At the Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show, I served as a judge in the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Innovation Awards contest. By my side was Soundings Trade Only editor-in-chief Gary Reich, meaning we both got an early look at the latest gear and boats.
While the winners of the contest showed us some great tech, many other new products will shake up the industry and boating alike. Those are the ones described here.
Mercury Avator Electric Outboard
At its Investor Day in May 2021, Brunswick Corp. announced that Mercury Marine would unveil a line of five electric outboards by 2023. At the Miami show, there was a sneak peek of the Avator. Although the details about this sleek, portable outboard were few, its most striking feature is a flip-top cowling that lets the user replace the battery in seconds.
Plenty of Pontoons
Some of the biggest reveals involved pontoon boats, which are the hottest segment in boating. According to research andmarkets.com, pontoon sales are forecasted to grow an average of 9.7 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2021 to 2028.
Indmar adapted its 2.3-liter, 310-hp Ford EcoBoost engine to create the new EcoJet for pontoons. This compact, jet-propulsion package is quieter than most, thanks to its lower-revving engine and rubber mounts that isolate noise. The unit fits neatly into a 25- or 27-inch center pontoon or 32-inch oval pontoon, creates extra room on the stern, and has no prop, which enhances safety. With 45 degrees of steering angle and less than one turn of the wheel needed to go from lock-to-lock, it allows for crisp maneuvers. It also can let a boat spin inside its own length, and has a heater for boating on fringe-season days.
Mercury also found a new way to allow single-engine pontoons to maneuver like never before with its Joystick Piloting for single-engine pontoons. The system uses a pair of retractable trolling motors as bow and stern thrusters, in concert with a joystick control system. Single-engine pontoons with this setup can do anything their multiple-engine counterparts can do, such as moving directly sideways or spinning on their axis.
Year of the Thruster
Thrusters were big in Miami — literally — with the unveiling of the Bow Pro Boosted 300 series from Vetus, which calls the series the most powerful in the world. An innovative DC-to-DC, step-up charging technology connects to a 24-volt power supply to recharge the 48-volt battery bank. The setup, according to Vetus, keeps thruster batteries at their optimum level and allows for longer run times without overheating or overloading. Vetus also announced a collaboration with Mercury Marine for the full integration of these thrusters with Mercury’s Joystick Piloting for Outboards system.
Mercury also announced its collaboration with Sleipner to become the first outboard manufacturer to integrate a thruster into a joystick docking system. Sleipner’s proportional bow thrusters and S-Link network work with Mercury’s Joystick Piloting for Outboards system. Previously, the thruster and joystick systems were independent with separate controls.
Sometimes, high-tech solutions look remarkably low-tech, as with Roswell’s Ridge helm deflection system. It’s a pair of plexiglass air dams that attach to the sides of a center console, taming the maelstrom of wind on speedy fishing boats.
More than blocking wind and spray, the system uses deflection and vents to zap the vortex that whips around the console. It is exclusive to Invincible boats, for now.
Also on display was YachtSense, a digital control system from Raymarine with a modular design that lets owners snap together “bricks” that are sandwiched between a master and a power brick. This setup delivers 100 amps of DC power from the boat’s power supply to everything in the array.
YachtSense allows builders to add only the capabilities they need during construction, no matter whether the accessories require 10 to 20 amps (for freezers and pumps) or 10 amps (say, lighting). Everything can be controlled with a multifunction display or smartphone. It’s a scalable, one-system-fits-all concept.
There’s a brick for reverse-power accessories such as sunroofs, winches and sliding doors. That brick can sense changes in current, which can automatically trigger a reversal for safety if something blocks the travel of an item. And a signal brick is designed to handle as many as four monitors for such items as holding tanks or temperature sensors.
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.