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Some parts of the country are fortunate enough to have boat-friendly coastlines year-round. Melbourne Beach, Florida, is that sort of lucky. So, given the opportunity to escape rapidly falling midwest temperatures and cruise Floridian waters aboard a 22’ Manitou Explore Pontoon Boat, I didn’t need convincing. Better yet, the space-age pontoon boat was the perfect venue for a rocket launch in the inky-black darkness. 

The Manitou Explore Pontoon Boat channels the auto industry in its ultra-modern construction

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

Anytime we moored the 22’ Manitou Explore Pontoon Boat, we got the same variety of questions. “Wow, what is that?” “Where can I get one of those?” The inquiries wouldn’t stop. A good problem to have I suppose.

Much of the Manitou Explore’s appeal lies in its connections to the auto industry. Most notably, the 22’ pontoon boat wears sleek aluminum paneling with manufacturing processes akin to luxury car marques. What’s more, the model’s integrated lighting brings to mind the squint of a modern sports car like the 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

Cruising in the Explore is even more fun and drama-free than its striking looks. The 150-horsepower Rotax S engine isn’t going to win many races, but it does sit well below the profile of a more conventional outboard motor. Fortunately, a byproduct of the squat Rotax engine is the “MAX deck,” a massive transom with modular BRP LinQ accessory anchor points. There isn’t much you can’t do with the Explore. 

The space-age aesthetic of the Manitou pontoon boat was a fitting companion for a SpaceX rocket launch

A journalist and a marketing specialist wait for a Falcon 9 launch in the dark.
The Manitou Explore was a comfortable venue for a launch | Tim McKercher, LOOK Marketing

The folks from LOOK Marketing invited me out not only to review the 22’ Manitou Explore but also to see the boat in an appropriate context. Therein lay the challenge: where do we take the aluminum-paneled pontoon to get a full appreciation for its space-age construction? Of course, the only option was to pair the stellar appeal of the boat with a SpaceX rocket launch from the waters near Cape Canaveral. 

When the SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable vehicle ignited its thrusters, it lit the night sky like a rising sun. The launch was less-than-dramatic; the distance deadened much of the noise that a fabulously powerful vehicle like the Falcon 9 produces. However, upon landing, the SpaceX rocket sent a couple of shockwaves to shatter the stillness. 

Returning to Melbourne Beach in the Manitou Explore was easier than you might think, even in the dark. The pontoon boat’s bright nav screen made reading maps and navigating Indian Lake a breeze. 

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