Lake Living: Cool water, HOT BOAT

On the lake

The only thing better than spending an afternoon or weekend at the lake may be enjoying your lake-time in a hot new boat.

Several marina managers shared what trends – and what boats – are popular this year. One thing they all agree on is that tritoons, or pontoon boats with three pontoons instead of the traditional two, are more popular than ever.

Brant Tew, owner of Hartwell Marina, said engines have become more powerful in the past few years.

“Two stroke (engines) have kind of gone away,” he said. “It’s more of a four-stroke outboard environment. The old two-stroke engines ran like a chainsaw, noisy and smoky. The new ones are real quiet and easy on fuel. Engines are a lot more efficient and reliable.”

Tew said a lot of boaters on Lake Hartwell have always used pontoons. “Those are getting bigger with much bigger engines,” he said. “You’ll have a pontoon with a 250 or 300 horsepower engine, which was unheard of years ago.”

Tew said, in the old days, people would own a pontoon and a second boat, such as a ski boat.

“Now they’re just getting one boat with a real big engine on it,” he said.

Tew said wakeboard boats and surf boats are also popular.

“You don’t see much water skiing anymore, but guys are doing wakeboards,” he said. “Those inboard ski boats are made just for it. They’re like a tractor. They pull real hard.” There are also boats specific to wake surfing, which is surfing on a wave created by a powerful boat.

“They’ll have these boats with wings coming off the back, to kind of push down in the water and make a real big wave behind the boat,” Tew said. “They get on a surfboard and ride (the wave) across the water.”

Another trend is that many people dry-stack their boats at the marina, rather than towing it with a truck.

Tew said Hartwell Marina offers dry stacking, and was one of the first marinas in Georgia to offer it.

“That’s one of the bigger chang-es in this industry,” he said. “Not everybody is driving big trucks. Cars today, and some small trucks, can’t tow these heavy boats around. So a lot of people do away with the trailer completely and use us. They call us and we set their boat down in the water. It’s like valet parking.”

Nathan Rhodes, who owns N&C Marine in Martin on Lake Hartwell, and Boating Atlanta on Lake Lanier, agrees pontoons are a hot item.

“Pontoons have been hot for about eight years, and they’re continuing to grow,” Rhodes said. “Because of the performance packages they’re putting on them, they’re getting quicker, better handling. They’re growing in popularity every year. We’re seeing that same trend this year.”

Rhodes said he has also seen “good growth in the jet boat market.”

“They’re very popular with the younger generation with kids,” he said. “They don’t have a propeller down in the water, so they’re safer for the family. They’ve become really popular, simply because they’re safer.”

Rhodes said tritoons have largely replaced traditional ski boats, because they have the speed and agility of a ski boat.

“They’re still big party boats, but now they’re faster and they perform a lot better because of the technology,” he said.

Rhodes also sells a lot of bass boats, especially with bass fishing in high school and college becoming a trend.

“A lot of high schools are doing fishing tournaments, so we’re selling a lot of boats to parents of high school kids, as well as college, because fishing has become real popular,” he said.

Katie Brotherton, general manager at LaPrade’s Marina on Lake Burton in Clarkesville, agrees that tritoons are a big thing these days.

“More and more of the lake (residents) are buying tritoons,” she said. “They can take a little more horsepower and you don’t get that huge rocking you get with regular pontoons.”

Brotherton said boats are generally getting bigger, at least on Lake Burton.

“People would normally buy a boat that’s 22 feet long, and add a motor, it’s two more feet, so that’s 24 feet,” she said. “But for whatever reason, people are buying bigger boats, and they’re not going to fit in their boathouses.”

Brotherton said wake surfing is fun for participants, but not so much for lake house owners.

“A lot of homeowners are not very happy with wake boats, because they’re tearing up docks, but I’m seeing more and more water sports on this lake,” she said. “In the past, I’d see more families just boating, but now all these families have grown up and they’re wake surfing and wake boarding and skiing. They’re not just tubing anymore.”

Brotherton said popular wake surfing boats are the Nautique and the Centurion, which is specifically for water sports. Brotherton said the Centurion is new to Lake Burton.

“I had never seen that boat (Centurion) on this lake, or not as many as I’ve seen now,” she said. “There are probably three or four on this lake now.”

Brotherton said the beauty of a pontoon is that people can relax, and “have a little more room to spread out.” But, with a tritoon and a “decent sized motor,” she said, “You can pull kids all over, all day long.”

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