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Pontoon boats carry passengers and cargo. Large, flat-bottomed boats, pontoon boats are sometimes called party boats because of the number of people they can accommodate. Because of their unique design and purpose, it is important to carefully select propellers, or props, for your pontoon boat. There are several factors to consider when searching for the best prop for your pontoon boat, including sufficient thrust and turning ability among other things.
Most pontoon boats use aluminum propellers. However, stainless steel propellers are stronger, stiffer and more efficient, and in many cases may prove more satisfying than aluminum props. It's also good to have older composite or plastic blades around as a prop replacement in the case of an emergency.
Some of the newer composite props, such as those from the manufacturer Pirana, actually perform as well as, and last as long as, many of their metal counterparts. In any case, construction material is the main factor in determining pontoon boat prop price and quality.
In your pontoon boat's manual you should be able to find the recommended RPM (rotation per minute) range for your boat's engine. For pontoon boat engines, this is usually between 800 and 1,000 RPMs. When choosing a prop for your boat, make sure the prop functions within the recommended RPM range of your engine when it's at full throttle. Getting a prop that doesn't work well with your engine will result in a less efficient ride that uses more gas.
Some prop blade variables include blade diameter or width, blade pitch or the angle of the blades, the number of blades and blade thickness. Each of these elements will affect your prop performance, causing your engine to run slowly or fast and making your pontoon ride more or less smooth and enjoyable.
The weight, size and ideal speed of your pontoon boat are what determine the prop blade that will work best with your boat. The best way to determine the perfect blade for your boat is to consult your manual, talk with fellow pontoon boat owners and experts and trial and error. Sometimes, you just have to get a feel for the prop before you know if it is right for your boat.
For more specific information on prop dimensions and options, visit your local boat retailer or contact a prop manufacturer directly. They should be more than willing to help and give you their opinions.
Ariel Phillips is an editor and writer living in Portland, Ore. He has written for "n+1 Journal" and "The Rumpus Magazine," among others. He maintains an interest in a variety of subjects, including art, culture, the environment, media, the sciences and sports. He earned bachelor's degrees in art and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.