Hydroplaning tritoon designs and performance

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Jim Koochiching, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    I've been riding a 20', 50hp pontoon boat on Rainy Lake for about 10 years. Rainy Lake is pretty big and we probably only see about 5% of it, so I've decided to invest in a faster boat. After reviewing the various options (various V-hulls, deck boats and pontoons), I've settled on getting a hydroplaning tritoon. (From what I gather, they now significantly outperform deckboats for weight, fuel consumption, top speed and rough-water handling... but that's not the subject of this thread.)

    There's a bit of design variety among hydroplaning tritoons but surprisingly little data or even objective speculation comparing the designs, which brings me to your community!

    I'd appreciate your informed opinions on the pros and cons of the available options.

    There seem to be essentially two major designs for a hydroplaning tritoon:
    Efficient: Lifting strakes on all six edges for early planing.
    Agile: Lifting strakes only on the inner edges for tight turns.

    Tahoe and Avalon in their "Waveglider" package use what might be considered the most obvious design: lifting strakes on each side of all three pontoons. They use round-bottomed pontoons. The center tube is u-shaped for a gas tank, optional storage, and buoyancy, but I'm not sure if the outer toons are circular or u-shaped in cross-section.

    Premier, in their high-end PTX design, has settled on lifting strakes only on the inner edges of the outer pontoons, combined with a U-shaped center toon lacking strakes but with a flattened, planing bottom - a 6" wide flat surface on a 30" wide PTX toon or a 12" surface on a 36" PTX toon. Premier claims removing the outer strakes allows tighter turns while the flat bottom of the center toon supposedly provides enough lift to compensate for the loss of four strakes.

    Bennington's top-of-the-line ESP (Eliptical Sports Package) is essentially the same as Premier's PTX while their SPS (Standard Performance Package) is basically the same as Tahoe/Avalon's Waveglider 6-strake system. [Note: For their ESP they have "lifting strakes" on both sides of the central, elliptical pontoon but on the inner sides of the outer toons they call them "performance foils". I'm not sure those are actually two different things.]

    From the manufacturers' and dealers' claims it seems that having six lifting strakes allows the boat to hydroplane at lower speeds and thus have slightly better fuel consumption (in mpg) in the speed range where the 6-strake design will plane but the more agile 2-4 strake design will not.

    [I strongly suspect I'd be happy with any of the planing pontoons, but my inclination is more towards fuel-efficient straight travel than sporty handling.]

    Other design variations include:
    Strake design. I don't know much about the variations in strake design but I noticed that while the bottom surface on some is parallel to the water (the most obvious design) on others (Bennington) the bottom surface is angled downwards with the outermost edge lower than the welds to the toon.

    A larger center toon. This may be either lower that the outer toons, or wider (eliptical), or both. Sizes seem to range from 25" to 30" circular or 36" elipitcal. While providing additional buoyancy the main goal appears to be tighter turning, in some cases accompanied with the sporty feel of banking into a turn (touted by Premier).

    A flat-bottomed center toon. This provides a planing surface with (Bennington) or without (Premier) strakes on the center toon. This sacrifices a central keel (and thus some rock protection and slippage during turns) in all designs I've seen and would have less strength than a round toon unless reinforced.

    U-shaped toons. Mainly this design allows a motor, fuel tank and/or storage locker to be installed inside a pontoon (only in the center toon in models I've seen). Under a heavy load, this shape provides more buoyancy than a round pontoon which would be more than half submerged. The wide upper surface should also have structural advantages over a round toon for secure attachment to the underside of the boat's deck.

    Lateral spacing. This concerns wake interference between the tubes but given the standard width of mass-market tritoons I doubt they consider it, unless it factors into the choice of toon width (which directly affects toon spacing if the boat width is kept constant).

    Longitudinal position. For mass-market tritoons the center toon is usually the same length or slightly longer (not counting the non-buoyant motor pod) than the other two toons and has essentially the same center of buoyancy along the length of the boat... but it need not be so. In the cheapest tritoons the center toon is sometimes much shorter and its center is then best shifted further aft to support the motor and fuel.

    Volume. Independent of other design considerations mentioned above (shape, depth, strakes, etc.) I assume additional volume merely provides additional buoyancy. For example, a larger round toon would not hydroplane any more than a smaller round toon of the same length (assuming both were equally submerged as a percentage of their diameters). Outboard motors over 250hp not only require larger toons but also a stronger deck.


    I'd love to hear more about the pros and cons of these designs - or design options not mentioned. I suspect there's not much data to compare the actual performance of these designs but educated speculation and anecdotes are also welcome!

    The major design implications I can think of include:
    • Minimum planing speed.
    • Drag at low speeds.
    • Fuel consumption.
    • Rough-water handling.
    • Turning radius.
    • Turning comfort.

    Thanks!
     
  2. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    You have posted a bunch of miscellaneous observations. You have not been specific about what you want except to go fast.

    Post a statement of requirements (SOR) then we can converse.

    How big do you want the boat to be?"
    How fast do you want to go?
    What accommodations must it have? Cabin?, Canopy?, Open deck?
    How many passengers must it handle safely?
    What building material do you anticipate?
    Must it be trailerable?
    What are the normal or even the extreme weather conditions where you will operate?
    Do you want it to be beachable?
    Etc....................

    Not on the SOR...............Why do you want a "tritoon"?
     
  3. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    Sorry I wasn't clear.

    I mean for this to be a general discussion of the pros and cons of various hydroplaning tritoon designs, whether actually in production or worthwhile for designers to consider... with an emphasis on mass-market tritoons.

    There is no statement of requirements beyond hydroplaning because I don't mean for the discussion to focus on my specific needs.

    My requirements (floating play room, great stability at low and high speeds, 40+ mph, able to handle 3 foot waves very well, tubing, removable camper enclosure, etc.) have already been very well satisfied by deciding on a mass-market hydroplaning tritoon, any of which will meet my needs when paired with a 200+ HP outboard motor and a trolling motor.

    Now I'm just interested in refining my knowledge; being more informed on the pros and cons of the designs both out of curiosity and because it might help me make an informed choice.

    It's that curiosity which brought me to your fine forum.
     
  4. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    So what is it you want opinions on, if your requirement has already been satisfied ? :confused:
     
  5. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    My apologies if this sort of inquiry is too general for these fora, but that is as good a statement as I can manage of what I'm after: whatever ideas, thoughts and experiences folks have to share on the topic.
     
  6. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    I think you meant "planing" rather than "hydroplaning" ? Hydroplanes are nothing but speed machines.
     
  7. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    A pontoon boat can be forced to go fast, but that smacks of making a silk purse out of a sows ear.

    There are two realms of operation for water bound vehicles. Displacement and planeing. Design features are very different between the two. The round tube pontoon is reasonably efficient at very low speeds. It is anything but efficient at developing dynamic lift required for planeing performance. Thus add some band aid elements like strakes. Still not efficient but it helps. In any case a lot of power will be wasted unnecessarily by using section configurations ill suited for the task.

    If you need to go 40 knots and plunge through three foot seas with a multihull, then a powercat is the more appropriate machine. A powercat designed by a knowledgeable, experienced, professional who is not constrained by the need to use inappropriate shapes.
     
  8. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    Thanks Messabout,
    It certainly sounds like powercats are worth further investigation.

    I'd certainly appreciate some links which explain some of the designs you have in mind.

    I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, however, living in a relatively remote area: International Falls on the Minnesota-Ontario border. I'm not sure what we have in the way of boat builders other than a few pontoon and houseboat factories in the state, but I could look into it and know some folks who would probably know.

    But I'm not sure we should dismiss the cutting-edge of brand-name pontoon hulls just yet.

    Mind you, I completely agree concerning the disadvantages of round tubes. When I looked into my first power boat 11 years ago there were some people putting huge motors on round tubes and it seemed completely unappealing to merely throw more power to make a slow design go fast. Given the full spectrum of choices I chose a traditional slow pontoon over v-hulls and other choices.

    But in recent years some non-circular designs have emerged that seem to show real promise to my uninformed but technically-inclined mind.

    Your opinion on the "band-aid" of strakes welded on an otherwise round tube sounds reasonable, though there is significant variation in strake design and comparative data against powercats would be welcome.

    However, what about the new designs that leave the circle behind?

    Flat-bottomed pontoons: Premier PTX & Bennington ESP
    [​IMG]
    The diagram doesn't show it well, but the Premier PTX design has either a 6" or 12" wide flat bottom on their 30 and 36" wide elliptical center tubes.

    [​IMG]
    Bennington ESP: 32" wide center tube with a flat bottom.

    This is not a huge departure from a round tube, but does it rise above the mere "band-aid"?


    Deep-V pontoons: Sylvan RPT
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    This seems like the best design of the non-round options I've seen.

    I hadn't looked much at Sylvan yet but it seems I should because that two-tube, 150hp design is as fast as the Tahoe and Premier PTX tritoons I just tested and they had 175hp and 200hp motors, respectively.


    While waiting for further feedback I'll look into powercats.

    But since this is getting more into my specific needs than I originally intended, I should mention one more thing:

    Rainy Lake, where I'll do nearly all my boating, is a very rocky lake. The rocks are more angular than round. I thus favor a boat that is less exposed to rocks (shallow draft), more resilient to damage and more repairable. Of course I also want my boat to be relatively unsinkable if it sustains disabling damage, but that can be true with any hull design if one adds enough flotation.

    From what little I know, aluminium pontoons seem to rate fairly high on these variables.

    That said, I'm certainly open to other materials and designs. (There are far more v-hull fishing boats than anything else on this lake, though aluminium is strongly favored over fiberglass.) I'd just be a little more paranoid and cautious.
     
  9. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Wow! You live in the nations ice box. I reckon that one has to pay for the incredible natural beauty of that part of the world.

    If I remember correctly, there was once a rather large boat manufacturer in that area. Larson boats was bought up by Brunswick Corp I think. On second thought, maybe they were in Little Falls. Still way up there for a tropic guy like me.

    I'll take the Sylvan, hands down, unless the price is vastly higher than the other brands. They are doing it right if speed and ride quality is the desire. Evidently there is a market for fast pontoons and that is the best one I have seen for its given purpose. The bottom will not only be more efficient but will almost surely operate in less water depth than a conventional tube type. It will also have better reserve buoyancy characteristics than tube types.

    The Sylvan bottom design is not the least revolutionary despite their Madison Avenue hype. It is not even a new idea for pontoons. There was once a Florida outfit who did something similar 20-30 years ago. The boats worked very well but they had only limited success. That was because every prospect for buying a pontoon boat knew in their heart that those boats had to be made from aluminum tubes.

    In your case I believe that aluminum is the best choice. An aluminum boat is not indestructible but most of them are pretty tough.
     
  10. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    Yep, it's the "IceBox", and this July and August I found myself wishing I already had that "full camper enclosure" to use in the middle of summer! Highs in the 60's... 70's if we're lucky. It's definitely been an unusually sweat-free year; that enclosure would normally only be on for the first and last months of the season.

    Tonight's cruise really underscored my need for speed. My family practice doctor wife got home on the late end of her unpredictable days and we just barely had time (at 13mph) to take my daughter to Little America Island (<10 miles each way) for her 9th birthday picnick dinner and presents... on the first island she ever set foot on (at the age of 3 weeks).

    Tonight also reminded us of the need for slow, quiet stability as Gavia used her birthday gift of a loon flute to chorus with Gavia immer.

    Yep, Larson Boats has been in Little Falls, MN since it was founded 100 years ago. That's 3+ hours away.

    Too bad my neighbor and friend Buck Johnson recently passed away. He build scale models of all the historic boats on Rainy Lake and would certainly know the history of local boat builders. I'll ask his brother soon and it'll surely be interesting, but might not help my current quest.

    Sounds like you might be nearly as comfortable recommending the Sylvan RPT design as a custom-built powercat... or am I reading too much into your last post? Should I pursue the custom powecat idea any further?

    Meanwhile I'm curious what you think of Manitou's Sport Handling Package (SHP) "V-toon" design:
    [​IMG]

    I'm guessing many would say "if you want a v-hull, get a v-hull", which makes a fair bit of sense. And if you want a v-hull with a pontoon-style deck, get a deck boat. That's what my inner skeptic says, anyway, though many sources say the new tritoons outperform deckboats in speed, handling and rough water. Still, I'd love to see useful performance data on the Manitous.

    Too bad Manitou owns the name "V-toon" as it'd be a more accurate name for Sylvan's RPT shape.

    Concerning the band-aid of strakes, Manitou says:
    Their may be some valid points in there, but in my particular case I'm more interested in straight-line speed (both cruising and open throttle) and stability (both trolling and cruising) than I am in tight turns (not that agility isn't nice) or acceleration.


    A Sylvan tritoon is increasingly looking like the right answer.

    But not without concerns: I found a few threads with several people complaining of multiple weld failure on Sylvan RPT tubes and one hint that they made changes to strengthen them for the 2013 model year. The nearest dealer (5 or so hours away in Kenora Ontario) said he'd check into that for me (Sylvan, to their great discredit, does not provide any direct contact information to non-dealers). Who knows what the dealer will learn (and share).

    [Side note: I've long looked forward to possibly boating from the start of the Rainy River through Lake Of The Woods to Kenora. Perhaps instead I'll buy a boat there and do the trip in reverse.]

    Anyway, what concerns do you have about the structural durability of that V design in either Sylvan's RPT version or the Florida version?

    Do you recall the name of the Florida predecessor?
     
  11. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Please thank Mrs, K, on my humble behalf, for being a FP doc. There is a shortage of them in my area but we have an overabundance of specialists. (specialist generally being more prosperous)

    Of course I have no idea of the engineering capability or the practice of production excellence at Sylvan. In the instances of failed welds, there may be some reasons that do not involve the original manufacturer. Or... there might be some issues there. I am not a pontoon guy so I could not know. I am an inveterate sailor and former hydroplane racer. Also an engineer and amateur hydrodynamics student, builder of many boats, some of which actually floated.

    Of the several planforms that you have shown the Sylvan is the one that makes the most sense for a fast boat. I do think that 40 knots is pushing the envelope a bit farther than a normal practice might recommend. That would be hitting those three foot seas pretty hard. So OK, 25 or 30 is better than 13 at WOT when you are pressed for time or running from threatening weather.

    Oh, and it appears that you will need your passport on Rainy Lake because it is in large part, Canadian.

    It seems that you are doing your research carefully. After all a purchase of this sort is not a chump change deal.

    You might wish to contact Richard Woods, one of our forum members. He is a cat guy with a lot of experience and design capability. You might get some more professional suggestions from him.

    The Florida outfit has long ago perished. They had some great ideas but were probably under capitalized, eventually disappearing from the market. If memory serves, they were building with fiberglass which was strike two so far as market acceptance for such boats. People do want a boat to look like what they believe it should look like, Physics be damned.
     
  12. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    40 knots in choppy water is just unrealistic, 25 knots should be enough, and achievable.
     
  13. Jim Koochiching
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    Jim Koochiching Junior Member

    There's a FP doc shortage everywhere in the USA, and doubly so in rural areas! We suffer hard from it here and many have it much worse.

    I'll push Sylvan on the quality control question and hopefully hear something encouraging (actual warranty statistics, construction improvements, etc.) but that does seem like the builder I'll actually end up with.

    FYI, I was only ever hoping for 40+ mph on a smooth surface. Naturally I'd slow down and adjust as necessary for rough water.

    Got the border issue under control: a Nexus card is as good as a passport for our border and doubles as a remoter border crossing permit for the US govt. For the Canadians I get a separate permit for remote crossings. But by law crossing the border without any documentation is fine with the Canadians as long as your boat doesn't touch land or another boat - handy for showing guests the whole lake.

    Richard Woods, eh? The Woods clan is well known in this area, I wonder if there's a connection?
     

  14. CassLaker
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    CassLaker New Member

    Take a Test Drive

    Hi Jim...find some " local" dealers and take some boats for a test drive. Miller Marine in St. Cloud will let you test drive a Bennigton. Bristows, also in St. Cloud, will let you test drive a Manitou. Hallberg Marine in Wyoming, MN will let you test drive their line of Premiers. The closest Sylvan dealer to you is in Hastings, MN. Quite a trip but worth it if you can find the boat you want. For what it's worth, I do and have experience with a Premier PTX with a 300 hp Honda on Gull Lake in Brainerd. All I can say is, "Unbelievable!" Very fast, very smooth (even in choppy water), very well built boat. We were on Gull going into 3 foot waves at 35-40 MPH with no problems. My friend who had a 19 foot Glastron and sold it to buy the Premier told me he wished he would have gotten rid of the Glastron 13 years ago.
     
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