Issue: January/February 2006
Here’s the ideal vessel for that on-water barbeque.
WORDS + PHOTOS WARREN STEPTOE
It isn’t standard boat test speak, but when Garry Maher was at the helm of his new Sweetwater 2380 pontoon boat, he jokingly referred to his pride and joy as the ‘mobile patio’.
“Yeah, Bernadette and I often just grab Jock (their dog,) jump onto the patio and take her for a cruise down the Noosa River, or even around the canals to check out the new houses, or whatever takes our fancy.”
Garry’s remarks hit the ‘Sweetwater nail’ right on the head casual, totally relaxed cruising with family and friends (or the dog,). And while pontoon boats may not look much like boats in the classic sense, they certainly serve their purpose remarkably well. As Garry’s comments illustrate perfectly.
Sweetwater pontoon boats are imported from the US, but the 2380 is a new model created for the Australian market.
Like its predecessors, the control console is the only part of this vessel that’s instantly recognisable as a boat. There’s the familiar control lever, steering wheel, speedo, tacho, voltmeter and fuel gauge.
A digital-depth readout (essential for safe boating in the oft en shallow areas of the Noosa River) also comes as a standard fitment. For 2006, a Jenson CD/MP3 AM/FM sound system has been added and underneath the portside bow seat is a built-in icebox that can be plumbed as a live-bait tank if you wish.
It’s not apparent here, because we sought out calm water for the photography, but one thing that really surprised the team was the Sweetwater’s ride. Reaches of the Noosa River are open to a stiff afternoon sea breeze, which creates a substantial wind chop, but the Sweetwater handled these conditions very well indeed. It’s just one advantage of having a twin pontoon hull configuration.
Garry (master of the wry comment) had more to say about cruising speeds, which avoid bumps, bangs and sudden lurches. He referred to a 1600rpm fast idle as “chardonnay speed… I’ll guarantee you never spill a drop.”
The 115hp Suzuki hidden under the upholstered powerhead cover is fitted with a standard Suzuki aluminium 17″ prop. The performance figures listed below were achieved with four adults onboard, plus gear for a few hours on the water and of course Jock, the wonder dog.
The pontoon hulls actually plane somewhere around 10 knots, although exactly where this occurs is difficult to determine due to Sweetwater boating being somewhat removed from the performance norm.
In any case, at 3000rpm we recorded 9.4 knots, 14.8 at 4000rpm, 20 on the dot at 5000rpm and flat out at 5800rpm we were cruising along at 22.2 knots.
And by powering your Sweetwater with a 115 to 130hp motor, it’s possible to ski behind them.
Another aspect of pontoon boats we noted was onboard safety. Jock and little Bailey, whose parents Matthew and Sarah kindly brought along to model for us, were always safely enclosed. A high rail surrounds the boat and the gates have latches kids won’t figure out too quickly and littlies like Bailey simply can’t operate. He, of course, wore a life jacket and Jock could swim, but still, we all appreciate peace of mind.
The full shade canopy covering the entire boat shown here is an option, as are the set of insect screens and separate clears not fitted for the photo shoot.
Biting insects are a fact of boating life rarely acknowledged in glossy boating magazines. But while the screens were left off during this test, and the gusty conditions kept the pests at bay, the optional screens makes a lot of sense.
As does a set of clears that make the boat completely weather tight. Bernadette assured us a recent summer storm well and truly proved the boat’s weather proofing.
This boat was well equipped for the cruisin’ partyin’ style she suits so well. The bow area seats six adults easily and another five can be seated aft. Turn the helm seat around once anchored, or as we did with the bow wedged firmly on a convenient beach, and that’s 11 adults very comfortably seated onboard.
Another feature you don’t see in our photo spread is the pop-up change room, complete in the case of the test boat with ‘loo. Both portable and full flush toilets with holding tank are on the Sweetwater options list. This pop-up change room/head occupies the starboard aft corner and can be quickly deployed when required.
Across the aft end from the change room to the portside is an upholstered sunbathing pad that complements the aft lounge area.
An optional round table in Garry and Bernadette’s boat has a central ice bucket and drink holders incorporated.
That about completes the inventory, but before getting onto performance, I must mention how the Sweetwater is built. The team was impressed to note that rails around the Sweetwater are anodised after welding. When we delved deeper into the boat’s construction, we found a high standard of build quality throughout.
All electrics are powered from a loom that uses waterproof connectors and push button circuit breakers.
The guaranteed no rot or warp decking is through-bolted to special extruded brackets welded to the pontoons.
Inside the seating, foam padding is contained in bags to stop water entry, and a drainage system, moulded into the onboard furniture’s bases, keeps gear stored inside the compartments dry.
If Sweetwater boats are a little unconventional in strict boating terms, they sure are built to thrive in Australia’s harsh boating environment
According to the team at Australian Leisure Marine, whether you’re fishing, skiing, cruising, or overnighting, a Sweetwater pontoon boat like the 2380 will take you and your family anywhere you want to go on our lakes and inland waterways.
All Sweetwater pontoon boats come with an industry leading warranty, giving you complete peace of mind. Pontoon boats have taken a while to catch on in Australia, but now more and more people are enjoying the freedom and comfort these boats offer in our warm climate.
Sure, they’re a smooth water boat, but you can rest assured that when the chop comes up they can handle it, plus, they offer the perfect platform for that on-water barbeque or party.
The Sweetwater 2380 was powered by a 115hp Suzuki four-stroke spinning a standard Suzuki aluminium 17″ prop.
The following performance figures were achieved with four adults, a stack of gear and Jock the wonder dog onboard.
KNOTS – RPM
9.4 – 3000
14.8 – 4000
20 – 5000
22.2 – 5800
HP RATING: 50-130hp
BASE PRICE: $39,950
AS TESTED: $52,950
+ Ride over chop; Toilet enclosure
– Nothing to report