Sea-Doo Switch pontoon boat made in Racine County is a hot seller
A Racine County factory that once made Evinrude outboard boat motors has been repurposed to build a line of pontoon boats with a customizable deck and controls similar to a Sea-Doo watercraft.
The BRP Sea-Doo Switch, a three-hull boat available in three lengths from 13 to 21 feet, has seats that can be rearranged into sofas. Deck furniture, such as tables with built-in speakers, can be moved around as needed. To change the configuration, simply pull a T-shaped handle to release the lock.
Only the bar is fixed and there are dozens of options to add or remove seats, rearrange furniture and more.
“The designers’ main inspiration was Legos,” said BRP spokesman Tim McKercher.
The Switch has clear vinyl sides, rather than aluminum panels, to increase visibility around the boat when approaching a swimmer, dock or other boat.
Powered by a jet propulsion drive rather than a propeller, the larger Switch has a top speed of 44 mph, according to the company. Not having a propeller makes it easier to transport the boat in shallow water and other places where stumps and rocks could cause damage.
“It’s not something we would want to encourage, going over logs and all, but there are benefits to getting into areas where a propeller boat might have trouble,” McKercher said.
All controls are on Sea-Doo style handlebars at the helm.
“However, it’s the right choice for a jet drive,” Boating Magazine said in a Switch review.
“With a little practice, you’ll find yourself quickly switching between forward, neutral and reverse to get in and out of a dock, and even turn the boat almost its own length,” said BoatingMagazine.
Although the Switch is called a “pontoon” boat, it lacks the aluminum tubing found on most pontoons. Instead, it has three separate hulls made from a proprietary blend of polypropylene and fiberglass used in the Sea-Doo line of watercraft.
“The intention was to modernize what a pontoon could be, making it more appealing to new boaters,” McKercher said.
Pontoons, once considered an ugly duckling by some boating enthusiasts, pulled the recreational marine industry out of the Great Recession and the worst crisis in decades. Suitable for many purposes, including fishing and scuba diving, multi-purpose boats are popular with families looking to get in the water.
“It’s definitely one of the fastest growing and most important segments of the maritime industry,” McKercher said.
The Switch simplifies some things, like mooring, that are intimidating to first-time boaters.
“It’s designed to be easy…when things are easier, they’re more fun,” McKercher said.
At the Sturtevant factory, the various models are assembled in three-foot sections depending on the length of the boat. The larger models have a swim platform that extends them a few feet.
The Canadian company BRP had made Sturtevant its world headquarters for the Evinrude brand, founded by Ole Evinrude in Milwaukee in 1907.
The company, formerly known as Bombardier Recreational Products, purchased the Johnson and Evinrude brands in 2001 from the bankrupt Outboard Marine Corp. This company once had factories in Milwaukee and Waukegan, Illinois with a total of 800 employees.
When BRP discontinued Evinrude in 2020, the Sturtevant plant employed around 400 people making outboard motors. It has since been reused to assemble the Switch and other products not yet named by the company.
Boats, with a starting retail price of around $18,000 for the smallest model, have been in short supply and are currently hard to come by.
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