Can You Take a Pontoon Boat in the Ocean?

If you love the feel of the ocean breeze, the sound of the waves, and the thrill of an adventure, then you may be wondering if it's possible to take a pontoon boat out in the open ocean. You might be curious if this is even safe. 

The quick answer is no, it is not recommended to take a pontoon boat in the ocean. Pontoon boats are often much lighter and less stable than boats designed for ocean use, and they may not be able to maintain control in the rough waves. Additionally, the increased risk of damage from saltwater, strong currents, and crashing waves can be costly for a pontoon boat owner.

In this blog post, we'll be exploring the ins and outs of taking a pontoon boat in the ocean and what to look out for. So, buckle up and let's get started by discussing the safety concerns!

Is It Safe to Take a Pontoon Boat in the Ocean?

If you do take a pontoon boat in the ocean, it is important to be prepared for harsh conditions such as storms and swirling waves in bays and inlets.

Pontoon boats are designed to handle up to two feet of waves. Ocean waves will easily go above this, and it’s not uncommon for the water to steep over the bow of your toon. This can cause instability and create a risk of capsizing, meaning it's unsafe to use a pontoon boat in the ocean rough.

Additionally, ocean water is highly conductive (due to the salts) and there is a risk of electric shock if there’s a bare electrical connection from the toon.

What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Using a Pontoon Boat in the Ocean?

  1. Research the area before you go: Ask for advice from other pontoon owners in the area about the conditions there, including weather, currents, and wind.
  1. Pay attention to the weather and speed: You should be especially mindful of the weather and speed when venturing more than two miles offshore.
  1. Wear appropriate safety gear: Always wear a life jacket and other safety gear when driving your pontoon in the ocean.
  1. Equip your toon with safety equipment: Make sure your pontoon boat is equipped with the appropriate safety equipment, such as a whistle, and a first aid kit.
  1. Avoid open ocean if you’re a non-competent driver: If you’re not an experienced driver, it’s best to avoid large bodies of open water. Stick to calmer waters and closer to the shore.
  1. Have a plan: Make sure you have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Ensure you know the location of the closest marina or harbor, as well as the phone numbers of the local Coast Guard.
  1. Check your pontoon: Before you set out, make sure to inspect your pontoon boat and all its components to ensure everything is working correctly.
  1. Stay sober: Always have a designated driver and don’t operate your toon in the ocean while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What Type of Pontoon Boat Is Best for Ocean Conditions?

The best pontoon boats for ocean conditions are made with materials designed to resist corrosion and wear.

Your typical aluminum pontoon boat with sacrificial anodes is a good option but is still prone to corrosion and wear, so you should regularly inspect and maintain it.

Fiberglass or plywood (glass-coated) pontoon boats are the better options as they are more resistant to corrosion and wear. However, they are heavier and can be more expensive than aluminum toons.

For those specifically looking for saltwater pontoon boats, there are a few brands that specialize in this type of boats. Crest, Manitou, and Harris all offer boats designed to withstand the harsh saltwater environment (saltwater boats).

What Type of Maintenance Is Required for a Pontoon Boat to Be Taken into the Ocean?

Here are top ways to maintain or protect your toon if you'll be using it in the ocean:

Clean your pontoon boat after every ocean use

If you’re using your toon in saltwater for a few hours, then a detailed cleaning with freshwater will be needed. Here’s the ideal procedure:

  1. Remove any visible dirt, grime, and salt residue from the boat’s surfaces with a soft cloth or brush.
  1. Wash the boat with a mixture of soap and water. Make sure to use a marine-grade soap specifically designed for boats.
  1. Rinse the boat with fresh water and then dry it off with a clean cloth.
  1. Flush the engine, outboard, and stern drives with fresh water. Make sure to run the engine for a few minutes to help flush out any salt residue.
  1. Inspect the boat for any corrosion or visible rust. If needed, use sandpaper to remove rust and corrosion.

Paint your pontoon boat

If you’re leaving your pontoon boat on ocean water for long, then more specialized maintenance is needed. This is because growth is likely to kick in in 1-2 weeks.  Scrapping the growth can be a tedious and time-consuming process.

The solution in this case is to paint your pontoon an inch above the waterline and repeat this every year. 

Follow these steps to paint your pontoon boat:

  1. Sand the Boat: Start by sanding the entire boat with a sanding block or sandpaper. This will help create a smooth surface and remove any dirt, rust, or other debris from the pontoon boat. Be sure to use sandpaper that is specifically designed for metal surfaces. Sand the entire boat, paying particular attention to areas around rivets, seams, and joints.
  1. Prime the Boat: Once you’ve finished sanding, it’s time to prime the boat. Apply a high-quality primer to the entire pontoon, making sure to cover all surfaces. Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  1. Apply an Epoxy Coating: With a dried primer, you can apply an epoxy coating to the toon. This will help protect the pontoon from the elements and create a smooth surface for painting. Be sure to apply the epoxy according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  1. Paint the Boat: Once the epoxy has dried, you can begin painting the boat. When painting aluminum pontoons, it’s important to use copper-free paint that is specifically designed for aluminum surfaces. Apply the paint in thin, even coats until the entire boat is covered. Allow the paint to dry completely before using your pontoon boat.

Caution: Don't paint sacrificial anodes. When you paint over the anodes, the paint acts as a barrier and prevents the sacrificial ions from being released. As a result, the anodes would not be able to protect against corrosion.

Tip: Tilting your boat out of the water after washing the surfaces and flushing the engine with freshwater. This is a great way to prevent corrosion and damage to your toon if it is going to be stored for an extended period of time.

Use sacrificial anodes

Another maintenance practice for a pontoon boat that is often taken in the ocean is to use sacrificial metal (anode) such as zinc to avoid galvanic corrosion of the original aluminum making the pontoon boat.

When using a sacrificial metal, avoid direct contact of the two metals with a plastic strip, otherwise, the risk for corrosion will still be there. Also, after about 50% of the sacrificial anode eats away, replace it.

Seal lifting strakes and keels

Make sure the lifting strakes and keels of your pontoon are properly sealed. This is to prevent saltwater from entering these openings, which can cause corrosion and other damage to the structure of the boat.

It is important to regularly check the seals and replace them as needed.

Use a stainless steel fuel water separator

The last maintenance step for a pontoon boat that will be taken into the ocean is to use a stainless steel fuel water separator.

The fuel water separator works by separating the fuel from any water or debris collected in the fuel tank. This helps the engine run more efficiently and reliably when driving a pontoon boat in the ocean.

FAQs

How much experience do I need to take a pontoon boat in the ocean?

In order to take a pontoon boat in the ocean, you will need to have an appropriate level of boating experience and knowledge. Depending on the size of the boat, you may need to have a boat license or certification. Additionally, you should research local laws and regulations regarding boating in the ocean, as well as familiarize yourself with safety protocols and navigation.

Do pontoon boat warranties cover saltwater corrosion?

Most pontoon boat warranties do not cover saltwater corrosion, as it is considered a normal wear and tear issue. Saltwater corrosion is caused by prolonged exposure to saltwater, and is typically not covered by a warranty because it is not typically considered a defect in the boat's material or construction.

Can a saltwater pontoon boat be used in freshwater

Yes, a saltwater pontoon boat can be used in freshwater. The saltwater pontoon boat is designed to handle the harsh environment of saltwater, so it’ll effortlessly handle freshwater conditions. However, it is still important to flush your with freshwater after every saltwater use to remove any salt residue that may have accumulated and that won’t be naturally flushed by the freshwaters.

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