Boating on Lake Michigan can be a fun and thrilling experience. For those looking to make the most of their time, choosing the right boat for your needs is important. Whether you're looking for more space or speed, deciding between a pontoon boat or a bowrider is essential. In this article, we'll explore the differences between these two popular boats and help you decide which one is right for boating on Lake Michigan.
While Lake Michigan is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of an inland sea. People who visit the shores of Lake Michigan for the first time are often shocked that they typically can't see the other side and even more than depending on where you stand - there are beautiful sandy beaches, dunes, and yes ... actual waves. In many ways, boating on Lake Michigan is very similar to calmer parts of the ocean except that there's no salt water and some of the best boating is actually found along bays, inlets, and rivers like the St Joseph River in South West Michigan, where you can float for miles in perfectly calm waters.
Two of the most common types of boats for most families that will be seeking a watercraft for use on and around Lake Michigan are a pontoon boat or a bowrider motorboat. As a guy who is in the process of moving to this region, these are the two styles of boats that I'm shopping for. The simple reason is that they are both typically less expensive, easier to maintain, and offer plenty of space to invite friends and family along for a ride.
The first thing to consider when choosing between a pontoon boat and a bowrider is how far out do you want to go and in what weather conditions. Many people are happy to simply enjoy spending time on their pontoon boats floating up and down the rivers and venturing out onto the lake during calm days ... for other folks, the thrill is going fast and bouncing off of waves as they feel the spray blow through their hair. This is not an insignificant consideration since most pontoon boats thrive on calm waters and even moderate waves will break over the front and cause a less-than-safe or comfortable boating experience.
It's also important to consider what features you want from your boat. While both types of boats come with standard amenities such as seating areas and storage compartments, certain models may include additional features like wakeboard towers or special lighting packages that can enhance your boating experience even further. We'll discuss all these factors in greater detail throughout this article so that you can make an informed decision when selecting your next vessel for cruising around Lake Michigan!
Types Of Boats For Lake Michigan
When it comes to choosing a boat for Lake Michigan, there are plenty of options. Two popular types of boats to consider are pontoon and bowrider watercraft. Both offer different benefits that can make them ideal choices depending on your specific needs and preferences.
Pontoon boats feature two or more pontoons connected by cross members which form the deck. While there are small pontoon boats, there are also large ones that are great for groups looking for additional seating space and storage areas. However, the best environment for a pontoon boat is calm water since they are designed to float above - vs plow through the water like other boats do.
That doesn't mean you can't operate a pontoon boat on Lake Michigan safely. However, if this is your intention to cruise along the shorline you might want to invest in a Tritoon (three pontoons instead of two) and one that has a bigger engine as well as decking designed to keep water coming over the bow out of the main passenger area. These tritoon watercraft are much better equipped to handle choppier waters in open lake settings.
Bowriders provide a sleek appearance with their low profile design and emphasis on speed over size. This makes them an excellent choice for those seeking a thrill ride across the water's surface with minimal drag resistance from wake created by the hull's shape. Bowriders generally seat up to six passengers comfortably but lack significant storage capacity due to their smaller size compared to pontoon boats.
Both pontoon and bowrider boats offer distinct advantages when boating on Lake Michigan, each appealing to different users' needs based on its capabilities and features.
Benefits Of Pontoon Boats
Pontoon boats offer a number of advantages when boating on Lake Michigan. One major advantage is the large amount of seating space they provide, which can sometimes accommodate 12 or more passengers and make them ideal for larger groups and families looking to maximize the enjoyment out of their time spent on the lake. They also feature plenty of storage areas on the open deck, providing convenient places to stow away fishing gear or other items while cruising around.
Finally, while this advantage isn't as great as it once was, pontoon boats tend to be easy on your wallet compared with some other types of vessels. This is because the most entry level pontoon boats feature a simple deck and low horsepower motor with few features or creature comforts. This makes them an affordable choice for recreational boaters looking for fun without breaking the bank. Unfortunately though, as you will find when visiting a boat dealer - the models that are available for immediate purchase are fully-loaded and will cost more than that fancy new truck you just bought to tow it to the boat launch!
Drawbacks Of Pontoon Boats
Despite the many benefits of pontoon boats, they are not without drawbacks. For one thing, these vessels tend to be slower than other types of boats due to the way the hull is designed and the fact that most owners configure them with a lower horsepower engine since they are designed to serve as more of a party barge than a speedboat. This can limit the amount of time spent out on Lake Michigan as well as reduce maneuverability in tight spaces. Additionally, some people may find them less aesthetically pleasing than other models, with their boxy shape and flat decks lacking the sleek look of more traditional styles.
With all things considered, pontoon boat owners should weigh both advantages and disadvantages before making their purchase so they can ensure they're getting an optimal experience while boating on Lake Michigan.
Benefits Of Bowriders
When it comes to enjoying the open waters of Lake Michigan, bowriders offer a variety of advantages that can't be found with pontoon boats. For starters, they're much faster and more maneuverable due to their sleek design and use of an outboard motor or jet drive system. This means less time spent getting from point A to point B on the lake, allowing for more fun activities in between.
Bowriders also come in many different styles and sizes so boaters can find one that best suits their needs and preferences. Plus, these vessels are often considered aesthetically pleasing thanks to their streamlined hulls and aerodynamic curves. Finally, while they do require some upkeep such as cleaning the engine regularly and checking fluids levels before each outing.
Bowriders make great choices for those looking for speedier rides on Lake Michigan while still having plenty of space onboard for leisurely activities.
Drawbacks Of Bowriders
Despite the many benefits of bowriders, there are a few drawbacks to consider before making your purchase. For starters, they can be quite pricey depending on size and features. Furthermore, due to their design, they often require more fuel consumption than pontoon and tritoon boats, a factor rooted in the style of operation more so than the nature of the boat itself. However, it is important to consider since fuel costs can add up over time.
Bowriders also generally have less storage space than pontoon boats so boaters need to plan ahead if taking longer trips or bringing along lots of supplies.
Though bowriders offer plenty of great advantages for those looking for speedier rides on the lake, potential buyers must carefully weigh both the pros and cons beforehand to determine whether one is right for them. Transitioning now into capacity considerations...
Before taking either a pontoon boat or bowrider out onto Lake Michigan, it's important to be aware of some safety considerations. Both boat types require responsible operation and basic knowledge of boating laws and regulations.
When it comes to pontoon boats, their size and bow shape can make them more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces than smaller vessels like bowriders. Therefore, the operator should be well-versed in how to navigate around other boaters and dock safely in busy marinas.
Pontoon boats are generally going to be the safer style of boat to operate since they are designed to go slower and in a less aggressive manner. However, this doesn't mean that you can ignore basic safety considerations such as making sure that everyone wears a life jacket and that the captain avoids alcohol consumption or any other recreational item that might impare his attention to operating the boat safely.
You Can't Always Get Everything You Want
When deciding between a pontoon boat or a bowrider for boating on Lake Michigan, there are many factors to consider. Fuel efficiency and maintenance requirements need to be taken into account as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type of boat. Cost can also be an important factor in making your decision. However, safety should always come first when choosing which vessel is right for you and your family. Considering all these considerations will help you make an informed decision that will provide years of fun out on the lake without compromising your safety and peace of mind. With so many options available, it’s easy to find the perfect boat for boating on Lake Michigan depending on what you prioritize most.