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Tips for Driving a Pontoon Boat for Beginners

learn to drive a pontoon boatAre Pontoon Boats Easy to Drive?

Pontoon boats are becoming an increasingly popular choice for both new and experienced boaters due to their versatility, stability, and ease of use. Whether you’re planning a relaxing family outing, a fun-filled day of fishing, or a lively party on the water, pontoon boats are a fantastic option. But are they really as easy to drive as they seem? Let’s explore the essential aspects of driving a pontoon boat, including tips for beginners, safety considerations, and practical advice for making the most of your boating experience.

Why Pontoon Boats Are Popular

Pontoon boats are often referred to as “living rooms on the water” because of their spacious and stable design. They can comfortably seat up to 10 people on larger models like our Crest and are ideal for cruising, fishing, or just anchoring and hanging out at your favourite swimming spot. Their large, flat platforms make them feel stable and secure, much like stepping onto a parade float, which adds to their appeal for family outings and social gatherings.

Are Pontoon Boats Easy to Drive?

The short answer is yes. Driving a pontoon boat is relatively straightforward, even for beginners. Here’s why:

1. **Stable and Spacious**: Their wide, flat platforms and multiple pontoons provide excellent stability, reducing the likelihood of tipping and making them easier to handle.

2. **Simple Controls**: Pontoon boats generally feature easy-to-use controls similar to those in a car, with a steering wheel and a throttle lever for speed and direction control.

3. **High Seating Position**: The elevated seating position offers excellent visibility, helping drivers navigate safely and confidently.

Essential Tips for Driving a Pontoon Boat

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, here are some key tips for driving a pontoon boat:

Safety First

Before setting off, always conduct a safety check:

– Ensure you have all required life jackets, signalling equipment, tools, and a fire extinguisher.

– Check the weather forecast to avoid unexpected rough waters.

– Familiarize yourself with the safety equipment locations on the boat.

Start Slow

When you first set out, take it slow:

– Familiarize yourself with the boat’s controls.

– Start the engine, and untie and stow the ropes.

– Ease forward on the throttle and practice stopping by putting the boat in reverse. Boats don’t have brakes, so reversing is your primary way to stop. Shift avoid excessive acceleration.

Have Fun

Make the most of your pontoon’s features:

– Use the canopy for shade or protection from rain.

  • Enjoy listening to some music on the radio (if equipped many will feature bluetooth audio to connect your phone.

– Delegate tasks among passengers, such as locating coolers/ serving refreshments or baiting lines if fishing, and of course, appoint a lookout, so you can focus on steering.

Practical Advice for Handling and Maneuvering


Docking can be challenging, especially in windy conditions:

– At RAW Watersports we advise customers to call us as they enter the channel when returning so that our crew can meet yo cat the dock ot assist in docking the boat.

  • Approach the dock slowly, and use short intervals of shifting from forward to reverse/ neutral to maneuver.

– Have someone ready to secure the boat with ducklings once you’re close enough.


When navigating, especially in tight spots or around other boats:

– Remember that boats steer from the back (stern), so plan your turns accordingly.

– Avoid sharp turns and instead make gentle, sweeping movements.

Dealing with Wind and Waves

Wind and waves can affect your boat’s handling:

– Avoid turning into the wind; instead, turn with it.

– Ensure weight is evenly distributed to manage waves better.

– In rough waters, aim to keep the boat stable by staying on top of the waves.

Additional Tips for a Smooth Ride

1. **Throttle Control**: Use the throttle to manage your speed. Push forward to accelerate and pull back to slow down or stop.

2. **Motor Trimming**: Adjust the motor trim to enhance performance and fuel efficiency. In shallow waters, trim up the motor to avoid damage.

3. **Know the Water**: Familiarize yourself with the body of water you’re on, including shallow spots and potential hazards.

Licensing and Regulations

A common question among new boaters is whether a license is required to rent a pontoon boat in Canada. The good news is that a boater’s license is not required to rent a boat in Canada. At RAW Watersports, we make the process even more convenient by providing a free temporary license after completing a safety briefing and on-water orientation. This ensures that you feel confident and prepared before setting off on your adventure.

Fun and Versatile

Pontoon boats are not only easy to drive but also incredibly versatile:

– They can be used for a variety of activities, including water sports, fishing, and leisurely cruises.

– Their design makes them perfect for family adventures, with plenty of space for kids to move around safely.


Driving a pontoon boat is a breeze once you get the hang of it. With a few basic tips and some practice, you’ll be cruising, fishing, and enjoying the water with confidence. Whether you’re a seasoned boater or a beginner, pontoon boats offer a fun, safe, and enjoyable way to experience the water. So, gather your friends and family, hit the water, and make the most of your pontoon boat adventure!

For more information on renting pontoon boats or any other watercraft, feel free to contact us at RAW Watersports. We’re here to ensure you have a fantastic and safe experience on Lake St. Clair.

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