How To Learn To Drive A Pontoon Boat?

How To Learn To Drive A Pontoon Boat

Pontoon boats are said to be one of the most relaxing and yet the most leisurely ride. So using it for any water sports or fishing is the wisest choice. There is a saying that if you know how to drive a car, learning how to drive a pontoon boat would be a piece of cake because it’s way easier.

Also, if you are worried about the safety issues, informing you is our duty that photon boats rarely sink and are very safe to drive. Let me assure you that we’re here to guide you through your worries and help you learn to drive a pontoon boat through this article, so bear with us.

Leaving the Dock and Taking off

Down below is a list of some of the factors that you must keep in mind before you leave the dock. Continue reading to know more.

Safety Factors

To drive a pontoon boat, the first factor you must make sure is all the passengers are wearing life jackets. Safety comes first. It is also a law in most states that you cannot enter the water or the boat without a life jacket on.

There are specialized jackets meant for children for their appropriate age groups. Cushions are also provided on the ship, that you can throw in the water if there is a tragic occurrence happening. Better to be safe than sorry.

Now when our side secures the passengers’ lives, let’s work on the boat’s life. Checking the fuel tank of the boat is one of the most critical tasks as it’s going to make sure we have a safe journey. The fuel tank must be full, and there should be enough gas to complete the trip.

Next, you have to check if the radio system is working well, in case of emergencies we can use the radio to contact the boat rental crew for help. For additional safety measures, have your cellphone fully charged so that you could use it in case of sudden emergencies.

Starting the Engine

Any loose or heavy items left on the boat’s deck, such as fishing rods, water sports equipment, any extra life jackets, wakeboards or coolers. Make sure to tie them down with bungee cords or push them against the railing or lounger of the boat, to avoid any injuries. After we are done taking all the safety measures, now you are good to go to finally start your ride.

Start the engine and keep it idle for 1-5 minutes, pontoon boats need time to warm up. And warming up duration differs from boat to boat. So it’s better to ask the boat rental crew for the manufacturer’s directions.

Next step would be trimming the motor. It is to make sure the boat is not too deep in the water; instead, it sits in the right depth. The throttle should have a “trim” button. We want a gentle take off from the dock, for that, we must make sure that the switch is set at a higher number, so the motor is ideally in the water.

In case you want to be more careful, you could ask for the manufacturer’s directions. Remember never to leave the motor trimmed up that could damage the engine and also cause hazard while taking off. We have to make sure the motor is touching the water while we pull out of the dock.

Taking off from the Dock

We are now ready to take off, and for that, we would need a little help from one of the crew members on the dock. We have to kindly ask a crew member to untie the dock ropes, while your task is to put the throttle in reverse.

Before reversing make sure to have all your passengers seated and have their life jackets on. Now when you start to take off from the dock, you must handle the pontoon’s throttle smoothly.

Make sure not to use too much force. The outboard motor must touch the water while you reverse back the throttle. Also, it shouldn’t be trimmed up, that would end up damaging the engine.

Check behind to make sure there aren’t any obstacles like any boats or swimmers on the way. If you have a clear pathway, we have to slip out the ship by making little and controlled bursts on the throttle.

Now you have to start turning the steering wheel. It’s recommended to point the bow in the direction you are likely to travel. Also make sure to have your bow facing the wind, so that will let the boat have a smooth navigation.

As now you are in hold of your boat and are traveling into your respected direction, it’s time to shift into “forward” mode and push the throttle forward. If you are comfortable enough, you can gently increase the speed.

But do not go overboard with the rate, you don’t want to lose control and put yourself at risk. Having a comfortable enough speed is a wise decision.

Driving in Open Water

Here are some factors that you should be aware of before driving in the open waters. Read to know more.

Keeping the Motor Trimmed Downward

Now let’s look at the factors we need to learn after we are out of the dock and on the open water. When you are on the open horizon, it’s time to adjust the throttle into a downward position.

That will trim the engine downward, letting the motor be more in-depth into the water. Hence it will help keep the engine to stay into the water as you speed up.

One hand must always remain in the steering wheel while the other must remain on the throttle. This factor will help you keep a balance to maintain both the trim and the steer of your boat.

Look 30m Ahead of You at All Times

While driving, always makes sure to scan the surroundings for any hazards or obstacles on the way. Just like how when we drive a car, we tend to use the side and rear-view mirrors to check if nothings on our way, riding the pontoon boat is just the same.

The primarily recommended distance to look over is 30m which is 100feat ahead of you. It will help to ensure you not to hit any boats or swimmers or animals on the way. Before making any turns, make sure to double-check the surroundings. 

Maintain Balance

While you are moving in the water, make sure to maintain equal weights on all sides. Which means have people standing and sitting in both the front and back of the boat. This process will reduce the chances of risk of flood on the boat.

But it’s not just passengers, if you have heavy equipment or luggage with you, make sure to have them placed in an equal manner. When the boat is in idle state, balancing the weight is not much an issue.

Cruise at 4500 RPM and Plan Your Turns

Pontoon boats do not have brakes, so it’s all about maintaining the speed. These kind of ships aren’t prevalent for high rates.

They should be kept at 4500 RPM in open waters. To store your fuel, you can also sail at a lower speed of around 3000-3500 RPM. Turning a pontoon boat can be challenging; they need to be planned before making a move.

As if you take an unplanned sharp turn, the rears can fly into sideways, and passengers could get hurt. So plan out your steps and then gently make the turns with your comfortable speed.

Turn Boat Downwind at Medium Speed

Turning your boat while it’s windy can be tricky, always make sure to have your boat at medium speed while making the turns. Keeping it on low or high speed would cause the risk of boat sliding.

Also, it’s preferable if you position the bow of the boat downwind. Which is standing away from the direction of the wind. That will help you have a smooth turn in windy weather.

Warn Your Passengers While Making Sharp Turns

Sometimes driving a pontoon boat, you might need to make a sharp turn. While such cases, make sure to warn the passengers before making a sharp turn.

It can be dangerous, and passengers who are not cautious at those times might be injured. Yelling “Sharp turn coming on your way!” might be the right warning style.

Docking the Pontoon

While docking the pontoon there are several factors that you should be aware of, and out of those factors here is a list of the important ones.

Slow down When You See the Dock

You have survived the journey and made it to the final step of learning. Now you are coming back to the land again. We are about to learn how to park your boat back in the dock slip.

When you see the dock or the marina, shift your throttle and reduce the speed. There are speed limits on every dock, so make sure to maintain the speed rules while coming near the harbor. 

Accelerate Downwind and Shift to Neutral

Do not ever approach the dock at a higher speed. The danger hazard is high while doing that. Make sure to reduce your acceleration and shift to neutral before approaching the dock. You must have a slow, steady motion so that you have enough power to have your pontoon boat back into the slip.

Center of the Bow Must Point in the Middle of the Slip

Now we have to turn the wheel. So, the tip of the bow is looking at the middle of the dock. Have your mind focused and draw an imaginary line in an arc from the tip of the bow to the middle of the dock.

Make sure to have your boat into that imaginary line on yours at all times, if it drifts out on either side, gently move the steering wheel to keep it on the track instead.

Shift “forward” to Make a Turn

As you make the turn, you have to gently shift the throttle into “forward” so that you can easily park into the slip. Let momentum be your friend while doing the work here. Do not worry if this part doesn’t go the way you planned. It would be too much to ask for a first-timer. 

Shift “reverse” to Make Small Adjustments

Now we have to shift again to “reverse” to make sure of minor adjustments, we do that to get perfect parking.

Sometimes if you might end up parking slightly bent in the slip, all you have to do is shift into “reverse” and turn the wheel while making small adjustments.

And suppose you are at an angle, you have to use little reverse movements to centre yourself up. In case it’s windy, or you are running on current, you must adjust and balance the power appropriately as required.

Ask a Crew Member to Help Adjust the Ropes on the Dock

When you are ready and in a position to park your pontoon, ask one of your crew members to hop out of the boat, help grab and get hold of the ropes for you.

Instruct the crew member to drag the boat using the ropes until it’s on the straight position in the dock slip. Without further ado, let’s learn the last and final step. Now all you are left to do is tie the pontoon up on the dock.

For making sure you have safely tied the boat, you may use a bowline knot or a cheat hitch. They are said to be safer than regular ropes.


I hope this article will help you think you have already ridden a pontoon boat on your imaginations, just while reading it. Remember to take appropriate safety measures, keep your eyes and ears open that’s the first rule of being a good captain, obey and maintain the standards.

Just keep all of the instructions in mind, and you would be great at driving a pontoon boat in no time. And then, it’s time that you look through the top pontoon boat brands and choose your preferred one for a healing journey.

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