Do you think of pontoon boats as redneck party barges? Well, I’d encourage you to continue reading, because maybe I can change that perception by the end of this review.
When it comes to dispelling your preconceived notions about pontoons, I can’t think of any better boat to do it with than the Harris FloteBote Solstice 240. While it sits in the middle of Harris FloteBote’s model lineup, it’s packed with features that make this pontoon way more than just a party platform.
Harris FloteBote is a relative granddaddy among pontoon boat manufacturers, having been in the business for 55 years. Situated in Fort Wayne, IN, this builder manufactures 20 different models among six different product lines in its modern factory. The company has a well-established reputation for building some of the most innovative, well-built pontoon boats in the industry.
Particularly noteworthy is the way Harris FloteBote assembles and waterproofs the decks of its boats, as well as the steps it takes in mounting those decks to the tubes. Decks are made of ¾-inch pressure treated, tongue-and-groove plywood that is mounted to sturdy C- and Z-shaped aluminum cross members at four- to 10-inch spacing. The deck even undergoes a four-step waterproofing process. All Harris FloteBote pontoons come with a limited lifetime warranty on the entire structure, including pontoon tubes, cross members, decking, motor mount, and fence railing. The rest of the boat is covered by a five-year, bow-to-stern warranty.
Our test boat was equipped with Harris FloteBote’s Performance III tube package, which gets you a lowered, 25-inch diameter center tube, lifting strakes, and a full aluminum skin kit. The center tube not only increases buoyancy, which means Harris FloteBote can strap on more horsepower, but it also enhances handling. Lay the Solstice 240 over hard and I guarantee you’ll be surprised how well it carves turns. In fact, a Harris FloteBote representative who was on board during our testing encouraged me to be even more aggressive, saying I was being too gentle. We sliced tight turns at high speeds over and over again, and I never once felt apprehensive about the boat’s capabilities.
With a 250-horsepower supercharged Mercury Verado Pro on the transom, the Solstice 240 flies. Those aforementioned lifting strakes and skins provide exhilarating acceleration and an impressive top end. Lay the throttle all the way down and before you know it you’ll be blasting away at a top speed of around 46 mph. Nearly 50 mph in a pontoon? No, that’s not a typo. Reasonable and efficient cruise speeds with this engine came at around 24 mph with about seven gallons per hour of fuel burn. Back at the dock, the Mercury Digital Throttle and Shift system (DTS) made docking and close-quarters maneuvering a breeze. And a smooth, quiet breeze at that.
The helm is nicely situated and provides a commanding view both forward and aft. The swiveling captain’s chair is quite substantial and a dream to sit in. I really liked how easy it was to swivel forward and aft to keep an eye on things while underway. Leather accents and stainless-steel, LED-lighted switches give the console a rich look, and it’s great that Harris FloteBote put a locking cubby here for a wallet or other valuables.
The analog gauges are easy to read and quite retro looking, but if you’re the type of person who likes to keep tabs on exact speed and performance figures while underway like me, you’ll probably find yourself yearning for a digital display that shows those figures in one place. If music is your thing, you’ll love the kicking Polk Audio sound system that’s controlled by a Fusion head unit at the dash. No need for cables and connectors here—you simply connect your smartphone or MP3 player via Bluetooth.
The seating layout on our test boat favored individual seating in captain’s chairs versus having lounges at every corner, and while it’s not your typical pontoon layout, I liked it quite a bit. Instead of two sets of lounges along the port side like you’d find on many pontoons this size, our Solstice 240 had three comfy, swiveling captain’s chairs.
The forward two chairs shared a sturdy cocktail table, while the other was adjacent to the helm, just aft of the port entry door. There’s a long, comfy lounge forward to starboard and two aft-facing lounges behind the helm. There are places to stow your gear just about everywhere and I have always liked the way Harris FloteBote hinges its lounge and seat cushions to provide easy, quick access to stowage spaces. Oh, and the fabric used in the seats is special—it’s ventilated in such a way that keeps you cool and dry, not stuck to it, as can happen with some vinyl upholstery.
|Fuel capacity||50 gal.|
The collapsible arch (it hinges forward in case of having to transit an extremely low bridge, or for trailering) with Bimini was especially well executed, and believe me, we had several opportunities to deploy, stow, cover, and redeploy it over the course of our testing, thanks to a late-summer storm system that pelted us with rain for three days. But what I really liked about the setup was that Harris FloteBote utilized some really ingenious ball-and-socket hardware for securing the Bimini framing. Instead of having to pull down on the framing and then insert a detent or clevis pin, as you would with most Biminis, all you have to do is pull down on the framing and then insert the end of it into a socket, where it locks into place. So simple, but so clever.
Back aft is an adequate swim platform area with a five-step swimming ladder that's ultra-easy to deploy and stow. Having five steps versus four makes boarding from the water easier. What I really thought was cool was the solid, machined aluminum towrope pylon that stows away neatly by simply reversing it and inserting it in the same hole. It’s another one of those clever features that sets Harris FloteBote apart.
So, have I convinced you? With a Bluetooth, theater-quality sound system, advance tri-toon tube design, near 50-mph top end, digital engine controls, and high-tech upholstery fabrics, it’s awfully difficult to call the Solstice 240 a redneck party barge instead of what it really is: a primo pontoon packed with tons of features.
Other Choices: The Bennington 2575 QCW is a tad larger and more expensive than the Solstice 240, but worth a look, as is the Regency 254 DL3, which packs a lot of value.
View Harris FloteBote Solstice 240 listings
Fore more information, visit Harris FloteBote.