Friday, February 27, 2009

Ilmor Indy Drive Premieres

Rated to handle engines up to 900 hp, Ilmor's brand new Indy drive feature a dry-sump transmission and is designed for a through-hull or transom-mounted water pickup. Currently packaged with the company's 725hp MV-10 725 engine, the drives are in production now, with delivery to boat manufacturers expected in early summer.


On initial reviews, the combination of the Ilmor 725/Indy compares very favorably to a Mercruiser 700/NXT combo. It's lighter, offers 25 more hp, and has a more advanced control system, including fly-by-wire as an option. Another noted benefit is that there is far less parasitic hp loss when operating the Indy; it reportedly requires just 24 hp to turn, which may be half or less of a comparable NXT.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cool! Decals Featuring Your Boat...

In promotion and marketing, personalization is what it's all about. Let's face it -- everybody likes to stand out from the crowd. These nifty little custom decals are now available from Ryan Beckley at Kinetic Animation. They are about 3" x 8" and the cost is approximately $100.00 for 50 of them, printed on 3M material. All he needs to make them for you is a good picture of your boat, like the one below provided by Freeze Frame Video. Also, bigger or smaller stickers are no problem, though costs may vary.

IMAGE CREDITS: Kinetic Animation & Freeze Frame Video

Whether your a race team or a serious poker run enthusiast, these are great gifts for fans and friends, not to mention your tow vehicle. For more information, contact Kinetic Animation vie their website or at (941) 758-3303.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on Your First Offshore Performance Boat...

There’s no doubt, the economy is not so good. But it’s inevitable that there are still people who are considering taking the plunge into performance boating. As bad as things might be for many, there are still plenty of folks out there with enough dependable income that they can think about getting into the “boating lifestyle” this summer.

If this is your first boat—or your first performance boat—there are some things you must consider. The best advice can be gained by joining some of the offshore forums, like Serious Offshore, or Offshore Only, where you can do a post search on buying tips, manufacturers, or types of boats. Members of these forums have years of experience and are quick to share solid advice for newcomers to the sport...just remember to do a search first, since many of the questions you need answered have been asked dozens of times before.

A 1999 Baja Outlaw SST - 25': Not a Bad Place to Start / PHOTO CREDIT: Boat-World

One basic approach is to get your feet wet in performance boating, and then move up to something larger. For a new boater, a 24-26’ boat may be a lot to handle at first, but if it is a good offshore hull, it will also provide a reasonable level of safety if you’re out on a big lake and the wind kicks up.

Think honestly about how you’re going to use the boat. Are you planning on doing overnights onboard? Are you docking it at a single location, or hauling it from place-to-place on a trailer? Are you planning on attending a lot of poker runs? If you’re bringing kids along, you’re going to want a boat with some kind of cabin and a porta-potti.

For the first-timer, a single engine may be the way to go; especially in light of operating and repair costs. True, two engines gives you more speed, and a backup if one goes down, but if you’re new to boating, we’d hope you wouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you couldn’t get a tow if you needed one in an emergency.

The Old-School Approach: 1987 Formula 242 LS

Smaller boats are easier to haul and easier to launch as well. Though a newer boat may cost more at the outset, it may be cheaper in the long run than getting an older boat and trying to make it into the boat you want – especially in terms of speed. Making a 60 MPH boat into an 80 MPH boat can be very expensive. But you have to weigh all the factors: cost, performance, maintenance, etc. Try and stick with factory power and the lowest number of hours you can find for the money.

When I bought my first boat last year, I was sorely tempted to buy something bigger, and I could have spent a little more. But as it turned out, the older Formula LS I bought, which is 26’ long – is all the boat I can handle—especially if I am launching, retrieving or docking it by myself. It looks sharp, runs good, feels safe and has all the amenities I well as a reasonable cost of ownership. And if I happen to bump the dock and put a mark on the hull, I can buff it out and not feel guilty, like I would with a new boat.

As for new boats, I really don't know who's buying them these days. Manufacturers are still building $500+k boats, and magazines like Powerboat keep running features on boats and equipment like people have money to spend. I guess some still do...and those that don't aren't letting on.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Google/Nav Chart Mashup is Handy Aid in Unfamiliar Waters

Like a lot of people, I can't really swing a nice GPS navigation and charting system for my boat; good ones aren't cheap, and I don't really want to cram one onto the helm of my modest 26' Formula. But there is an alternative route if you are navigating in unfamiliar waters and don't want to carry around a lot of paper charts.

This Google/Nav Chart Mashup is very handy. What they've done is overlay NOAA navigation charts over the interactive, zoomable Google map. You can search it by just entering a location (like "Put in Bay, OH") just as you would on any other Google map, and click--you're right there. Sliders allow you to adjust the transparency of the overlay, and you can also switch between satellite view and map views. The site covers all U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes.

Some caveats: The site seems to work fine on a laptop--of course you'd need G3 wireless service to use it; otherwise, I suppose you could save and pre-load screen shots as images to save as chart files for offline viewing. I was really hoping to see how this works on the iPhone--which would be wonderfully compact and really handy--but it seemed slow, and the zoom is hard to use on the touch-screen. Maybe another type of web-enabled phone [blackberry] would work better.

Nevertheless, used laptops are easy to come by, and offer added functionality over a dedicated nav-only system. Many folks keep them on their boat anyway, to use on trips; for them, this could be a handy tool.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Most beautiful Boat Ever? Yours for $875k.

Though I have been to Boyne City, MI before - up at the east end of Lake Charlevoix, I have never had a chance to stop and visit Van Dam Custom Boats, a manufacturer and restorer of custom wood boats. While most of their work involves more tradtional runabouts and launches, based on old Hacker designs, they worked with Michael Peters Yacht Design few years back to create the beautiful Alpha Z 33.

I have always wondered what would happen if you used a traditional wood boat-building approach and adapted it to a modern offshore design, and the Alpha Z gives us a pretty good idea of the result. The boat is totally custom and one-of-a-kind, boasting an 800hp fuel injected engine built by legendary builder Keith Eickart. Steinway Piano supplied the mahogany wood used in its construction, and the boat can easily do 100mph.

You can learn more about this fantastic boat by visiting the Alpha Z website, at Apparently, it's also currently offered for sale at a cool $875k. In the current market, you can surely buy a faster boat for far less, but I'm not sure you could buy anything better looking or more unique.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Checkmate Web Site followed by New Boats

Checkmate's new website has gotten great reviews already from offshore performance enthusiasts. Along with new graphics and a slick user interface, they have included an option that allows users to design their own color scheme, and alter it in various ways. Word is they are planning on doing some all-new product photography as well--probably after the ice thaws this spring in Ohio!

Even more interesting is all the talk about some new models that Checkmate has introduced at the recent Miami Boat Show, especially the 244 ZT "Mystery Boat" that has been the talk of the Checkmate performance forum for some weeks. Strangely, there has been more information about it on some other forums--particularly those associated with Baja owners--because the new model is reportedly built from the old Baja H2X molds, which are not currently being used by Fountain...

PHOTO CREDIT: Checkmate Community Forum User - Wildman

Looking at some of the other photos that have been posted, including the interior, you'd have to say it sure looks like a Baja...and that fact doesn't please some of the traditional Checkmate owners. Of course, I don't think the new boat is a bad thing - it's actually nice to see another midwest manufacturer save a decent mold from the scrapyard and put it to good use. Reportedly, the boat will do about 72mph with a 496 right out of the box, which is excellent. Especially when you consider the price of $55,900 right on the hull (you might want to take that off before hitting the lake.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Poker Runs America Season Kicks Off March 27-28

Poker Runs America is set to kick off their 2009 season in St. Petersburg, FL. The headquarters is at the prestigious Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, where a large block of rooms will be set aside until February 26th. In addition to the 5-start hotel accommodations, there will be unlimited rig parking, hotel dockage, safety seminars and great night life withing walking distance of the hotel.

PHOTO CREDIT: Poker Runs America

For more information, go to or, you can call their poker run hotline at 1-800-354-9145. In addition, Festivals of Speed will present an exciting show of boats, planes and exotic cars; what with the state of the economy, I have a feeling there will be a lot of "lookers" but not a lot of buyers. But I suppose it's always nice to dream.

Chicago as a International Waterfront Destination

According to Great Lakes Boating, there's a lot of excitement and optimism in Chicago, surrounding what someday soon will be transformed into Gateway Harbor. The old "Dime Pier" is set to become the center spine of the new harbor, which should have over 240 slips, including about 160 transient spots.

In addition, a second new marina at 31st Street, is also in the planning stages. Sheltered behind a 1,200-foot breakwater, the new marina will reportedly have space for between 800 and 830 boats. In addition to a 2.2 acre park, this marina is also set to include an underground parking garage and a restaurant. Now if they can just get a shuttle running to the Red Head Lounge, we'll be in business...

The Famous Russian "Ghost Boat"

Or better known as "this is what happens when you don't use an ignition shut-off and a lanyard on your boat." For those of you who may not know, a lanyard is a device that will automatically shut the engine(s) down if you happen to leave the drivers seat for any reason. Usually attached to your life vest, the lanyard essentially works the same as those on a jet ski.

The device is simple, easy to install if you don't have one, and can help you avoid all kinds of tragic consequences due to a runaway boat. Even in larger boats, it's always possible to hit someone else's wake, encounter an unexpected wave, or be required to make a sudden and unexpected maneuver. Watching this video, it looks like an inexperienced pilot tried to take way too sharp of a turn at speed--with the result that the boat went one way, and he went the other.

As you can see, this is a pretty decent-sized boat; clearly more than the skipper was prepared to handle safely and responsibly. We assume he made it back to shore, though he is extremely lucky the boat did not hit anyone or anything else except the rocks on the shoreline. Without a lanyard, your boat essentially becomes an unguided missile should physics cause you to leave it for any reason.

Even though my own 26' Formula is not that fast, and has a hull that's known for stability, I'm still having an ignition cut-off system and lanyard installed this spring before I take it out on any big water, like Lake Erie.

Welcome to Miami

What a nice way to get the season started, with this sharp Key West run '08 video posted on YouTube by berman58. Some very nice hardware, indeed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Miami Boat Show: Hoping for the Best During Hard Times

Even as last week's Annual Miami Boat Show opened, vendors, show officials and locals were taking a hard look at their expectations as well as their sales pitches. Hilary Lehman notes in the Miami Herald:
"In addition to stepping up efforts to sell the lifestyle, they are cutting deals and stressing affordability. Sales of smaller, cheaper boats are faring better than others. Some higher-end dealers are emphasizing their willingness to please the customer by customizing boats to suit buyers' whims."

PHOTO CREDIT: Freeze Frame Video

Initial reports indicate that while traffic was OK, sales were very slow, with a few exceptions; seems some of the manufacturers, like Outer Limits and Sunsation were well-prepared. A few others were obviously trying to cut corners, and it showed in their presentations. A fair amount of inventory going overseas as well. Should be an interesting season...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Big Bad Boat Goes F1 Racing!

Big Bad Boat has just sponsored an entry in the World Enduro Racing series - a virtual F1 racing site where competitors from around the world go head-to-head to see who can get to the top of the leaderboard! The first time we checked this out, I admit to being a little confused, but the more I looked at it, the more attracted I became to the whole idea. After all, it's not every day you get to see your business logo on the side of a race boat, and noting that a number of other respected marine-related organizations (like World of Powerboats, Aerocatch, Viper Marine Group and the OCR Drivers Association) it seemed like a great fit.

Essentially, World Enduro Racing (WER) works like this: The main website is set up like a virtual race, with a directory of competitors - sponsoring race teams - each of whom has their own individual business web page. Each time a visitor clicks on an incoming link (like the one at top left, or in the [B3] web page right hand column, it registers as a "lap" and is automatically tabulated on the WER site's RESULTS page.

It's fun, it's FREE to help us move up in the standings and check on race results, and the site is also a great directory of services and suppliers - not only for marine-related businesses, but for a number of other businesses as well. So please - HELP US OUT AND CLICK ON THE LINKS - so we can start heading to the front of the pack! You can start here right now! Thanks - and if you want to find out more, here's some more information about about WER.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Online Powerboat Racing Game: King of Shaves King of Power

Not everyone can get a gig piloting a big-dollar offshore race boat. But now you can get a taste of the fun with this online powerboat racing game we just found, brought to you courtesy of King of Shaves. Not only do you get to pilot an awesome world-class racing powerboat, you get to select from several different courses, including Plymouth in the UK and Arendal in Norway, as well as courses in Dubai, Spain, France, Qatar and Slovenia.

Click on game below to play!

More Video

The Flash-based game includes simple instructions on how to play, as well as links to information about Class 1Powerboat Racing and other cool stuff.

I did just okay when I played; I suppose I really should be playing The Docking Game over at Madmariner, an online boating site that I visit from time-to-time. After all, I'll admit that I could use the practice...

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