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A Beginner's Guide to Pontooning

A Beginner's Guide to Pontooning

Discovering the joys of pontooning can lead to some of the most memorable outdoor experiences for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Unlike the thrill-seeking adventures of speedboats, pontoons offer a serene and leisurely way to enjoy the water, perfect for fishing, cruising, or simply soaking up the sun. 

If you're new to this relaxing pastime, this comprehensive guide from the makers of autobimini will walk you through every step, from choosing your first pontoon to navigating the waters safely and responsibly.

Choosing the Right Pontoon

Selecting the perfect pontoon is the first step to your waterborne happiness. You'll need to consider several factors, including the following.

Pontoon Size & Capacity

Pontoons come in various sizes, typically ranging from 16 feet to over 30 feet. The right size for you depends on how many people you plan to have on board and what you'll be using your pontoon for. 

A general rule is to ensure there's at least an 18-inch freeboard, the distance from the waterline to the deck, for safety.

Motor Type

Your pontoon's motor type will largely depend on your intended use. Outboard motors are popular for their maneuverability, while inboard motors offer more power and often better fuel economy. 

Many pontoons are also compatible with jet and electric motors for more specialized needs.

Additional Features

Consider what additional features are important to you. Features such as an automatic bimini top for shade, onboard toilet facilities, and a sound system can vastly improve your boating experience.

These features aren’t always included in your pontoon but can be added at any time to make your pontooning even more enjoyable! 

Safety First

Safe boating is no joke. Familiarize yourself with the following safety tips before your first outing: 

  • Life Jacket Use: Every passenger on board, even the best swimmers, should wear a properly fitted life jacket at all times. Ensure you have enough jackets for every possible passenger.

  • Know Your Boat's Capacity: Exceeding the weight or seating capacity of your pontoon can lead to instability and, in extreme cases, capsize. Review the capacity, and don't overload your boat.

  • Weather Awareness: Before you set out, check the weather forecast. Avoid boating in rough conditions, and be prepared to head ashore at the first sign of a storm.

Launching, Anchoring, & Docking a Pontoon

Launching your pontoon properly is a crucial skill!

Here's a step-by-step guide to get you on the water:

  1. Pre-launch checklist: Make sure your pontoon is properly fueled, all electronics are functioning, and all onboard safety equipment is readily accessible.

  2. Back your trailered pontoon into the water slowly until the boat is floating free. 

  3. Unhook the boat, and pull the trailer away from the ramp to leave space for others.


Choose a suitable spot clear of other boats and swimmers. Lower your anchor slowly to the bottom. If you're in a river or with a strong current, this may take some time.

Docking Safely

Be patient and aware of your surroundings. Slow down as you approach the dock, and use your boat's fenders to prevent damage to both your pontoon and the dock.

Learn to tie off securely without damaging the environment or other vessels.

Pontoon Navigation Basics

Pontoon boats are less agile than some other types, so it's important to understand the basic rules of the sea.

  • Reading Buoys: Buoys and markers are your guideposts on the water. Learn what they mean, and use them to avoid hazards and stay in safe channels.

  • Speed Limits: Different bodies of water have various speed limits, so be aware of these and adjust your speed accordingly.

  • Reading Waterways: Recognize shallow areas and submerged objects by learning to read the water, as well as how to use nautical maps to plan your journeys.

Tips for Enjoying Your Day On a Pontoon

Now that you're on the water, it's time to enjoy yourself! To help make the most of every time you hit the water, it’s best to know where you're going ahead of time and tell someone on shore your plans and expected return time. Plan for rest stops if you'll be out all day.

Along with your safety gear, don't forget sun protection, plenty of water, and perhaps some snacks or a picnic lunch. Also, consider bringing a portable cooler for drinks and perishables.

Take the opportunity to fully relax and enjoy the scenery of the open water. Whether you're fishing, swimming off the pontoon, or simply soaking up the sun's rays, make sure to plan plenty of time to unwind. That’s why you got the pontoon in the first place, right? 

Pontoon Maintenance & Storage

Your pontoon, like any vessel, requires maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape. When you’re regularly using your pontoon, you should regularly check your boat for any damage or loose parts.

Keep the deck clean to prevent slipping accidents, and flush and rinse your motor after each use to prevent salt or algae buildup. 

Also, take the time to rinse your autobimini canvas top occasionally to keep mildew and mold from growing inside crevices. 

Some lakes and waterways have specific rules to help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species, so also check with local regulations before you take your pontoon to different locations. 

Off-Season Storage

When the boating season comes to a close, you'll need to properly winterize and store your pontoon. This may include changing the oil and antifreeze, removing the batteries, covering your boat to protect it from the elements, or storing it in a climate-controlled facility.

Enjoy Your New Pontoon More With autombimini

Pontooning is a fantastic way to bond with family and friends on the water, and with the right features, it can be one of the most memorable and anticipated events of the summer! 

For instant shade and lavish boating comfort, install autobimini. The extra wide canvas top provides exceptional sun and rain protection, and the smart controller with PWM allows for smooth operation every time you need to move your bimini top up or down. 

While we don’t make your pontoon, we do make your pontoon even more enjoyable! Order online and install your own autobimini or autobimini lite or locate the nearest dealer who can install one for you. 

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