Can Pontoon Boats Be Used in Saltwater?

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The coastal breeze, the salty sea air: is there anything better than living close to the ocean? That’s part of the reason you’ve decided to buy a pontoon boat, because you’re hoping to ride the gently cresting waves.

Can pontoon boats be used in saltwater? Yes, you can ride your pontoon boat in saltwater bodies, but it’s not recommended you take it in the ocean.

Living in New Smyrna Beach, we’re quite familiar with the dilemma of wanting to use your pontoon in the ocean. In this article, we’ll elaborate on why that’s not the best idea as well as where you can take your boat.

If You Can Ride Your Pontoon Boat in Saltwater, Why Not the Ocean?

You may be a little confused, and rightfully so. After all, we just said it’s okay to use your pontoon boat for a nice ride in saltwater bodies. Isn’t the ocean a saltwater body?

It sure is, but the reasoning behind this has less to do with salinity and more to do with water movement.

Before we get into why it’s ill-advised for you to take your pontoon boat in the ocean, let’s talk more about these boats. Pontoon boats are comprised of stainless steel, plastic or PVC, and sometimes inflatable parts. They may have a fiberglass chassis and hulls as well. There are no walls to be found on pontoon boats, just steel or aluminum rods that may be used to hold up an awning roof.

The ocean has both low tide and high tide every day. Depending on the earth’s gravitational pull and the moon’s positioning, the tides will change. During low tide, waves don’t crest that high, making this a safe time for swimmers and boaters alike.

When high tide rolls in, the strength and height of the ocean’s waves increases. That leads to intense, often rough experiences in the ocean. There are certain boats that are designed to traverse the ocean’s often unpredictable waves, but pontoon boats are not one of them. Their long, rectangular shape does make them surprisingly durable, but they’re not ocean-ready.

If you were to catch a strong wave at high tide just right, it could lift your boat and throw over any and all passengers. Remember that pontoon boats have no walls, just metal tubes. The roof, which is made of canvas, can provide no shelter or assistance if you’re falling out of your boat.

Capsizing in a pontoon boat is an admittedly rare event, but you could increase your chances of it happening if you were to go out in the ocean on your boat. Pontoon boat safety is your #1 priority – for you and your family!

What Other Saltwater Bodies Can You Ride In?

It can be sad to live so close to the ocean and not be able to use your pontoon boat there. If you really, truly can’t get over it, then you could always ride your pontoon boat in the ocean, but only during low tide. If you are going to do that, then you must remain close to the shoreline or the dock in which you leave from. This way, you can quickly get to safety if the tide begins picking up.

There are other, safer saltwater bodies you might consider enjoying in your pontoon boat instead. They include the following.

Intercoastal Lagoons

A lagoon is like a miniature ocean, especially if it’s an inter-coastal one. Unlike the ocean, you don’t have to worry about strong water movement, at least not most of the time. Make sure you only ride in calm lagoons.

Lagoons may be surrounded by tall rock formations or other land, so it’s imperative that you don’t get too close. You’re not so much at risk of tipping your boat over as you are scraping up the pontoon. Also, the jolt of colliding with rocks could cause your passengers to fall out of the boat.


Another salty body of water akin to the ocean is a bay. These too are often surrounded by land, trees, rocks, and sand depending which bay is close to home. In the New Smyrna Beach area, there are two bays to choose from: Venetian Bay and Laurel Bay. If there’s an ocean anywhere near you, then chances are you can probably find a bay, too.

With a bay, you get all the beauty of the beach but placidity, too. It truly is the best of both worlds.


Much like bays and lagoons, gulfs are encompassed by land and mountainous, rocky areas. They’re a little less common than the other two bodies of water, but if you live near one, they’re yet another option.

Can Saltwater Damage Your Pontoon Boat?

A major consideration you must keep in mind when you ride your pontoon boat in saltwater bodies is that salt can cause short-term and long-term boat damage. If your boat has any aluminum parts, which is likely, these are prone to corroding from saltwater exposure. They may also rust.

Here are some tips for avoiding saltwater damage.

No Prolonged Saltwater Exposure

To keep your boat looking as good as the day you bought it, avoid prolonged time in saltwater bodies. It’s okay to ride for a day, but don’t dock your boat in saltwater.

Rinse Your Boat After a Ride

Make sure your pontoon boat is completely out of the water before your rinse it. You can use a freshwater hose for rinsing purposes. Take your time to get the whole underside of the boat and any other part that was sitting in the saltwater.

Let your boat air-dry. Make sure it’s completely dry before you do anything else with it. Putting a cover on the boat if it’s still damp can lead to mold and mildew problems. This includes seat covers, mooring covers, and any covers.

Use Anti-Rust and Anti-Corrosion Sprays

After that, to be on the safe side, you might apply anti-rust or anti-corrosion sprays, maybe even both. These sprays are available on Amazon. One of the best anti-rust sprays you can find is Motorex. For less than $25, you get 500 milliliters of the stuff.

This highly-rated product can treat all sorts of rust, be it on springs, bolts, screws, and other metal surfaces. Not only does Motorex Anti-Rust Spray erase signs of rust, but it can also prevent corrosion, restore moisture, and double as a lubricant. With a little bit of product, Motorex will penetrate deep into your metal surfaces for a better-looking pontoon boat.

Another product you can’t go wrong with is Corrosion-X. As the name tells you, this is anti-corrosion spray. You can get a 12-ounce heavy-duty aerosol meant to treat major issues of corrosion and/or rust.

When you spray Corrosion-X, it forms a film that’s seal-healing but never hard. It also doesn’t drip. When the film dries, moisture can’t get on your pontoon boat surfaces, even if they get wet. There’s no need to worry about stress cracking, stiffening, or drying out either. Corrosion-X designed their updated heavy-duty formula for plenty of durability.

Try an Antifouling Paint

What is antifouling paint? It’s a type of bottom paint that’s meant to go on the hull of your pontoon boat. After you apply it, it’s supposed to prevent the buildup of aquatic organisms like barnacles and algae. It also wards off salt, which means your pontoon boat won’t be damaged from your saltwater rides.

If you don’t yet own any antifouling paint, we recommend Rust-Oleum. This paint is black and comes in a quart that costs less than $40. You can use it to protect your pontoon boat in either saltwater or freshwater conditions. It’s only suggested for “mild to moderate” use, so it may not be the only bottom paint you use on your boat.

It dries smooth and hard, producing an appealing sheen that brightens up even older antifouling paint layers. Rust-Oleum’s paint is designed with a protective coating that will keep algae, barnacles, and salt off your pontoon boat.

You should be able to paint 110 square-foot surfaces. If you need a second layer, you have to wait four hours after applying the initial layer. According to Rust-Oleum, your boat should be ready to use within 16 hours. That’s because this antifouling paint has copper that leeches out gradually. You can even use it on steel, wood, and fiberglass.

Watch Your Warranty

Keeping your pontoon boat safeguarded from saltwater effects is paramount. If you don’t and your boat suffers corrosion or rust damage, you might not always be able to get the repairs covered by your warranty. Make sure you read your warranty carefully before venturing out into salty waters.


While pontoon boats can be used in most saltwater bodies without issue, riding in the ocean can be risky. The changing tides make an ocean environment unpredictable, and during high tide, it’s possible for the boat to capsize.

With bays, gulfs, and lagoons to enjoy, there’s still plenty of saltwater riding ahead for you and your pontoon boat. Just make sure you care for your boat after going out in conditions of high salinity. Rinse your boat, use anti-rust and anti-corrosion spray, and apply a few layers of antifouling paint. Happy boating!

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