MIAMI — One popular topic on the docks at this year’s Miami International Boat Show was the addition of convenient sea trials, which offered a huge variety of product tests for serious potential buyers.
Extremes on both ends of the spectrum were Qwest Pontoon Boats, powered by Torqeedo, and Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, powered by five Mercury Verado 400R engines.
Mark Dupuie, president of Qwest Pontoon Boats and Apex Marine, was an early adopter of Torqeedo’s electric propulsion, said Torqeedo president Steve Trkla. Torqeedo has since risen in popularity among some pontoon builders.
It was easy to see why during a sea trial of the Apex Marine Qwest LS 820 RLS with the Torqeedo Cruise 4.0RL and two Torqeedo lithium power batteries. The propulsion is so quiet, one can imagine a boater could explore relatively unnoticed by nature. (It almost feels unfair for fish.)
The connection to the water is apparent; passengers can hear the gentle lapping of waves against the boat, even the sound of a nearly silent drone passing overhead. The experience is so quiet it’s almost akin to a kayak, except a really plush one that allows occupants to stretch out and move around.
“This pontoon is a little smaller. We call it a compact pontoon,” Dupuie said. The narrower beam helps make the electric propulsion effective, he said.
The demos were just as lauded on the high-performance side of things.
A Nor-Tech 452 Center Console, powered by five Mercury Racing engines, had people lining up for a test.
Trond Schou, owner and president of the brand, said the sea trials helped to sell boats during the show. “People are saying they’re having a hard time getting here, but they’re getting here,” he said.
The trials were a positive for engine makers, as well, said David Foulkes, vice president of product development, engineering and racing at Mercury Marine and Brunswick Corp.’s chief technology officer.
“The great thing for us is, we have our booth display right next to our boats,” Foulkes said. “If someone is looking, and we see, ‘Oh, you like this feature? Let’s take a ride on one.’ Before you had none of that capability.”
Foulkes, a potential buyer, other members of Mercury Marine and a press member had an opportunity to take a ride that couldn’t have been more different from the pontoon experience.
The boat went almost 90 mph, although Nor-Tech customer service manager Fritz Harrington said that when the boat was completed it would “only” go closer to 80. Mercury Marine engineers touted the quietness of the engines, and at full throttle one could shout to be heard over the hum.
Demos were mainly given to qualified buyers, and in batches, so the boat also would get plenty of exposure at the docks, Harrington said.
“But if people are qualified and want to experience the boat, it’s a great asset,” Harrington said. “You can talk about the boat all day, but it’s totally different to experience it.”