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From the SIERRA Experts

Deck and Pontoon Boats Deliver Performance and Family Fun

A pontoon boat full of passengers moving across a lake

When it comes to the ability to carry the entire family and all the food, drinks, water toys, fishing tackle, and other gear you need for a day of fun on the water, it’s hard to top a pontoon boat. They are often referred to as party barges, patio boats, floating living rooms, and other nicknames that indicate what they are all about — enjoying time with friends and family.

While deck boats have made serious strides over recent years in performance and the ability to pull tubers and water skiers, nobody will confuse a pontoon with a speed boat. Pontoon boats typically have a rectangular shape, high rails, and full shade cover. And because they ride on two (or sometimes three) metal tubes, or sponsons, they tend to steer and handle like they are on rails.   

Boaters are generally used to a ride that leans into turns like a motorcycle. But, when making a hard turn on a pontoon boat, your body gets pushed to the outside, much like it does when cornering in a car. Lastly, pontoon boats are not known for their ability to handle serious chop, making them primarily limited to use on lakes, rivers, and sheltered bays. 



What is a deck boat?

There is another class of vessel, however, that offers many of the same deck-space advantages of pontoon boats with a more traditional fiberglass hull — the Deck Boat. There are a wide variety of types and sizes in the deck category, but most share some common traits. With options available from about 18 feet to nearly 30 feet in length, boaters can find a deck boat that suits their family size, needs, and budget.

Depending on your personal boating experiences, you might classify deck boats in a few different ways. For some, they seem like family bowriders on steroids, providing the same type of performance and amenities with added space and carrying capacity. To others, these boats may seem like the spacious deck of a pontoon matched with the handling, ride, and performance of a fiberglass watersports boat.  

Whatever personal experiences and preferences you bring to the equation, Deck boats can provide the best of both worlds for families looking to broaden their boating horizons and optimize their time on the water.   

Deck Boats provide storage and comfort

As the name implies, deck boats are known for providing a lot of deck space, along with plenty of lounge-type seating, lots of storage, and room for passengers. The fiberglass hull is designed with a fairly sharp entry to cut through the waves and plenty of flare at the top to maximize deck space. While deck boats are generally wider and lower at the bow than typical fish & skis and bowriders, they lack the rectangular shape of pontoons. The compromise delivers more space forward but with a look that is pleasing to the eye.  

When it comes to layout, there are a lot of similarities between deck boats and pontoons. A side console and outboard power allow passengers to use almost every square inch of deck space. Lounge-style, wraparound seating abounds, leaving room in the center for underdeck storage, coolers, gear, water toys, and pedestal-style tables that are ideal for that family picnic or evening booze cruise.  

While most deck boats utilize fiberglass hulls, it’s worth noting there are a variety of aluminum hulled models that are also well appointed and help boaters with lower budgets get into the boat of their dreams.  

Advantages of Deck Boats vs. Pontoon Boats

Whether glass or metal, this style of boat offers a range of performance and ride advantages over pontoon craft. These hulls are designed to get up on plane and provide the hole shot and performance needed to pull tubers, wakeboarders, and skiers. They provide excellent top speed like traditional bowriders and watersports boats and handle turns in a way most boaters are comfortable with. Although deck boats are not designed to run far offshore in open waters, they are much better at handling boat wakes and heavy chop on your favorite lake. In the right conditions, they are capable of safely exploring coastal waters.

Depending on the model and trim level, many deck boats may provide amenities like aluminum arches for mounting radar, speaker systems, wakeboard racks, and other accessories. Larger models can even come equipped with small gallies and head compartments, providing additional comforts of home and further extending your time on the water. 

With all the things one can do with a deck boat, it’s no surprise that this category continues to grow in popularity.

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