In the third part of our series on what to look for in a center console boat, we talked with our panel of experts about…
Selecting the right Outboard Motor Package for your Center Console Boat
Here are their recommendations…
David Meeler, Yamaha
“Outboards have really become the power option of choice for center consoles. The modern four-strokes provide all of the benefits of an inboard — they’re quiet, smokeless, reliable and strong. It’s the progression of technology in the past dozen years that has made this possible.
“You have to look at how you want to use the boat and what you want to do with it. If all you’re ever going to do is cocktail cruising, you don’t need the maximum horsepower, but if you’re going to be carrying a large load and going far offshore, then you’ll want more power.
“It used to be that people would say if you’re headed offshore then you want twin engines, but with the reliability of today’s four-strokes, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. It’s more a function of the boat and how it performs with a single or twins.
“Most boats will come with standard power and then a couple of options. That’s the range you want to stay in. From there, you need to match the engine with the boat. I recommend that, once people determine the size of boat they want, they check with various manufacturers and drive that size of boat with a single and twins to see how they like each option.
“I also recommend that people use the Internet for research before test driving a boat. These days, you can get a lot of performance data from manufacturers’ websites. Get that info, look for a boat that fits your needs in terms of performance and range, then get out and take some rides. That’s ultimately where you’re going to find out if a boat works for you.
“Don’t get blinded by price. As the saying goes, ‘You can pay now or pay later’. Always consider the total value to you as the consumer. You want the whole boat, engine and prop package. Make sure the prop is matched correctly in order to give you the performance you’re seeking.
“Last but not least, consider the strength of the service network that supports the engine. You don’t always think of that when you buy a new boat and engine, but when it comes time for service or repair; you want it to be available easily and conveniently.”
Steve Miller, Mercury
“Center console boats have evolved to the point where their utility extends far beyond tournament fishing. As a result, they’ve gotten longer and wider and often run with three or four outboards across the transom.
“What’s critical when selecting outboard power for these types of boats is the buyer’s understanding of how he will use his boat and what his performance goals are. With high fuel prices, many customers are trying to find that sweet spot at cruising speed where they’re maximizing fuel efficiency while maintaining a comfortable speed.
“If fuel efficiency is the first concern, next in line is handling. When you’re running the boat, make sure it planes quickly and feels smooth and responsive. Avoid any setup in which you feel like you have to work hard to accomplish basic tasks such as steering, manipulating the controls, etc.
“Make note of where the engines top out for RPM when properly trimmed. They should be within the manufacturer’s recommended operating range. If they’re not, or if the boat feels sluggish, check the propellers. Incorrectly propped boats can make the entire package slower and less responsive, and can reduce fuel efficiency.
“Today’s center consoles can benefit from a number of new technologies. Perhaps most noteworthy is the advent of joystick docking systems. In years past, it took a reasonable amount of practice to maneuver larger center consoles in tight quarters. With today’s joysticks, most kids could spend about five minutes with the control and expertly dock a large center console. It’s that easy.
“Some systems, such as Mercury’s Joystick Piloting system, have a feature called SkyHook, which, when engaged, automatically holds the boat at a certain coordinate. This is especially handy if the operator is boating alone and needs to hold station while he readies lines and prepares to dock, or wants to fish a specific location.”
Jason Eckman, Evinrude
“The first thing prospective buyers should consider is how they plan on using the boat. If a buyer wants to run the boat offshore and longer distances, he or she will need an engine with more horsepower and torque than a buyer that wants to use the boat for leisurely activities.
“A customer should question if he or she will be satisfied with a boat’s performance if it is powered well below the maximum horsepower rating established by the manufacturer. Generally, consumers should not use a motor that is below 75 percent of a boat’s horsepower rating, because it may negatively impact the boat’s handling. Many consumers buying center consoles underestimate how much horsepower they need and end up having to trade up after only one year of use.
“Cost of ownership should also be a key consideration for prospective buyers. Outboard engines vary greatly when it comes to the cost and frequency of routine maintenance. All Evinrude E-TEC engines require no dealer-scheduled maintenance for three years or 300 hours, and no oil changes ever, which means consumers save time and money.
“Outboard engine technologies have come a long way over the last 15 years. If a customer hasn’t been in the market for an outboard recently, he or she may not be aware of the technology featured in Evinrude E-TEC engines. These engines give customers the power-to-weight and torque benefits of a two-stroke engine, along with the fuel efficiency and ease of ownership that comes with direct injection.”
David Greenwood, Suzuki
“Assuming a prospective buyer has already picked out a boat, the first thing to consider regarding the motor is horsepower, and a good place to start is with the manufacturer’s horsepower rating. Never exceed the manufacturer’s rating, no matter what the seller might say.
“While you don’t want too much horsepower, you don’t want too little either. Ninety percent of the manufacturer’s rating should provide acceptable performance, but to get maximum performance, go with fully recommended horsepower.
“Equally important is getting the right prop. This usually involves in-water testing, so make sure the dealer is willing to trade if you find that, after running your boat for a few hours, you need more or less prop. On the whole, it’s critical to make sure you have a good relationship with your dealer.
“Prospective owners should also consider the latest in technology. Suzuki’s new generation of four-stroke outboards all feature Lean Burn Control technology for improved fuel economy. Many newer outboards also feature electronic throttle and shift controls for smoother operation and easier rigging, especially when a second helm is involved.”
Coming Up: Look for our article on center console helm design in the next issue of All At Sea. To comment on this article, email [email protected]