You may have come across talk about lifting strakes as a way to speed up a pontoon and improve performance. But what exactly are pontoon boat lifting strakes? Here we'll cover everything you need to know about lifting strakes and if they're right for you and your pontoon boat.
First let's start with what a pontoon boat is just to get the definition out of the way. A pontoon boat is a type of boat whose deck is attached on top of a set of hollow tubes called pontoons, and they usually come in a pair. This type of design allows the pontoon boat more stability even at cruising speed while having a large deck size.
However, on some pontoons, they have something called pontoon lifting strakes, which has an effect on the speed, handling, stability, and general performance of the pontoon. This begs you the question as to what they are.
What Exactly are Pontoon Boat Lifting Strakes
Pontoon lifting strakes are basically aluminum rods attached along the length of the toons and provide you with a slight increase in speeds and an overall smoother ride.
Pontoon lifting strakes are installed below the deck and the sides of your boat. These strakes are used to help make your pontoon boat move at a faster speed over water, and many boat owners prefer a strake as a potential high-performance upgrade rather than replacing the engine with a high horsepower motor.
More recent pontoon boats usually come with pontoon lifting strakes already installed when purchasing brand-new boats. However some existing models do not come stock with lifting strakes, thus some people prefer to personally install them on their boat.
How Do They Work
Of course, aluminum rods welded to the pontoon tubes alone won't do much to change your boating experience. So what do strakes do on a boat?
Firstly, lifting strakes are attached to the pontoon via welding and meet the water at a certain angle in order to redirect the drag force of the water, thus creating lift, hence the term lifting strakes. This lift means that less of the pontoon boat is in contact with the water as it uses this lift to glide over the surface of the water, similar to how an airplane has wings that make it fly albeit at a slow speed.
This allows the pontoon boat to use more of its power to moving forward rather than plowing through water and slowing itself down.
Reasons and Benefits of Fitting Lifting Strakes on a Pontoon
Pontoon lifting strakes help give you a smoother ride and increase in speeds. Despite the weight of a fully equipped pontoon boat, there is a noticeable increase in the performance of a boat with strakes than a boat without one. As a side effect, the increased performance of your pontoon boat also leads to a difference in fuel consumption giving you the most out of each tank of gas and at a lesser cost.
With all that said about lifting strakes, how much speed do lifting strakes add exactly? Well, the answer to that may vary depending on the design, weight, and motor of your pontoon boat. Additionally you need to factor in your intended cruising speed as lifting strakes work best at a constant speed. But in a nutshell somewhere around a 15%-25% increase in rated speed.
You get better performance, a more stable ride, not to mention the extra power and fuel efficiency gains can be allocated to more exciting tasks such as water skiing and high-speed tubing which would make your following marine adventures that much more satisfying.
Downsides to Lifting Strakes
For boats that come with lifting strakes stock then, none. They're good to go as is and you can focus more on enjoying your boat.
The problem is for boats that don't have lifting strakes. It requires a skilled person and is a significantly expensive welding task. Although you do get a bit of fuel economy gains, the cost alone could be worth reconsidering.
So Should You Do It?
If you have a recent boat, regardless of it being a dual tube or three tube pontoon they'll probably come stock with it, but if that isn't the case then are lifting strakes worth the money?
Considering the material, labor, and risk of a botched job potentially occurring leaving you with a gaping hole in your boat, then it's probably not worth it unless you can afford to groom your boat without regard for your finances. Yes you gain a lot, but it also costs a lot, so do consider if it's truly worth it.
Are Lifting Strakes Expensive and How Much Are They?
They are usually priced at around two thousand dollars not to mention installation costs if you prefer to have professionals put it on your boat. It might be even pricier with larger boats and more specialized labor.
For what it's worth, several alternatives become open to you for that price. Adding an additional toon to turn your boat into a tritoon, under pinning your boat, and hey even buying a completely new engine outright may potentially provide you with a better bang for the buck rather than installing lifting strakes.
How Do You Fit Pontoon Lifting Strakes
Now we're not going to tackle the concepts behind strake designs and whatnot, that in itself is a very complicated subject and well beyond the scope of this guide. Assuming you already have the proper design and cut to length it is recommended that you visit a welding shop specializing in marine installations.
You could do it yourself provided you have the experience, but it is probably a better idea to leave it to the professionals.
In summary, if your boat comes stock with lifting strakes then you shouldn't worry too much about your boating on a lake. However, if they don't come with any, well try to weigh the pros and cons as it is neither an easy nor cheap fix.