Just quietly, marine technology has progressed in leaps and bounds
by Mark Rothfield on 16 May 2013
Time really does fly when you’re having fun. Season after season you trudge along, convinced there’s nothing new under the sun, so why update your perfectly good 1972-vintage runabout with the brown-band Merc? It’s surely good for another year … as is your safari suit.
If the new Mercury 150hp outboard was any quieter it would be dead. Mark Rothfield
But I’m here to tell you that the boating world has evolved while we weren't looking and that innovation has found its way into marine technology, as it has in most other industries.
This point was rammed home loud and clear, recently, when I started the quietest outboard I’ve ever 'not' heard. In fact, if Mercury’s new 150hp four-stroke was any quieter at idle it would be bereft of life. Deceased. An ex-outboard.
They really are the future of engines, with smooth acceleration and superb fuel economy to boot.
I tested the new 150 on a pair of Quicksilver runabouts and was blown away by the performance. While both rigs weighed over a tonne they leapt out of the hole with a burst of throttle.
The 3-litre, four-cylinder powerhead offers more displacement than any other 150 and it’s the lightest four-stroke in that class by a considerable margin. Mid-range thrust is perhaps a tad below that of the supercharged Mercury Verado but the motor still reaches full power with limited stress.
Simplicity, durability and affordability more than compensate as well. It has a single cam shaft and two-valve head, with the cam shaft driven by a maintenance-free chain instead of a timing belt.
In the cruiser world, meanwhile, gearboxes and electronics have also reached a new zenith with Maritimo 56 owner Roy Wells, from Port Lincoln, becoming the first boatie in the world to experience Twin Disc’s Express Positioning System (EPS).
Scary as it sounds to have a 30-tonne monster impersonating the Marie Celeste on a crowded waterway, the technology allows the skipper of a shaft-driven motoryacht to safely leave the helm.
The system automatically controls the propellers and thrusters to maintain station regardless of wind and tidal conditions.
As Roy Wells says, the major benefits have come when docking: ‘We can all get into a bit of trouble docking in big weather but even in a strong wind I can hold this boat close to the dock for as long as I wish.
‘It's invaluable when I’m alone – I just press the hold station and then have time to set the fenders and sort the ropes. I also use the system when I am out fishing as I can finesse the boat to keep the fish exactly where I want.’
Imagine remaining stationary above a fishing hotspot without the need to anchor or drift. It’s mind-blowing stuff for we old seadogs.
Boat show season kicks off this week with the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, so get along and see what’s really out there. You’ll be amazed.
We have lots of boating news ahead of the show, so read on.