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Picking the perfect boat
By Kathleen Ostrander

Pontoons, power and personal pursuits are the things to consider when buying a boat.

If it's pontoons you are looking for -- how many people do you plan on having on your party barge, or is it just for the family?

Do you want a boat to laze around the lake or a boat to get somewhere quickly?

Are you a going fishing on the weekends with a couple of buddies, the kids or grandkids, or are you planning on hitting the tournament circuit?

The general quality of pontoon boats has continued to improve over the years, according to Mike Miles of The Boat Dock. From floating slabs with a couple of lawn chairs on the back, the pontoon boat has evolved into a boat with plush seats, lots of storage and better drainage.

The Boat Dock offers Sun Tracker Pontoons.

"They're great boats," Miles said. "The improvements have made them more stable, the seating is set up better for talking or entertaining and they are great, general, all-around family boats," he said.

Most pontoons can be towed by a mid-size SUV.

East Side Marine has Sun Cruiser Pontoons.

"The newer models actually have seats that are like real furniture," Debbie Wallace said.

"You can use them for fishing or entertaining. They've got new colors with new outside graphics.

"If you're just starting out with a boat for the family, we suggest a pontoon boat. It's stable, it's got a gate so you don't have to worry about a child wandering off, and you can then keep stepping up to a different model or something a little more sporty."

Starcraft Pontoons are sold at Lake Springfield Marina. Scott Tucker of Lake Springfield Marina said pontoon boats are being built more and more for convenience. They have data ports for mp3 players, GPS units, areas where shade umbrellas can be attached and better entrance areas for swimmers and storage for everything from tow ropes and water skis to fish.

All of the sales people cautioned pontoon boat buyers to remember that trailers are generally not included in boat sales and need to be purchased separately. Tucker said many pontoon owners who live near lakes don't buy the trailer but do buy storage or dock space just to keep the boat handy.

Boats for getting around a little quickly and for water skiing have also seen a lot of improvement over the years from better engine performance to better amenities for boaters.

Crownline Boats are some of the top-of-the-line luxury sport boats and are available at The Boat Dock. Miles said in addition to having an engine with the power of an LT1 Corvette, they also boast premium upholstery, premium sound systems and a social swim transom.

"The sound system includes speakers that shoot the sound out of the back of the boat so skiers, swimmers and tubers can hear the music," he said.

The Boat Dock also has the Tahoe line of pleasure boats.

"They are for the active family. They have lots of storage, a V8 engine and upgraded upholstery and carpeting," he said.

A boat 21 feet and longer is usually considered an entry-level sport boat, said Wallace.

"That's about the size you would want in Lake Springfield," she added.

East Side Marine carries the Larson line of sport boats as well as Lowe.

"They've got sun tops you can add, wakeboard towers, premium upholstery and lots of storage," she said.

Wallace said the new boats have swivel front seats so the driver can stop the boat, swivel around and join the conversation.

Most of the new sport boat models, the salespeople said, have better outside construction, which improves maneuverability as well as stability in the water.

Starcraft sport boats, available at Lake Springfield Marina, have chrome cupholders and front accents, walk-through transoms, boarding ladders and even fold-up changing rooms and portable toilets.

The Yamaha line, also carried at Lake Springfield Marina, has a removable dinette area for the back deck and a remote-controlled stereo system. Extra cushions and a rumble seat are available on some models.

Serious and not-so-serious anglers have a plethora of options and local opportunities when purchasing a boat, although the wide-range of colors, including "Stealth Black," doesn't necessarily influence the catch.

Miles recommends the Bass Tracker Pro Team 175 TXW as one of the ultimate fishing boats.

"It has a smooth riding hull and the most features for the money," he said. The complete fishing package includes a depth finder, electric trolling motor and fishing seats.

He also sells the Nitro line of performance bass boats. The Nitro 28 has a big engine, is stable and comfortable, is maneuverable and has an in-dash depth finder. There is no information, however, as to whether the fish enjoy the spectacular paint jobs on the Nitro line.

Lowe's Stinger line is custom-designed for multi-species fishing. Wallace said it is a very popular fishing boat. It has an extra-wide bow deck as well as livewells with bait buckets.

"It's very stable and maneuverable," she added. It is powered by a Mercury Optimax engine.

The back deck of the Yamaha, Tucker said, is perfect for fishing. The tiered back deck has several areas to help stability so family members can stand and fish more safely.

Starcraft Marine, available at Lake Springfield Marina, has a line of aluminum fishing boats.



Personal watercraft

Improvements in the design and suspension systems of personal watercraft have made them more stable and easier to drive.

Lake Springfield Marina sells Yamaha and Sea-Doo personal watercraft.

"The biggest change in personal watercraft has been braking," said Scott Tucker of Lake Springfield Marina.

"But the whole design of personal watercraft is now more aerodynamic," he added. "They have better suspension, so it is a lot more enjoyable just cruising around the water."

Personal watercraft can now seat three comfortably, and there are even some that can seat four.

Yamaha's 2010 WaveRunner models have a roomier cockpit to accommodate taller drivers as well as repositioned mirrors to give better visibility.

The reverse lever is larger, and the glovebox has been expanded. It has an adjustable steering column and a remote transmitter that can switch the engine to a lower rpm. It also prevents unauthorized startups.

The Sea-Doo has an on-water braking system and what the company calls an intelligent brake and reverse. This allows the craft to adjust to different riding styles as well as changing water conditions.

A suspended upper deck cushions the rider from water turbulence, and a stepped-up hull reduces drag and leads to a smoother ride.

"The changes and innovations have made personal watercraft a lot safer and easier to learn how to ride," Tucker added.



Want more info?

The Boat Dock

East Side Marine

Lake Springfield Marina


Story published Friday, July 2, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 4 )

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