Taking in the show at full throttle

Posted on Written by Chris Landry

17_throttle_01From Raymarine to Seven Marine, there was plenty to take in – on the water and at the convention center

For two days, I hustled around the Miami International Boat Show, covering press conferences, conducting interviews, snapping pictures and even doing some video work. I attended more than a half-dozen events where new boats and products were announced. I’ll take you through the first two days of the show. What I saw impressed me, especially given the last two years and the lingering impact of recession on our industry.

Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.

Caprice Motoryacht, Chopin Plaza

On the first night Raymarine, owned by thermal-imaging equipment manufacturer FLIR Systems Inc., showcased some of its most recent products aboard a 130-foot yacht. About 40 members of the press were on board the three-deck yacht, trying the technology and enjoying food and drink.

The Navionics Mobile with Plotter Sync now can be used with Raymarine products. It enables the wireless exchange of navigational data between Raymarine’s E-Series Widescreen and G-Series navigation displays and mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Also on display: the Raymarine G-Series Command Center Navigation System with new v4 software; the E-Series Widescreen E140W with HybridTouch and new v2 software; and the SR6 Sirius Marine Weather Receiver and 6-Port SeaTalk Network Switch.

The G-Series v4 software is a free update for G-Series owners, and the E-Series Widescreen v2 is a free update for E-Series Widescreen owners. Both are available at www.raymarine.com.

FLIR expects to conduct a press tour in the spring to introduce new products.

Feb. 17, 9:30 a.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

Propulsion innovation continues to stand out as the industry’s bright spot in the recession. The show opened strongly in this area on Thursday, as a newly founded company, Seven Marine, introduced the highest-horsepower production outboard – the Seven Marine 557.

A pair of these 6.2-liter 557-hp engines was mounted on an Intrepid 370 Cuddy, which has been powered with a variety of engine packages, including triple 275s, 300s and 350s, says company president Ken Clinton. The Seven engines were linked to ZF Marine’s Joystick Maneuvering System, making this the first production outboard boat with joystick control, according to Intrepid.

17_throttle_02Former Mercury propulsion expert Rick Davis is the president of Seven Marine. Intrepid president Ken Clinton and Vittorio Rasera, ZF Marine’s executive vice president and general manager, joined Davis and others to unveil the engine. The 1,000-pound aluminum outboard, which uses a marinized General Motors LSA small-block V-8, packs a slew of technology and functions that consumers have been requesting, Davis says.

“You expressed the desire for more power,” Davis said during the press event. “We responded with a 557 supercharged horsepower [engine]. You asked for smoothness and torque. We delivered a thoroughly refined V-8 with 550 foot-pounds of torque. You requested a higher top speed. We have reduced the gearcase lower-unit drag. You asked for a lower unit that was tough enough for the offshore market. We built a patent-pending, twin-pinion through-hub gearcase. You requested a new approach to outboard control. We use the [ZF Marine] Smart Command Controls with the JMS joystick.”

JMS is linked to the ZF Marine CAN-bus controlled disc-clutch transmission and a ZF bow thruster. Another innovation is the 557′s closed cooling system – a first for the outboard industry, Davis says.

Mequon, Wis.-based Seven Marine consists of 10 employees, including Davis’ two sons, Brian and Eric. The concept of developing the most powerful production outboard came from Eric Davis. “It was Eric’s dream and it took a little convincing for me to get my head around it because of my paradigms of building outboard motors that were smaller than this,” says Rick Davis, the former chief technology officer and vice president of engine development at Mercury Marine.

The engine’s torpedo lower-unit design and size are similar to the 300-hp Mercury Verado and Bravo I sterndrive, Davis says. Seven Marine elongated the torpedo just enough to add a double-pinion arrangement, which allows the shifting to take place out of the water, he says.

The 557 enables a boatbuilder to deliver more horsepower with fewer engines – and the drag of their lower units – which equates to improved efficiency, Davis says. The engine can be used in repowering applications and its weight should not be a problem because “we will be putting twins where usually there are triples and quads or singles where there are twins,” Davis says.

The engines at the show were the first two prototypes. Davis expects production to begin in October and he says members of the marine media may have a chance to test the engines this summer.

In addition to ZF Marine and General Motors, Seven Marine has partnered with Alfa Laval for the cooling system, Latham Marine for the hydraulic steering system and Hering Propellers.

The 376-cubic-inch GM engine – the one used in the Cadillac CTS-V – will be available in 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft lengths. It has a 150-amp alternator.

Many boatbuilders are interested in hanging these engines, Davis says. “We’re pinching ourselves and we love the fact that you don’t have to be a Mercury or a Yamaha to do something cool in the marine industry,” he says. “[Mercury and Yamaha] have fantastic products, but we wanted to do our own thing.”

Intrepid Marine has always done its own thing – that’s why it was able to hook up with Seven Marine, company president Ken Clinton says. “We are very proud of the fact that we like to try new things and open the market to new ideas and give our customers more choices,” he says. “We’re a semicustom boatbuilder and that allows customers to come to us and get what they want. When [Seven Marine] first came to us with the idea, I was excited, but once I started to see the product and the plant, words can’t describe how excited I was.”

The estimated retail price for the Seven 557 is $68,900. The company will back the engine with a 3-year warranty and a 10-year internal corrosion warranty. The engine will be sold directly to builders. For service, Seven Marine plans to place trained technicians at the boatbuilder’s locations.

Contacts: Seven Marine, (877) 777-0330, www.seven-marine.com; Intrepid, (727) 548-1260, www.intrepidpowerboats.com; Alfa Laval, (866) 253-2528, www.alfalaval.com; ZF Marine, (954) 441-4040, www.zf.com; Hering Propellers, (360) 659-4315, www.heringpropellers.com

Feb. 17, 10 a.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

A Tarboro, N.C., company quietly has acquired four power catamaran companies in the last nine years. The PowerCat Group owns the World Cat, Glacier Bay, Livingston and Carolina Cat brands, representing almost 80 percent of U.S. power catamaran production, Andy Brown, the company’s president, said during a 20-minute presentation. The company’s focus is to lure consumers to the market by selling them on the catamaran’s ride and efficiency, Brown says.

Brown and vice president Chris Brockway say they have streamlined and organized their business to find success in the post-recession economy. “Chris and I call it Boating 2.0 because since we are manufacturers first and boatbuilders second, we have been able to apply leading-edge manufacturing technology to the boat business without the shackles associated with methods and systems with roots in the ’70s,” Brown says.

World Cat and Glacier Bay are higher-end cats, and Livingston and Carolina Cat are entry-level brands. Carolina Cat this year introduced the 18CC, which is designed to operate with a single outboard. With a beam of 8 feet, 1 inch, the 1,200-pound center console is rated for 115 hp and has a top speed of 35 mph and a cruising speed of 23 mph, where it gets about 6 miles per gallon. Retail price with a 115-hp Yamaha 4-stroke is $32,501.

The PowerCat Group also has hired sales and marketing veteran Frank Longino, who has worked for Southport Boats and Grady-White, to present the company and its brands.

The PowerCat Group, (252) 641-8000. www.powercatgroup.com

Feb. 17, 10:30 a.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

Tiara presented two new boats, the 3100 Coronet open express and 4500 Sovran. The latter is an upgrade from the predecessor Tiara launched six years ago. “It has a long list of new characteristics – a lounge on the foredeck, new hardtop and sunroof,” company president David Slikkers says. “The increased visibility is really awesome – 504 additional square inches of visibility at the helm.”

21_miami_05Twin Volvo Penta IPS600s (435 hp) power the new Sovran and it has a top-end speed of 36 mph. Cruising at 30 mph, you get about 0.9 miles per gallon. With the twin Volvo ISP600s, the price is $859,000.

With the 3100 Coronet’s low profile, diamond non-skid and wide walkways, Tiara has recaptured some of the design characteristics of its earlier boats, Slikkers says. “Tiara has had a 31 Open since 1979. It has been a classic for us and we wanted to get back to that,” he says.

The Coronet is all about day boating, with its cockpit entertainment center, electric grill, sink, drawer refrigerator and optional television. Powered with twin Crusader 375-hp gas inboards, the boat has an estimated cruise of 30 mph and top end of 41 mph. It retails for $261,500.

Tiara Yachts, (616) 392-7163. www.tiarayachts.com

Thursday, 11 a.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

Contender Boats, known for its hard-core fishing vessels, has branched out and introduced three models that also cater to the cruising crowd. “We saw the market shifting,” marketing director Les Stewart Jr. told me aboard the 32 LS (Luxury Sport). “We saw that people want more of a multifunction boat, a boat that somebody can go fishing on with their kids and then pack up and go to a sandbar and grill a burger or hang around and listen to music. People are using boats more than for just fishing. We realize that and we’re adapting.”

61_throttle_03In addition to the 32-footer, two other open boats – 35- and 39-footers – make up the company’s new Luxury Sport fleet. The outboard boats range from $235,000 to $320,000, and standard equipment includes a sink, grill, granite countertop, stereo system, a sun pad and an aft table. And, of course, the builder packs in all of the pertinent fishing equipment, such as rod holders, bait wells and fishboxes.

Contender Boats, (305) 230-1600. www.contenderfishingboats.com

Feb. 17, 11:30 a.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

Motoryachts and express cruisers are known for their creature comforts in the cabin. Unfortunately, those cabins traditionally were notorious for being dark and cave-like, with little natural light. For the last several years, however, builders have been designing these boats with larger windows and portlights to brighten the interiors.

The Sea Ray 450 Sedan Bridge, which replaces the 44 Sedan Bridge in the builder’s seven-boat sport yacht fleet, stands out as an example, with large side windows in the saloon and helm areas and four portlights on each hull side. The boat is powered by a twin 480-hp Cummins MerCruiser Diesel Zeus pod drive setup with joystick controls.

Sea Ray touts the flybridge’s 360-degree visibility and its spacious, comfortable layout. The builder equips the flybridge with a U-shaped dinette, which has a table that converts to a sun pad, and a fridge. The saloon’s standard amenities include a sofa, coffee table, entertainment center and 32-inch LCD television. Below, there are two staterooms and two heads.

“The 450 Sedan Bridge has more – more windows, more useful square footage, more natural light, more entertaining space and more performance,” says Joe Cacopardo, director of marketing.

The boat retails for $945,000 with the 480-hp CMD Zeus system. It cruises at 31 mph and reaches nearly 35 mph at wide-open throttle.

Sea Ray, (865) 522-4181. www.searay.com

Feb. 17, noon

Miami Beach Convention Center

Honda has remained tight-lipped about its new 250-hp 4-stroke, the BF250. But I was able to pull aside Alan Simmons, the head of national sales and marketing, for a few moments for an interview. The BF250 is different from the BF225, which hit the market 10 years ago, Simmons says.

21_miami_06“The 225 is a 3.5-liter engine and this is 3.6 liters,” he told me. “I can’t tell you how we got there, but just as with our other outboards, it’s derived from the automotive end [of Honda].”

Like other engines in its line, the BF250′s strengths will include fuel efficiency and durability, Simmons says. “We’re not getting away from that heritage,” he says. “If anything, we want to bring it to the next level.”

The market for the BF250 is broad and expanding, Simmons says, and emerging markets include bass, walleye and luxury pontoon boats. The engine should be available to consumers late this year.

Honda Marine, (678) 339-1385. www.marine.honda.com

Feb. 17, 2 p.m.

Miami Beach Convention Center

I look forward to new models from South Carolina builder Scout Boats. The company consistently introduces well-thought-out fishing and day-cruising platforms. Scout builds some fine-looking vessels and company president Steve Potts usually has some smart on-deck design features to present.

On the new 251 XS, the helm seat hinges forward, opening access to the entire circumference of the live well underneath. A three-sided tempered glass structure and hardtop provide weather protection. The view forward is completely unobstructed – no T-top framing or overhead electronics box. The boat was designed for a 50-50 split of day cruising and fishing.

“This boat probably can effectively fish more species than other boat in the show,” Potts said during the press introduction. “I say that because it is a hybrid between a bay boat and an offshore boat.”

In addition to the two-person helm seat, the 251 XS has two transom seats and a wraparound bow seat. Yet there’s a reasonable amount of space to fish and there’s enough freeboard for offshore use, Potts says. Access to the console interior is through a door that swings up with the help of two stainless steel gas lifts.

With a single Yamaha 300-hp 4-stroke, the 251 XS tops out at about 60 mph, with a cruise speed of 32 mph. Mileage at this speed is 4 mpg. MSRP (with F300) is $68,831.

Contact: Scout, (843) 821-0068. www.scoutboats.com

Feb. 18, 1:30 p.m.

Greater Miami Ski Club

Terri Schneider, of Orlando, Fla.-based Nautique Boats, was nice enough to pick me up at the convention center and drive 17 miles inland to the Greater Miami Ski Club. A 19-foot ski boat, powered completely by electric motors and batteries, was at the dock waiting for me. The company wanted to prove that its new electric boat – the Ski Nautique E – could do its job and pull a skier. World champion slalom skier Chris Parrish was on hand to prove the point.

I hopped aboard, the skier went into the water, and the driver punched it. All I heard was the sound of water against the hull, the wind and the rumble of the shaft and prop. Pretty impressive. The 215-pound Parrish was going hog wild behind the boat, cutting back and forth across the wake. After we stopped, I interviewed Michel Soucy, director of business development at LTS Marine.

Using electric car motors, the Canadian company designed and built a marinized system, Soucy says. The system includes two 103-hp motors with a transfer case linked to a single shaft and prop. Two battery banks (sealed inside cases on the port and starboard sides) producing 77 kW provided the power.

The Ski Nautique E can make as many as 30 passes towing skiers – about 90 minutes of continual use – before a recharge is needed, says Greg Meloon, Nautique’s vice president of marketing and product development. “Most people take six to eight passes in a ski set, which means three to four skiers could ski in one session [on one charge],” he says.

Recharge times are about 12 hours with a 110-volt supply and four hours with a 220-volt supply, he says. This is a prototype and it’s too early to say when or whether it will become a production boat, but the builder is committed to pursuing alternate power sources, Meloon says.

Nautique Boats, (407) 855-4141. www.nautique.com

Feb. 18, 4 p.m.

Sea Isle Marina

I looked at a 40-foot power catamaran with four 300-hp Yamaha 4-strokes – yes, four. It’s the first time Yamaha has set up a cat with quads. The boat is the second model from Freeman Boatworks in Charleston, S.C. The company also builds a 33-footer.

The model in the water had been sold and outfitted to the owner’s liking, which was pretty Spartan. It had little seating, but lots of room to fish – and a huge coffin box forward of the console on the centerline.

Billy Freeman, a catamaran enthusiast, founded the company about four years ago. The 40 is built using cold-molded construction, says Bob Dayhoff, the company’s sales manager.

Freeman Boatworks LLC, (843) 412-4102. www.freemanboatworks.com

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue.

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