Harris FloteBote gives you the fast track for getting the party started.
Author: Alan Jones
The Solstice 220 is one of Harris FloteBote’s mid-range models, but the company is first and foremost a luxury pontoon builder, so the designers just can’t bring themselves to build a garden-variety pontoon.
Our Solstice 220 test model features the Entertainment Bar (EB) configuration, which has twin granite-like fiberglass working surfaces bracketing twin bar stools at the stern. Not many pontoons can host a real dinner party where a chef can turn out freshly cooked food, but the Solstice can pull it off with ease. The sternmost counter has a divet (a rectangular depression) that can hold a platter of food securely or seat an optional stainless steel grill. The bugaboo of onboard chefs is a lack of counter space, forcing them to perform on-land mise en place (chopping and assembling everything ahead of time), which kind of ruins the cooking theater. That’s not going to be a problem here, with plenty of space to prep and present, and storage underneath. There’s even a standard blender for the mixologist to perform drink-making magic. For handy ice and beverage storage, there’s a 25-quart carry-on cooler under a hatch in the stern counter. Because the bar stools are inside the fence, they can be used for water-ski spotting.
Harris FloteBote offers a wide range of horsepower options by Mercury and Honda — nearly the entire catalog, from a lowly 9.9 for wind-phobic owners all the way to a blow-baby-blow, there-goes-my-hat Verado 250. Your horsepower choices depend on the tube configuration you choose. For right-lane cruisers, the twin-tube package stops at the normally aspirated 150 hp four-stroke. But for left-laners, the ultimate setup is the XTR, which gives you a center tube that is lowered 3 inches and shaped like a stepped V-hull to give it lots of lift for better holeshot and sportier handling.
Our test boat has the PIII tube configuration, which comes with a conventional center tube with lifting strakes on both sides and additional strakes on the inside of the outer tubes. It proved to be a potent package during our test. Our pontoon is powered by a Mercury Verado 175, which is 75 hp less than the max, but the in-line 4-cylinder also weighs 152 pounds less than the V-6 Verado 250, so it’s probably a better match for the 23-foot, 6-inch-long Solstice 220. Thanks to the boost from the supercharger, the pontoon reached plane in 2.6 seconds with just a little bowrise and got to 30 mph in 6.6 seconds. Top speed was a respectable 40.5 mph.
The PIII setup converts the Solstice from an “it floats and it moves” sort of pontoon into a lithe sportboat. The 220 responds well to trim, and at cruise, approximately half of the logs’ length is above the water’s surface, creating less drag and more speed, which assists during turns: With the dolphin bow nosecones out of the water, there’s no propensity for bow steering. There is moderate lean to the inside, which distinguishes it from two-tube pontoons that lean outward. We’ve tested Harris FloteBotes with the XTR tube setup and found them to have even better handling and an even more pronounced inward lean in corners, because the center tube is lower.
The driver pilots the Solstice 220 from a commander-worthy helm station that includes a standard digital depthfinder, oversized gauges, a rich wood-grain-paneled dash and an expensive-looking wood sport wheel. Our test boat features the highly recommended raised helm station and a high-back captain’s throne. With the Mercury Verado outboard, you get the drive-by-wire Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS), which gives you incredibly smooth shifting and application of power. The skipper definitely won’t have a problem staying hydrated thanks to two cupholders to the right, one on the dash with three more in the front of the console to compensate for the lack of cupholders up front (add the portable cupholder module). For increased bling, our boat is optioned with lighted cupholders.
One glance at the stern tells you this boat is ready to entertain guests. But a closer look reveals a 4-foot, 6-inch-tall ski tow on the stern. If wakeboarding is part of the ski show program, you can choose a 6-foot ski tow. Huge towable tubes can be tucked between the fence and the ski tow for easy transport. Reboarding is incredibly easy with a five-step ladder and large hoop grabrails. There is an option for a centerline ski locker, for storing weapons of slash production. The large rear deck and the area between the bar counters features the optional Sierra faux teak for great looks and easy maintenance. There’s also a Seagrass option for a tropical flair.
The 220 is rated for up to 15 passengers when equipped with triple tubes, but 15 people will be playing musical chairs in the Entertainment Bar configuration, since you give up a bit of seating capacity. A small C-shaped sectional resides to port behind the amidships boarding gate that sits opposite the captain’s seat, which is positioned slightly farther rearward than in most of Solstice’s other floor plans. The configuration allowed designers to add a small boarding door on the starboard side just in front of the helm console. The boarding door, a rare feature, is a boon to drivers when docking since they can pull in on the side that has far better visibility than the blind port side. The helm-rearward configuration also gives you very long layback couches in the bow that feature a generous amount of recline. The only misstep is the mogul-like back bolsters, which are designed to keep you from sliding from side-to-side and are perfect for small to medium people, but wider folks (guilty) are going to find they poke you in the ribs.
The Solstice 220 comes in six different floor plans, and your selection depends largely on the intended use and desired passenger capacity. Since roughly one-third of the deck space is given over to the Entertainment Bar on our test boat, it’s perfect for people who are into the social aspect of pontooning but don’t necessarily invite the entire neighborhood unless it’s a dockside affair. You can add a movable filler sectional that covers one of the boarding gates for more capacity. If more seating is needed, the 220 CW floor plan has the helm scooted slightly forward to make room for twin layback couches in the stern to go with twin recliners in the bow that are identical to the ones on our test model. There’s even a fishing-friendly model called the 220 LX, which has plush club chairs in the bow along with plenty of room to stand in front for casting. Add optional rod holders, an in-dash fishfinder and an in-seat livewell, and you are ready to go fish.
To make the 220 EB the ultimate entertainer, the optional stainless steel grill is a must and comes at the affordable price of $220. A sink with a spigot is a must-have addition for after-dining cleanups, and if you have a bar, you’ll also need a Porta Potti. While the standard stereo is an upscale four-speaker Sony Platinum Bluetooth-ready model, take it to the next level with the six-speaker Alpine Diamond option, which includes a powered subwoofer, giving it incredible depth. For post-sunset excursions, the optional interior rope lighting adds ambiance and improved safety. Harris FloteBote gives you the option to go two-tone on the fence coloring for an extra $410 (metallic silver is an extra $60) and gives you a choice of 27 color combinations (I counted) to give it a personalized flair. For a little less than $2,000, you can bump the Verado 175 to a 200 hp model without paying a weight penalty, since they share the same platform.