how hard is it to drive a pontoon boat

How Hard is it to Drive a Pontoon Boat? [Is it Easy or Difficult]

Whether you’re looking to buy a pontoon boat of your own, or if you’re thinking about going on vacation where pontoon boat rentals abound, one of your biggest concerns might be the difficulty of driving one. But is it really as hard as it seems?

With so many people getting into pontoon boating, and with accidents being so few, you might find yourself thinking it’s probably something you could do. So exactly how hard is it to drive a pontoon boat? Here’s everything you need to know.

How Hard Is It to Drive a Pontoon Boat for the First Time?

Is it easy to drive a pontoon boat? Well, the short answer is it’s really not that hard -- even for a first timer. In general, driving a boat bears a lot of similarities with driving a car, so you might be able to figure things out with just the driving knowledge you already have.

However, that’s not to say that it’s completely void of any challenges. If anything, the hardest part of driving a pontoon boat would be estimating when to turn, when to stop, and when to keep going.

Unlike cars that move instantly with the turn of the wheel or when you press on the gas, pontoon boats operate on water which produces a slight delay of movement when you tweak the controls. So with all of your movements delayed by a second or two, there’s going to be a lot of estimation involved.

Tips for First Time Pontoon Boat Drivers

You might feel apprehensive driving a pontoon boat for the first time. But with pontoon boat rental services allowing absolute rookies to rent out their boats, it’s clear to see that it’s really not going to be that hard.

Nonetheless, if you need a few pointers to bolster your confidence, take note of these tips:

Take it Slow

Marine traffic isn’t like road traffic that follows a linear direction. Boats don’t have to wait behind you to move ahead. So don’t feel like you need to rush for anyone. Go at a slow, leisurely pace so you can fully understand what the instruments are for, and so you can get a feel of how the boat moves under your control.

Shift into Reverse

If you feel like you’re going too fast and that you might bump into an object or another vessel before you can slow down, shift the boat into reverse. This will stop you from moving forward all together and should buy you some time before the collision.

Check out our guide on: Who is responsible for avoiding a collision between two boats.

Don't Go Into Shallow Water

There are a ton of hidden hazards that could be hiding just beneath the surface of shallow waters. Try to stick to deeper areas first, and only explore shallower waters when you’re more familiar with the potential hazards that might exist there.

Go Back When Necessary

If the water starts to get a little choppy and you’re having trouble controlling the pontoon, then it would be best to simply head home. Dial down your speed and cruise at a slow pace back to the dock, or hand over the wheel to someone on board with more experience.

Get the Right Company

Speaking of handing over the wheel, you might want to consider asking someone with more pontooning experience to join you during your trip. This just helps guarantee that in case you don’t know what to do, there will be someone around to take charge.

Tips for Driving a Pontoon Rental for the First Time

There are unique worries that come hand in hand with driving a rental. For starters - it’s not yours. So damaging the boat in any way could result to steep fines that might be a little too tough on your pocket.

Here are some tips for driving a rental so you can steer clear of accidents and maximize the fun:

  • Pontoon boat rental services should offer a quick driving and safety course for free before you leave. Take notes of their most important pointers and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Take the pontoon boat where there isn’t a lot of traffic in the water. This just reduces the number of obstructions and hazards you would have to avoid while you’re still learning to drive.
  • Choose a smaller boat. Of course, it also depends how many guests you have. But smaller pontoon boats are generally easier to operate.
  • Place your phone in a waterproof pouch and keep it around your neck. Contact the marina or the rental service any time you feel like you need assistance or information.

It’s Not That Hard

How hard is it to drive a pontoon boat? According to first time pontoon boat renters, it’s really not that hard. Sure, there will always be unique dangers and challenges. But with a little confidence and practice, you should be able to steer that boat and navigate the waters like a true blue skipper.

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