Pe­cu­liar plea­sures of the pon­toon

Yachts International - - Contents - By Dud­ley Daw­son

Ay­achts­man’s 240- foot gold- plater may re­side in Mi­ami or Monaco, but a 24- foot pon­toon boat of­ten floats hap­pily at hand be­hind his home. One se­rial su­pery­acht owner shared with me that, with­out ques­tion, his ’toon was his fa­vorite ves­sel, ex­plain­ing, “All we have to do is walk down to the dock, turn the key, cast off the lines, and we’re off for a nice sun­set cruise.” My auburn­haired sweet­heart holds sim­i­lar af­fec­tion for our pon­toon, re­fer­ring to it as her “fa­vorite room in the house.”

Try as they may, pon­toon builders have yet to make any pon­toon boat a styling suc­cess, and the per­for­mance of such boats is usu­ally less than im­pres­sive, so their pop­u­lar­ity must lie in some­thing else. I pro­pose it is the fact that they of­fer un­ri­valed open deck space for a given length, with cor­re­spond­ing ver­sa­til­ity in both ar­range­ment and ac­tiv­ity, all in a straight­for­ward pack­age that is sim­ple to op­er­ate and in­ex­pen­sive to ac­quire and main­tain.

It was in­evitable that de­sign­ers would find it nec­es­sary to tam­per with this win­ning for­mula. In fact, we can see this “up­scal­ing” clearly man­i­fested in two dif­fer­ent ver­sions. In the first, pon­toon builders have up­graded the ba­sics and added in­nu­mer­able op­tions to the orig­i­nal flat plat­form, sadly boost­ing both com­pli­ca­tion and cost with lit­tle im­prove­ment in the en­joy­ment fac­tor.

In the sec­ond ver­sion, the twin pon­toon hulls have been re­placed with a sin­gle plan­ing hull to cre­ate a so-called “deck boat,” with a big flat deck re­main­ing the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent. The first it­er­a­tions were ac­tu­ally built by pon­toon boat builders, but it wasn’t long be­fore yacht­builders took no­tice.

First was Wally Yachts, whose Wally Ten­der se­ries en­joyed im­me­di­ate suc­cess as both day boats and su­pery­acht ten­ders. They were soon fol­lowed by the 48- foot EAMS Ten­der Toy, which folded out Trans­form­ers- style to in­crease deck space for guests and wa­ter toys. Wider Yachts launched another vari­a­tion, with slid­ers to ex­pand its 42- footer’s deck area well beyond the hull beam.

As­ton­doa Yachts, with a de­sign by Luiz de Basto, of­fers a 63-foot model called the Top Deck. It’s a true yacht with lux­u­ri­ous belowdecks ac­com­mo­da­tions, but a large un­clut­tered stem-to-stern flat deck is its ob­vi­ous dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture. Up­ping the ante once again is Wally, whose Ace se­ries pre­miered with Kanga, an in­no­va­tive 79-footer that doesn’t let her com­pact deck­house get in the way of full-length out­door spa­ces. Wider Yachts, in turn, has re­sponded with a 150-foot ver­sion of its ex­pand­able-beam de­sign.

So where will it end? We need only look at re­cent con­cept yachts for clues. The fer­tile mind of Luca Bas­sani gave us the 193-foot Wally Her­mès Yacht, with the apt acro­nym WHY. Some crit­ics fawned over it, some panned it, but they failed to note that, at heart, it was just a huge deck boat. Yacht Is­land De­sign re­turned closer to the pon­toon roots for its Streets of Monaco, a 508-foot con­cept yacht that rides atop two SWATH hulls, which are es­sen­tially sub­merged pon­toons.

I fear we will not see the end of this es­ca­la­tion un­til some­one trumps all the oth­ers by propos­ing the ul­ti­mate flat top: the re­pur­pos­ing of a sur­plus air­craft car­rier into a yacht. Lots of open deck space, ac­com­mo­da­tions for 5,000 and you don’t need to mess with a he­li­copter be­cause you can land your pri­vate jet on board. Of course, with all that, there’s only one thing you’ll still need: a lit­tle pon­toon boat for the dock be­hind your home.

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