Quick Answer: You can take an average pontoon boat with a draft of 18 inches in about 2 feet of shallow water.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when taking your vessel in this depth of water:
With their shallow draft these pontoon boats can navigate bodies of waters that the average
boats cannot. The flat bottom hull sits on buoyant tubes(pontoons) makes it difficult for the hull to snag or drag on anything below the waterline.
A pontoon boat with an 18 inch draft can handle as little as 2 feet of water and can be safely beached for a barbecue(see our related article on best pontoon boat grills) or picnic.
You must take extreme caution when maneuvering in your pontoon boat in shallow waters. If not you can easily damage your propellers if your boat runs aground. Out engines can be trimmed up to avoid any damage when entering shallow water.
How Much Weight You Have on Board.
A pontoon with just two passengers can easily glide through shallow waters as oppose to a boat with 10 passengers. You must also consider added weight like anchors,fishing gear, grills,diving tanks and other accessories that can add weight to the pontoon boat.
How do you drive a boat in shallow water?
Tips for Boating in Shallow Water[courtesy of DiscoverBoating.com]
Whether you are a newbie or experienced boater, knowing some basics about operating your pontoon boat in the shallows is important.
1. Slow down
Running aground at high speed is dangerous, can severely damage your boat, and can lead to being stranded and unable to get the boat off the bottom. If you run aground slowly, the danger is minimal and you have a much better chance of getting back off.
If you’re familiar with the waters, however, and know for sure you have sufficient depth to accommodate your running draft—but not your static draft—it’s not unreasonable to keep the boat on plane to get across the shallows.
2. When idling through very shallow water, don’t trim the outdrive up as far as possible.
Do so, and if you run aground you’re out of options. Leave it a couple inches down, however, and if you run aground you can tilt it up that last little bit and still have the ability to back off and seek a deeper path.
3. In tidal waters, check the tide before you head out.
Of course, you’ll want to know how actual water depth will relate to the charted depths (which are given in “mean lower low water,” which is an average of low tide levels). But tidal cycles are also important to know so that if you run aground and get stuck, you know what to do next. You may be able to back off, or you may want to get out and push (see Running Aground for an in-depth look at all your options).
But if you know the tide is rising, you may want to simply kick back and relax, until the water level rises enough to float you free. If, on the other hand, you know the tide is falling, you may want to take measures to get it off asap before the situation becomes even worse. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t enter marginal waters, as you may not be able to get back out again later as the water level falls.
4. Keep a sharp eye out for color changes.
Channels and deeper waters often appear dark in color, while sandy shoals look like light spots in the water. But color changes can also fool you; dark-looking weedbeds, for example, may be shallower than the surrounding waters.
The bottom line? If you’re cruising along comfortably it’s often wise to avoid any sort of color changes, so you’ll likely stay in the same depth range. Also keep an eye out for waves that break in the same spot over and over, which indicates bars that are shallower than their surroundings.
5. Be wary of beaching your boat on a falling tide.
One of the great things about boating in the shallows is exploring where few people go, and it may be tempting to pull your boat up on a remote beach or a pristine spit of sand.
Just make sure you don’t do so as the tide’s going out, without keeping a close eye on the water level. More than one boater has become stranded for hours, after they went off beach-combing while a falling tide left their boat high and dry.
6. Know your boat’s draft.
It’s amazing how many boat owners don’t actually know what their static and running drafts are. If the manufacturer doesn’t publish both, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with a tape measure and go into a shallow area where you know you can safely step off the boat and check, so you’ll never again wonder just how much depth you need.
7. Remember that on smaller boats, draft can be increased by a heavy load.
Weight can change the draft of any size boat, but on boats under 20 feet or so, a couple extra passengers can change draft by an inch or more. Similarly, a full load of fuel and gear can increase draft.
Do you hope to seek out tailing bonefish on a tropical flat? Probe a shallow cove where those big bass are feeding? Discover a remote back country beach where there are seashells no one’s even dreamt of finding?
As long as you stay in waters appropriate for your boat and you have a basic understanding of how to operate it in the shallows, boating in ankle-deep water can be extremely rewarding.
Can A Pontoon Boat Flip Over?
The flat bottom design encourages the pontoon(tube) to stay buoyant making it extremely difficult for a pontoon boat to flip over. The flat deck and two pontoon tubes gives great
stability on water. However it is important to note that operating a pontoon boat in severe weather conditions can change these.
If you are operating your pontoon boat on the open ocean in severe weather lets say 4-6 foot sees and waves are hitting you broad side there is an increase chance of your pontoon boat flipping over.
Essential Life Saving Accessories Needed For A Pontoon Boat
It is important to have an emergency plan in the event of an unforeseen incident. You should also have sufficient life saving gear on board. Here is a list of 10 Essential Life Saving Accessories Needed For A Pontoon Boat
- Life Vest
2. VHF Radio
3. Waterproof Handheld Radio
4. Flare Gun
5. Life Ring
7. First Aid Kit