One of the most popular recreational boats in the world is the pontoon boat. After all, they’re also known as ‘party barges.’ Pontoon boats are land on water, with a large central platform, L-couches, room for grills and kayak racks, and some can even pull skiers.
To sink a pontoon boat would take quite a bit of negligence as these boats are not designed to go down easily. The “toons” on the bottom of the boat hold several air chambers, each separate from the next, so a puncture in one of the toons is nowhere near enough to sink the whole craft.
Pontoon boats are popular because they aren’t incredibly expensive, at least not on the same level as traditional watercraft of the same length. There is a lot that goes into a pontoon with almost all of the manufacturer’s design choices predicated on having fun.
Can a Pontoon Boat Sink
There are only two factors that have the potential to sink a pontoon, except for just blowing the thing up on your own—overloading it and getting caught in a vicious storm. Both of these instances are easily avoidable, so there would have to be a large degree of negligence involved.
The two canoe-looking objects that the pontoon platform rests on are known as “toons.” Hence the name, “pontoon” boat. Each toon is filled with several air chambers, each one sealed off from the next.
For instance, if there are ten air chambers in a single toon and you run the pontoon boat into a tree, you might puncture one or two of them. The remaining eight or nine would be more than enough to keep the pontoon afloat.
The most you would notice is a slight list to port or starboard, depending on which side was damaged. These toons are constructed with thick sheets of aluminum, and it would take a heavy impact to crumple or puncture them.
What can Sink a Pontoon Boat
Overloading the boat
This is the most common problem in a very rare scenario. Pontoon boats are designed like most other boats in terms of how much weight they can safely carry. Most pontoons can handle between eight and ten people while larger pontoons can handle even more.
For the most part, overloading the pontoon is going to be a very noticeable problem before you ever leave the dock. When there is enough weight to press the pontoon’s deck below the water, the craft will go down quickly.
A SunTracker Party Barge is capable of holding up to ten people, though there will be a listed weight capacity on the vessel. You should always be careful when loading up a pontoon you know there will be a lot of people.
Pontoons are for parties, not for tackling wild and unpredictable waves and weather. Pontoons have a shallow draft and they just aren’t designed for heavy waves and bad weather. Heavy rain with no wind is just fine. But if the waves kick up, you could be in trouble.
All it really takes for a pontoon to go down is to get the deck to slip underwater. Once that happens, it quickly exceeds its weight capacity and will either go down quickly or it won’t be able to recover, with a portion of the craft still floating and another underwater.
What are they made of
The part of pontoon boats above the toons are made of fiberglass and plastics, with metal rails and fiberglass or plywood decking. The toons, as we mentioned above, are made out of lightweight aluminum.
The combination of dual toons manufactured in lightweight aluminum and the limited amount of fiberglass makes pontoon boats much lighter than they look. That’s also why they have such a shallow draft in the water.
The deck support structure that sits on top of the toons and supports the deck is also welded marine-grade aluminum. The plywood or fiberglass decks are often covered in vinyl, with the top overlaid with carpet.
Can they flip over
This is one of the scariest aspects of a pontoon boat, although flipping over won’t make it sink. The design of the pontoon boat creates a unique wind tunnel between the deck and the surface of the water.
Though the deck is wide and heavy, it’s only sitting on the two toons. There’s a large gap between the toons and the bottom of the deck to the water. If the wind is kicking really hard (to a point where you shouldn’t be out on the water anymore), the wind can get beneath the pontoon and lift it out of the water.
That’s not to say that it’s common. A pontoon deck is heavy enough to thwart the wind on a standard, windy day. But tropical depressions, tropical storms, hurricanes, and even severe thunderstorms are enough to lift a pontoon if caught at the right angle.
Pontoon boats can sink, however, they aren’t as prone to sinking as some might assume, based on their design. These are lightweight crafts, despite their bulk and size, and it creates a shallow draft.
The shallow draft makes heavy waves something to avoid at all costs. Even catching the wake from a smaller bass boat passing by is enough to knock over standing glasses and bottles onboard a pontoon boat.
The greatest danger comes from overcrowding, and you should always pay attention to the weight allowance of the vessel and the number of people coming aboard.