Skip to main content

While taking in a rocket launch from a designated viewing point is a spectacle, catching one from a boat is another experience entirely. Better yet, watching a Falcon 9 launch and return in the inky black darkness from a space-age Manitou pontoon boat is just as spectacular as it sounds. So, given the opportunity to spectate the CRS-29 SpaceX rocket launch from a luxury car-esque 22’ Manitou Explore, we were all over it.  

A SpaceX rocket launch deserves a venue like the tranquil deck of a Manitou Explore pontoon boat

An action shot shows a 22' Manitou Explore pontoon boat on its way to a Falcon 9 rocket launch.
The 22′ Manitou Explore | Tim McKercher, LOOK Marketing

We departed Front Street Park in Melbourne, Florida, aboard the 22’ Manitou Explore as the sun set behind aspirational homes and backlit palm trees. I cruised with Tim McKercher and Mike Longman of LOOK Marketing along the shoreline of Indian Lake (which incidentally isn’t a lake), enjoying the smooth ride aboard the Manitou.

In addition to a painted sky, we watched pods of Dolphins playfully skating below the water’s surface alongside our pontoon. It was a long journey, around 30 miles from the dock to our intended vantage point. 

Admittedly, we cut it close. We drifted up just in time to catch the launch from a safe distance. Tim assured me that the launch would be unmistakable. “It’ll be like the sun coming up,” he joked.

He wasn’t wrong, though. Around 1.7 million pounds of thrust generated a light that reminded me of the flares we used to light battlespaces in the Marines. It was quite the sight. 

The launch itself won’t surprise anyone. Thorough preparation: check. Massive thrust and breathtaking light: check. No, the most impressive thing about the entire experience is the return to Earth. 

While impressive, the SpaceX rocket launch wasn’t the most mind-blowing part

A Falcon 9 rocket launch lights up the sky as seen from a Manitou pontoon boat.
The Falcon 9 rocket looks like the rising sun | Tim McKercher, LOOK Marketing

It’s no secret that the Falcon 9 rocket is a reusable vehicle. Unlike the three-stage rockets of my youth, the Falcon 9 returns to Earth, preserving the most expensive parts of the vehicle. Those expendable launch vehicles would either immolate on reentry or simply float off into the infinite nothingness of space. Not the Falcon 9; the SpaceX rocket is a two-stage, reusable platform. 

Therein lies the most seemingly impossible part of SpaceX’s approach to sending payloads and personnel into space: the fact that the rocket will return to Earth. Not only will it return to Earth, it will touch down on the same pad where it originated. Amazing. Admittedly, the spectacle is even more impressive in the dark aboard a drifting vessel on peaceful waters.

A little over seven minutes after the mighty rocket launched, the Falcon 9 made its way back to its point of origin. It’s a deceptively subtle affair until the rocket slows itself for the touchdown. Two stillness-shattering booms reported that the rocket’s boosters had fired to slow its descent. Then, nothing. The rocket is back on the ground, and the folks at SpaceX and NASA are on to the next thing.

The Manitou Explore might just be the perfect pontoon boat to complement a rocket launch

A 22' Manitou Explore pontoon boat sits on the shore in Melbourne, Florida.
The 22′ Manitou Explore | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

Manitou’s Explore Switchback, like the Falcon 9 rocket, is a revolutionary adaptation of a timeless design. Pontoons are commonplace, but we couldn’t take the Explore anywhere without drawing quizzical looks and questions like “Where can I buy one?” It’s a fitting venue for a launch; the Explore’s space-age aesthetic is courtesy of its integrated lighting, unique shape, and aluminum paneling.

Upon getting acquainted with the Explore, I likened its rakish squint and lines to a post-facelift Jaguar F-TYPE. High praise, indeed. In addition to the integrated lights, fans will quickly notice the aluminum paneling, which, along with the diagonal stripe, creates a flow from the bimini to the deck. Indeed, it is a fitting companion to watch the Falcon 9. 

Can I watch a SpaceX launch?

A sunset paints the sky behind a stretch of Florida coastline not far from an incipient SpaceX rocket launch.
The Cape Canaveral area is also home to beautiful beaches | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

Folks at home can watch a SpaceX rocket launch on the company’s livestream. That, or you can perform your own space pilgrimage to watch the launch in person near Cape Canaveral, Florida. We can’t recommend taking in the launch from a boat enough.

Better yet, watching a space-bound vehicle send a payload into a star-studded sky is best complemented by a space-age vessel. There’s no better pontoon compatriot for a launch than the Manitou Explore.

Want more automotive and adventure content? Keep up with MotorBiscuit for the latest developments!


New to Boating? The Sea-Doo Switch Cruise Limited Might Be Your Best Bet