Once little more than slow-moving party barges, select pontoon boats now come close to rivaling a fiberglass V-hull. Taking the wheel of Cypress Cay’s Cayman 250, I carved high-speed turns that would have sent the cocktails flying on a pontoon of old, en route to a top speed of 45 mph.
Grandpa’s party barge never had that kind of attitude.
Certainly power is part of the equation. Triple pontoon configurations are now buoyant enough to handle a big, beefy outboard at the stern. My test boat was powered by a Mercury 225 Verado powerful enough to easily tow a skier or wakeboarder, and maybe even show up a few runabouts on the way back to the dock.
Tweaks below the deck, however, truly complete the makeover. Cypress Cay’s T3 Performance Package not only adds that third pontoon, but also drops it an inch lower than the outer logs. To that center pontoon they add generous, full-length lifting strakes on each side, and add similar strakes to the inside of each outer pontoon. The combination gives the boat the sort of nimble handling and personality normally reserved for a V-hull, while allowing it to jump rapidly onto plane and avoid the nose-dive effect that can plague some pontoons. A full aluminum skin below deck completes the package, covering the normally exposed cross-members with a smooth surface that lessens resistance. Pretty cool stuff.
That coolness factor doesn’t end with performance. Up top I found an automotive-inspired helm, with a convenient forward stowage compartment to keep necessities like charts, a phone, or a handheld GPS readily at hand. It’s not insulated, but features a drain so you can also use it as a cooler. More stowage is located underneath every inch of seating space (even the forward backrests), and below the sunpad lies a pop-up changing room. Add an optional porta-potty to handle nature’s calls away from shore.
Ready to do some skiing or wakeboarding? The toys slip below the deck in an expansive ski locker that takes advantage of that center tube to maximize storage space. No water toys lying about the deck on this baby.
The final touch is added by a stylish, sloping rail configuration that is in sharp contrast to the boxy rail structure that has defined pontoon boats for decades.
Flaws are hard to find. The only real miscue is somewhat comical given a pontoon’s reputation — a serious lack of cupholders forward. On pontoons, everybody’s got a cool something in hand. But in 14 linear feet of seating space, I only found four spots to hold those drinks. Cypress Cay makes optional holders that easily tuck into the upholstery, but still, this seems like a design oversight on a boat that does many things quite well.
The Cayman 250 definitely isn’t Grandpa’s evening cruiser. At over $50,000 as tested, it’s not priced like it, either. But that’s kind of the point. By offering much of the same speed and handling of a fiberglass V-hull, while retaining the features that have made pontoons successful for years, the Cayman appeals to a whole new audience.
It’s a party… and then some.
Watch the Boats.com Video Boat Review of the Cayman 250
For more information, visit Cypress Cay Pontoons.
Jeff Hemmel writes for Boating, PersonalWatercraft.com, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon…and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water, recently received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel‘s website.