Monday, February 17

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by Peter Janssen

Who knows what the new year will bring. I personally can’t wait for the Miami show next month to at least get a taste of what’s in store to make cruising easier, safer and more fun. But I already know one thing for sure. The trend toward outboard power, even in cruising boats, will only get stronger and stronger.

The reasons are easy enough: Outboards are now increasingly powerful, quiet, fuel-efficient, easy to use, easy to maintain, easy to replace. They open up space under the salon or cockpit that was occupied by an inboard engine. And they allow you to navigate safely in skinny water in the Chesapeake, say, or the Bahamas, and you can trim them up to cut the lines if you snag one of those lobster pots in Maine.
You’d be hard put to find a builder with a better reputation or blue-blazer pedigree than Hunt Yachts. But Hunt is now offering outboards on all its Harrier and Surfhunter models from 25 to 36 feet. Hunt launched its Surfhunter 32 with twin 250-hp outboards last year (pictured above); it tops out at 44 knots and handles like a sports car.

For its part, MJM Yachts will launch its new MJM 35z this spring powered by two 300-hp Mercury Verados. MJM founder Bob Johnstone says the boat will go more than 50 mph, but the real point is that at a cruising speed of 38 mph it will have a range of 350 nm, and that’s with a fuel capacity of just 250 gallons.
I became a fan of outboards on cruising boats two years ago when I tested a True North 34 with twin 250-hp E-TEC Evinrudes at the Miami show. The performance was simply fun, but what impressed me most was the ability to walk the boat sideways into the wind (or in any direction at all) using the Optimus joystick controls.
So that’s just a start to the year. Stay tuned to see what other trends turn up.


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