Tag Archives: boat

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.

Importing a Vessel Into Canada From The United States

old glory

Old Glory flying proudly over MacRay Harbor

A few years back, we purchased our current boat (Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge) in the U.S. and brought it home to Canada. I wanted to share what we learned, as there is some confusing information online and I’m hoping this will make it clearer for anyone wanting to do the same thing.

 Before we actually went ahead with the purchase (when we were still internet shopping for our dream boat), we did some preliminary research as to what we might need to do to make things go smoothly with the ‘import’ process. Good thing, because there is a lot to learn.

Getting The Right Story

Getting the boat into Canada was actually very simple, once we knew exactly what had to be done. The correct term is ‘Importing A Vessel Into Canada’. But please, don’t take my word for it – you REALLY should call Canada Customs to get their story. But don’t be surprised to get more than one interpretation of what is required – we got three different ones!

If you are considering having your boat trucked into the country, the firm you use should be able to handle the border crossing directly, if they are a licensed broker. Check with any potential companies to see what services they offer. The only part you would be handling in that scenario is any Custom Brokerage fees, and the HST on the boat. If you have a trucking firm in mind already, check with them to see how they approach that issue.

Michigan to Ontario by Water

Our boat was purchased at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township, Michigan. It is located on Lake St. Clair just north of Detroit. Our journey home took us through Lake St. Clair and north on the St. Clair River to Sarnia, Ontario (where we ‘Imported’ the vessel). Onward from there, we traveled north on Lake Huron, through Georgian Bay and down the Trent Severn Waterway to our home port.

St. Clair River boating

Boating north on the the St.Clair River.

Canada Customs

Whatever way the boat comes into the country, whether by land or sea, it is subject to Canada Custom’s scrutiny. As we entered by water, we were obliged by law to report the boat being in Canada upon making landfall. Arriving at Sarnia Bay Marina, I gave Canada Customs a phone call as soon as the boat was secured, letting them know that both my wife and I had re-entered the country as well as the fact that I wanted to import the vessel. We were given a 9 digit number when clearing our passports, but more on that later. . .

In most instances, a Customs officer would come to the boat, take a look around and perform the required paperwork there. In our case, however, on the night we arrived, they were too busy at the border crossing to send anyone, so we had to walk over to them to facilitate everything.The Bluewater Bridge border crossing between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan is usually quite busy, so it’s no wonder that they couldn’t spare anyone.

Bluewater Bridge

The Bluewater bridge between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan.

Bill of Sale

All I had to show the Customs folks was the bill of sale and the ‘Deletion From Documentation’ from the previous owner, then pay the HST on the sales price. As it was, the only thing questioned by the woman in charge was how I got the boat so cheap! Quick note; have available any web listings, emails or whatever else you can supply to back up the purchase price – which I did. We bought the boat through a local yacht broker, so that made things look better & more ‘legit’ to the Customs folks.

One other thing to make note of is how much you are going to have to pay to Canada Customs. Under the terms of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), any boats built in either Canada, the United States or Mexico during the past number of years is only subject to the HST (in Ontario), and free from duties.

Buyer Beware of Duties

Now, here’s where a HUGE, double caveat comes into play. One should make sure that the boat they are bringing into the country was indeed built in North America. We know of a boater who was unexpectedly hit at the border with a big duty fee because his particular model was built in England. Even though his newly bought vessel was an ‘American’ company (Viking Yachts), that particular model came from England (Princess Yachts), so there was a 9% duty to be paid. Oh ya, and the 13% sales tax on top of it all.

The other kicker is that Custom’s won’t take a cheque for amounts greater than $200, so make sure your Visa card is in good standing. Again, if you are simply having your boat trucked back, a custom’s agent should be able to give you the rundown on all of your obligations.

One final note on the sales tax. The boat will be assessed the tax amount on the day it crosses the border – not the day you bought it. What I mean by that is that from the time we took possession of our boat (paid for it) and the time it entered Canada was about three weeks later. During that time, the Canadian dollar actually rose against the U.S. buck, so we ended up having to pay less HST than I had initially anticipated. Plus, since we were out of the country for a few days to get the boat, I could claim the exemption entitled to me for the time out of the country and apply it to the boat purchase price. After all, we didn’t bring any cheap booze back with us ;-) All in all, that part worked out way better than I even thought it could!

Keeping a close eye on all systems of the new ship.

Keeping a close eye on all systems of the new ship.

Deletion From Documentation

Ok, back to the part about ‘Deletion From Documentation’ I mentioned. Boats in the United States can be considered a second home, complete with a mortgage and all the financial repercussions that go along with that. So, many boats are ‘Documented’ with the U.S. Coast Guard, as an official status as to who owns – or is ‘Titled’ to – the boat. This would also include any creditors that may appear on the Title. Think of it like a Deed to your home. Same idea.

How then does one perform this ‘Deletion’ process you ask? Simple. Pay someone to do it for you! I found a firm online that takes care of all that stuff for a very reasonable fee of only $250. Do a Google search for those services to find an appropriate representative. And don’t worry where they are physically located – our guy was in California and it all worked out fine. Thank you InterWeb :-)

border crossing

Border crossing at Sarnia, Ontario

Would we consider buying a boat in the U.S. again? In a heartbeat!!! The only reason we were able to be able to buy the boat that we did was because of the dramatic savings – 40% less in our case – over buying a similar model here in Canada.

Yes, it was initially stressful, with all the running around and setting things up to make it actually happen. That was compounded by the fact that we had to drive home, through mostly foreign waters, on a boat that was brand new to us. Not only that, but it was a complete change from the type and style of boat what we had been driving previously.

Numbers Game

One final note about driving a U.S. registered boat into Canada; if you don’t have a chance to get your Ontario (in our case) registration numbers for the boat right away, be prepared to be boarded by Canada Customs officers at any Ontario port you may visit. We were approached both at Kincardine on Lake Huron (our first stop after leaving Sarnia) and then again at Parry Sound on Georgian Bay. There are Customs officers that travel around to all ports of entry to make sure everything is copacetic with both Canadians AND Americans visiting these ports, checking mostly to see if they have cleared their passports. This is where that 9 digit number I alluded to earlier comes in to play. When you get it, best bet is to write it down and have it at the ready, as they WILL ask you for it.

All that said, it was an adventure to remember for the rest of our lives and immense inspiration to one day soon travel further and farther! I’d say that if you had an opportunity to do the same – and save a few bucks – then go for it. Well worth the running around, by far.

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 :-)