By Steven Bull

The Starcraft SLS-5 is the perfect boat for someone who is looking for all the benefits of a big, open pontoon boat but who also demands refined luxury and power.

With a 300-horsepower Mercury Verado you can boot this 26-foot boat around the lake at a remarkably smooth range of cruising speeds. It runs so quietly I had to check that it was running before putting it in gear.

It maintains a traditional looking exterior, as tested, with white panels and black rails, but below the marine-grade decking with UV stable carpeting, it’s far from traditional. The three-log arrangement has Starcraft’s HMX set-up for added performance.

Strakes on centre and exterior tubes give added lift and reduce drag
Strakes on centre and exterior tubes give added lift and reduce drag

The centre tube has lifting strakes and the exterior tubes have strakes on the inside. That means you get added lift and reduced drag for excellent straight-line runs and the design eliminates any interference with handling.

It certainly is a smooth running boat and even at 26 feet long it does handle quite well. I easily went lock-to-lock on the wheel and made some impressively tight turns. You can run on plane from 18 miles per hour and up, but the mid-20s was the kind of ride you could do for hours in any condition. That was with multiple people on board and loaded with camera gear.

The interior has the dual bucket seats amidships, and the forward and rear benches are all plush and comfortable. The speakers are underneath but are unobstructed when you have the USB-ready stereo pumping.

Hinged seat cushions make stowing quick and simple
Hinged seat cushions make stowing quick and simple

Under-seat storage is a given on pontoons. What is not standard is this bonus feature: cushions on a reliable hinge. That’s the case with the SLS-5. It means quick and easy access without fumbling to find somewhere to stack the cushions. Instead it’s an easy flip to get your seat back.

The helm is raised slightly, which makes a big difference in line-of-sight. The captain has full control of the boat with 10 rocker switches, five gauges and the Infinity stereo all within arm’s reach, not to mention two cup holders.

Raised helm layout provides great sight lines for the captain
Raised helm layout provides great sight lines for the captain

On the helm console, just in front of the short windscreen is a sink and, underneath, is roomy storage with a large access door, just opposite the wide port side gate and fold-up privacy chamber.

Starcraft’s SLS-5 isn’t a pontoon that tries to reinvent the wheel; it’s one that is simply exceptionally well made.

300 hp Mercury Verado Pro

0-plane / 3 sec

TOP SPEED (rpm / mph)
5,600 / 40.1

3,000 / 17.6
4,000 / 24.7
5,000 / 30.4

Length: 26 ft 10 in / 8.18 m
Beam: 8 ft 6 in / 2.59 m
Weight: 2,575 lbs / 1,168 kg
Fuel Capacity: 60 gals / 227 L
Price: $56,156 USD (base)


This boat is featured in the Winter 2016 issue of Boats&Places.

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Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.