Category Archives: Reviews

2,700 Horsepower Go-Fast Boat at SEMA Show

When thinking of the annual SEMA show – held each fall in Las Vegas – visions of cool cars, cutting edge technology and innovative products come to mind. And of course, there are the lovely models to help direct your attention to the products on display. Or distract? I could never get that straight.

All of this vast gathering comes together to showcase the newest and best in the automotive world. Think SEMA and think cars. Or perhaps something a little more on the wet side?

Turning Heads

This year, there was at least one display that was turning heads and it wasn’t on four wheels. In fact, it was on its side! Yes, the car guys and gear heads got to ogle an impressive assembly of technology, all sitting pretty in the hull of a boat. In fact, that very hull was an impressive bit of technology all on its own. And we haven’t even gotten to the combined 2,700 horsepower neatly tucked away in the engine bay.

So, to understand why a big, 41 foot boat was front and center in the bastion of automotive wonder, we gotta look at the formidable drive-lines on this thing. And the best part is that it’s got two of ‘em.

Massive Power for Boat or Car

Oh, did I just hear muted whimpering from some of the car guys out there? Well, fear not, because these same engines are going to be available for your car, but you’ll probably only need one at a time.

First, let’s have a quick look at that hull. Composed using a 100%, full epoxy infused technology via the use of vacuum bagging, the process allows for the epoxy to be formed over the gel coat without possible air bubbles being entrapped during the build – a potential problem with a traditional hand layup. Carbon and Kevlar are also introduced in the running surfaces, areas that will take the greatest punishment when it’s go time.

A Lot of Horses

Scuttlebutt at the SEMA show was that this boat could touch 200 MPH. That’s fast in anything, but to do it on water takes a little more ‘Oomph’. Remember that not only are we having to push the weight of the boat and crew, but overcome the friction of the water. Sure, the catamaran hull design helps in that department by reducing the surface area of the boat coming in contact with the water, but we still got to get it moving forward in the first place. The same precept used to get the most speed out of cars holds true with boats. Throw in more horsepower.

Horsepower is why Mercury Marine chose the 50th SEMA show as the venue to unveil their new power plants. Shy of having even more of the aforementioned models standing around one of their engines, they were able to create quite a stir by partnering with Dave’s Custom Boats and this beautiful boat. Dave’s is no stranger to go-fast boats, having produced state of the art performance boats for two decades.

The twin 1350 HP engines push power through M8 drives, designed to handle the immense torque of the motors. The Mercury Racing QC4v engine designation is derived from the in house designed, quad cam, four-valve, turbocharged setup.

Also part of the display was an exotic car, sporting the 1650 crate engine, the 9-Litre V-8 sharing the same aspects as its marine incarnation. Unlike the M-41, I’m sure just the one engine will be enough.

A New Approach

The unveiling of this line of performance engines coincides with the recent announcement by Mercury Marine that they will be building their own gasoline engines for their MerCruiser stern drives and Zeus pod drives. This was a big step for the company, when considering that they had been getting their power plants from GM (+ Ford in earlier years) and merely ‘marinizing’ them. No longer will they be simply applying their own exhaust and cooling systems, painting them black and shipping to the boat manufacturers. Instead, Mercury will acquire bare block cores from out sourced manufacturers (most likely GM) and fitting them out with their own technology.

This is a bold move for Mercury, who has been around since 1939, a move motivated by the increasingly rapid makeovers in the corresponding automotive engines. Engine technology is evolving at a quicker and quicker pace and car builders are forced by competition to embrace it, leading to engine production cycles being ever shortened. To maintain a longer term grasp over their marine engine designs, Mercury felt they will be better served by providing their own, steady supply to the end users – boaters & repair facilities – as well as their mainstay, that of the boat manufacturers.

Old is New Again

This foray into the automotive world isn’t a first for Mercury Marine. Its founder, Karl Kiekhaefer, was an influential force in NASCAR, having won 80% of the races he entered from 1955 to 1957, capturing three national championships. His innovations in the sport are still with us today. These include ‘firsts’ such as his crew being the first to wear matching uniforms and practice pit stops. His team was also the first to transport their cars with enclosed haulers, emblazoned with team colors, of course. Amongst his technical innovations were pleated paper air filters and wide base rims, originating in his road racing R&D efforts.

Move forward to 1990, when Mercury Marine was tapped by General Motors produce the all-aluminum, 350 cubic inch LT-5 engine for the new Corvette ZR-1. GM approached Mercury as they had already developed the expertise in design and manufacturing of their aluminum marine engines. Taking the concept one step further, Mercury Racing took an LT-5, modified it for marine use and put it a Baja 223 sport boat (Baja was a manufacturer owned by Brunswick, the parent company of Mercury Marine).

The boat was paired with a similarly powered 1990 Corvette and the duo was known as the ‘Wette Vette’ project, touring the country, creating its own stir. So it looks like the show at SEMA was a revisit of a tried and true marketing concept, with the big difference being the incredible advancements in technology for both boat and motor that has happened in the ensuing years.

Package Deal

As with anything, time and talent leads to better, faster and safer products. When it comes to a prestige boat like the M-41, there is a sense that Dave’s Custom Boats has realized their goal to ‘Build the Best’. By merging state of the art technology with a refined look not commonly seen on go fast boats, the combined talents at Dave’s and Mercury Racing have produced an end product that is sure to turn heads well beyond SEMA.

So, if you think that all this power, technology and killer good looks would be a nice addition to your collection, it can be had as a package – boat, custom trailer and hauler – for 1.25 million USD.  Sure, that might be a bit pricy for most folks, but imagine the delight of hitting the throttles in this refined beast.  Given what an enchanting ride this boat is, it’s appropriate that the venue for this year’s show was on non-other than the aptly named Paradise Road.

Visit to The Sea Ray Boat Manufacturing Plant

Not too long after purchasing our Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge, ‘Boogaboo IV’, I was looking online for a firm to perform some gelcoat repairs. One fellow I spoke to suggested that we should visit the manufacturing plant where our boat was built. I initially scoffed at the idea, but when I learned that it was in Florida, my interest was piqued.

Sea Ray maufacturing plant

Sea Ray & Meridian Yachts manufacturing plant in Palm Coast, Florida

Making a Date

When I first contacted a representative at Sea Ray, I was able to set up a general date for our arrival to visit the plant. As we had yet to make travel arrangements to Florida, I couldn’t provide a firm date, but they were very flexible. Ultimately, we decided to make a vacation out of it and decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale for a week before heading north to Palm Coast on our way back northward.

When we did have a preferred day to go, I simply emailed my contact at Sea Ray who arranged our welcome. And welcome us, they did! When we arrived, we were treated as if they had been eager to see us for a long while! Very nice folks who seemed to be genuinely happy to see us.

Sea ray manufacturing plant

Inside of the big Sea Ray plant.

In House Production

When our visit was first confirmed, I had thought that we would get a quick look around the place and then be on our way. Our experience ended up be much more than that. We had a personal tour by one of the plant managers, Sean, who took us to every place in the joint but the employees washroom! A full two hours of interesting insights, with complete explanations of what each work station did and how things were put together.

interior boat components

Checking out the interior components being assembled.

The interior components of a Sea Ray Sundancer being assembled. Very interesting to see the process.

I’d have to say that my biggest surprise was how much they made in house. I was expecting to see most components being produced by third party suppliers, but apart from major mechanical systems, they produce and finish everything right there. It was explained that that is how they can control quality, which stands to reason.

engine room on Sundancer

Engine room of a Sea Ray Sundancer.

Ease  of Installation

Having spent enough time inside of our own engine room, I appreciated seeing how this was put together. Prior to a given boat’s deck being mated to the hull, all of the mechanical systems are put into place. Electrical, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) components are all plumbed and connected with ease.

As it is in the automotive manufacturing world, you have to keep in mind that boats are built as efficiently as possible. That sometimes results in a big head scratching when having to service or disassemble something after the fact – not to mention a few choice words.

With number of larger scale boat repair/upgrade projects under my belt, I have learned a few tricks and insights on how these things tick and are put together. When I replaced our waste water holding tank last year, I made a comment on the fact that the exhaust pipe I was working on removing was originally assembled with ease at this very place, under much more pleasant conditions. Not to mention, prior to the poop tank having anything in it ;-)

Upper deck of a Sea Ray Sundancer

Upper deck of a Sea Ray Sundancer

This upper deck of a Sea Ray Sundancer is just about ready to be mated to it’s hull.

In water testing for Sundancer

In water testing for this Sundancer.

Once fully assembled, every finished boat is put in the water for testing. As one of the final steps in the manufacturing process, they launch each vessel to test the mechanical systems, check for leaks, etc..

Probably one of the most coveted jobs in the place would be the person who gets to take these beauties out for the first sea trial. Located just a stone’s throw from the Intracoastal Waterway allows access to miles of testing grounds, including the Atlantic Ocean. Given the fact that it is surrounded by palm trees and blessed with sunshine most days of the year, it’s in a perfect location to play with boats. And a neat place to visit :-)

Boat Review; Cruisers Yachts 390 Sports Coupe

When looking for a ‘previously loved’ express cruiser, most purchasers generally take into account two main criteria; cruisability and overnight accommodations. Well, this 2011 Cruisers Yachts 390 Sports Coupe has added one more benchmark – entertaining.

Cruiser Yachts

Cruiser Yachts 390 Sports Coupe at Rest

Fully Loaded

Equipped with a full complement of factory options as well as many aftermarket items, this ‘freshwater only’ boat is ready to hit the water in style. Impressing your guests will merely be icing on the cake.

The sleek exterior styling is enhanced by a molded hardtop that includes a retractable hatch with sunroof and centre windshield section that opens for direct access to the bow via molded in steps next to the helm. This will come in handy as the boat has a less than generous walk-around, built that way to expand the space in the cockpit and the cabin areas.

Boarding the boat from the swim platform, you will be walking on the Flexiteek marine decking that extends throughout the cockpit area. Made from synthetic materials, this product provides excellent non slip performance, easy maintenance and clean up – without sacrificing natural teakwood trees.

Cruiser Yachts 390 Stereo Speakers

Stereo Speakers Feature LED Lit Trim Rings

Equipped For Comfort & Safety

Before stepping inside, take note of the four LED light enhanced speakers planted in the transom. These are only part of the impressive stereo system that is powered by no less than three amplifiers pushing a total of ten mid/high range speakers plus three sub-woofers. The main Sony head unit, located in the cabin, can also be controlled by a dash mounted remote located at the helm. A fixed mounted flat screen TV rounds out the A/V lineup.

All those toys are sure to heat things up, so it’s a good thing the cockpit is equipped with a fridge/ice maker, bar sink and reverse cycle air conditioning to keep things cool.  Removable cockpit tables can be set at the aft seating or in front of the double wide companion seat, situated beside the helm. At the helm, you will also find a Raymarine C90 multifunction/GPS chartplotter as well as the controls for the Volvo 550 IPS (8.1 litre, gas fueled) power plants.

Volvo IPS gas engines

8.1 Litre Gas Volvo IPS Powerplants

Volvo IPS Pioneering Benefits

Volvo pioneered pod drives for use on pleasure boats and, according to manufacturer specs, the benefits of the 550 IPS units include the following;

• 30% reduced fuel consumption
• 30% less CO2 emissions
• 50% lower perceived noise level
• 40% longer cruising range
• 20% higher top-speed
• More predictable handling
• Joystick docking

Because the pod drives are situated under the boat, instead of hanging off the transom, the engines can be placed farther aft, freeing up living space in the cabin. And since they use drive by wire technology and can operate at completely opposing angles and at different engine speeds, the computer controlled joystick commands make docking child’s play.

Also of note is that the Volvo IPS 550’s were the first inboard gas engines to incorporate a catalytic convertor. The engineers at Volvo knew that for this to work, the exhaust gases would have to remain at a considerably higher temperature than what would be the norm in a traditional marine exhaust system, where cooling water is introduced into the exhaust stream. This is not suitable for the catalytic system to be effective. So, the workaround is to utilize a double walled, titanium coated aluminum exhaust, with water flowing between the inner and outer layers, thus providing the heat needed while cooling the exhaust walls. And you thought all the cool engine technology was reserved for the automotive world.

A power assisted rear deck and fixed ladder to the engine room provides easy access to the four batteries (on Smart charger) and Kohler generator. The quick detach propane gas BBQ grill also stores out of the way down here when not being used on the swim platform.

Spacious & Comfortable Cabin

Moving below decks, we find the galley to port, at the base of the stairs. Cruisers Yachts decided to forgo a mid-cabin arrangement and instead took advantage of the room gained by using the IPS drives by pushing the entire main cabin farther aft. The result of this layout is a larger feeling cabin and the ‘Sports Coupe’ designation. The trade-off is that the privacy of an extra mid-cabin stateroom is lost. Not a problem for a cruising couple, or for those who may only have guests overnighting on rare occasions, but might present issues if younger kids are aboard regularly.

Main Salon

Main Salon, With Flat Screen TV.

Queen Sized Luxury

The large, open cabin on the 390 is further accentuated by the design of the forward berth. To maximize volume (and moving around area) on the boat, the designers placed the bed at an angle to conserve space, yet were still able to fit in a queen size berth. For those times when extra sleeping space is needed, there is a privacy curtain that screens off the fold out aft couch, providing accommodations for two more.

The entertainment factor continues with two more flat screen TVs, one in the cabin and one in the forward berth. A KVH TracVision satellite system provides signals when out on the water. Even under way, or gently rolling at anchor, the gyro stabilized receiver holds a positive fix on the signal.

A separate reverse air/heat system keeps things comfy in the cabin. A full head with separate shower is to port, forward of the galley. Large, elliptical fixed windows behind the main settee, as well as in the galley, along with two porthole windows in the forward berth bring natural light into the cabin. There are also opening, overhead hatches, complete with slide away SkyScreen covers.

Rear salon couch seating

Aft Salon Converts to Extra Berth

One last look back on deck, we find a polished, stainless steel anchor with windlass, dual windshield wipers and reclining deck lounge pads. There is a transom mounted hot and cold shower and for rainy days, a canvas mooring cover.

Light Show

This boat has one more fun feature to offer. When the sun goes down, go ahead and turn on the MEGA LED light show system that features 8 different colors with 8 different functions and speeds. There are 36 individual LED underwater lights, comprised of two pods with 12 lights each and two pods with 6 lights each. If that’s not enough for you, there’s even LED lights in the side vents. . . Now that’s entertainment!

Cruiser Yachts 390 Sports Coupe

Cruiser Yachts 390 Sports Coupe