Sportboat Buying: 10 Check Points - 10/04/2017

With so many choices, figuring out which sportboat is best for you is not an easy task. With every builder saying that their boats are the highest quality, have the best features, and are the best value, what is a consumer to do? Our suggestion is to do what our test captain's do: look at the details and compare them boat-to-boat. captains use a check list of 10 points to inspect before writing their Captain's Report on the boats they test. Here is the list and a detailed explanation of Point #1 -- Performance.

Sportboat Buying
By comparing 10 important details, boat buyers can zero-in on which boat really delivers best on the promise and is the best economic value.

1. Performance

Sportboat Buying
Here is a man who has at least two missions for his sportboat -- to teach his kids how to fish, and we bet he plans to teach them how to ski as well.

A. Mission Determines Performance Required

It sounds obvious, but the first thing sportboat buyers must do is to decide exactly what the boat is to be used for. We call this the boat’s “mission.” Once you have defined the mission of the sportboat you want to buy, it is time to ascribe to that mission the required performance characteristics.

For example, a beginning skier will need a boat with a quick hole shot to make it easier to get up. This requirement means that care must be given to both engine and prop selection.

The cool dude who wants to have the fastest boat on the lake better consider a large engine, the best prop geometry, and high-speed handling characteristics. Wake boarders need to consider the boat's handling and fuel economy at the best speed for riding the curl, and so forth.

Sportboat Buying
This is the moment of truth for all boats: the performance tables.

B. Speed and Fuel Consumption

When we speak of “performance” we are talking about these basic aspects of the boat:

1) WOT (wide open throttle) speed. We do not pay much attention to fuel consumption at WOT because the boat is driven at this speed only for short periods of time.

2) Fuel consumption at intended speed for the primary activity planned.

3) Lowest fuel consumption at a solid planing speed.

4) Best over-all cruise speed in terms of miles per gallon burned.

5) 0-to-plane time (hole shot).

6) 0-to-30 mph time.

7) Sound at the helm in terms of dBA. (Remember that OSHA limits work-place noise exposure to 90 dBA to 8 hours. It permits exposure to higher numbers, but for a shorter period of time, for example 95 dBA for 4 hours, 100 dBA for 2 hours. The U.S. Department of Defense requires ear protection for military personnel exposed to noise over 85 dBA.)

8) Range in terms of miles and hours at the intended level of fuel consumption or at the desired speed.

9) Handling ability and the boat’s behavior at different speeds and with different loads.

Sportboat Buying
Most sportboats are designed for a small family or four or five average-weight people.

C. Weight Affects Performance

All sportboats are weight sensitive, but small ones are the most sensitive of all. For example, the addition of a 200-pound man to a sportboat as a passenger may represent 10% of the total weight of the boat. Add five people like that – 1000-lbs. – and you have just increased the weight of the boat by 50% and it will perform quite differently than it would with only two 150-pound people aboard. Caveat: Virtually all boat tests conducted by are conducted with two people aboard and the total weight of the boat with fuel, water, people and gear is given in the data sheet. In addition to that the weather conditions on the day of testing will affect the performance of the boat. Some of those factors in addition to weight are: altitude, freshwater or saltwater, depth of water, ambient temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wave height.

Sportboat Buying
After the size of your engine and the weight of your boat, prop geometry is perhaps the next most critical detail for performance.

D. Propeller Geometry

One of the most critical details governing a boat’s performance is its prop. Certain prop geometry will improve hole shot, another design will produce a higher WOT speed. Most sportboat builders put on as standard equipment a prop that they consider to be the best all-around prop for most of their customers. That means the boat you buy – and the test numbers you see published – may not be the best the boat can do for your particular mission.

However, by changing the pitch, cup, the number of blades and other geometry most boats’ performance can be improved for specific missions.

When comparing performance among boats be sure to find out what prop each boat was tested with.

Next Week: Engine Horsepower and Brand Selection

10 Details To Compare Before You Buy:

1. Performance

2. Engine Horsepower

3. Drive System

4. Engine Room

5. Hull Configuration

6. Beam

7. Displacement

8. Helm Seat

9. Windshield Visibility

10. Cockpit Scuppers

Reader Comments Should be sent to:

Sportboat Buying: 25 Check Points #1-  Performance
Sportboat Buying: 25 Check Points #2- How Much Horsepower? Which Brand Engine
Sportboat Buying: 25 Check Points #3- Which Drive System? How Many Props?
Sportboat Buying: 25 Check Points #4- Engine Rooms
Sportboat Buying: 25 Check Points #5- What Hull Shape is Best?