Photo courtesy of Avalon Pontoon Boats

Living the Lake Life on the Water

WRITTEN BY CARA LANZ

AFFECTIONATELY CALLED “FLOATING LIVING ROOMS,” pontoons might give your actual living room a run for its money. Unless your living room can pull a wakeboarder, hit top speeds exceeding 50 mph, and offer flexible seating for sunbathers, anglers, and shoreline gawkers alike. 

The slow cruisers of yesteryear had many things going for them: stability, ample seating, and ease of driving. And we were fine with that. Nobody expected speed, nimble handling, and luxury finishes—until now. 

Today, boaters are trading in their fishing boats and runabouts for the one-trick pony that is the pontoon, perfect to spend a full day of family fun on the lake, fish, do water sports, or all three. Never before have there been more options available to suit the needs of everyone. 

Photo courtesy of Manitou Pontoon Boats

Turning the tides

“Pontoons are one of the fastest growing segments in the boating industry,” said Mike Achterkirch, General Manager of Minnesota Inboard Water Sports in Baxter, Minnesota, a sentiment echoed in Boating Industry magazine. “Pontoons remain a key driver for the marine industry, and that’s going to continue in 2019. They just keep getting better and have truly become a crossover boat.” 

Achterkirch attributes the trend to how pontoons have changed over time. “A pontoon boat used to consist of a chain-link fence and some folding chairs. Now it’s not uncommon for a pontoon boat to cost over $100,000, with very luxurious finishes,” he says. “And the upgrade from two to three pontoons, or a tri-toon, is substantial, offering performance, stability, and improved smoothness of ride.” 

Brian Halvorson, owner of Brainerd Sports & Marine, agrees. “Sport ‘toons and triple ‘toons allow people to do water sports and they handle and ride better than any style out there—with more layouts and options available than ever before.” Some of the more popular features include side-by-side captain chairs, leather-like upholstery, and power Biminis. And vinyl flooring is a standard option now, making moldy carpet a thing of the past. 

“Pontoons appeal to a whole new segment of families. They can still take a sunset cruise, but they can also pull water skiers, tubes, and wakeboarders,” Achterkirch says. “The pontoon boat is putting a serious challenge to the runabout industry.” But he is quick to add that while much has changed, one thing remains the same: pontoons have always been—and continue to be—a family boat. 

Photo courtesy of Premier Pontoons

Day tripping

Family (and friend) time on the pontoon is what it’s all about, no matter who you ask. 

“Sunken Island on Crosslake is a huge meet-up place where everyone parks, and you hang out. When you have your floating living room and all your snacks, you have everything you need,” Julie Achterkirch says. “And the fact that our adult children still want to come up and hang out with their parents on the boat puts a smile on my face.” 

Nauti Steps: “Keep the Sand on the Land”
If you’re tired of your boat being a sandy mess all the time, Nauti Steps might be for you. This portable step with a built-in water basin is the brainchild of Mandi and Tom Hinson of Breezy Point. They got the idea when they noticed their children were struggling to get on the pontoon—and when they did, their feet were covered in sand. Some boaters they saw used a step-stool, while others had a plastic tub for a foot wash. They thought, “Why isn’t there something that does both?” And Nauti Steps evolved.
Invented, designed, and manufactured in Minnesota, Nauti Steps legs anchor into the sand while the water basin offers a rinse before stepping aboard. Great for kids, pets, and those needing an easier step, Nauti Steps can be used on pontoons, hot tubs, pools, docks, RVs—or anywhere you don’t want unwanted dirt and sand. Nauti Steps can be picked up in Breezy Point by emailing nautisteps@outlook.com, at marine dealers in the Brainerd lakes area or online at nautisteps.com.

“A typical Saturday for us is to get to Gooseberry Island on Pelican Lake around 10 a.m. and leave around 6 p.m. The kids swim and play in the sand while the adults listen to music, chat, play water games, and soak up the sun,” Mandi Hinson says, of her family of four. “We pull the kids on the tube, or go to Breezy Point Resort for pizza and watch Elvis perform on Saturday nights.”

Erin John and her family enjoy Pelican Lake for the sandy shores and sand bars and the Whitefish Chain for exploring islands. One of her favorite things to do is take in the Crosslake 4th of July fireworks. “You can pack in your friends and your children’s friends and enjoy making the same memory together on the pontoon.” 

She adds, with a smile, “Life is about the memories you make and owning a pontoon boat allows us to create memories like this.”

Photo courtesy of Misty Harbor Boats
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