Review: Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX pontoon boat

By: Ben Keys, Photography by: Greg Lewis


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We were invited to a party in Western Australia - on a pontoon boat. The reason? To get to know the Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX.

The new generation of Sun Tracker pontoon boats have thrown off those old notions of staid, chunky canal cruisers. Pontoon boats like the Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX are in fact tasteful, extremely versatile entertainers, perfect for a family day of boating on the water.

 


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PONTOON BOAT FUN

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX

Our pontoon boat review took place in Mandurah, an hour south of Perth. It’s a peaceful aquatic playground of protected waters, with abundant fishing, secluded coves, riverside pubs and watersports zones. No surprises then, that Mandurah Motor Marine stocks a healthy range of Sun Tracker pontoon boats.

Of course, the ever-versatile pontoon boats are proving equally popular in spots such as Queensland with its own canals and inlets, as well as Sydney Harbour. Really, they’re popping up anywhere there’s a stretch of protected water for exploring. In fact, in America, some estimates have pontoon boat sales accounting for a massive 33 per cent of the outboard-powered boat market.

 

SUN TRACKER 22 DLX

Sun Tracker pontoon boat

Worldwide, Sun Tracker is the highest-selling producer of pontoon boats in a very competitive market, helped by the backing of the Bass Pro outdoor retail chain in the US. Mandurah Motor Marine director Scott de Mouncey tells us his dealership has sold more than 400 pontoon boats, both new and used, since taking on the brand.

Sun Tracker makes two ranges of pontoon boats – Signature and Regency series – the latter enjoying a higher level of fitout. However, the 2015 Sun Tracker releases are simply split into ‘Fishing’ and ‘Recreational’ ranges.

The Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX we reviewed falls under that Recreational bracket and shares the same name in 2015. Fishing models from Sun Tracker sacrifice a couple of front and rear lounges in favour of pedestal-mounted fishing seats, and also score rodholders, livebait tanks and bait stations, along with a trolling motor mount.

Our pontoon boat took us gliding away from the ramp into Mandjar Bay along the Mandurah waterfront, where we picked up Scott’s wife and children, plus some family friends at a nearby jetty.

 

LAYOUT AND DESIGN

Change screen on Sun Tracker Party Barge

The Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX is rated for up to 10 passengers, so our little party of six adults and three kids was no problem, with a range of seating options spaced cleverly around the boat.

It’s worth noting the substantial bimini fitted to our review boat. Mandurah Motor Marine sells every Sun Tracker fitted as standard with a colour-coded canvas top and clears by local company Bryson Canvas.

It does add slightly to the price, but anyone who has felt the relentless WA sun beating down on them will agree this is money well spent. The downside of this structure is that it doesn’t fold away in a hurry.

There are three gates on the Party Barge 22: one in the bow for beach landings, a second on port and a third opening to the swimplatform. The main portside gate is also built extra wide (81cm) to accommodate a wheelchair if required.

The starboard aft quarter of the boat has the safety fence set at 45 degrees across the corner to create a little swimplatform and there’s a ladder to match. A clip-on barbecue is also available, and this would be the best mounting point, just behind the driver.

From the bow, there’s a wealth of seating. Plush, UV-resistant vinyl lounges run down both sides of the deck, with cavernous storage below. This includes a hidden locking compartment for your valuables.

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX layout

Another nice touch is the armrests (with built-in drinkholders) which can be moved around to suit requirements.

At the helm, there’s a stylish three-spoke sports wheel in front of a swivelling captain’s chair. The dash is simple with just three gauges set into a glossy wood-accented panel and there’s space for mounting a plotter on an upright bracket. An Esky will easily slot beneath the helm, and there’s also a Jensen four-speaker stereo for providing a soundtrack to your adventures.

Behind the central lounge, there’s a roomy aft-facing sunpad, but hidden beneath is a surprise. Raise the central cushion, lift a few levers and suddenly you’ve got a full-height canvas-sided changeroom on the aft deck

 

HANDLING AND PERFORMANCE

Sun Tracker Party Barge on water performance

When Mandurah Motor Marine’s test skipper Jason Wheeler suggested taking the Party Barge through the channel and around to the beach, I thought he was joking. But once we hit the first rolling waves, those worries simply evaporated.

The Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX gobbled up the chop and absorbed the 0.5m swell lines rolling into the beach. I even spied a sandbank with a few waves gently peaking, so with Jason’s blessing, I drove the Party Barge straight at ‘em. Result: no worries.

Back at the ramp, the team directed me to the bow, where I found sturdy wave deflectors on the leading corner of each pontoon. This means any spray is pushed down and away, while also increasing buoyancy at the bow.

It still wouldn’t be much fun pushing into a stiff sea breeze, but even deep-vee trailerboats struggle with that.  What it does mean is that when the weather is playing the game, these pontoon boats can shoot up the coast to a protected bay or even explore nearby islands in comfort and safety.

 

THE TRADE-A-BOAT VERDICT

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX deck

Performance from the 90hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard motor is solid, pushing the lightweight Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX up to an impressive 25kts.

There’s some tendency to lean outboard through turns like any cat, but decent holeshot from the Suzuki engine makes for an exciting ride.

There’s certainly enough power to tow some toys for the kids or even go skiing or wakeboarding – not what you might expect from the sedate looking ‘barge’ pontoon boat. So it’s worth revisiting any preconceptions you may have had about pontoon boats.

 

SUN TRACKER PARTY BARGE 22 DLX SPECIFICATIONS

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX price: $60,000 (price as tested)

 

OPTIONS FITTED

Bryson Canvas bimini, 90hp Suzuki outboard motor

 

PRICED FROM

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 DLX 2015 model w/ 60hp Suzuki - $58,850

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL Aluminium

TYPE Pontoon boat

LENGTH 6.76m

BEAM 2.59m

WEIGHT 1288kg (dry)

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 10

REC. HP RANGE 90 to 150

FUEL 132lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Suzuki DF90 outboard motor

TYPE Four-stroke DOHC 16-valve outboard motor

RATED HP 90

WEIGHT 155kg

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Sun Tracker Boats USA

Web suntrackerboats.com

 

SUPPLIED BY

Mandurah Motor Marine

97 Park Road, Mandurah, WA, 6210

Phone (08) 9581 5020

Email sales@mandurahmotormarine.com.au

Web mandurahmotormarine.com.au

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #463, March / April 2015. Why not subscribe today?

 


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