Pontoon boats aren’t exactly speed boats. And even though some are fitted with high-powered motors, most are too heavy to fly off in the water.
There is a way though to enhance the speed profile of a pontoon boat, without adding extra horsepower, or ditching weight from the boat. That’s by adding lifting strakes. This increases the rated speed by about 15-25%.
Lifting strakes are aluminum rods welded along the length of the pontoons to divert the waters drag force. The strakes raise the angle of the pontoon logs improving hydrodynamics by reducing drag.
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Several manufacturers already sell pontoons fitted with lifted strakes, or at least offer the option for potential buyers. Some old-timers whose pontoons don’t have that feature, are opting for having them retro-fitted.
So what are pontoon lifting strakes exactly? And do you need them? Read on to find out all about it.
So What Exactly Are Pontoon Lifting Strakes?
Pontoon tubes are by design rounded and immerse more than halfway-up in the water. As the pontoon moves forward, the water confronts all that pontoon mass. If you recall sixth grade physics, that translates to a drag force that resists the forward movement of the pontoon.
The strakes are also designed so that they lift the pontoon off the water just a little bit. The effect of this is very clear in rough water, where the pontoon is lifted over the waves, instead of facing every single wave head-on.
This combined action of gliding and lifting lets the pontoon get a noticeably higher speed. With an added benefit of a smoother ride and an exceptional overall performance.
What Are the Benefits of Lifting Strakes?
The benefits of having lifting strakes are substantial, and some of them aren’t known to many boaters. So let’s get into some detail here.
Lifting Strakes Cause the Pontoon Boat to Ride Higher In the Water
Because of the angle of the lifting strakes, when the engine is running, water is pushing up against the lifting strakes which raises the angle of the logs--this causes the pontoon boat to ride higher in the water, thus decreasing drag and bringing a lot of benefits.
Read on to see more about these benefits.
Increase Speed Without Extra Motor Power
This alone is a big plus, as adding a second motor isn’t a walk in the park. It’s expensive, takes some hardware work at a professional marine workshop, and it adds more weight to the heavy pontoon.
There are several ways to increase the speed of a pontoon, but most of them are complicated. The lifting strakes are simple aluminum rods that don’t weigh much, or contain any complex machinery.
Many pontoon boat owners with lifting strakes report tighter turns with lifting strakes. This makes sense--the lower the bow is in the water, the more difficult it would be to make turns.
With lifting strakes you will be able to turn more easily using less energy.
There is some discussion on whether putting lifting strakes on the inside of the pontoon logs as well as the outside (less common) improves or actually decreases turn capabilities. It’s undoubtedly a complex blend between the trim of the boat and a dozen other factors.
A smoother ride is much appreciated, whether you’re cruising on a sunday morning, partying on a moonlit night, or fishing with friends on a camping trip. Even if you’re towing a tube and reveling in watersports, a smooth glide is still better than a bumpy wade through the water.
Lifting strakes make their presence noticed from the moment you rev up the pontoon. The initial movement is significantly easier when these lifters are involved. It’s pretty much like wearing skis, where the curved front overcomes the tiny obstacles, and rises above them.
The enhanced performance might be even more evident with hard currents or rough waters. It’s amazing what a few rods placed in the right places will do to your pontoon!
More Savings on Fuel
Less water resistance means that the pontoon will go further on a gallon. This translates to savings on fuel every time you take her out.
Good for the Environment
Using less fuel isn’t just great for your pocket, it’s also good for the environment. While there aren’t yet many solar-powered pontoons, you can contribute to nature by using your pontoon efficiently.
More fuel consumption means more exhaust. Marine life is already polluted, and would benefit from a decrease in fuel usage. If you sail around river banks, the effect of that toxicity could extend to the plant-life on land as well.
Adding lifting strakes increases the efficient usage of fuel, decreases the toxicity caused by burning fuel, and hence, it indirectly makes you a conscientious boater.
Enjoying Water Sport Activities
A slow pontoon can hardly do much more than pull its weight slowly through the waters. A faster one has a few more options, and one of these is towing tubes.
This recently popular trend became possible with the added speeds of newer pontoon models. Previously, speed was rare in pontoons, and so these watersports didn’t correlate with pontooning. It was a territory for speedboats.
There’s a noteworthy point here. Speed boats might be ‘too fast’ for some water sport activities. That’s why a pontoon with ‘moderate speed’ might be the Goldilocks choice for some of these enjoyable trends.
Adding lifting strakes to a pontoon might make the cut from a slow cruiser, to an energetic pontoon up for some action!
Do Lifting Strakes Prevent Nosediving?
Lifting Strakes should only be considered as a performance bonus--they shouldn’t be relied on for basic operation of the pontoon boat.
If your pontoon boat is nosediving, you should examine the following factors, first:
- Weight distribution: Do you have gear or people near the bow of the boat?
- Engine height: If your engine is mounted incorrectly, it could cause your boat to nosedive.
- Over-aggressive deceleration: It may be that you are just slowing the boat down too quickly--you have to carefully slow down to prevent nosediving.
If you are nosediving (also known as submarining) when you are pushing your pontoon boat near its limit and want a bit more performance, then lifting strake can help with this.
After that, the next option is to get a tritoon (3 pontoon boat).
Do I Need Lifting Strakes?
Lifting strakes are optional for a pontoon boat. You do not need lifting strakes in order to get good performance from your pontoon boat.
Depending on your engine and your boat and how many logs you have, lifting strakes might not make a difference at all! It’s one of those sugar on the top features that can make a tremendous difference in very specific situations and not very much of a difference in others.
Do You Need to Retrofit Lifting Strakes?
Adding lifting strakes to a pontoon needs time, effort, and extra cash. With the expenses nearing $2000, this is a project that needs careful planning.
Lifting strakes need to be added in the right places to function properly. Aluminum welding isn’t as easy as regular steel welding, so care should be taken. The worst case scenario here is working with an amateur who could puncture the thin pontoons while attaching the strakes.
Some pontoon manufacturers offer the lifting strakes ready for installation. While others give the detailed plans that their engineers prepared. Both alternatives are good. Designing lifting strakes from scratch and DIYing them might be a bit of a different story.
Another thing to bear in mind is that not all pontooning needs extra speed or a higher lift. If your pontooning is mostly fishing on quiet lakes, or cruising with the family, then strakes could be an excess.
So in a nutshell, if your pontoon doesn’t come with lifting strakes:
- Checkout the alternatives
- Make sure your usage justifies the expenses
- Solicit the services of an above-average professional welder
Lifting strakes are among the best ways to increase the pontoon’s speed and enhance its performance. And while it does that, there’s also the added benefits of cutting back on fuel consumption, and being friendly to nature.
It’s not a magic maker though, so if you have a 4000 pound party pontoon, with a moderate horsepower, there wouldn’t be a huge difference in performance with the addition of lifting strakes. In some cases more motor power is the only way to get the speed you want.
In the more frequent usage of small to medium pontoons, having lifting strakes definitely shows a noticeable effect on the overall boating experience.
So now that you know what pontoon boat lifting strakes are, it’s time to decide if they are right for you.