This project boat, a 2019 Crest 220 SLS CPT, was designed with a collapsible changing room recessed into the aft end of the port-side forward lounger. As is often the case, the owner found that the changing room — although it sounded great on paper — just wasn’t very practical.

Family and friends simply wore swimsuits under their street clothes if they thought they might want to get in the water. Plus, in Florida’s warm, humid climate, the changing room tended to get musty when stowed for any period of time.


Repurposing Wasted Pontoon Space

At the end of the day, the sizable opening occupied by the changing room was basically wasted space — one of the worst things you can have on a boat.

As all boat owners know, storage is at a premium on every vessel that ever floated — from a 10-foot Pond Prowler to the Symphony of the Seas. So this pontoon owner started looking for ways to make better use of the opening in the back of his forward lounger.

image of changing the pull-out changing station on a pontoon boat

The collapsible changing room in the back of the port-side lounger on this Crest pontoon was rarely used, so the owner started looking for ways to put the space it occupied to better use.

Replacement Options for Pontoon Changing Rooms

Because it’s not unusual for pontoon owners to find that they don’t use their changing rooms very much, there’s plenty of information and discussion online about repurposing the cutouts they’re mounted in. But this owner didn’t want a project; he wanted something that would drop straight into the hole left by the changing room with little or no modification.

different pontoon units available to install to the space of the changing station

Boat Outfitters offers a variety of replacement options, ranging from a wastebasket caddy to a refined wine service cabinet.

Boat Outfitters, it turned out, offered several different storage units made from King Starboard and sized specifically to fit the 24.5” x 24.5” cutout used by Crest Pontoons for its changing rooms. Among them was a general-purpose storage unit with two drawers and an open storage area, a fishing tackle storage unit, a tilt-out waste basket unit, a folding table, and even a wine cabinet with space for four bottles, stemmed glasses, and a corkscrew.

This boat owner is a dog lover, though, and opted for a unit that combined a folding table with a bottom drawer sized to hold a drop-in dog bowl insert. Starboard’s “dolphin gray” color was a near-perfect match for the Crest’s light gray upholstery.

Simple Drop-In Installation

Installation was relatively simple. The existing changing room was secured by 12 screws, and removal was a matter of unscrewing them and lifting the unit out. Because exactly matching a hole pattern is virtually impossible, Boat Outfitters pre-drills its replacement units with a different hole pattern from the changing room unit. That means installation requires marking and drilling 12 new pilot holes. The unit itself can be dry-fitted into the opening and used as a template.

Drilling through upholstery presents a minor challenge in that the drill bit can easily catch the vinyl, pulling and twisting the vinyl and padding around the bit. One solution is to use a punch of some kind to make a hole through the vinyl before drilling the panel underneath.

It’s easier, though, to simply run your drill in reverse until the bit penetrates the vinyl and padding, then switch it to forward to drill through the substrate, which was plywood in this case.

The Final Steps

With the old changing room removed and the new pilot holes drilled, the final step was positioning the new unit and driving the 12 self-tapping screws. Machine screws with washers and nuts are always preferable if access to the mounting surface is possible, but self-tapping screws are sufficient if not. Always use a hand driver for the final turn or two to avoid stripping.

For mounting a unit like this in a fiberglass or metal bulkhead, a bead of marine sealant would be necessary to keep water from penetrating behind the flange. When mounting on an upholstered surface, though, the compressed upholstery serves essentially the same purpose, and sealant is unnecessary.

storage box solution being installed into a pontoon boat for convenient storage and table use

Removal of the old changing room was a matter of simply removing 12 screws & lifting the unit out.

simply installation of the new drawer and table unit into the cutout of the old changing station

The new unit was dry-fitted and used as a template for drilling new pilot holes.

final steps of installing the new drawer and table unit into the cutout of the old changing station

Running the drill in reverse until the bit penetrated through the vinyl upholstery kept the upholstery from twisting around the bit.

An Upgrade for Both Dogs and People 

The new unit sees a lot more use than the changing room did. The folding table — for which Boat Outfitters won a prestigious Innovation Award at the 2019 International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition and Conference (IBEX) — flips up and locks in position with one hand.

A spring-loaded locking mechanism prevents rattling underway, a drip groove contains spills, and a pair of stainless drink holders accommodate anything from slim cans to YETI-style tumblers. This owner opted for an add-on topper that clamps quickly to the table and securely holds four stemmed glasses, three bottles, and serving items.

pontoon drawer unit and table replaced the old changing station for convenient storage and table use

The folding table flips up and locks in position with one hand. An add-on topper clamps to the table to hold stemmed glasses, wine bottles and other serving items.

dog enjoying the benefits of the pontoon folding unit with dog bowl drawer

A dedicated dog bowl drawer not only keeps bowls out of the way but also adds routine to boating trips, making dogs more comfortable.

The Lower Drawer

The lower drawer with dog bowl insert keeps dog water and food readily accessible but out of the way and has enough extra room for tennis balls, a Frisbee, a leash, or a drying towel. An added benefit of keeping dog food and water in a single location is that it introduces routine, making dogs more comfortable.

On boats, food and water are often placed haphazardly, so dogs don’t know where to look. With a dedicated drawer, they know where their food and water are and can communicate more easily to owners when they’re thirsty or hungry.

Similar direct-replacement units are available for a growing list of pontoon boats, including Tracker, Bennington, JC TriToon, Harris, Barletta, Vanderbilt, Avalon/Tahoe, Lowe, Manitou, Smoker Craft. They are in development for additional brands, including Coach, Veranda, Quest and Godfrey.

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