Even the American flag comes standard on the 230 Crowne (flags of other nations are also available). Power options, all single OB, range from a 9.9-hp Mercury to a 150-hp Honda or Mercury Verado, max for the twin-tube version. Adding the PIII performance package, with its third tube, allows 225-hp, again either a Honda or Mercury.
Wrapped in Fiberglass
Harris Flotebote knows that there are many different segments to the pontoon market and so it has addressed seven of them, each with a different series of boats. Harris knows that there are people who want only the very best that money can buy, but don't want to be flashy, loud, or even large -- and it also knows that there are customers who want a large, splashy, three-ring floating carnival on a budget. The Crowne series is for the first customer, the ones who demand excellence and appreciate the finer things in life.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the 230 Crowne is a molded-fiberglass and aluminum exterior, construction that permits styling touches to make her more attractive than a pontoon boat with a flat-panel "fence." Her profile rakes at bow and stern, adding a touch of sweeping style lacking in bluff-ended 'toons. We like this fiberglass treatment because it makes the boat look more nautical -- almost like a small ferry boat -- and less like a floating platform. It also gives the boat a modicum of aerodynamics so if you are caught in a blustery summer squall you won't have quite so much windage. This is the kind of design that we think would appear to a veteran boater who has developed a nautical eye.
A Rose Is A Rose
We occasionally hear people say that all pontoon boats are the same. Like a lot of things in life they may look so to the un-educated eye, but in fact they are often quite different. Let's take a look at some of the details on the 230 Crowne to illustrate what we mean: Aluminum stanchions and rails provide extra support around her bulwarks; her patented safety gates are rated for 400 lbs.; cast aluminum cleats are standard, and her seats are upholstered with high-grade 17 mil, 33 oz. PreFixx vinyl -- the same material you will find some million dollar yachts.
There are port and starboard lounges forward and an L-lounge aft, all overstuffed and upholstered in 33-oz. ostrich-pattern marine vinyl. Under the Imperial carpet, the deck is 7-ply tongue-and-groove wood. Aft, there's a five-step fold-down swim ladder. The entertainment galley is amidships, ahead of the helm; the second countertop is opposite.
Those vinyl cushions rest on molded fiberglass furniture bases, which are strong and durable and provide storage, but most of all they are comfortable. All of the hardware and fasteners are stainless steel, the under deck wiring is protected against moisture, and the inside of the boat's "fencing" is upholstered, something that is almost unheard of on most toons.
The portside bow lounge has a built-in fender caddy, easily reached from the 'amidships gate; a quick-release fender attachment system is standard. A changing room is also standard and is large enough for an optional Porta-Potti. At night, the whole cockpit can be romantically lit by low-level lights under the lounges. This sumptuous 'toon is rated to carry 12 people – 14 with the optional PIII performance package.
An entertainment galley, just forward of the helm (right, above), has a solid-surface countertop; a refrigerator with dockside charger is optional. A second countertop, to port, has a pull-out leaf for even more food-prep area. We like that both countertops have fiddles.
These 'Toons are Tough
The 230 rides on 25" (63.5 cm) aluminum pontoons, built in-house by Harris craftspeople from marine-grade 5052 alloy; four sealed sections mean that punching a hole in a tube won't keep you from getting home safely. Each tube is further protected by a full-length keel, and finished with two-piece "Dolphin" nose cone to slice through chop and knock down spray. Two longitudinal mounting brackets on each tube bolt to aluminum cross-members which support the wood deck. The tubes, under-structure and specially-treated tongue and grove 3/4" (1.90 cm) plywood (7 ply) deck are covered by a limited lifetime warranty, as are all structures on the boat.
The cleanly arranged helm lives in a molded fiberglass console. All the gauges (by Faria) are arrayed for easy monitoring, switches, cupholders and sound system are near at hand and the auto-style tilt wheel is nicely padded. No-feedback mechanical steering is standard, hydraulic optional – but included with outboards over 115-hp.
Things Done Right
Harris Flotebote has put a lot of thought into the helm. The starboard side helm station has a comfortable "Ultra Lux" captain's chair. The instrument panel has all of the required gauges, plus a standard depth sounder and speedo. The gauges are fog resistant. The wheel has no feedback tilt steering and no friction cable steering. The windscreen is removable. We like the fact that the horn has a compressor so you can give a blast when desired instead of a tweet. The builder has thoughtfully put a dimmer on the instrument lights to aid the skipper's night vision.
As we walk around the boat we see other things we like which are standard equipment such as the counter for the entertainment console, the docking lights forward, the five-step swim ladder (hooray!), and quick-release fender system.
Options We Like
The option list is important because it can let you customize this already distinguished boat to the special proclivities of a discerning owner. First on our list would be the Porta Potti, followed quickly by the refrigerator with charging system. We'd have a ss grill for entertaining and the retractable dock line system to make it easy on the crew. Now, the question begs, how fast do we go?
The Last Shall Be First
At one time pontoon boats were for gramps and his 9.9-hp engine (maybe even his 5-hp motor). Things have changed, and with the advent of the tri-toon pontoon boats can now go almost as fast as nearly anything else on a moderate sized lake.
If you want your 230 Crowne to get up and go when you punch the throttle, you'll want both Harris FloteBote's Performance III package and one of the more powerful outboards it permits you to mount. The PIII option includes a V-shaped center tube, a little deeper than the outboard tubes, with a stepped running surface to create lift and reduce drag. The performance package also adds lifting strakes on the outer tubes and an aluminum skin to cover the cross-members and improve aerodynamics.
If you don't want the whole enchilada (a $4,110 option), you can get just the lifting strakes ($380) or just the aluminum skin ($900). But you won't get the increase in max hp, or the added weight capacity thanks to the third tube. We'd spring for the whole Performance III option.
The Bimini top is standard, as is a mooring cover, but the ski tow bar is optional; skiers will also want the optional in-deck ski locker. A power-lift option for the Bimini is also available, and handy if you boat in an area with lots of low bridges: Touch a button to lower and raise the top.
Base price ranges from $38,000 to $59,000, depending on the number of toons, options and power. A base 230 Crowne starts at $38,080 with a 9.9-hp Mercury 4-stroke OB; yes, it sounds anemic, but some lakes have restrictive speed limits, and the small Merc might be all the power folks on those waters can use. These restrictions not withstanding, even if we only planned for slow sunset cruising around the lake in the cool of a summer evening, we'd want at least a 25-hp kicker for the times when the breeze comes up. All pontoon boats have quite a bit of windage to manage.
If we had kids who wanted to water ski and tube we'd choose a 150-hp Mercury Verado ($49,760) or Honda ($52,180) if we weren't opting for the performance package – both include hydraulic steering. Another PIII option is the Merc 225 Verado: at $57,590, or the 225 Honda, which is slightly more. With one of these engines you should be top banana of the toons.
Add a few other odds and ends, and a full-blown 230 Crowne could set you back around $65,000. That's top of the range for a 23' tri-toon, but the Crowne is a top-range 'toon, and that price includes mucho horsepower and the performance package as well.
As we said in the beginning, you should see the Crowne 230 (or 250) to know what the very best looks and feels like. Then explore the other toons on the market and compare the difference. You will have a terrific reference point.