The biggest mistake that you can make when buying a new pontoon boat is not buying enough horsepower. Nobody ever regretted buying too many horses, but budget concerns can often limit that part of the equation.
Still, just because your boat may not have twin 300hp engines doesn’t mean it has to perform like a ferry. Here are a few things I’ve found to be helpful to speed up my pontoon boat.
#1. Use a Booster Ball for Pulling Skiers or Tubes
- Booster Ball Towing system designed to enhance the performance of one to four person towables
- System includes 4K Booster Ball and custom tow rope; overall tow length of 60 feet with Booster Ball
- Heavy gauge PVC bladder; heavy duty full nylon cover; reinforced tow system
- Patented speed safety valve for fast inflation and deflation
- Hybrid system reduces drag, absorbs shock, and improves fuel economy
Price: Under $100 | Performance Gain: High for Skiing and Tubing
This SportsStuff booster ball (Available on Amazon) is a large football-shaped inflatable that goes in the middle of the tow rope. Its job is simply to float the tow rope out of the water. I was really skeptical about the Booster Ball, but I found that on a boat that previously wasn’t quite fast enough to get a tuber outside the wake, suddenly the tubers were flying all over the place.
It works because the rope in the water is like an anchor for a tube or ski, that ever so slightly pulls the skier toward the center of the wake. By floating the line above the water, you get much better results. It does not increase the speed of the boat, but it gives the rider the freedom to roam like they were on a faster boat.
Overall, if your concern is skiing and tubing, the Booster Ball is the cheapest and simplest fix for your problem, in my experience.
#2. Trim Up the Engine
Price: Free | Performance Gains: Medium to High
Probably the simplest overall fix for a slow pontoon boat is trimming up the engine a bit. When driving WOT (wide open throttle) and feel like you’re just “plowing” through the water, or you’re getting too much splashing underneath the boat, the fix is to simply trim up the engine.
Trimming the engine up means the engine is physically tilted to a higher angle using the hydraulic motor on the boat. Doing this will bring the front of the boat a bit out of the water and improve the performance of the boat.
#3. Ski or Tube in Groups
Price: Free | Performance Gains: Medium to High
If ya really wanna get the ultimate ride, it’ll be tough when your boat’s loaded down with 10-12 passengers. Depending on your friends, that could be as much as 2,000 extra pounds of weight your boat’s holding!
When we really want better performance, sometimes we set up a picnic on the beach with camping chairs and a volleyball net and we take people out in groups of 3 or 4.
#4. Get Lifting Strakes
Price: Around $2,000 | Performance Gains: Medium
Lifting strakes are a little bulge of metal that goes on the bottom and sides of the pontoon. Its job is to help the boat get up on a plane instead of plowing through the water.
I have heard of people getting lifting strakes installed on an existing ‘toon, but it’s usually something you just get with the new boat.
#5. Don’t Fill the Gas Tank (At Least Not All the Way!)
Price: Free | Performance Gains: Slight
Gas weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so a 25-gallon gas tank like on my ‘toon would add an additional 200 pounds. (It’s equivalent to an extra passenger.)
With the newer fuel-efficient, lighter Yamaha 115hp engine on my boat, I find the tank can last me 2 or 3 days of boating on a camping trip, so I rarely fill the tank up past half. This gives me just a little better performance by reducing the weight.
#6. Add a Third Pontoon (Tritoon)
Price: Around $4,000 | Performance Gains: High
The tritoon is fast becoming a standard in the pontoon world. Having a third log on the ‘toon makes the boat more agile, able to handle more passengers and moves faster!
The cost of adding a third pontoon starts at $4,000, so you may find it’s a better deal to just sell your pontoon and buy one with the third log already on.
#7. Distribute Weight Better
Weight in the back always speeds up a pontoon because it keeps the front of the toons from “plowing”.
#8. Get a Higher HP Engine
Going from a 90hp to 115hp gains about 3mph, and cost is only about $1,000 more if you’re buying a new one anyway.
#9. Add Underskinning
Price: Around $500 | Performance Gains: Minimal
Underskinning means adding sheets of metal underneath your deck so that water splashing up will hit the metal rather than the metal studs that support the deck. Your boat may or may not have come with this done.
It’s a fairly simple process to take your boat into a metal shop and have this done for about $500. Will it speed up your boat? Not much or maybe none at all, but a lot of boaters like it and claim that you may get 1 or 2 mph better speeds with this done.
Either way, you’ll have a smoother ride because the splashing won’t vibrate under the deck, and your boat’s deck will last much longer.
#10. Ski Downwind
Price: Nuthin’ | Performance Gains: Minimal
If you just need a little extra boost when out skiing, remember you can go 1-3mph faster just by turning the boat to head downwind. Take the riders facing downwind all day, and then have a nice cruise back to the dock when you’re finished.
#11. Get a Raised Mounted Ski Harness
Price: $700 to $1500 | Performance Gains: Medium
Getting a raised ski harness can dramatically improve the performance of the skiing experience even if it technically doesn’t increase the speed of the actual boat. It works similar to the much less expensive booster that I mentioned in #1, which is a much more economical option for this.
Whether you’re seeking maximum power for throwing about tube riders or efficiency to cut fuel costs, use these 11 tips to kick your pontoon boat into higher gear. Happy boating!