February 06, 2024
With 95,471 miles of shoreline in the U.S., not to mention more than 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways and more than 125,000 lakes in the Lower 48, it probably goes without saying that America is a land of recreational boating enthusiasts who enjoy what they do out on the water.
The ownership numbers back up that claim, with the National Safe Boating Council indicating that there were more than 11.77 million recreational vessels registered by U.S. states in 2022, a 1.6-percent increase from the previous year. Those boat registration numbers can vary from year to year and have been as high as 15.8 million back in 2016 according to another report.
Where does most boat ownership occur? According to information gleaned from the NSBC and other marine and boating organizations, that data shows that as one might expect, the Great Lakes, the Southeastern U.S. and the Gulf Coast were top regions for recreational boating usage nationwide with the top states for boating having plenty of blue on the map in spots like Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, California and Wisconsin to name a few.
Certainly, many of those recreational vessels that are registered—and keep in mind that there are a few million that aren’t registered according to various reports—are comprised of mechanically driven crafts that range from aluminum jon boats to bass boats to ski rigs to cruisers and even ocean-going yachts. That figure also includes pontoon boats, and when it comes to those numbers, it might surprise you to find out how many such boats are on the water.
According to a Water Sports Foundation snapshot of the U.S. pontoon boat market in 2019, there were more than 1.14 million mechanically propelled pontoon rigs in the U.S. ranging from 14 to 36 feet in length, and there were some 57,200+ new purchases of pontoon craft that same year.
Such numbers might surprise some, but they don’t surprise Jens Housley, the global product strategy manager for Manitou Pontoon Boats, a man who grew up with pontoon rigs as a part of his outdoors lifestyle and a man who continues to see pontoon boats play a significant role in his family life as well as in his career path.
In other words, with the boat-owning public backing this idea up with their ownership trends and purchases, pontoon boating rocks and then some. Housley concurs that idea and offers a few possible reasons why.
The first reason in his mind is that pontoon boats are able to fill several roles on the water for owners, in essence being a Swiss Army Knife in the boating world as a single product that can do several things at once.
“Yeah, I really love the versatility of these boats,” said Housley, who grew up in the Great Lakes region spending ample time on a pontoon boat navigating inland water bodies.
Housley, a 37-year-old husband and father of two young children, is a Wisconsin resident who understands the versatility that pontoon boats can provide, often in a single outing. And that’s one of many reasons he remains a big fan of the rigs to this day.
“You can fish in the morning, then pick the family up after breakfast, and spend the day doing water sports and swimming and stuff,” he said. “Then you can drop the kids off later in the afternoon and take a sunset cruise around the lake in the evening and just really, have an enjoyable day doing many things without ever leaving the same boat.”
2. Comfort & Stability
A second reason that pontoon boats rock in Housley’s mind is that they aren’t just versatile, they are also comfortable if you get the right rig. That comfort includes spacious floor designs, well-thought-out amenities and even things like the V-toon tri-hull design that Manitou incorporates, a design feature that gives an already stable platform even more stability as well as comfortably cutting through the chop.
And once you reach your aquatic destination, well, you might want to take a nap because that’s how comfortable a Manitou pontoon rig can be.
“If you’re launching one of these boats in 2024, it’s kind of like having a floating living room now,” chuckled Housley. “With a Manitou Pontoon Boat’s spacious designs and floor plans, you’ve got the space to do whatever you want to do and it’s a great way to relax.”
Usable space and riding comfort are a big part of the Manitou Pontoon Boat experience, with a wide variety of creature comforts found in the company’s lineup ranging from the Cruise model to the Explore and Explore Dual Engine models to the sporty LX model. There’s also the Manitou Luxury XT model, a pontoon boat that pretty much has everything that a consumer might want.
3. Unlimited Boating Potential
Another reason that Housley is big into pontoon boats in general, and Manitou Pontoon Boats specifically, is that they can go just about anywhere. While every boat has limitations, for the most part, pontoon boats can be safely used in most waterways and water bodies as long as you keep an eye on the weather and go out when conditions are favorable.
“You can use them almost anywhere,” agreed Housley. “That can be a lake in Texas or Wisconsin, the bays and estuaries around the Gulf of Mexico, and even a river or something really big like Lake Michigan.”
For many, pontoon boats are tailor-made for an inland reservoir, particularly on a hot summer day. For others, rivers are commonplace where pontoon rigs are utilized, streams like the Suwannee River in Florida or perhaps the Tennessee River as it winds its way in serpentine fashion through the southern TVA lake country in states like Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.
“Rivers are actually a fairly common place to be utilizing our pontoons,” said Housley. “Our V-toon tri-hull design allows for close-quarter maneuvering, and with the joystick piloting system, you can even do a 360-degree spin and conduct close-quarter maneuvers that are often the case in a river setting.”
Housley does caution that while a Manitou Pontoon Boat can go just about anywhere, boaters should still be aware of where they are on any given water body and what they are asking their boat to do there, both for passenger safety reasons and to avoid damage to the boat’s skeg, prop or hulls that are lying below the water’s surface.
“You have to be conscious of where you’re at, whether that’s in really shallow water or out in deep water where a good chop can develop,” said Housley. “We don’t publish draft numbers about how shallow you can go with our boats because that can depend on a variety of things (layout, number of people, load weight, etc.). But in general, you’re not going to have any problems in water as shallow as a couple of feet or something a whole lot deeper.
4. Trailering & Storage
A fourth reason for the popularity of pontoon crafts like those made by Manitou is that they are pretty easy to trailer and transport, more so than some might think.
“I may be a little biased, but I think they are relatively simple to move around,” said Housley. “While many of our users have their rigs at a dock or marina slip most of the year, you can easily take them out of the water for winter storage, for maintenance, or even to put in at a different water body if you want to try some different lakes. If you can trailer a regular boat, then you can trailer out pontoons too.”
5. Accessories & Customization
A fifth reason that pontoon boats rock is that you can accessorize them as much or little as you want, with accessorizing being a particular strength of Manitou Pontoon Boats.
“We think we have a big competition advantage here with our LinQ system that offers a wide variety of easy-to-install accessories," said Housley. "From the back of the spacious Max Deck over the Rotax S engine and all the way to the front of the boat, there's numerous accessory options available to do just about anything you want to do.”
6. Easy Operation & Maintenance
A sixth and final reason that pontoon boating rocks is that they offer a clear and easy path into the boating world, as well as an easy path to keeping that rig going for years to come with simple and easy operation and maintenance steps.
“Getting into boating can be a daunting task indeed because there’s a lot that goes into it,” noted Housley. “Simply buying the boat can be challenging enough, but we do all we can to help steer consumers in the right direction.
Once you’ve signed for the rig, there’s also making sure that the boat can be easily utilized on the water and maintained in its downtime. And Housley feels that his company excels in both of those areas too.
“We think that our boats are easy to operate and its simple to maintain these vessels,” he said. “There might be a little bit of pontoon boat maintenance, from sometimes cleaning the interior to sometimes cleaning the tubes and to giving the Rotax S engine an annual inspection. But there’s no scheduled maintenance until you’re five years into your pontoon boating experience and there’s virtually no maintenance even then because we offer such a unique engine. Maintenance needs are low for sure.”
But what’s not low is the simple pleasure that the pontoon boating experience brings to a waterbody near you. And because of that and all of the reasons noted above, pontoon boating certainly rocks, especially if you’re in a Manitou Pontoon Boat as you back out, throttle up, and head down the lake.
And when you’re smoothly cruising about with the people you love and enjoy the most, that’s when pontoon boating really rocks, especially when you’re aboard a Manitou Pontoon Boat as the cares of the day fade away in the waning sunlight!