The Fun Never Stops
Credit goes to the manufacturers who recognized that many families want a boat that is easy to maintain, stable, safe, and carries all their friends, family, and gear in relaxed comfort.
Ambrose Weeres is widely credited with inventing the pontoon boat. In 1952 he theorized that a platform fastened to two columns of steel drum barrels welded together would be more stable than conventional boats. With the help of a few dealers, the Weeres Pontoons became popular in the Richmond, Minnesota, and the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” area where Weeres owned a mill.
At nearly the same time, brothers Ernie and Pete Harris in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had been seeing people making rafts and boats out of 55-gallon barrels and aluminum drop tanks from airplanes. What they saw intrigued them, but they thought that they could do better. In 1957 the brothers started producing Harris FloteBotes with “fencing” and custom steel tubes. They also added a motor mounting bracket that allowed the motor to be raised and lowered.
Other pontoon boat companies sprang up at about the same time, Auqa Patio made by Freeland Co. in Sturgis, Michigan, was acquired by the Godfrey Conveyor Company in the mid ‘50s, and the owners of Kay Auto Parts Company started building Kay-Yacht pontoons changing their name to Kayot also in the mid ‘50s. In Owosso, Michigan, Maurice Schell began production on the first Crest Pontoon designed specifically for scuba diving in 1957, and reportedly the first to use multiple airtight compartments in the ‘60s for added safety.
Harris Pontoons had a significant impact on the pontoon industry by introducing built-in, upholstered bench seating In the '60s. It was an innovation that changed the perception of pontoon comfort.
In the late '80s, companies began experimenting with different ways to improve performance. Various combinations of lifting strakes and center pontoons (tri-toon design) created pontoon boats that handled better than traditional boats both in cornering and in choppy conditions. Many models of tritoons can exceed 60 miles per hour on open water and are excellent boats for tow-sports.
Today there are a wide variety of pontoon boats from simple day boats to luxurious cruising machines complete with head, shower, and entertainment bars. ”Pontoons are enjoying immense popularity right now because these boats are literally like taking the comforts of your living room on the water,” explained Mark Breton, MarineMax Pensacola Store Manager. “And frankly, many pontoon models outperform traditional sport boats and can be set up for fishing, water skiing, wake boarding, cruising, with floor plans that can include kitchens, bars and sport towers. They are the best boats for what people love to do on their boats. Having a blast!”