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boat test

standard equipment on this sierra sandbar 26 from tahoe makes the boat as comfortable (if not more so) than your very own living room. Popular, crowd-pleasing features include a culinary center, complete with stainless steel grill and refrigerator (below right).

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hen the typical lakeland boater thinks of pontoon boats, he or she likely envisions a motorized raft with bimini top, perhaps two couples aboard, the boat putt-putting across a placid inland lake as the evening sun sinks towards the horizon. At least that’s how this boating editor envisions them—that is, used to envision them. My mental picture changed forever when I took a ride on the 2011 Sierra Sandbar tri-toon from Avalon & Tahoe Manufacturing Inc. I must admit suspecting a bit of exaggeration when Travis Conners, owner of Indian River Sports Center in Indian River, Michigan, told me he’d had a slightly bigger Tahoe skipping across four-foot waves on Lake Michigan over the Fourth of July holiday. But then he put the hammer down on the Sandbar’s Yamaha 225-hp VMax four-stroke outboard, running the boat at 42 mph, and aiming at a boat wake on expansive Mullett Lake in Northern Michigan. Sitting facing the helm on the port-side sofa, I braced myself for impact—but there was none. No bounce, no bound, no slam, no splash. The

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26-foot tri-toon zipped over the boat wake like it wasn’t even there. No exaggeration. Conners explained that each of the boat’s three round “logs” have a concave sheet of metal welded below the waterline to provide lift. Tahoe has trademarked it as the Waveglider option, and it basically transforms each of the pontoons into a planing hull. Whereas most pontoon designs achieve displacement-hull performance, Waveglider gets Tahoes up and on top of the water for some amazing performance. When I got a turn at the helm, I took the boat for a big loop in Mullett, which is the last lake on Michigan’s Inland Waterway before it empties into Lake Huron at Cheboygan. The boat had Garmin’s GPSmap 431s mounted in the dash right over the wheel, so it was easy to keep track of speed. The boat got up and on plane all the way to 30 mph in less than 10 seconds. It’s also noteworthy that it stayed on plane as slow as 17 mph, producing a decent wake for boarders. After our eye-watering sea trial, Conners and I docked the boat where I could look at other Tahoe wares at Indian

Lakeland Boating August 2011  

The Voice of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior

Lakeland Boating August 2011  

The Voice of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior