Endless Possibilities From Layouts to Engines
By Capt. Vince Daniello
Flexibility. To engineers and naval architects, flexibility is generally a bad thing, adding stress to places not meant to be stressed. But to boat buyers, flexibility can be good. The ability to choose an interior layout, numerous choices for power, lots of color options, these are all things available from some manufacturers, but not others.
JC Manufacturing, builders of JC pontoon boats for over 30 years, believes in offering as many choices as possible to their boat buyers. They offer nearly infinite variation in their interior layouts, many options for power from several engine manufacturers, and even several choices in hulls.
While JC offers both two- and three-pontoon options for their SunToon and NepToon series, this 246 TriToon is built on an entirely different hull. This is a noticeable upgrade for JC’s customers, and also something unique among all pontoon boat hulls.
In a nutshell, JC’s TriToon hull employs a wide center hull—over 50 percent wider than standard hulls—and also changes the shape of both the port and starboard hulls. (Most pontoon boats use either two or three identical hulls.) This unique hull shape makes the three individual pontoons overlap at their tops, so a boat’s entire bottom becomes one hull. The shapes of the port and starboard hulls also make the TriToon hull more comfortable in choppy seas and more economical. The TriToon hull also handles differently on the water, with a sportier feel than most pontoon boats.
The TriToon hull does have one disadvantage; it is a bit costlier to make. Recognizing that not everyone on inland or protected waters needs the TriToon advantage, JC offers many “standard” pontoon boats as well. (Although I should point out that JC’s lower-priced tube is advanced over what many manufacturers offer.) The TriToon boats are also more posh than JC’s other lines, with extra stainless steel, more standard features, and a somewhat sleeker look.
The 246 TriToon I tested was no exception. This 24-footer has a layout similar to JC’s other 23- and 25-footers, but with the added features of the TriToon model. Actually, saying the interiors are similar between any of JC boats—even identical models—is most likely inaccurate. The company allows individual purchasers to choose the accessories installed at the end of each section of seating. Choices range from several types of storage through coolers, trash bins, and even a folding table.
There are also a few features on the TriToon not available on the company’s other models, such as the anchor locker in the wide center pontoon on the bow and another large storage compartment perfect for skis and wakeboards beneath the deck in the portside hull. The TriToon also includes a cleverly designed cutaway helm, which provides more leg room and better access to storage beneath the helm. (All of JC’s boats use a lift-top helm design to provide excellent service access for electrical and electronics work.)
While the company offers many options for power, our test boat was equipped with Suzuki’s 4-liter, 200 horsepower V-6. This is actually a new choice for this boat, since this engine is now available in a 20-inch shaft length preferred for performance pontoon boats like this 246 TriToon. This engine features Suzuki’s variable intake valve timing, which allows more clean air into the engine to increase performance in the mid-RPM range, as well as a multi-stage air induction system that adds power at lower RPM. This 250 SS model also incorporates a brand new hydrodynamic lower unit to minimize drag and maximize speed and acceleration.
Of course the proof is in our tests, where the 246 TriToon topped out at 43.3 miles-per-hour at 6100 RPM. This combination also proved economical, reaching a peak 4.63 miles-per-gallon at 19 miles-per-hour, and traveling over 229 miles between fuel stops. Like most of Suzuki’s outboards, this engine utilizes an offset drive shaft design that shifts the weight forward, and provides a narrower engine. This also allows Suzuki to use a lower gear ratio and larger propeller. Our test boat’s 200 carried the muscle of its six cylinders into the water with Suzuki’s big 16- by 17-inch stainless steel prop and low 2.08 to 1 gear ratio, getting us on plane in just 2.9 seconds and up to 30 miles-per-hour in 5.9 seconds.
At 24 feet long and 8 ½ feet wide, this 246 TriToon weights 3050 pounds, a little heavier than some pontoon boats because of the heavy-gauge aluminum hull, but this extra weight is offset by the added planning surface of the TriToon asymmetrical outer pontoons. That brings me back to one other important point about the TriToon hull. With the heavier-gauge hull and overlapping pontoons held rigid by the boat’s deck, the TriToon system avoids movement in the hull and deck, which is the one place flexibility is a bad thing.