Pontoon boats have many uses from a place to cruise around with friends and host parties to enjoying water sports. And since water sports like tubing and water-skiing are best enjoyed at high speeds, more and more pontoon boat owners are looking into ways to make sure their pontoons are up to the task. Adding bigger and stronger outboard engines is one way of doing this, but another popular method is with Lifting Strakes.
So what are lifting strakes on a pontoon boat? Lifting strakes are blocks of metal that are welded directly onto the pontoon tubes themselves to generate lift, allowing your boat to lift and glide above the water instead of tearing through it. These strakes work by creating lift at the bow of the boat and displacing water to help increase the overall speed and ensure a much smoother ride.
Lifting strakes are ideal for pontoon owners who prefer to use their boat for water sports and cruising at high speeds as opposed to casual floating speeds. This modification to your pontoon can be very helpful, but it does come at a significant price and can cause some drawbacks to the quality of your ride, so it’s worth considering carefully before investing in some. To help you decide, take a look through our brief guide to how lifting strakes work and their benefits.
What are Lifting Strakes?
Lifting strakes are essentially bulges of aluminum that are welded onto the sides and bottom of a pontoon boat to give it some lift so the boat moves slightly faster and smoother across the water, rather than plowing through it.
Most new pontoon boats are already pre-fitted with lifting strakes, but they have become so popular in recent years that some owners of older brand pontoon boats are choosing to go with the DIY route and install some themselves.
Installing them yourself can be difficult and costly if you have little welding experience, however, which is why many leave it up to local welders, especially those with expertise in marine installations.
There is no one size fits all rule with lifting strakes either, as certain pontoon boats may require more or fewer strakes depending on how you intend to use your boat. How you position your strakes on the pontoons and the angle they are placed at will affect the performance, and this will factor further into the cost of installing them.
Will Lifting Strakes Make My Pontoon Boat Faster?
Essentially, yes. The difference in speed will not be dramatic by any means, but lifting strakes are designed to add lift at the front of your boat, creating less drag and allowing your boat to perform smoother and achieve top speeds with greater ease.
How much faster it will make your boat is hard to pinpoint, as the brand and horsepower behind each engine will determine the overall speed, though some pontoon owners have reported an increase in their boat’s speed gains as somewhere between 2 to 5mph with the use of lifting strakes.
For the best overall boost to performance, strakes are best fitted to the innermost sides of the pontoons as well as the outside. But if you’d still like to benefit from high speeds while banking your pontoon into corners (without needing to slow down too much) then fitting strakes to the inside of the pontoons only will be best.
What are the Benefits of Lifting Strakes?
Increased speed – Because they prevent the front of your boat from plowing into the water and instead keep it lifted above, lifting strakes are thought to increase your maximum speed by around 10 to 15%. This might not sound significant, but this will certainly make water sports like tubing and skiing much easier to pull off, as well as making them much more fun!
Better fuel economy – Since the addition of lifting strakes help you glide more smoothly across the water and improve the overall performance of your pontoon, your boat will consume less fuel than it normally would – making your party cruiser more efficient and lighter on your pocket in the long run.
Smoother ride – Depending on the placement of lifting strakes, they can not only generate lift but they can improve the overall balance of your pontoon, which makes for a smoother and more streamlined ride out on the waves.
Can Lifting Strakes Support Pontoons in Rough Waters?
Lifting strakes will improve your pontoon’s overall performance and handling, thereby giving you greater control, so yes, they will be able to aid your pontoon in choppy waters. It is important to bear in mind, though, that the angle at which the strakes are fitted will impact how efficiently they can support your boat in these conditions.
Many lifting strakes use negative angles, for example, which can decrease the ride quality by increasing slamming loads at the bow. Whereas positive angle lifting strakes help you maintain a better balance, particularly when used in conjunction with a three-toon or ‘Tritoon’ hull design of boat (more on tritoons below).
Are Lifting Strakes Worth It?
Adding lifting strakes to an existing pontoon can cost around $2,000 and this may be a worthwhile investment to you depending on the purposes of your pontoon. If you regularly enjoy high-speed water sports such as water-skiing and tubing then lifting strakes will make sense for you. But if you normally use your pontoon for fishing or slow cruising purposes then they may not be worth the extra expense.
Fortunately, there are other ways to increase your pontoon’s speed that may not be as costly as installing lifting strakes. Check out the following ways below.
Extra Ways To Improve Your Pontoon’s Speed
Trim Your Engine
Trimming your engine with the help of a hydraulic motor will soon see you moving a little faster in the water. Trimming essentially means tilting your boat’s engine to a higher angle so that the front of the boat is raised out of the water instead of plowing into the waves.
A quick way to test if you’re in need of an engine trim is by opening up the throttle next time you’re out on the water – if you notice water splashing up between the tubes then your pontoon could definitely benefit from this.
Invest in a Better Engine
Alternatively, you could always consider getting a better engine altogether to see immediate improvements in your speed. It may be costly, but if increased speed is important for your pontoon’s purpose, then upgrading to a higher HP engine could be worth it. Upgrading from a 90HP to a 150HP engine, for example, can increase your speed by around 3mph.
Convert to a Tritoon
Transforming your pontoon boat into a ‘tritoon’ with the addition of a third central tube is a sure-fire way to increase the speed of your boat, as a third tube creates a V-hull design that results in greater balance, greater agility and smoother handling to reach faster speeds.
The speed improvements are even greater once you add lifting strakes to each side of the three aluminum tubes too, as each one will lift you higher above the water and help you maintain a smooth ride.
Add Horizontal Foils
Horizontal foils or hydrofoils are pieces of planing material that span the gap between the pontoons. By adding a layer or two of horizontal foil to the underside of your pontoon boat between the tubes, this can help reduce the displacement of the boat carried by the pontoons and therefore reduce drag to help your boat pick up speed.
Under-skinning is similar to adding hydrofoil, except this process covers the entire underside of your deck to protect it from wear and tear. Under-skinning involves adding metal sheeting to the underside of your pontoon to not only protect the metal studs beneath your deck but also to ensure a smooth ride by reducing vibrations under the deck caused by splashing. This procedure is relatively cost-effective at $500 and will not only improve your pontoon’s speed, but increase the longevity of your boat’s deck.