Captain's ReportBy Vince DanielloWhat’s a TriToon? To those roughly familiar with pontoon boats, the natural assumption might be that it is a three-pontoon boat. Actually, as the term TriToon is used by JC Manufacturing, it is far more than that. JC’s TriToon hull uses three overlapping pontoons. The center pontoon looks like an ordinary pontoon with a U-shaped cross section, although it is noticeably wider than JC’s standard pontoons. The outboard pontoons, though, are totally different. Rather than having straight vertical sides, the inboard side of the port and starboard pontoons angle up to meet the center pontoon. In other words, instead of having three individual hulls, with a void between each, the TriToon forms one hull, somewhat reminiscent of the original Boston Whaler tri-hull.
There are two advantages to the TriToon hull over a traditional round or U-shaped pontoon. First is that the angled inboard surfaces add to the boat’s overall planing surface, creating more lift and therefore able to go faster for a given amount of horsepower. The second advantage is that the angled surfaces makes the hulls wider nearer the top, so as the boat pushes down into the water the amount of buoyancy pushing the boat back up increases. This shape has the greatest effect in choppy conditions. As a wave passes under the boat, the widening pontoon will gradually lift the boat over the wave. In fact, that angle is very much like the bottom of an offshore “deep-V” hull, but with the “V” pointing in, toward the center of the boat.The result is a smoother ride, and also a boat that handles more like a fiberglass hull, specifically shaped by a naval architect to get just the right ride, as opposed to a typical pontoon boat hull, with a uniform hull shape just because it is convenient to produce.This isn’t to say that ordinary two- or three-pontoon hulls are bad. JC produces many. (There standard pontoon hulls come in either two or three pontoon models, with the designator “TT” for triple tube.) Because their reduced wetted surface makes pontoon boats easier to push, pontoon boats are very fuel-efficient. It is also hard to match the space aboard a pontoon boat when compared to any other hull shape. Let’s face it, though, a pontoon hulls aren’t known for being able to handle big waves, and if you boat on a large body of water the TriToon hull might offer a significant advantage.The TriToon has one disadvantage. A round tube, or a U-shaped tube with a round bottom and vertical sides are both inherently strong. The angled sides of the TriToon see a bit more stress, so JC has to build them out of heavier-gauge aluminum. While a thicker hull is certainly good, it adds weight, taking away most of the horsepower efficiency gained by the hull’s improved shape. It also costs more to manufacture, adding to the price of the boat.Realizing that the added price of the hull lent itself to an upscale product, JC Manufacturing took their TriToon line upscale all the way, with many standard features that are options on the NepToon and SunToon models. The TriToon models also include more stainless steel fittings and railings, and at the bow two fiberglass pods and specially sculpted seat backs give the TriToon a little sleeker look than the typical, boxy pontoon boat. The wider center tube of the TriToon (36-inches wide instead of 23-inches wide) also allowed them to add an anchor locker at the bow of the center pontoon, which isn’t available on other models.The other huge advantage of the wide center hull is the ability to carry an inboard-outboard engine. The 266 TriToon I tested was equipped with a 320 horsepower Volvo 5.7 liter GXi sterndrive. While the TriToon hull feels noticeably sportier on the water than JC Manufacturing’s standard pontoon hulls, the addition of an inboard/outboard engine really gives this boat a completely different feel. It also offers subtle but important advantages like a full-width stern platform.The added horsepower also paid off. Volvo’s big 5.7 liter, 320 horsepower engine and Duoprop sterndrive pushed us up on plane in just 3.2 seconds, to a maximum 41.9 miles-per-hour at 5200 RPM. Sterndrive power and the added weight of the engine aft gave the ability to trim the stern down for larger wakes, which will certainly please any wakeboarders in the family. The Tri-Toon hull’s ability to carry weight also gave us good economy, about 3 ½ miles-per-gallon at 22 miles-per-hour, and a maximum of 3.78 miles-per-gallon at 16.7 miles-per-hour, for a 187-mile range. Volvo’s Duoprop stern drive, with two, counter-rotating propellers, eliminates side torque on the steering wheel of single-prop motors, and also provides more consistent control while docking.Of course the boat is available with outboards too. With a 225 horsepower outboard expect a top speed around 38 miles-per-hour, but consider a test ride of the boat with and without sterndrive power. The combination of TriToon hull and sterndrive power gives this boat a unique, solid feel different from any pontoon boat I’ve ever run.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the JC Pontoon TriToon 266 (2008-) is 41.9 mph (67.4 kph), burning 23.3 gallons per hour (gph) or 88.19 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the JC Pontoon TriToon 266 (2008-) is 22.0 mph (35.4 kph), and the boat gets 3.48 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.48 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 172 miles (276.81 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 320-hp Volvo Penta 5.7GXi.
Standard and Optional Features
||Lifetime Limited http://www.jcpontoon.com/warranty.html|
||2 Year http://www.jcpontoon.com/warranty.html|
Pricing Range: $30,733.00Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.