Fence Me In
Under the deck, most pontoon boats are the same: They sit on aluminum tubes, usually two of them, with minimal hydrodynamic sophistication. (Yet Harris FloteBote has something interesting underwater, too – read on.) But it's on deck that one toon steps ahead of another, and we think Harris FloteBote has set a new standard in the simplicity of layout with the 24'8" (7.5 m) LOA Solstice 230, one of three toons in the new Solstice line. (The others are the 250 and 270.)
A typical toon has an L-lounge somewhere, fore or aft, that forces folks moving from bow to stern to follow a sinuous path. None of that aboard the Solstice 230: Pairs of facing bench lounges at both ends leave a wide, unobstructed, straight passage along the centerline, leading naturally to doors at either end of the boat. Rambunctious kids can start at the stern, sprint the length of the Solstice and race out the forward door into the water. (This is best done at anchor.) A third gate midships to port works for debarking when tied alongside.
If you have elderly parents or friends or a disabled member of the family, we can’t think of a better treat in life than a roomy pontoon boat and the Solstice 230 fits the bill. The folks at Harris FloteBote have thoughtfully designed the Solstice 230 for also handling folks in wheel chairs. Note the wide side gate, and how easy it is for the chair to be moved forward and aft without any obstructions. In fact a wheel chair can be moved right up to the table aft for lunch or drinks. Thank you Harris FloteBote!
”Transformers” Have Arrived!
Maybe you don't like simple face-to-face lounges? Then the incredible “Transformers” are for you. Optional on all the Solstice toons, and available only on these models, Transformer loungers convert from standard couch-type seating to aft-facing chaises, or, by lowering the backrests turn into sunpads. Or you can sit lengthwise, facing aft, with your back supported by the angled side rests. Drop the pivoting armrest or elevate your knees slightly – the Transformer does it all. They add $2,660 per pair to the MSRP (you can have them forward or aft, or both) but look well worth it. Swapping the standard aft lounges for Transformers makes room for a jumpseat opposite the helm, too.
These 'Toons are Built Tough
Fancy as she is, the Solstice 230 is no pansy. She 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 your 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 deck are covered by a limited lifetime warranty – so don’t worry about the marine play. It has been specially treated to stop rot and is, in fact, the best material for the application.
And They Can Be Fast, Too
If you want your Solstice 230 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 center tube, a little deeper than the outboard tubes, with a stepped running surface to create lift and reduce drag. To make proper use of the PIII, we recommend opting for lots of power, maybe a 200 Verado ($43,380; includes digital throttle and shift and hydraulic steering).In this “high-performance” mode you will be able to pull skiers and give tubers the thrills that they crave. (Plus we think there’s something neat about seeing grandpa’s toon keeping up with the kids in sportboats.)The performance package also adds lifting strakes on all the tubes and an aluminum skin to cover the cross-members and improve aerodynamics. If you don't want the whole enchilada ($4,110, plus $1,040 for power-assist steering if the outboard doesn't come with it). 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.
We haven't tested the Solstice 230 yet, but Mercury’s outboard techs have. According to the relevant Mercury Boat House Bulletin, a two-tube Solstice 230 powered by a 115-hp EFI four-stroke ran 24.8 mph (39.9 kph) top speed, and cruised most economically at 14.4 mph (23.2 kph). At top speed she burned 11.1 gph (42 lph), at cruise 3.2 gph (12.1 lph). These are pretty good numbers for a twin-toon installation, but if you want your toon to get up and fly you have to have the third toon.Max power for the 230 with twin toons is 150-hp. The PIII option boosts to 225-hp the max allowable.Based on Mercury's figures and 90% of the boat's 24-gallon (90.85 L) fuel capacity, our calculator predicts an endurance of 6.75 hrs at cruise, or way more than you need for a typical day on the water, or maybe even a weekend, depending on how much noodling around you do at low speed. Spend the whole time towing skiers and the gas will disappear long before sunset, though.
Your Solstice 230 Options
With the 115-hp Mercury four-stroke mentioned above, a nice power package in our opinion, the FloteBote Solstice 230 carries an MSRP of $34,890, including hydraulic steering. With a 115-hp Honda OB she lists for $38,180. Opt for max hp, the PIII package and a few other options and you'll spend over $50,000 for your Solstice 230. If you have kids that ski, this is probably the way to go. Let the kids use the boat during the day, and the parents and friends can use it in the evening.Or you can go the simple, low-power route and enjoy a Solstice 230 for under $30,000. Frankly, that is not a bad option, in our opinion. There is nothing more relaxing than a quiet evening putt-putting around a lake listening to the loons and watching the lights of beach houses twinkle on. It's up to you – that's one of the good things about toons: You can literally have them your way and at your price.
One of the problems for consumers when buying a pontoon boat is that nearly anyone with a little welding knowledge, a garage and a few bucks can go into the business of making toons, and making them cheap. But if you want a boat that is built to ABYC standards, using the best materials that will keep the boat looking good for years, and has a warranty that you can believe in, then you should only consider a good name like Harris FloteBote.Harris FloteBote is owned by the Brunswick Corp., which is the largest builder of boats and engines in the U.S. It is not going anywhere. Further, its engineers are tasked with making sure the boat is durable and safe. And because the company is large its procurement managers have clout on pricing, so hopefully some of that has been passed along to the consumer. Because it is the maker of both the boat and the engine if you have problems you only have to work with one dealer and one company. And that company is listed on the big board.
Standard and Optional Features
Structural lifetime warranty