Due to the way in which inflatable and personal pontoon boats are constructed, I completely understand why potential purchasers would ask whether or not they are safe to use. As with any form of water vessel there are two main safety considerations.
- How you use the boat (your competence and responsibility)
- And where you use the boat
Elsewhere on Pontoonopedia I have already answered the question about whether traditional-sized pontoon boats are safe to use in rough water, and the basic rules still do apply with their smaller inflatable cousins, but there are some additional considerations to make.
Handy Hint: If you are thinking about buying one, you can see where to buy them online.
Firstly, these small fishing boats are inflatable and as such are prone to tears and rips. They are also lightweight. Put that all into the mix, and if you get into trouble, there’s every chance you can sink. Unlike large aluminum pontoons, you won’t have the same buoyancy and could sink like a stone given the wrong circumstances coming together all at once.
They are perfect for calm waters including rivers and lakes, NEVER should be taken on oceans or open sea waters. Whilst they are extremely manoeuvrable crafts, I wouldn’t fancy my chances on really rough or choppy water.
But, above all, the size and weight of the person operating the boat can have a difference to how safe it is, as well as the environment.
Wind can play a factor, with some inflatable pontoons being quite hard to manage once in a strong current. It pays to pre-plan and be aware of the little nuances of the waterways you are fishing on.
In my personal opinion, mine (a Colorado XTS) is very comfortable and simple to fish from. But if you do decide to buy, and here are very good reasons you should, then make sure you have a 3-pound anchor, so you don’t get pushed around by the wind when fishing.
Handy Hint: You can add a huge array of accessories to an inflatable pontoon boat which can help make your day fishing that much safer.
I tend to fish in quite rocky areas, so always make sure to have repair kit on me. I have suffered around 3 punctures in as many years, and the little cheap repair kits work just fine.
Safety Tips for Inflatable Pontoons
Don’t be put off though, these small and personal fishing boats are massively popular, and if you treat the water and pontoon with respect, yours should last you for years to come.
There are some things you can do in order to make sure that you keep safe though, and in order to be prepared should any emergency arise.
- Wear a Personal Floatation Vest or PFD: Always wear a safety vest, or at the very least an inflatable belt pack.
- Carry a Patch Repair Kit: You can pick up repair kits for hardly any money at all, meaning you can repair any punctures as and when they might occur.
- Carry a Hand Pump: And once you’ve patched the pontoon up, you are going to need to pump it back-up, so you can get going again.
- Maintain Your Boat Regularly: Keep the inflatable pontoon in good condition, and the end result is that you have a far safer ride.
- Always Carry Oars: You might prefer to use a trolling motor, but if that fails it pays to have oars on board so you can get back home.
- Carry a Knife: Your anchor or inflatable pontoons might get snagged on a rock or other debris, so you might need to cut yourself free.
- Carry a First Aid Kit: It pays to be prepared for any unexpected injuries from accidents, or even from a fishing hook.
- Don’t Overload Your Inflatable Pontoon: Make sense but is so often overlooked. Don’t carry to much weight, and make sure it’s all distributed evenly.
Maintenance of Your Inflatable Pontoon Boat
I wanted to expand more on one of the safety tips above, as it’s so key; maintaining the boat. You should inspect all operating features regularly, and always perform a spot inspection before you launch, including checking for any punctures. By performing correct maintenance, you will drastically reduce any safety concerns you might have.
If you have a collision whilst on the water with a rock, or something else under the waterline, then make sure to stop and also do a check at this point for any damage.
During the winter, you should also store the inflatable pontoon securely, making sure that’s it covered and free from any type of pest invasion. You can read my tips on how to secure your boat from pests, which whilst written for aluminum boats, also applies for small personal vessels too.
Be Safe and Prepared Whilst on the Water
As with any boating or water-based hobby, the biggest concession you can make to safety is to be prepared, be attentive, and have common sense.
If you are new to inflatable pontoon boating, I would advise you book onto a boat safety course. There’s some information on the US Coast Guard website on where you can find one in your local area.
General tips would include to be very attentive to how the water is naturally flowing and look out for anything that could obstruct your way, leading to damage or a potential capsize.
Definitely try to avoid large wakes at all times, as this is the main cause of how a capsize can occur and is the reason most people will ask whether or not inflatable pontoon boats are safe. Wakes can occur when larger boats pass by, so keeps your ears and eyes open so you are thinking a few steps ahead at any given point.
And finally, you are most at risk when standing up, for example when casting a line. Anchor down (see this recommendation) when you are going to stop for a spot of fishing, but for the safest way to pilot an inflatable pontoon, sitting down is the most secure option.
Additional Safety Tips Relating to Kit
When you’re out on your inflatable pontoon boat, chances are you are going to be carrying a lot of kit. More kit, especially when not secured properly, can present safety issues.
Oars are a particular concern and should be tied and tethered down when not in use, preferably using oar locks.
Fishing rods can also present a hazard, and so should be either laid flat on the deck by the chair or secured into fishing rod holders on the inflatable pontoons. Many owners will place their poles into upstanding vertical rod holders (as you can see in these modifications). This is a common way in which rods and equipment can get entangled into overhanging foliage, leading to accidents happening.
Boat Overloading and Weight Restrictions
As with large aluminum leisure pontoon boats, there are also weight restrictions you need to be responsible for – personal pontoon boats are designed to carry a very strict and limited amount of cargo. Anything more can put you in danger.
Any inflatable pontoon boat you buy will have manufacturer guidelines as to how much weight they can carry, so don’t ignore these. They will have been tested in strict factory conditions under different stress testing environments.
If your inflatable pontoon is overloaded you will find it not only hard to manoeuver, but could mean you start to sink or lean to one side.
I don’t want to put you off, but you asked whether inflatable pontoon boats are safe, so I wanted to be completely honest with you. I have never known anybody to be injured, or put themselves in a dangerous situation. That’s because they are all responsible owners who understand and respect the water. If you do the same, then there’s no reason why an inflatable personal pontoon boat can’t be enjoyed for years to come.