ZF Marine and SeaVee Boats introduced a 34-foot center console with a single-pod propulsion system last fall at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show - the first of its kind in the recreational marine market, according to the companies.
The SeaVee 340i pod is powered with a 480-hp Cummins MerCruiser Diesel engine linked to a ZF transmission and a ZF 2800 Series pod. The pod works in conjunction with a ZF 185 AC bow thruster.
"The idea is to provide the customer with the ability to get into a single inboard boat with a single pod without having to go through the expense of getting into a bigger boat with twin engines," says Ralph Torres, vice president and head of production and product development for Miami-based SeaVee. Plus, a single engine and pod gets better fuel economy than a twin-screw boat and its maneuverability is superior to that of a single-screw inboard boat, says Torres. The driver controls the system using a ZF joystick.
I got a chance to play around with the boat in a marina basin during the show. As with twin-pod
setups, the joystick - engaged by pressing the "Easidock" button on the control head - allows precise low-speed control. I found the joystick response more sensitive than other pod systems (CMD's Zeus and Volvo Penta's IPS), but it took me only a few minutes to adjust my touch. The joystick is shaped like a Torx screw head - a six-point star pattern. I was most comfortable manipulating it using two fingers and my thumb.
I walked the boat sideways, maneuvered it at various angles to the current and wind, spun it 360 degrees and docked it. I also pushed the joystick all the way forward, driving the engine to 930 rpm and increasing speed to 6 knots, still using the joystick to steer. In the Easidock mode, the pod can move 180 degrees - 90 degrees to port and starboard of center. In normal mode, the pod is restricted to 30 degrees from center. To transition from Easidock to normal mode, simply advance the throttle and put the engine in gear.
ZF and SeaVee still have some fine-tuning to do. The bow tends to lead the stern when walking sideways and the bow thruster noise levels could be lower, says Martin Meissner, ZF Marine marketing and communications manager. The thruster, which was introduced at the 2009 Fort Lauderdale show, can be operated for 30 continuous minutes.
"We're going to dial that in so that when you move the joystick sideways you're going to get that responsive, complete lateral motion," says Meissner, who was on board during the demo. "It's basically 90 percent there. We're going to keep tweaking it and adjusting the system. That's part of the development process."
Another nice feature is iAnchor, a station-keeping function that compensates for current and wind, holding the boat's position within as little as a 3-foot radius.
These types of features should generate interest from not only the center console market but the trawler and cruiser markets, says Meissner. "These are all single-engine applications," he says. "And these people are going to be saying, 'When can we get a pod? When can we get joystick control?' We're going to open up this joystick application to a whole new market that's really been asking for it."
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This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.