Seeking advice: New purchase 23SSBXP vs 23GSB

Juliet L Rogers

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Interested in any suggestions for must have, things to avoid, and general advice. Buying our first tritoon, will have it almost exclusively on Lake Michigan between South Haven and Grand Haven mostly, and want to be sure to get a big enough boat to handle on Lake Michigan (under reasonable conditions), pull a tube, and carry 6-8 people most of the time (12 sometimes). Need an engine 200hp and above? Need longer than 22 feet? Need power steering? Need sharkhide coating?

Looking for opinions from experienced Great Lakes pontooners and tritooners. Thanks in advance!
 

Dakota777

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Juliet,
We ordered a 23ssbxp this past winter and absolutely love it. We don’t use it on the size of water that you are going to, but I wouldn’t be afraid to. We equipped ours with a 150 Yamaha. Usually loaded with 9-10 people and pull around a 3 person tube with no issues. I’ve never had a 200hp, but I’m sure it would provide that extra little pizazz. If going with the swing back layout my personal opinion would be to stay with the 23’ over the 22’ due to the added seating in the bow on the port side. The other option we are thankful that the salesman talked us into was the in floor storage, a must have now. And yes, the seastar hydraulic steering is a nice option as well.
 

Vikingstaff

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Welcome to the forum! You came to a great place to get some knowledgeable opinions. Given the nature of your questions, be prepared for a lot of us to recommend some great ideas that will cost YOU lots of money. :D

With that in mind, here are my thoughts:

(1) I would strongly encourage going longer than 22’ if boating the Great Lakes. Longer tritoons better handle bigger water and waves. 24-27’ are really nice on bigger bodies of water. If boating predominately on Lake Michigan, I would make getting a longer tritoon a high priority.

(2) I have a 24’ SSBXP SPS 200 HP Mercury V-pro. Great pontoon. Great motor. We boat on Houghton Lake. It’s big and can be rough for an inland lake, but it’s not Lake Michigan rough. For Lake Michigan, I would STRONGLY recommend going with that G-series (or higher) instead of the S-series. The G-series Bennington's have a more hefty and robust frame build than the S-series Bennington's. For example, the cross beams are closer together the entire length of the boat on a G-series as compared to the S-series. That’s a nice build aspect for Great Lakes boating. If I were on the Great Lakes with my family, I wouldn’t even consider the S-series, and that’s coming from a very happy S-series owner.

(3) Can you afford the more robust ESP tritoon hull instead of the more common SPS tritoon hull? The ESP tritoon was originally designed with rougher water in mind. It’s going to provide the best pontoon option on bigger water. An SPS tritoon will also work very well too. We have the SPS and love it. But again, if I were on the Great Lakes with my family, I would totally want the ESP tritoon hull. It will do better on Lake Michigan than any tritoon hull on the market. Another bonus of the ESP is the gas tank is about 40-45% bigger. That would be very handily in regards to Great Lakes boating. It would give you more time on the water, and less worries about running out of gas away from shore.

(4) If in the budget, go 200HP or bigger. Everyone always says HP is cheapest when you get it on the original purchase. That’s very accurate. Get as much as you can afford now. The bigger the body of water, then the nicer it is to have a more powerful motor. You can get back to safe haven quicker in inclimate weather, and you can power your way through rougher seas. My above three recommendations all = a heavier boat as well. Thus, the more HP you have, the more flexibility and confidence you can have pushing an heavier boat on bigger/rougher water.

(5) My opinion is to go with power steering when at 150 HP or above. At those HP and above, it’s extremely nice to have. Being on bigger/rougher water, having power steering would also be very handy in controlling the boat easier when the water is fighting you. Finally, if doing any water sports like you elude to, then I’d say 100% get the power steering. The power steering on our 200HP Mercury facilitates water sports and effortless driving like you wouldn’t believe.

(6) I like shark hide myself. Our boat does not sit in the water when not in use, and the shark hide helps everything dry up and wipe off easily. Our toons look good after three years. I wouldn’t consider it a necessity, but it sure does help with trying to keep the pontoons clean, which in the long run both looks better, and keeps the boat performing well.

That’s my 2 cents on the specific things you asked. I have a bunch of other things I’d have on my short list that we put on our boat. Two options you didn’t ask about, but are top priorities for me are (a) Extended aft deck and (b) center toon storage. Extended aft deck is SUPER nice. Facilitates water sports, makes covering the boat easier, makes access to motor easier. Center toon storage is very handy to have. It never seems like there is enough storage space, and this is magnified when having a lot of people on the boat for a long day of boating.

I am sure others will chime in. Many of them have way more experience and knowledge than me. Whatever you decide, welcome to the forums and to Bennington.
 
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Tomc

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Agree more HP the better for the Great Lakes. Power steering is a must have. Hydraulic steering does not assist in steering like power steering option, so go with power steering. The only other thing I would mention beyond what Vikingstaff and others have mentioned is to get a wave shield. That may be standard equipment on EPS tritoon, but if not, make sure you get it as an option. Lastly, sharkhide to me is nice to have but not a must-have. My boat is on a hoist and the toons look dull but fine to me...but depending on what you want, it may move to the must have column.
 

sjhorner9475

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Ditto to all of the above, get as much horsepower as you can afford, the ESP tritoon, center tube in floor storage, wave shield, and the SeaStar hydraulic power assist steering.
 

Vikingstaff

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D’oh - Waveshield. Yes, Yes, Yes! No way would I be on the Great Lakes without a waveshield. Good call Tom and Steve.
 

goldnrod24

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There are very few boating days on Lake Michigan suitable for a pontoon, even a tri-toon, to "handle on Lake Michigan (under reasonable conditions), pull a tube, and carry 6-8 people most of the time (12 sometimes)."

Just my humble opinion. I don't think even the best-equipped tri-toon is a Great Lakes boat.
 

The Wanderer2

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I've boated on the Great Lakes with my pontoon many times. It handles the water way better than most of you give it credit for. I also boat in the Gulf of Mexico with my pontoon. Like anything else, check the weather and conditions before going out. Believe me, the boat can handle rough water better than most people.
 

Juliet L Rogers

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We decided on a 23ft RSRELP Tritoon w/ 250HP Mercury Verado, ESP package, waveshield, shark hide, and pretty much everything else you guys told me to get! I'll let you know how it handles the big water once we get it later this month. Can't wait to try it out!
 

sjhorner9475

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We decided on a 23ft RSRELP Tritoon w/ 250HP Mercury Verado, ESP package, waveshield, shark hide, and pretty much everything else you guys told me to get! I'll let you know how it handles the big water once we get it later this month. Can't wait to try it out!

Congratulations! Please post pictures once you have it.
 

Vikingstaff

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We decided on a 23ft RSRELP Tritoon w/ 250HP Mercury Verado, ESP package, waveshield, shark hide, and pretty much everything else you guys told me to get! I'll let you know how it handles the big water once we get it later this month. Can't wait to try it out!

Congratulations! That will be a great boat to have. I hope it serves your needs well. Lake Michigan is a mighty powerfully body of water. Post some pictures of it once you have it.
 
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Michiman

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Juliet, nice choice and welcome to the family!
 

lakeliving

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Congrats on the new boat. Can't wait to see pictures.
 

PinnacleG23

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We decided on a 23ft RSRELP Tritoon w/ 250HP Mercury Verado, ESP package, waveshield, shark hide, and pretty much everything else you guys told me to get! I'll let you know how it handles the big water once we get it later this month. Can't wait to try it out!
We just ordered a similar boat with the 250 verado. Was wondering how performance was if you've received yours. Top speed and cruise speed. Any insight appreciated.
 

goldnrod24

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I have boated on Lake Michigan and larger Michigan inland lakes for 40 years. I do not consider a pontoon boat to be a Great Lakes boat, regardless of equipment.

I'll catch flak for my position, but it is one of experience.
 
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