Captain's ReportFun in the SunSun Tracker Party Barge 24 Has Room to SpareTested By Captain Keith BurtonWhen folks first get into boating, they often think that they want a fast fishing boat, or a bowrider for fun on the water. But we can tell you that a big pontoon boat, such as the Sun Tracker Party Barge 24, might be a better choice for overall water-borne fun.We had a chance to run a Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 Signature Series through a full set of performance and use tests at scenic Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. What we found out is that here’s a fun, stable boat that offers the REAL luxury in a boat, and that is room to move around, at a price well under $20,000 equipped as our test boat was. More on that later.Tracker Marine, the main company of Sun Tracker pontoon boats, has really put together a nice package in the Party Barge 24. New this year in the company’s pontoon boats is what Sun Tracker calls an engine pod that moves the outboard from being attached directly to the pontoon platform, to an all-aluminum pod extending from the stern. The pod also has a built-in 23-gallon fuel tank.This new engine pod does several great things for a pontoon boat. First, it frees up deck space, which can be used for other things besides a place to mount an engine and store fuel, as in most other pontoon boats. And with the motor now further back at the stern, the boat also handles better and planes with more authority. The engine mount for the pod is heavily constructed for failsafe use with a thick, solid aluminum transom and heavy welds that should easily hold up throughout the life of the boat.The Party Barge 24, which was already a very spacious pontoon boat, now has the deck space of a boat almost two feet longer. And Sun Tracker wasted no time, it seems, in putting the new-found room to good use.Included in the many standard features of this pontoon boat is an enclosed dressing room at the stern where an engine would normally be found. When not in use, the dressing room is a sunning area. But when needed, the sunning cushion can be raised (assisted with a hydraulic support) to allow a curtain to be unfolded to provide privacy.There is also space in the dressing area to use a portable toliet if that is something you wish to purchase separately.Also at the stern is a handy folding ladder and boarding platform that has its own door access from the cabin.The main cabin area of the Party Barge 24 is enormously roomy. The boat is rated to handle up to 12 people, so your family and friends can easily join the fun without being too crowded.An L-shaped lounge is at the rear with plenty of built-in storage beneath the seats. They will hold up over time too as there is no wood used in their construction. All the lounge seats on board have composite roto-formed bases covered with high-durability vinyl exterior fabrics. A plastic liner is used in the storage bins beneath the seats.The Party Barge also has a built-in entertainment area on the port side across from the control console with a sink and freshwater storage tanks in a closable compartment. A small, kidney-shaped dining table is also part of the package. This table screws into a rugged mount and can be used either in the rear or bow seating areas. Speaking of the bow, fishermen will be happy to know that there are two pedestal seats that are easily accessed by a bow door. Another aspect of the added space onboard the Party Barge 24 is room for a large port-side door that is wide enough for a wheel chair. The control console features easy-to-see black on white instruments laid out in a burl-wood-like surface. An AM/FM/CD radio is included. We especially liked the fact that the speakers were mounted to the rearward portions of the front lounge seats. This resulted in radio’s sounds being directly toward the stern, which sounded great from the captain’s chair. By the way, that chair swivels.Underneath the control console is a bin for storing a standard 32-quart cooler.Performance of this large pontoon boat is impressive with a 115-hp Mercury outboard. Standard is a 25-horse outboard, but while that would get you around, we would recommend you select a larger outboard for more optimum performance.The 115 provided very quick time-to-plane acceleration and could easily tow a skier as the boat could reach nearly 30 mph. But as you may expect, a pontoon boat at speed produces very little wake for wake boarding. Handling is easy with no surprises, even at high speeds. We like the way pontoon boats handle choppy water and move over other boat’s wakes with none of the pounding you experience in regular boats. But speed and handling aren’t what a pontoon boat is all about.Pontoon boats are about having the room to enjoy the water at a modest cost. A living room on the lake, so to speak. And with prices starting at just under $11,000 for a boat this big, you might just consider the Sun Tracker Party Barge 24, one of the best values for on-the-water fun you can get.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 is 27.6 mph (44.4 kph), burning 12.2 gallons per hour (gph) or 46.18 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 is 17.9 mph (28.8 kph), and the boat gets 3.65 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.55 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 76 miles (122.31 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 115-hp Mercury outboard.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
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