips. Check the weather and make sure your passengers know their on-board responsibilities. And just in case things get messy, make sure you have working PFDs, aka life jackets, on board.

Otherwise, a pontoon boat could be a great investment. So, use your common sense and have fun pontooning. If you have any comments, share them with us below.

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