MIAMI — Today is opening day of the Miami International Boat Show and the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, but on Wednesday I had a chance to check out new products from Yamaha, Raymarine and Bayliner.
I started off the day at Sea Isle Marina, testing the new Yamaha F115 4-stroke, mounted on a Scout 195 Sportfish center console bay boat. The new engine weighs 24 pounds less than the original F115, which was introduced 15 years ago. It’s lighter, but packs more acceleration through higher displacement — 1.8 liters, compared with 1.7 liters.
The engine features Yamaha’s Shift Dampener System, a more powerful alternator and Yamaha’s Talon propeller specifically made for this model. The F115 20-inch and 25-inch shaft versions are $11,455 and $11,525, respectively.
During my 30-minute sea trial, I found that the engine, indeed, shifts more smoothly than its predecessor. No clunking. The boat accelerated rapidly as I pushed the engine through its midrange. Fuel economy doesn’t get much better for a small planing boat: 5.7 mpg at about 25 mph. The boat topped out at about 39 mph. The Scout, a high-end bay boat, and the new F115 work well together.
While at Sea Isle I met up with Raymarine marketing manager Jim McGowan and Ian Matt, global product manager for Raymarine autopilots and system integration. Matt, who works out of the company’s U.K. office, was excited about the latest development with Raymarine's Evolution Autopilot — an add-on technology called Hydrobalance. “It’s a software release available to every customer with an Evolution Autopilot and is fitted to a hydraulically steered boat, hence the name Hydrobalance,” he said.
Hydrobalance uses a mathematical model to compensate for the inaccuracies of an autopilot system tied into the hydraulic steering system of an outboard boat, said Matt. We tried out the product on a 34-foot SeaVee center console with twin Yamaha F350s.
The technology allows the boat to compensate for prop walking and the “snaking” course that occurs at trolling speeds with outboards, Matt said. It also allows the boat to hold course when encountering large wakes or in heavy seas.
Out in one of Miami’s choppy channels, we engaged and disengaged the autopilot to test these functions. Sure enough, the boat started to turn to starboard at slow speeds without the autopilot, but regained its heading when the autopilot was called upon. And a couple of ferries threw big wakes, which we charged through without a degree of course change.
“Yes, it is a breakthrough that has been a thorn in our side for a while for this application,” Matt said.
The EV-100 retails for $1,599. Raymarine has been firing off new products for the small-boat market in the past two years or so, McGowan said. "It is an area we did not play in for a while,” he said. "We primarily stayed in that over-35-foot market, but with some of our new products, like the aSeries [MFDs] and Dragonfly [sonar /GPS], we are rapidly expanding into smaller boats and even into the freshwater market, where we didn’t play much at all.”
Matt said his team of six engineers, himself included, are working hard to come up with even more improvements for autopilot systems for smaller boats. “Integration with the other systems on the boat is the focus, and it’s some exciting stuff,” he said.
Bayliner held a low-key press introduction at the Miami Beach Convention Center for two new boats: the Element XL and the Bayliner 642.
"The Element XL is leveraging the strength of our Element we launched last year, and we are marketing the 642 as our big-water day boat — it is a cuddy cabin,” Bayliner president Keith Yunger told me. "The initial mission when we launched the Element about a year ago was to produce an affordable day boat, but as we got into the first year's success, some customers said they would like to see a bigger platform with a bit more horsepower, which has led to the creation of the XL."
The 18-foot XL, with a 90-hp Mercury 4-stroke and trailer, retails for $16,999. It can also take a 115-hp engine. The 14-foot Element carries a retail price of $12,599 with a 60-hp Mercury 4-stroke and trailer. Both feature padded seating from bow to stern and a design aimed to bring more stability at all speeds.
The aft-facing lounges in the XL’s cockpit double as opposing port and starboard seats and should be a strong selling point for this boat, Yunger said. The Element will hit the market in March.
The 642 has become the best-selling Bayliner in Europe since it was introduced last year, said brand manager Michael Yobe. Based on its success overseas, Bayliner has introduced it in the United States. "We came out thinking it was going to sell a certain number, which starts the ‘business case,’ and we sold two times what the business case was founded on,” Yobe said.
The boat was built as a cuddy from the get-go, Yobe said. “It is not just a runabout with a cuddy attached,” he said. "We are hearing from consumers, especially in the upper Northwest and Northeast and Great Lakes, that a cuddy makes more sense to them. It obviously is not as big of a market as the bowriders, but there are pockets of people in the northern U.S. and southern Canada looking for a boat like this that they can get out in bigger water in.”
The cuddy has a V-berth, a portable head and a berth that pulls out from a stowage space under the helm deck.
Base engine is a 135-hp, 3.0-liter gas MerCruiser with an Alpha I sterndrive. Boat, motor and trailer retail for $33,999.