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Miami Boat Show 2008 - NEW BOATS NEW POWER

New propulsion technologies are an underlying theme of this year’s South Florida classic

New propulsion technologies are an underlying theme of this year’s South Florida classic

Conventional inclined-shaft inboards will represent 20 percent or less of the 35- to 90-foot inboard pleasure boat market in five to 10 years.”

Soundings technical writer Eric Sorensen made that prediction in his September story on pod-drive propulsion systems, and judging from the lineup at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, it seems like we may be headed in that direction. Up-and-coming propulsion technologies are the driving force behind this year’s show (Feb. 14 to 18), with boatbuilders showcasing their vessels with the latest from Yamaha, Volvo Penta, and Brunswick’s Cummins MerCruiser Diesel and MerCruiser.

“We come out with new boats every year,” says Rob Noyes, vice president of marketing for Knoxville, Tenn.-based Sea Ray. “But this year is different. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this type of propulsion revolution. Propulsion is an important component of a boat. It’s an exciting time for the industry as well as our buyers.”

A slew of boats at this year’s show will be outfitted with pod drives and joystick helm control from both Volvo Penta (Inboard Performance System) and CMD (Zeus). Sea Ray plans to have at least two boats in the water with Zeus — 38 and 44 Sundancers, says Noyes — and SeaVee will be showing its 390, the first center console powered by IPS.

“We’re very excited,” says Jorge Alfonso, vice president of Miami-based SeaVee Boats. “This is it. Our whole show is about the IPS in this boat.” And for good reason: Alfonso says this will be the fastest boat with IPS, pushing the 390 to 50-plus mph.

Among the strengths of both the Zeus system ( ) and IPS ( ) are improved fuel efficiency and slow-speed handling through the use of counter-rotating propellers and independently articulating drives. Both are designed to break off if they strike a submerged object, while maintaining the hull’s watertight integrity. One key difference: Zeus’ props face aft, IPS’s forward.

Both companies say their systems deliver 30 percent better fuel economy and 15 percent greater speed when compared to vessels with conventional inboard setups. The improvements in speed and fuel efficiency are due to the reduced drag of the slim, streamlined drives and the counter-rotating props, which provide more forward thrust than conventional inboards (with only one prop). The IPS 600 diesel is rated at 435 hp but does the work of a 600-hp inboard, as it needs 25 percent less fuel and more than 25 percent fewer horses.

Sterndrives with joysticks

Showgoers will get a chance to see the newest addition to the joystick family: the Axius sterndrive from MerCruiser ( ). It uses joystick technology like the pod-drive systems, but instead of controlling pod drives it controls independently articulating sterndrives.

Designed for sterndrive boats from 28 to 38 feet, Axius gives the skipper greater command over lateral movement than conventional sterndrives, according to MerCruiser. You can move the boat sideways, at angles or rotate it with a nudge of the joystick. Once you complete your low-speed maneuvering, you can resume control of the boat with Mercury’s SmartCraft Digital Throttle and Shift. The system captured an innovation award at the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition and Conference in October.

There is one notable difference between Axius and the pod drive systems. Like Zeus and IPS, Axius gives the operator much better maneuverability. However, the Axius system enjoys no advantage in fuel efficiency or speed over traditional sterndrives.

Formula is one of a handful of builders that will have an Axius boat on display in Miami. “It’s hard for me to imagine us developing any more inboard boats,” says Grant Porter, executive vice president of Decatur, Ind.-based Formula Boats. “We will do sterndrives, sterndrives with Axius, IPS and Zeus.”

In addition to Formula, Axius will power boats from Rinker, Maxum and Sea Ray at the show, according to MerCruiser product manager Robert Grantham. “Perhaps we might also have a Bayliner and a Crownline,” he says. “In addition, there are some other international builders — Bavaria, plus some others — that may have boats over here for display and demo.”

While much of the attention is on the Axius, Zeus and IPS, let’s not forget about outboards. Introduced last year, Yamaha’s 5.3-liter V-8 F350, the most powerful 4-stroke on the market ( ), will be featured on 17 boats from 17 builders, including a pair hanging from the new Scout 350 Abaco. “We wanted to build a boat that was the ideal size for the twin F350 motors,” says Steve Potts, president of the Summerville, S.C., builder.

Other builders showing boats powered with the F350 include Regulator, Pathfinder, Sailfish, Chris-Craft, EdgeWater, Pursuit, Century, Angler and Jupiter.

Will you pay more?

In most cases these new technologies are going to cost extra, but boatbuilders and engine manufacturers hope consumers will see the value of their easier-to-operate systems. In fact, MerCruiser held two Axius demo weekends in January in Florida, with boats from Maxum, Formula and Rinker.

The twin-engine Axius setup on a Formula 370 Super Sport adds around $22,000 to the overall price, but the joystick-controlled maneuverability is only part of what you pay for, according to Grantham, the MerCruiser product director. Axius boats come with MerCruiser’s SeaCore corrosion protection, Digital Throttle and Shift, Vessel View (a big-screen version of Mercury’s SmartCraft engine and system readouts), and electronic hydraulic steering.

With the SeaVee 390, it will cost you around $100,000 more to power the center console with twin IPS 600s than with outboards. The IPS-powered boat retails for $367,000; with triple 275-hp Mercury Verados, the price is $256,500.

With some boats, the bottom lines are much closer when comparing identical models powered with conventional inboards vs. pod-drive systems. Case in point is the Cobalt 46, which retails for $909,590 with twin 480-hp Cummins QSBs and Zeus drives with joystick control. The same boat powered by a V-drive inboard setup with a pair of 600-hp Cummins diesels will go for about $20,000 more, says Alex Barry, Cobalt sales manager for the western region and Florida. The reason: Zeus can be outfitted with lower-horsepower engines and achieve the same performance.

“You would think the boat with more complex machinery and technology would be more expensive than the one with the simpler systems, but that’s not the case,” says Barry.

Here’s a small sampling of boats — some new, some showcasing new propulsion systems — that you’ll find at the Miami show.

Viking 50C

The 50C is the second convertible to be introduced by the New Gretna, N.J., builder since last fall. (The 60C was introduced at the Fort Lauderdale Show in October). The new boat bridges the gap between the 48C and the 52C.

“This is a completely different boat from the 48 and 52,” says Viking director of communications Peter Frederiksen. “People who want to buy a Viking a lot of time want to buy a new model from us. But we will continue offering the 48 and 52.”

The 50C has flatter aft sections than the 48C, as well as a more aggressive entry and increased flare. And, unlike the 48 and 52, the 50 has a mezzanine deck forward of the cockpit that creates an area for those not fishing to sit and watch the action.

With its standard 1,100-hp MAN diesels, Viking estimates the boat will cruise at around 37 mph, with a top end of around 41 mph. With 1,360-hp MANs, cruise speed jumps to around 41 mph, with a top end of 46 mph. In comparison, maximum power for the 48C is twin 1,100-hp diesels for a cruise speed of around 36 mph and a top end of around 41 mph.

Viking points to the 50C’s fabrication and installation of its single 1,000-gallon fiberglass fuel tank as an example of its quality engineering. “The tanks are made of fiberglass by Viking technicians with our exclusive resin infusion process and are designed to mirror the hull bottom for maximum draw from the tank capacity,” says Frederiksen. “The tanks are mounted low to maintain the boat’s center of gravity and are fiberglassed into place to contribute additional strength to the hull structure.”

Viking uses end-grain balsa as a coring material in the hull sides. The bottom is cored beneath the engines for added stiffness to the running surface. The core material is vacuum-bagged with epoxy resin for a strong bond between the fiberglass skins and the core. A five-axis router allows Viking to build the 50C with a minimal number of parts — for example, the pulpit, foredeck, hatches, superstructure, cockpit and other components are a single piece, says Frederiksen.

The 132-square-foot cockpit is equipped with the standard equipment you’d expect on a convertible, including stainless steel rod holders, fresh- and raw-water washdowns, a transom door, live well, fishboxes, and gaff and tag stick stowage. A rung ladder to starboard leads to the flybridge, with pedestal helm and companion seating. There’s plenty of room abaft the seats to move around, as well as cushioned seating forward of the helm. This area also includes an aft-facing jump seat for watching baits so your crew can react quickly when fish bite.

Entering the saloon from the cockpit, there’s an L-shaped lounge to port. Also to port, and forward of the lounge, is an L-shaped dinette with seating for four. The galley is opposite the dinette to starboard and includes a sink, two-burner electric stove, microwave/convection oven, and a Corian-topped island with two bar stools.

Below, the master stateroom (walkaround queen-size island berth) and head extend along the starboard side. Two maple-lined, full-size hanging lockers flank the berth, and the head has a sink with a private shower. Two additional staterooms on the port side share a second head. With double bunks, each stateroom can sleep two.

SeaVee 390

The SeaVee 390 is the first center console powered by Volvo Penta’s IPS. The high-end fishing boat also will have the distinction of being the fastest IPS boat on the water. A SeaVee crew traveled to Volvo Penta North American headquarters in Virginia in October to learn how to install, maintain and service the system. Volvo Penta engineers conducted sea trials.

“The IPS will give us great improvements in mileage and range,” says Alfonso, the company vice president. “This is going to be a big deal.”

It’s a big deal for Volvo Penta, as well. The engine manufacturer has never installed IPS in this type of narrow, open boat, says Kent Lundgren, vice president of Volvo Penta’s marine diesel business in North America. The hull needed no modification for the IPS installation, but jackshafts had to be installed to link the engines and propulsion units. The power plants are mounted under the leaning post.

Lundgren says the boat reached 34.5 mph in six seconds, coming on plane with little bow rise. “We were very pleased with the performance of this hull with our system,” he says. “In fact, we were surprised at how well the hull performed and behaved. The acceleration of this thing is wild.”

Though the test boat didn’t have some of the equipment that a production model would (such as a T-top), Volvo Penta packed the hull with the appropriate ballast to imitate realistic loads. Volvo tested the SeaVee with IPS 500s, which are rated at 365 hp. The boat at the show will have IPS 600s.

At about 38 mph, the IPS 500s burned a combined 23.7 gallons per hour, which equates to 1.6 miles per gallon. Volvo Penta used these numbers to calculate speed, fuel and mileage with the IPS 600s. At roughly the same speed, the 390 with IPS 600s would burn 2 gallons less per hour and attain 1.7 miles per gallon. SeaVee didn’t have data for outboard-powered 390s with comparable horsepower, but Alfonso says IPS should improve mileage and range from 20 to 30 percent.

The 390’s long, narrow hull shape allows it to shoulder rough water, says Alfonso, and the builder has packed the boat with clever features. For example, cushioned seats along the forward gunwales fold away into recessed areas. A pneumatic door to the head compartment inside the console opens with a push of a button. As an option, the forward in-deck fishbox also can be connected to the pneumatic system. And the port side of the hull has a diver’s door with fold-away ladder in the cockpit. Also, the boat can be outfitted with 29 rod holders and can be ordered with up to three live wells and three fishboxes.

Base price with IPS 600s is $367,000. With triple 300-hp Mercury Verados, the boat retails for $261,000; with triple 275-hp Verados, the price is $256,500. The 390 is the largest boat in the builder’s four-vessel lineup, which includes 29-, 32-, and 34-footers. The 320 and 340 come in center console and cuddy versions, with outboard or diesel inboard propulsion.

Formula 370 Super Sport

The 370 Super Sport was the perfect candidate for the new Axius sterndrive control system, according to Formula executive vice president Grant Porter.

“The 370 does not have the room for a bow thruster,” says Porter. “It’s all about maneuverability. Axius will give our customers tremendous confidence behind the wheel.”

The Axius system controls twin independently articulating MerCruiser Bravo Three sterndrives powered by gas or diesel engines. In the 370, the Axius drives are paired to 425-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG HO gas engines.

The Axius system adds $22,395 to the price of a 370 with any of Formula’s engine offerings. For instance, the base price of the boat with twin 375-hp MerCruiser 496 Magnums and conventional Bravo Three X sterndrives is $432,720; with Axius it is $455,115.

The 370 has been a staple in Formula’s Super Sport lineup since July 2000. Like the 400 Super Sport, the boat has a spacious cockpit with ample seating, a forward-raked aluminum radar arch, and several sunning areas. Access to the bow is through centerline windshield steps, with a handrail to port. The helm is set up so the skipper can drive comfortably either seated or standing.

In the cabin, the forward dinette area converts to a berth, and there’s a double berth abaft the cabin steps under the bridge deck. The galley is relatively small but includes all the essentials, such as a microwave oven, sink, refrigerator and an electric stove that can be concealed under the Corian countertop. Although the 370 has a sleek, low-profile bow — like all Formulas — the boat has 6 feet, 2 inches of headroom in the cabin.

Scout 350 Abaco

Following on the heels of the 295 Abaco, Scout Boats crosses the 30-foot threshold at this year’s show with the 350 Abaco. And with Yamaha’s 350-hp 4-stroke, the builder was able to take a considerable leap. At nearly 36 feet (not including the bow pulpit), the 350 is more than 6 feet longer than the 295.

“It is a big jump for us,” says Scout president Steve Potts. “But with the development of the bigger outboards, we said, ‘Why not?’ ”

Scout has been studying the mid-30-foot segment of the express fishing boat market for a while. The 350 Abaco should appeal to owners of larger boats who want to downsize, and it gives Scout customers an opportunity to step up to a bigger boat and stay within the family.

“We have a very strong following,” says Potts. “We continue to develop products to keep brand loyalty. We want to grow with our customers.”

Potts brought in naval architect Michael Peters to design a rugged offshore boat that can cruise comfortably at around 30 mph. (Peters has designed boats for Cabo, Chris-Craft, Intrepid and others in the recreational segment.) A single step amidships increases lift and reduces drag, enabling the boat to hit the 50-mph mark at wide-open throttle. With a relatively narrow hull shape and sharp entry (waterline length-to-beam ratio of 3.14-to-1), the 350 can knife through rough water.

“We did not want a big, beamy boat that looked great at the dock but would beat your brains out offshore,” says Potts. “It’s not a museum piece.”

And Scout doesn’t skimp on the fiberglass. The 11,000-pound boat has a solid glass bottom and hull sides. PVC material is used to core the decks and some hatches. With a V-berth forward, an aft berth under the bridge deck, and a dinette that converts to a single berth, the 350 can sleep five.

Potts is proud of the boat’s “systems room” under the deck to port of the aft berth. “It’s like an engine room on a larger boat,” he says. “It has nicely finished fiberglass and houses all the system controls you’ll need to get to, including the battery switches, genset, plumbing systems, water heater, water filters, and fresh- and raw-water pumps.”

Pricing hadn’t been determined at press time.

SeaHunter 29

The new SeaHunter 29 is the result of customer requests for an offshore center console that can be trailered more easily than the company’s 35-footer. The 29 is the smallest center console in the 6-year-old builder’s lineup, which also includes a 40-foot center console and an 18-foot flats boat.

“They wanted a boat that was big enough to travel long distances and fish in the tournaments,” says Charlie Schiffer, vice president of the Princeton, Fla., fishing-boat builder. “Our 35 requires a triple-axle trailer and special permits to trailer.”

SeaHunter prides itself on its construction techniques. The hull sides and bottom are built exclusively of Kevlar and cored with Core-Cell PVC. The coring is vacuum-bagged for a strong bond to the Kevlar skins. A section of the bottom — the bilge area — is solid glass so work crews installing through-hulls won’t have to remove the coring and replace it with composite material, a labor intensive process, says Schiffer. The hatches are fabricated using a two-part mold. The outside is fiberglass, the inside carbon fiber, and the two are vacuum-bagged together. SeaHunter uses vinylester resin throughout.

The 29 has a narrow forefoot and sharp entry — 57 degrees — for slicing through waves. The beamiest section of the boat is amidships for increased stability at low speeds and while drifting, says Schiffer. He says the narrow stern section decreases the surface area aft to boost speed and decrease slamming loads. With twin 250-hp Mercury Verados, the SeaHunter tops out at 62 mph, and at a cruise speed of 40 mph, the boat gets 2.2 miles to the gallon, says Schiffer.

SeaHunter built 35 boats last year. It sells directly to the consumer and has a service center for its boats and engines. Customers can outfit their boats with such equipment as rod holders, bait wells and fishboxes. The prototype has 22 rod holders along the gunwale and two identical raised live wells at the transom. The deck liner extends inboard, giving anglers toekick space from bow to stern.

Century 2202 Inshore Tunnel

Flats boats are designed with shallow draft so they can get into skinny waters. The problem is that with the outboard down, draft can easily double. Century Boats, of Panama City, Fla., solves this problem with its new 2202 Inshore Tunnel bay boat. A tunnel extends forward about 4 feet along the centerline from the transom and allows the use of an outboard with a 20-inch shaft — Yamaha’s new F225 4-stroke — shaving 5 to 6 inches of draft.

“The 2202 is a versatile boat, but we wanted to make it even more versatile,” says Century engineering manager Jeff Hudson. “Getting into shallow water is so critical to getting to the fish.”

The tunnel includes a 12-inch step that allows the lowest part of the keel to be moved forward, says Hudson. “The tunnel and the boat’s flat running angle allow you to fish a heavier boat in skinnier water,” he says.

Though a tunnel decreases the running surface aft and can cause a boat to slide in turns, two flat running strakes outboard of the tunnel help the boat grip and avoid sliding, says Hudson. The other concern with a tunnel is water flow to the engine. Century designed the tunnel so that water stays inside it and feeds the outboard to maintain water pressure, says Hudson.

With the F225 short shaft, the boat tops out at around 46 mph, with a cruise speed of around 27 mph. Those are similar numbers to the 2202 without the tunnel and powered by an F225 with 25-inch shaft. That model also comes in a version with a tower. All three models feature a large casting platform at the bow and three standard live wells — a 12-gallon well in the forward section of the console and 35- and 44-gallon wells at the stern.

The short shaft F225, called the Sport model, was designed for bay boats, pontoons, freshwater bass boats and other shallow-water vessels. The engine’s intake and exhaust have been tuned to enhance low and midrange power. The tunnel boat with the F225 model retails for $47,880.