Motor Boat Parts and Accessories Reviews by Magazine Editor. Chosen by our staff for their innovation, ingenuity, and imagination, these new products and systems represent leading-edge technology in the marine industry.
The Tohatsu and Nissan 50-hp motors represent an intriguing variation on the direct-injected (DI) outboard theme. First, these unconventional two-strokes qualify as the world’s smallest DI outboards to date. And unlike all other two-stroke motors that rely on high-pressure DI, these engines get the job done with Two-Stroke Low-Pressure Direct Injection (TLDI).
Based on the Orbital Combustion Process (OCP), TLDI hits its fuel charge with low-pressure air. The air vaporizes the gasoline droplets, creating a fine mist and maximizing the surface area exposed to oxygen. As a result, the gasoline burns more completely. Compliant with the EPA 2006 and CARB 2004 regulations, the new Tohatsu and Nissan 50-hp motors weigh from nine to 15 percent less than four-stroke outboards in the same power range. Cost: $6,010 for the Nissan; $5,950 for the Tohatsu.
Submersible propulsion units are hardly new (James Bond had one in 1965’s Thunderball), but Cayman’s Aqua Sub pulls ahead of the pack by mounting its prop forward for added safety and maneuverability. The patent-pending drive is designed to tow you through turns more smoothly than a unit with a prop mounted at the rear. Think of it as power steering rather than manual. Because the prop is not directly in your face, visibility and safety are both improved.
The Aqua Sub performs equally well on or below the surface of the water, which means swimmers, snorkelers, and divers can all enjoy the ride. It scoots along at a 5-mph pace and runs for approximately 90 minutes per charge. It comes with an overnight battery charger and a battery-power level indicator tells you when to head back to the boat. A kill switch is located near the handle. At 60 pounds, the Aqua Sub can be easily transported aboard almost any boat. Cost: under $500.
Plug and Play
You’ve been running for about an hour at a high cruise speed with the autopilot engaged and the boat guided by a GPS-linked chart plotter showing the most efficient track to a favorite offshore wreck. This is all well-proven technology and state-of-the-art navigation that you’ve come to rely on. But what happens next is far more advanced:
The electronic control module (ECM) on one of your engines detects a potential overheating problem. The ECM immediately reduces the operating speed of the engine. It sends a message to an onboard computer that electronically alters the autopilot course to keep you on track; adjusts the trim tabs to compensate for increased drag, and sounds a warning horn, calling your attention to a message on the multifunction screen that details the problem and gives you critical operating instructions. You tap the options key to show weather trends, distance, time-to-go, and fuel consumption information that will let you determine whether to continue to your wreck site, begin the return trip or send a cellular or satphone message to the nearest towing service.
Too much future shock for you? Get ready, it’s coming much sooner than you think. Three forward-thinking, technology-based companies—Mercury Marine, Teleflex Marine, and Volvo Penta—all on the leading edge of owner/operator convenience—have simultaneously announced highly integrated control and display systems to help make your boating experience safer and more enjoyable. Therefore, we are giving them jointly an Editors’ Choice Award.
These systems have much in common. All are configured as Control Area Network bus (or CANbus) systems that share huge amounts of digital data over a single cable (replacing the boat’s usual complicated wiring harness). Installing a new read-out screen, replacing a gauge or changing a throttle/shifter assembly is simply a matter of plugging one wire into the system through a proper connector. All are “open-architecture” systems that allow new NMEA 2000-compatible electronics to interface easily and correctly. “Plug and play” convenience, common to computer and entertainment electronics, has finally come to boating.
Mercury Marine’s SmartCraft system offers everything from analog gauges (which are digitally driven), to multifunction tach and speedo gauges with both analog and LED readouts, to monitors that display system-wide vessel information at the touch of a button.
Teleflex Marine’s MagicBus includes a series of digital/analog gauges, a multi-readout monitor, and a multifunction electronic shift and throttle system designed by Peter Granata—all for integrated or stand-alone applications. Teleflex has also commissioned a new chart plotter/GPS/fishfinder.
The Volvo Penta Electronic Platform is designed to work with gas or diesel drive systems. The flexibility of its system will allow cellular or satellite connection to a mechanic who can perform engine checks online.
Order electronic chart updates while afloat. Start the boat’s air conditioner from home. The possibilities seem endless. Stand by—we’ll keep you advised as these systems come online in new boats we test throughout 2001.
Cartoon detective Dick Tracy’s wristwatch radio transmits to headquarters on 900-MHz. Is it surprising, then, that the first wireless transmission of nautical data is achieved on the same frequency?
Norcross Marine’s new MarineLink system relays up to 33 pieces of data from as many as four onboard instruments to a portable display head you can wear on your belt. With its rechargeable battery, this display head will operate for 10 hours and you can take it anywhere within 200 feet of its data transmitter—like the bow. The transmitter itself is actually wired to the NMEA 0183 output port of any onboard instrument, such as GPS, depth sounder, speed indicator, battery voltage meter and water temperature gauge. Cost: $560.
At first sight, the Mabru MPS 1000 is a dead ringer for an auxiliary outboard motor, as it hangs off the transom like a kicker. In reality, it’s a 1-kW generator powerful enough to run a galley full of lights and appliances, or 5,000 Btus of air conditioning.
The Mabru is noteworthy because it’s sized for boats from 20 to 40 feet that don’t have space for an onboard generator. A gallon of gas fuels the engine for up to six hours, which calculates to a direct cost per kilowatt hour of about 37 cents (based on a cost of $1.50 per gallon of fuel). Whisper-quiet at 51 decibels, the Mabru’s humming is not likely to disturb your peace. Cost: $2,500.
Keep it Light
Suzuki’s new 90-hp and 115-hp engines are modern engineering marvels that trumpet the arrival of a whole new generation of outboard motors. They are significantly smaller and lighter than first-generation four-strokes.
This is an appropriate time to pause and pay tribute to that first wave of four-stroke outboard motors whose development paved the way for today’s technological advances. The early four-strokes have been lauded for whisper-quiet idling, significantly improved fuel economy and a softer footprint on the environment, but they have also been criticized for their weight. With the advent of the new Suzuki, that’s changed. Four-strokes are shrinking at a rate guaranteed to bring tears of joy to the eyes of a Swiss watchmaker. A good example of this compact engineering is the Suzuki’s’ engine cowls—they are so small, they can hide inside the cowl of an earlier-model four-stroke motor.
In addition to their enviably svelte profiles, the new Suzuki boasts a number of other design advances. We like the way the engineers have offset the crankshaft in order to shift the power head forward, which in turn offers stiffer motor mounting, quieter running, and more precise steering. Also notable are the motorcycle-style fuel injectors, which better atomize the fuel for optimal economy and crisper throttle response. When compared to conventional two-strokes, says the manufacturer, these new motors burn 65 percent less fuel at idle and 35 percent less at wide-open-throttle. Cost: $8,875 for the 90; $9,375 for the 115.
This past spring, I saw a GPS navigator guide a boat so close to a buoy that I had to fend it off. The demonstration was the onboard unveiling of a new generation of GPS satellite navigational equipment developed by Raytheon Marine that promises accuracy to within eight feet much of the time.
But first, a little history. Over the years, rapid developments in marine electronics engineering have brought the mariner better and more reliable navigational equipment with improving levels of accuracy. In fact, GPS was so accurate that Congress ordered a fuzzing of the signal called Selective Availability (SA). This resulted in errors up to 984 feet (328 feet 95 percent of the time). Differential GPS (DGPS) ensued, followed by the recent shutdown of SA, which made GPS accurate to within 60 feet and DGPS accurate to within 30 feet, as is shown on the graph here.
In the meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was looking for an even better system for use in airplanes. It contracted with Raytheon to develop a navigational approach system. Called Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), it’s a continent-wide system that uses Inmarsat communications satellites to transmit corrective data for all the GPS satellites “in view.”
While still under test for aviation purposes, WAAS has been released by the FAA for use in other applications, such as automotive and marine. Raytheon Marine was the first to market a series of navigational GPS that employ the new WAAS technology. This equipment runs from $900 for the Raynav 300 (shown here) to $1,700 for a GPS receiver with dual DGPS and WAAS microprocessors. Other manufacturers will soon have similar WAAS equipment.
Lowrance is going back to the future with its new high-tech version of the once popular X-16 paper graph fishfinder. Called the LC X-16 CI, this electronic unit is a dual-frequency fishfinder complete with a GPS, a Navionics/Lowrance Map/Chart adapter and, most interestingly, an 8-MB (64-MB option available soon) Multi-Media Card (MMC).
The MMC card makes this unit innovative because you can replay it in the LC X-16 CI or, like the old hard-copy graph from the X-16, strip it from the unit, take it home and boot its data up in your own home computer for further study.
Other features include an exceptionally bright screen (especially when shaded from direct sun), simultaneous display of the dual frequencies on a split screen, 1,000/500-watt RMS output on 50/200-MHz operations for depth penetration of up to 3,000 feet, and finally, simultaneous chart/fishfinder display plus nav data from GPS. Cost: $2,199. Four other X-series fishfinders are also available.
We’ve all seen rubber fish mounted on plaques before, but “Big Mouth Billy Bass” was the first one that could swing its head, drop its jaw and belt out a tune. Developed by the company that brought us the Douglas Fir Talking Holiday Tree, Billy Bass now also comes in a holiday model. Cost: $12.99.