Modern technology is making boats better than ever
Technological changes in our modern world have given manufacturers the ability to do things today that would have been unthinkable even a few short years ago. Nowhere is this more evident than in cars, where today’s entry-level econobox now comes with advanced features that were once found only on top-of-the-line models.
Technological change is also sweeping the boating world, where boat builders have been churning out newer, better designs that deliver greater value than ever. Thanks to CAD designs, 3D printing and a host of new technologies, today’s boats offer all-new levels of quality, comfort and reliability.
Just in time for the 2017 season, here’s a look at 10 emerging trends in new boat design.
Painted Tubes on Pontoons
You can always spot an older pontoon boat – usually by the stained skins on its bare aluminum pontoons. While not harmful, the discoloration that so often occurs to aluminum that’s been left in the water for a while – especially on tea-stained northern lakes – does detract from the overall look. Some builders have begun offering painted pontoons that escape this problem, delivering striking good looks today and for years to come.
Outboard-Powered Deck Boats
Deck boats were all the rage at one time, combining the seating capacity of a pontoon with the ride of a fiberglass V-hull. Then new EPA emission standards for their stern drive engines suddenly jacked prices through the roof, and deck boat sales sputtered. But deck boats are coming back in a big way thanks to more recent developments in outboard power. Now pushed by V6 outboards of up to 300 horsepower, deck boats are retaking their place in the market, and the new outboard designs offer more interior space than ever.
No More Carpet
For years fishing boats and pontoons have used marine-grade carpet flooring, which offers a secure, non-slip surface that’s still comfortable on bare feet. But the problem with carpet is that it soaks up water like a sponge. It also takes forever to dry, leading to rotted floors and mold. New synthetic flooring made from contemporary vinyl offers the same comfy, non-skid surface, yet dries in minutes and is far easier to clean at the end of a day on the water.
It used to be the first thing you would do with a new fishing boat is drill it full of holes, so you could mount rod holders, downriggers and other accessories. Of course moving any of this stuff meant drilling yet more holes in that formerly pristine hull. But that’s all in the past. Increasingly, fishing boats are coming straight from the factory with track systems as standard equipment – either installed on top of the gunnels or integrated right into their design. Either way, the days of Swiss-cheesing your boat are over.
Ventilated Rod Storage
The problem with putting away wet gear is that it invites rust and mold. Yet every day anglers put wet rods and reels into storage lockers without a second thought. The answer? Ventilate the rod storage lockers with a power fan. It’s a simple idea, and it works like magic to eliminate the mildew and funkiness of a well-used rod locker. Most systems are controlled with a timer, so you can set it and forget it.
Just as the dashboard in your vehicle has moved from dials to LCDs, so too are the dashboards of boats. The newest digital touchscreen displays integrate with every system in the boat so you can control it all – stereo, engine, fish finder, GPS and more – from one or more touch screen displays. The best ones have specially-designed screens you can view from any angle, even while wearing polarized sunglasses.
Maine environments and electrical systems have always been a tough match, and few electrical components have given boaters more trouble than lights. Filament bulbs are sensitive to being bumped, and their connections invite corrosion, whether mounted in the trailer or in the boat itself. That’s why LED lighting is rapidly replacing old bulb systems in everything from cartoppers to yachts. They’re fully sealed to eliminate corrosion issues, and the diodes last for tens of thousands of hours of use, so you’ll never need to replace a bulb again. Best of all, LEDs can be tuned to different colors, so you can just give your boat a cool look, or preserve your night vision when fishing after dark.
This trend first emerged a couple of years ago, and is growing more common all the time as boat builders refresh their models. In the past, beaching the boat meant stepping over the side and getting soaked. But a bow ladder lets you and your guests get to shore with a minimum of fuss, and without having to wade through any weeds.
More Adaptable Seating
Innovative designs give modern boats the adaptability to do many more things than they used to, and a lot of the credit goes to thoughtful, more versatile seating. Face forward to enjoy the view while underway, then flip a cushion to face aft and watch the wakeboard action. Sit, sun, and sleep all on the same piece of furniture. We’ve had old-style flip-flop seats for years, but today’s designs clearly vault the concept of versatile seating into the 21st Century.
Digital Throttle and Shift
Fly-by-wire technology was developed for the aviation industry, in order to replace the creaky cables, sensitive pulleys and finicky hydraulics used in complicated mechanical systems. But now, drive-by-wire is the buzz in boating as digital shift and throttle systems bring all-new levels of reliability and smooth operation to boaters. Beyond that, digital engine controls allow even greater technological miracles like digital anchoring, where the GPS automatically holds the boat in position by controlling the steering, throttle and gear shift to keep it still while you fish or dig out the fenders and dock lines.