Explore America's Campgrounds
A bimini top on your Sun Tracker pontoon boat provides limited shade, but a pontoon tent enclosure gives you shelter from the elements along with total privacy. Install the tent framework before casting off, and you'll be ready to get set up easily when you reach your campsite.
Choose Your Style
Sun Tracker makes canopies and boat covers, but you'll have to look to other companies for a tent enclosure designed for a pontoon. Although full pontoon boat enclosures can turn your pontoon into a canvas "houseboat," pontoon tent enclosures generally cover just your boat's bow seating area. Tent enclosures come designed for 96- or 102-inch-wide boats, but some can work with either.
Prepare for Installation
Install the pontoon tent enclosure with just a few simple tools that include a cordless drill with a 5/32-inch drill bit, Phillips screwdriver and measuring tape. It's easiest to install the framework while the tent is on the trailer, positioned where you can easily access all sides. However, it's also possible to do while you're on the water. Ask a helper to assist you in positioning and holding the framework for best results.
Install the Framework
The tent enclosure framework attaches to your boat's playpen rail, around the seating area. Measure to make sure you have enough open space to accommodate the length of the tent without it coming in contact with the bimini top, door or any other obstruction.
Attach the side mounting brackets to the outside of your playpen, flush with the top of the railing. Start at the bow end of the playpen rail where it begins to bend. Position the bracket and mark the location of the screw holes with a marker. Use the drill to make pilot holes, and then attach the bracket using screws. Attach the remaining brackets in the same manner at the distance from the first recommended by your tent enclosure's manufacturer. Repeat the process on the other side until all brackets are attached.
Assemble the Tent
When you're ready to set up your tent, insert the end of one tent pole into a bracket. Carefully bend the pole and insert it in the bracket on the opposite side of the boat, forming an arch. Repeat with each tent pole.
Unfold the tent and lay it on top of the bowed tent poles with the hook-and-loop attachments facing down. Attach the top to the tent pole by securing the hook-and-loop tape around the pole. Attach the center pole to the tent's interior, and secure the tent fabric to your boat using the adjustable buckles and snaps provided by the manufacturer.
Easy Up, Easy Down
To take the tent enclosure down, unhook the snaps that secure the tent to your boat. Remove the center pole and undo the hook-and-loop tape securing the fabric to the tent poles. Fold your tent fabric, and place it back in the bag. If your tent is wet or damp, remove it and lay it out to dry before storing it long term to prevent mildew. Remove your tent poles carefully from their brackets, keeping in mind that they'll snap back to a straight position quickly if you don't keep a hold on them. Fold up the poles, and place them in the bag.
Don't drive your boat faster than idle speed with your pontoon tent enclosure erected or you could end up damaging your tent and frame.
- Always store the tent when dry.
Indulging her passion for wide open spaces and outdoor fitness through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, author Jodi Thornton-O'Connell takes the mystery out of outdoor skills and guides readers to discover fun ways to physically connect to natural surroundings.