MIAMI NICE – MIAMI INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW

With more than 1,300 boats on display, the Miami International Boat Show is always a great place to see the latest technologies and innovations. Boating New Zealand’s Craig Ritchie walked the docks to see what really made a splash at one of the world’s biggest boat shows.

The Americans have always had a bit of a reputation for doing everything on a bigger, brasher scale and that certainly holds true when it comes to boat shows. Perhaps that’s why the Miami International Boat Show has long been the top venue for boatbuilders and engine manufacturers from around the world to unveil their latest and greatest gems.

With global economies now firing on all cylinders and new models pouring into the market at an unprecedented pace, this year’s Miami show exceeded all expectations – not just with scores of new boats, engines and gear, but plenty of true innovation coming to market. Here’s just a small sample of the fresh, innovative designs that caught my eye.

MERCURY CELEBRATES ITS 80TH anniversary this year, and got the party started at Miami by unveiling a pair of new outboards that push the boundaries on both the upper and lower ends of the horsepower spectrum.

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The all-new Verado 400 fills a void in the company’s lineup between the popular Verado 350 and the 400 R racing outboard. The new engine uses the same 2.6L supercharged inline six-cylinder, DOHC 24-valve powerhead as Verado 350, now tuned up to redline at 6,800rpm rather than the 6,400rpm of the previous model.

Sequential multi-port fuel injection, a 70-amp alternator and an advanced midsection with perimeter mounts provide the quiet, vibration-free ride that the company’s Verado customers demand, while ensuring the engine still provides plenty of juice to power onboard electronics and keep batteries fully charged – considerations ignored by the racing engine with its singular focus on achieving the highest speed possible.

At the other end of the scale, Mercury also showed its new 123cc, 5hp propane portable. Weighing just 27.2 kg, the compact four-stroke runs on any standard propane cylinder, making it an ideal choice for use while camping, on smaller sailboats or on tenders.

It will run for 10 hours at full throttle on a standard 9kg barbeque tank, or for up to 30 minutes at full blast on a compact 465gm camping cylinder, making it super convenient for running into shore to load up with fresh groceries.

A special Sail Power sub-model designed to be used as primary propulsion on smaller sailboats includes a built-in 4-amp/50-watt alternator to power electronics or lights, a high-thrust propeller for improved low-speed handling, and a choice of 508mm or 635mm shaft lengths.

FOR MANY BOATERS THE hairiest part of any day on the water comes at the end, when they have to return to the dock – especially if they need to navigate through tight spaces along the way. Raymarine’s DockSense assisted docking system makes it easy to plunk your prize back into the slip at day’s end by creating a virtual bumper around the boat.

This digital proximity barrier doesn’t just sound an alarm if you get too close, it can actually assume control of the boat and steer you out of trouble, making it impossible to crash into the dock or hit someone else’s yacht.

A series of FLIR stereoscopic cameras mounted around the boat monitor how close your hull comes to foreign objects as you manoeuvre closer to the dock. Muff it up and the system automatically engages the vessel’s joystick piloting system to prevent a collision from occurring.

Mercu

What’s truly impressive is that the system uses position-sensing technology in the form of GPS and an Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) to automatically compensate for the effects of wind and currents in real time, so not even unexpected gusts or wakes from passing vessels can cause you to mess up.

Once the vessel is correctly lined up in the slip and you’re ready to make that final move to bring it home, simply press a button on the control panel to manually override the system, and a gentle nudge of the joystick brings you to the dock. The Raymarine system will even hold the boat there regardless of currents or wind, giving boaties plenty of time to secure those mooring lines – a huge benefit when operating solo.

Raymarine’s DockSense assisted docking system was a major hit of the Miami show, with systems displayed on two very different vessels – a Boston Whaler 330 Outrage centre-console with twin outboards, and a pod-driven Prestige 460 motor yacht.

SEA-DOO MADE SOME major waves at the Miami show with its all-new Fish Pro, a personal watercraft designed specifically with fishing in mind. Why? For starters the Sea-Doo can negotiate much shallower waters than any boat with an exposed propeller, allowing it to access skinny water hotspots that lie beyond the reach of larger boats. Beyond that, it just makes getting to and from the spots a whole lot more fun.

Winner of one of the Miami Boat Show’s prestigious Innovation Awards, the Fish Pro proves for all time that fishing and personal watercraft can mix quite well, thank you very much. It comes ready to fish on an extended, 373cm ST3 hull that’s about 30 cm longer than any of Sea-Doo’s other models, providing more space to fish and stow equipment, while offering greater stability in rough water.

The extended stern platform, which comes complete with a boarding ladder, provides space to stow its standard LinQ fishing cooler – complete with four external rod-holders, a recessed top work surface for prepping tackle or bait, and integral storage for bait and tackle.

The unique bench seat design can accommodate three people comfortably, but is designed specifically for fishing with a flat profile that makes it easy for anglers to turn and access gear in the stern, or sit sideways when casting or jigging. Angled gunwales provide greater comfort when fishing off the sides and are a thoughtful touch.

Up on the dash, you’ll find a Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 62cv fishfinder/ GPS combo with a 15cm high-definition display screen. A dry box with a shock-absorbing foam sleeve keeps sensitive personal items like cell phones protected yet accessible, while a watertight front storage compartment is easily accessible, providing still further storage space for more tackle or other gear.

Power comes from a beefy Rotax 1503 NA engine that also offers a lowspeed trolling mode. Thanks to a generous 70L fuel tank, the Fish Pro has the range to make a full day of it.

STILL ANOTHER 2019 Innovation Award winner, Yamaha’s all-new 275 Series jet boat comes in three different trim levels – the base 275E, the deluxe 275SE and the flagship 275SD.

The 275SE features a semi-rigid top while the top-of-the-line SD model gets a full hardtop with integrated skylights. The SD also comes with Yamaha’s new, patented DRiVE system that provides enhanced control when manoeuvring in tight spaces around the dock.

Paddle controls on the steering wheel toggle between forward or reverse gear, and can control boat speed in either direction. In a nod to the dash configuration of high-end luxury vehicles, the helm station on all 275 series models utilises a classy-looking, 31cm floating digital display that’s easily viewed from any angle, even when wearing polarized sunglasses.

Regardless of trim level, all Yamaha 275 Series boats are powered by twin supercharged Yamaha 1.8-litre SVHO marine engines. Perhaps the best feature of all are the two removable seats that can be clipped in at the stern when at anchor, hanging just below the water’s surface for cool, comfortable in-water seating that faces the transom.

INDMAR TOOK ADVANTAGE of the Miami Show to unveil its all-new 2.3L EcoBoost marine engine, winning another of the show’s coveted Innovation Awards in the process.

Based on the 310hp, 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder engine used in the Ford Mustang sportscar, Indmar’s 2.3L EcoBoost is a petrol turbocharged direct injection (GTDI) beast that generates an astounding 135hp per litre and a massive 474Nm (350 lb-ft) of torque, making it the most powerful marine inboard engine in its class.

Said to also be the only turbocharged marine engine in its segment, the new Indmar mill is designed with tow boats and watersports in mind. Its high torque at low rpms is said to result in increased loading capability and quicker time to plane, achieving its peak power at just 4,800rpm for less vibration and an overall smoother and quieter boating experience.

Closed-cooling technology maintains consistent engine operating temperature for improved performance and reduced internal corrosion, while a single-point drain and easy access to maintenance items like its water-separating fuel filter, oil filter and other components are designed to provide greater serviceability. Best of all, the engine’s overall smaller size allows more space onboard to be used for storage or, in the case of tow boats, ballast.

“EcoBoost is a proven technology that continues to break new ground, and it’s opening new doors in the marine industry,” said Indmar VP of engineering, Jason Stimmel, at its grand unveiling. “The 2.3L EcoBoost’s patent-pending technology delivers the most advanced engine technologies available in a marine engine, providing consumers the most from a small engine footprint with the performance equal to or greater than a V8.”

The EcoBoost engine announcement was immediately followed by the unveiling of an all-new companion jet drive. The compact Indmar EcoJet drive utilises a lateral-control, reversebucket configuration with an exclusive rudder and steering nozzle design that’s said to deliver unequalled manoeuvrability both on plane and at slow speeds. Further, enhanced manoeuvrability works in both forward and reverse gear, unlike some competing systems.

AND THAT’S JUST THE START

WITH OVER 1,300 boats on display and several hectares of dryland show all stuffed with new boats, new engines and new gear, it’s just not possible to cover all of the new toys unveiled at Miami in one short article. But it’s clear that boatbuilders and equipment manufacturers are riding a global wave right now, with strong economies driving tremendous innovation and fresh new ideas that will make our time on the water better than ever.