The 6 Steps for Smoothly Beaching a Pontoon Boat
During a long day of boating, you'll want to hit dry land to stretch your sea legs and break out the lunch! Unlike our boating friends with fiberglass and gel-coated v-hull powerboats, we aluminum tube tooners can practically glide right on up to party island.
Once you're beached, we can play pontoon games or even set up for some overnight pontoon camping. While our convenient vessels do make beaching pretty painless, there are still some tips you should know.
Properly beaching a pontoon boat is no laughing matter. You sure don't want to end up damaging your 'toon!
The Advantages of Pontoon Boats for Beaching
One of the major reasons boaters love pontoons is their functionality. Easily beached, pontoons make going camping or simply visiting and relaxing in a remote location hassle-free.
You can visit small islands or the peaceful faraway shores of a lake or even an ocean with ease. Not everyone loves the idea of beaching, especially not the owner of a shiny new pontoon who doesn't want to burnish the 'toons just yet.
Some of us prefer to wait a season or year (or two) before giving in and doing the unspeakable.
Easy to disembark
When you have a lot of gear, grills, beach chairs and umbrellas to carry to shore, beaching is a great move. It's nice to know that you don't have to partially swim with a heavy cooler to get there.
I recommend investing in a sturdy under-mount ramp like this one offered by Extreme Max (check price on Amazon).
Having a ramp you can pull out makes beaching and disembarking even easier.
No gel coats
Other boats tend to have a shiny gel coat on their hull to help add speed to the boat's performance. With pontoons, you typically only have to worry about galvanized metals, unlike fiberglass materials.
Handles sand and rocks
A pontoon log's draft is nothing compared to that of a v-hull, and there's not too much to worry about when it comes to rougher woodsy banks.
Still, larger rocks can cause dents and breaks if you're not careful while beaching. Patching a pontoon can be an expensive repair.
Make certain you know the area first. You can even wade knee-deep around it to get a feel for your pontoon's parking space just to be sure.
1. Approach slowly
Approach the bank with caution. There could be enormous floating logs - crocodiles as my family calls them - or sandbars beneath the waters. You could run aground before you even attempt to beach your pontoon.
2. Make a clear path
Be absolutely certain your path is clear and there are no swimmers in the water. This goes double for snorkelers. Kids love to play diving games, fetching coins and catching fish. If a child is unseen beneath the waters, it could end in an emergency. No one should be nearby while the motor is running.
3. Reduce your draft
As you enter shallow waters, you'll need to trim the engine up a bit. Trim it up until your pontoon prop takes in air.
Then drop the prop and trim back down again about three inches. The three inches simply allow the engine some movement in case you run aground.
After this point, the engine should be turned completely off and you'll drift the rest of the way.
Another reason you want to reduce your draft is so the engine doesn't suck up any mud or sand. That could really ruin your day or be an extremely costly repair.
It also helps to ask passengers to meander toward the back of the pontoon boat while you're drifting towards the shore, moving weight off the front of the boat.
4. Pull closer manually
Next, you'll need to physically and manually pull the pontoon the rest of the way, closer to shore. You can do it yourself, but if you have a buddy or family member who can jump off the pontoon foredeck to lend a hand, I suggest teamwork instead.
When you step off the foredeck, you should be able to touch ground beneath the water. If not, you can still pull in by swimming, but it helps to have some firm footing to brace yourself.
5. Set an anchor
Even if you don't find yourself in rougher waters and tides, I still suggest setting an anchor to keep yourself straight. Wakes from other boaters or strong gusts of wind can sway you into a fellow boater's vessel.
Check Price on Amazon - Better Boat's anchor line securely holds a boat or jet ski in place while you have fun in the sun. Reflective rope is woven in to make it visible at night and in low light. Made of marine-grade double-braided nylon, it's strong, durable and abrasion-resistant.
What you can do is secure a line to a tree on land if available or bury a mushroom anchor beneath the sand. Whatever you do, make sure it's a taut line.
Check Price on Amazon - Better Boat's sand anchor spike is made of hot-dipped galvanized steel and is easy to transport. It's perfect for use in shallow water or sandbars.
Alternatively, you could secure the main anchor off the pontoon's stern.
In fact, there are several double-anchoring methods you can use for beaching near land:
- Line ashore: One anchor is off the pontoon foredeck (using shore spike or tree) and one is off the stern.
- V-shaped: Two anchors or lines are off the foredeck using a combination of shore spikes or tree limbs to attach, making a v-shape with an approximately 50-degree angle. This is a common anchoring method and one I use all the time in very busy coves.
Learn more about the best pontoon anchors here.
6. Add fenders if necessary
Sometimes you just want to spend a day visiting your boating friends and neighbors on the communal island. If your island is anything like my island, it gets overcrowded real quick on a nice summer day. When this happens, boats squeeze in tight like sardines. If it gets overcrowded, toss and clip a few fenders over your square rails to feel at ease.
It's important to choose the correct pontoon fenders or you could find yourself having to constantly readjust along the pontoon's side, or worse, find yourself standing between them to prevent a game of bumper boats. Not as fun as it sounds and very dangerous!
Check out Taylor Made, which offers some specialized pontoon fenders (check price on Amazon) and even clips to fit pontoon square rails (check price on Amazon).
Time to Go! Unbeaching a Pontoon Boat
Have passengers use the foredeck pontoon gate to disembark. If you like to keep you pontoon sand-free and minimize how much you have to clean carpet or sweep vinyl, ask passengers to board using the pontoon's ladder off the stern. This will give any sandy feet a wash before embarking.
When the time comes to "unbeach," ask passengers to stay seated near the back to move weight off the foredeck. With someone on shore, push the pontoon foredeck. Open the gate if you lack a longer foredeck. Jump back onboard when you've drifted off the beach.
You can rinse your feet or do whatever you need to do from there. Lastly, trim the motor back down, reverse and head back out on the water.
A Few Extra Beaching Tips for Tooners
You never know where you're pulling up. Below the water could be sharp sticks, rocks and even broken beer bottles. I can't stress it enough, but wear water shoes, especially when you're somewhere unfamiliar. You don't want to have to go to the hospital with a cut foot.
Water shoes are a particularly handy item to have while boating anyway, since the right pair offers great traction, can function in a wider variety of terrains and dries quickly.
Apart from wandering around barefoot, another dangerous thing I've noticed boaters do is pull into a beach area while still towing. This is a very dangerous thing to do. The rope can get tangled in the prop, or worse, pull someone closer into it.
If the Idea of Beaching Puts a Bad Taste in Your Mouth
As I mentioned earlier, when you're a new pontoon owner you want to protect it as much as you can. So, if you truly hate the idea of beaching your pontoon, most of these steps can still be used the next time you approach shore. Just follow all the steps here without actually bringing your 'toon onto land.
Sometimes, it works out better to avoid beaching on the shore. I personally like having a little extra space in front of the pontoon for a game of volleyball or just an open area to swim. Beaching your pontoon is really a personal preference.
Maybe it's not something you intend to do all the time, maybe only on special occasions. But at some point, I hope these steps and tips will come in handy. Finally, my family would say watch out for those log gators!