Boating is, without question, one of the finest family activities around. Although we can all extol its many joys and benefits, we must acknowledge that there are a few negatives.
The horsepower race continues, with Mercury and Seven Marine introducing their most powerful 4-stroke outboards this year.
Mercury adds two high-horsepower 4-strokes: the Verado 350 and the Mercury Racing Verado 400R. “We take a bit of pride at Mercury in being about high performance, and with these engines we have the fastest, lightest, most fuel-efficient, quietest and highest-performing products on the market,” says Mercury Marine president John Pfeifer.
For both outboards, Mercury re-engineered the 2.6-liter engine it uses for the 225-, 250- and 300-hp Verados. The 400R falls under the Mercury Racing segment of the engine maker’s business, but it also can power high-performance recreational boats, such as single-engine flats boats, catamaran sportboats and offshore center consoles.
The sea casts a wide net, calling to a range of personalities with disparate experiences and expectations, quirks and foibles. This diversity of personality is as obvious in boatbuilders as it is in those who use their vessels to answer the call of the sea.
Among builders I know and think well of, racing master Reggie Fountain is drawn to speed, risk, competition and the limelight, pushing the envelope — and thereby risking his life — at well over 150 mph. Kurt Krogen, with his artist’s soul, loves the tranquility and solitude of ocean passages at hull speed in his namesake displacement trawlers.
Volvo Penta revolutionized marine propulsion in 2005 by introducing its IPS pod drive system. Joystick control was added a year later, allowing two pods to turn and shift independently and create the thrust vectors needed to make the boat move sideways and diagonally or spin in its own length. It was a brilliant idea, and Volvo Penta quickly brought the concept to market.
Nothing is more central to safe and enjoyable boating than the helm. A helm station’s primary functions are to provide a high level of vessel control and situational awareness, which are distinct topics. First let’s consider the role of helm ergonomics — the layout of the controls, gauges and navigational electronics.
I favor boats than can be run standing up or sitting down. Standing lets you stretch and stay alert, and if the boat is riding hard and fast, your legs can absorb some of the shock.
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