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BOAT SENSE: HIGH PERFORMANCE CENTER CONSOLES

Be first at the canyon, last to leave the bite, and still be back at the weigh station with time to spare with the new breed of high performance center consoles; a June "Boat Sense" spotlight in The Fisherman Magazine.

By Capt. John N. Raguso

DEEP VS. STEPPED
One decision that the prospective high performance center console boat buyer must make when seeking the ultimate ride is selecting his/her preferred hull design, with traditional deep-vee and stepped-vee being the two most prevalent choices. The deep-vee has been around since the early 1960s, with Ray Hunt’s and Dick Bertram’s brainchild, the 31 Bertram Moppie, but it has evolved a few generations since then. The deep-vee is a proven offshore performer, but takes a certain amount of horsepower to get that sharp deadrise running surface up on plane and to keep it running in a seaway with all of the usual bulk and weight (fuel, bait, ice, gear, etc.) associated with sport fishing boats.

The stepped-vee starts with a deep-vee hull shape, but then introduces a pair of recessed steps with side vents starting amidships and working aft that reduce friction for improved speed and fuel efficiency. The steps create less wetted surface by trapping air underneath while underway and then venting it out the hull sides. This in turn creates less overall drag, increased fuel efficiency, a softer ride and a greater top-end speed (ranging from 10 to 15 percent).

But not all stepped hulls are created equally. These too have undergone a few evolutions since their introduction and depending on whose brand you prefer, they take a bit more of a learning to know how to operate in a variety of sea conditions. Some of the earlier models had issues with chine walking, excessive bow rise at certain throttle positions, or losing their aft end stability when making hard turns at speed. The latest generations have all addressed these issues, but be sure to take a long test ride in the stepped hull of your “dreams” before you find any potential nightmare scenarios.

POWERFUL OPTIONS
Outboard manufacturers have risen to the challenge of larger and heavier high performance chariots and are producing engines that have broken through the usual 300- and 400-horsepower barriers, with more powerful stuff that’s in the planning stages and on the not-too-distant horizon. Mercury has tweaked 300 and 350 sea ponies out of their 2.6-liter supercharged Verado in-line six-cylinder four-stroke, with a specialized 400 Racing Verado available to anyone who wants it. Yamaha has updated their big 5.3-liter V-8 power package with the new F350C version, introduced earlier this year. Suzuki’s 4.0-liter DF300 has found its way on the transom of many a 30-something sportfisher and Evinrude’s G2 300 two-stroke is a popular power option as well.

A small manufacturer located in Germantown, WI has been making a big splash in the outboard pond lately and that’s Seven Marine. Their fire breathin’ 557- and 627-horsepower V-8 outboards start off with a supercharged GM/Cadillac 6.2-liter V-8 that features 316-grade stainless steel parts at every turn, with a closed loop cooling system, a ZF marine transmission and a twin-pinion lower gearcase, tipping the scales at almost 1,100 pounds! Two of these can take the place of four of anyone else’s outboards with less bulk and overall net weight on the transom. And if you have a mechanical hiccup, concierge fix-it service is just a phone call away, but the price for one of these technological marvels is not for the faint of heart or casual boater. A pair of 557 outboards hitched to the transom of a Yellowfin 36CC will hit a top speed of 75 mph, with a fast lane cruising speed of 60 mph at 1.0 mpg and a “slow” cruising speed of 35 mph with 1.3 mpg efficiency! Translated, you can do a 65-mile canyon run in a little over an hour and burn only 65 gallons of fuel in the process - wow!

REALISTIC SIZE?
Based on the available outboard power of the day, consumer demand and existing technology, the realistic size of high performance center consoles and walkaround/fisharound cuddies has evolved from 35 feet, to 45 feet, up to 53 feet, which is where we stand now. You just know that someone out there is looking at the 60-foot barrier and licking their chops, but it’s not that simple. You just can’t take a 35-footer and turn it into a supersized 60-footer. Different stress forces are at play when you lengthen the build and weight is a factor too, even with a quartet of Seven Marine’s largest outboards pushing in excess of 2,300 sea ponies at the transom.

I spoke with Alex Leva, the president of Hydra-Sports Custom, at last fall’s Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show to get some additional insights on what it takes to build the world’s largest center console sport fishing boat. According to Alex, the 53 Sueños project required that they think out of the box for both the power side and the construction components of the project. The power side was easy, with the availability of the Seven Marine 557- and 627-horsepower outboards. With an asking price of over $110,000 per motor and a $1.8 million final price tag for the boat outfitted with quad Seven power, the cost for these outboards was almost an irrelevant factor, since HSC makes one 53CC per month and has at least a 12-month waiting list for custom build orders. Simply put, if you think it costs too much money, move over and the next rich guy in line will gladly take your place.

For the structural support side of the business, Hydra-Sports needed to enlist the services of the design team that helped create the US Navy’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) small combat craft, using a similar single-skin uncored laminate membrane hull technology. I would need 3,000 words or more to explain the numerous composite and laminate technologies and how they all interact with each other to create the rock-solid, stepped-vee running bottom that is the foundation of the 53 Sueños’s construction process. But if you want to know the specific details on how it all happens, you can read all about it by visiting www.hydrasports.com.

High performance center consoles and walkaround/fisharound designs are way cool and if you’ve never felt the wind trying to blow your hat off at 40- knots, definitely try to hook up with some of your buds and jump aboard one of these unique sport fishing platforms. It will be one of the unique thrills of your lifetime for sure!


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