Of all the rides I could have snagged while covering yesterday’s New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club 20th Annual Atlantic City Rally for speedonthewater.com, I ended up on a pontoon boat. And it turned out to be an absolute blast—maybe even a bit of a revelation.
A 30-foot Bennington Tri-Toon Triple D powered by twin 300-hp Yamaha 300 outboard engines, my ride is owned by longtime go-fast boat enthusiasts Doug and Sherry Falcone of Brick, N.J., who do most of their boating in the Morris Town, N.J., area. And it wasn’t just my first ride in a state-of-the-art pontoon boat—it was the first time a pontoon boat has entered an NJPPC event.
Thanks to this Bennington 30-footer, the author learned that today’s pontoon boats are serious fun. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
So why did a couple of experienced performance-boat owners buy a 600-hp pontoon boat?
“Because I saw one with 500 horsepower,” said Doug Falcone.
Falcone was quick to point out that technology has advanced such that pontoons are now being designed for speed.
“The Tri-Toon’s lifting strakes, 10-foot beam and twin engines really lift the boat and give it speed, not to mention a very stable ride,” he said. “The boat drafts 12-inches underway and with 20 people on board will take you places no V-bottom can go.”
Just how fast? Falcone said the boat will do 60 mph, but he and the crew from Marine Unlimited in Toms River, N.J., are investigating adding jack plates to raise the engines and squeeze out every last rpm. If 60 doesn’t sound fast to you, imagine doing it on what is essentially a big barge in the water, albeit a very comfortable barge with reclining lounges forward, full wraparound bench seating aft and a fully digital helm station and kickass sound system.
The 30-footer actually ias the Falcone’s third pontoon in as many years. But how did the former owners of a 380-foot Statement center console with triple Mercury Marine Verado 350 outboards transition to their current pontoon-based party platform?
“When I saw it, I thought, ‘That’s an old man’s boat,’” said Sherry Falcone. “But it’s more fun than anything. It’s easy to maintain, we can get the entire family on it, it’s smooth comfortable and no one is scared and it’s fast.”
Doug was quick to point out that the Bennington still provides “the same thrill, the wow factor” of a go-fast boat, especially when he blows past V-bottom sportboats and center consoles on the bay.
“We get a lot of stares,” he said, then laughed.
Those stares were abundant during yesterdays run to Atlantic City. The sight of a pontoon hanging in a pack of go-fast boats definitely attracted eyeballs, but we were past the other boats before we were could see and gauge reactions.
As for the 30-foot Bennington, it was incredibly smooth and stable at 45 mph, cutting the wakes from the bigger, faster boats participating in the rally. At 55 mph, the boat runs like it is on rails and handles well, which Falcone attributed to the twin engines.
“This would not be the same boat with a single screw, no matter the horsepower,” he said.
Talk with boat owners in this area and they’ll you that in the past five years they have seen an explosion of pontoon boats on Barnegat Bay, which is a testament to the evolution of pontoons from “old man boats” to the versatile performance party platforms. So, before you point and laugh at that pontoon boat eating up your wake, stop to consider that you may be looking at your future. Just ask Doug Falcone.