Lately, I have been giving serious thought to repowering my 13ft. Whaler Sport with a 450hp outboard. Presently I have a 40 on it. My “speed is everything son” feels its way too slow. Actually “embarrassing” was the word used. I notice his sons Nico, 10 and Lucas, 7 aren’t suffering speed envy yet. My 40hp works fine when I take care of the hull bottom and don’t drag a complete eco-system under the hull. If I want more speed I jump on my Whaler Conquest with a 225hp. It’s all the power I need. I had a 29’ center console a while ago with twin 250 Yamahas on the transom. That boat was fast but now I am more coastal, so I gave it up.
I’ve never been a “speed” guy. I mostly take it slow and enjoy the nature when venturing into our bays and coastal Atlantic. It gives me the opportunity to view waterfowl, schools of fish, seals, sea turtles, sharks and whales. It’s a personal choice but when vessels with 1200 ponies roar by at a squillion knots per hour risking my life and limb, well, I wonder if the need to reach ultimate speed is valid.
I prefer fishing boats. Years ago I would be up at 4 a.m. and break the inlet at first light pursuing tuna or shark fishing at the Mud Hole, BA Buoy, Yankee, Bacardi, etc. They were grand days with fine memories. Many guys like me went with a single engine, later maybe adding a kicker and or moving up to twin outboards. Friends with inboards generally had twins. While we tended to move at a fair clip we were never pushed speed capacity. We got up on plane then backed off for a comfortable cruise with our eyes keenly looking for debris that could stave the hull and sink us in no time.
I was lucky twice even while being cautious. I ran over a railroad tie in Jones Inlet while going out. That was costly but we didn’t sink and were able to limp home. Another time, at the edge of the Mud Hole, a large whale suddenly surfaced in front of my bow a few yards away. It was too close to react so I shouted to “hang on”! My skeg slightly touched it causing the boat to shutter for a couple of seconds as I cut the power and wiped my brow. The whale dove, resurfaced and continued on her way as if nothing had happened. Had I been a “Speed Demon” in both cases we would have been done.
Increasingly you see vessels in the 30ft. and up being pushed by three to five large outboard engine packages. I was reminded, by a fellow mariner, that many larger boats were usually powered by conventional twin inboard engines of various horse power. Inboards have much larger props that moved these boats at a clip giving you more punch for the power. Inboards have their own set of unique issues. You have to deal with tight engine quarters below deck making maintenance and repair difficult to work on. There are stuffing boxes to be maintained where the shaft goes from the engine to the prop. This stuffing keeps the water out where the shafts exit the hull. If you do not maintain this on a regular basis your vessel could be visiting Old Davey Jones. When comparing today’s new outboards on fuel consumption, the high tech outboards take the day.
Outboards alleviate many problems. They are easier and more efficient time wise to service benefiting your wallet. Problems can be diagnosed quickly, which also is a money saver. Outboards comparatively have much smaller props. The multi outboard theory is - more props in the water are theorized as an advantage. The argument is that today the fish are further off shore and super speed is needed to get to the grounds fast, fish fast, and return fast. To me half the fun of the trip is taking in all the sea has to offer visually and emotionally. If fishing has become primarily a race against time, well frankly I don’t quite get the point.
Another benefit of larger boats with outboards is space. By hanging engines on the outside you gain more cabin and storage room below. This “MAY” offset difficulties incurred when trying to land a trophy fish around four giant outboards on the transom. I would like to see the champs on “Wicked Tuna” have to deal with those encumbrances every time Mr. Blue Fin grabs a bait. Most of the dialogue from those pros would have to be deleted.
But there is another aspect of the mega horsepower and multiple outboard issues that keeps rearing up in my head, but I suspect that this is more than about efficiency and speed. In a world of shrinking resources and concerns over each persons’ global footprint, I wonder if having all these outboards hanging on the transom is more about “Conspicuous Consumption”. Could it be a “Hey! Look at me! I have ten 350’s on my transom man! I can afford it! (or at least I hocked my kids’ education) And look at you! You have a single 250! And you call yourself a fisherman!’’ I can imagine those screams as they speed by me at 70 knots throwing up a wake in Haunts Creek that batters shores, destroys salt marsh, and almost spills my crew into the bay. “Yep! You go Big Bro! While you’re showing off and speeding through miles of sea, burning all that fuel, consider that at times I’ve caught bluefin at the right time three miles offshore with singles and twins. I went at a reasonable speed. But alas! Am I letting my imagination go wild? I am sure those old salts I passed anchored and flounder fishing in Haunts in their rowed Verity skiffs asked the same questions as I went by in my Mako 35 years ago.
So it comes down to this. Whatever your choice of power, you have a right to enjoy it. The only criteria is to be prudent around other boats when it comes to speed and to slow down in tight quarters so all those extra props and speed doesn’t damage the marsh!
Enjoy and happy fishing, slow or fast!
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