Having surfed various sites and having read clever people’s ideas I realized that to drag a water-skier or a wakeboarder one needs a boat no shorter than 3.6 m and an outboard engine of at least 30 h.p. Part 1. The Choice, Search, and Purchase.
Reasonable Inexpensive Water Recreation or the Exploitation Experience of the Badger Inflatable Boat and the Selva Outboard Engine.
The ideas about a boat and an outboard engine started haunting me during the cold January evenings 2004. Having seen lots of pictures of water-skiers and wakeboarder in the Internet I thought: «Why not to try?»
I had no problems choosing the place — my summer house is within a kilometre of the Ivankovskoe water reservoir. There were several reasons to make my mind up for an inflatable boat. Firstly, it is easy to transport — it does not require a trailer. Secondly, it is easy to keep in winter — it takes up almost no space. When one starts something new and does not have any experience, it is better to minimize initial financial investments.
The first thing to do is to carry out marketing analysis, so I started with the internet, seeing that it contains the information on all producers of boats and outboard engines. Having surfed various sites and having read clever people?s ideas, I realized that to drag a water-skier or a wakeboarder one needs a boat no shorter than 3.6 m and an outboard engine of at least 30 h.p.
Of course, the Internet is a great thing, but one always wants to touch and feel what he is (she / they are) going to buy. It is not a problem in Moscow either. Twice a year in February and August Moscow hosts the Ohota i Rybolovstbo Exhibition (The Hunting and Fishing Exhibition). The exhibition is popular with all boat and outboard producers.
I started with the boat. Having looked through practically all producers available on the Russian market, I have chosen a boat from the Sport Line series produced by Badger. At that time the biggest boat in this series was 3.7 m long, now they produce even bigger ones — 3.9 m long.
I liked it because of its special design: the balloon ends protrude further beyond the transom, there is no chamfer at the lower balloon end that other boats have, so the boat does not lift its prow too much, and goes into hydroplaning faster, and it is possible to use a boat of such length with an outboard of up to 30 h.p.
The boat is made of the modern PVC DURATEX 1100 material in Korea, at the very factory that produces the PHOENIX boats.
Moreover, according to my analysis its price was US$ 200-500 less than prices for other boat manufacturers of the same length considering a 10% discount provided when you order a boat through the Internet. All in all the boat cost me US$950, some US$500 cheaper than the Brig boats.
As I realized later, for towing a water-skier or, especially, a wakeboarder, the weight of the inflatable boat is also important. In the beginning I tried to minimize the weight because it would allow me to gain higher speed and the boat would be easier to carry when it is taken down to the water.
That is why the boat that I chose — SD 370 Sport Line — is the lightest among its analogues, even though it has a rigid water-resistant plywood floor. Only afterwards while using he boat I learned that when the boat is too light and the wakeboarder is fast accelerated towards a wave, it can dislocate the boat stern and it is necessary to constantly correct the course. But at the beginning I was dreaming about high speed and was looking for the lightest boats.
The next step was the choice of outboard engine. The domestically produced outboards were rejected in the first round, I do hope that the patriots and the owners of the factories that produce the Vihr and the Neptun outboards will forgive me for that. I decided in favour of two-stroke outboards, for they were to be carried and transported to and fro.
Of course Íînda and Yamaha produce wonderful outboards, but the prices of their Moscow dealers can scare away quite a few potential buyers. I have seen the Italian Selva outboards at Badger?s site. The price discount included was very attractive.
The Selva outboard called Antibes with manual controlled throttle was available at the price of US$2450.
It also included 4 l of engine oil and 1 oil filling for the reducer. Yet, Italian outboards are uncommon in Russia. I /went to surf the Internet again to find other people?s opinions;references, I also saw the Katera and Yahty Magazine test reports and it showed that Selva outboards are reliable.
The next question regarding the outboard was whether to use one with a manual controlled throttle or one with the electric control system. The price difference between these outboard types was considerable- US$420.
Moreover, the electric controlled outboard also required additional investments: US$200 for a steering column, US$50 for two control cables (throttle and reverse), US$70 for a steering cable, US$30 for a steering wheel, US$60 for steering gear, and US$30 for a battery.
The prices given are estimated for the Internet order from St. Petersburg companies except for the battery, naturally.
Prices of Moscow companies are 20-30% higher.
All in all, the difference was US$420 for the outboard and US$440 for the accessories required.
Before making up you mind think about the following. If you need a boat for fishing and you can not keep it in assembled state near the shore, and if you are not going to improve its speed performance and traction by choosing a congruent propeller, then manually controlled outboard would possibly be more ideal for you.
In this case you should expect an expenditure of between US$3500-3600, for you also will need to buy an extra seat, the under-seat bag (I do recommend it, it is handy, because there are no lockers in an inflatable boat and you need a place to keep your accessories stated in your vessel?s documents).
If you are more ambitious and would like to get more from your boat, if you prefer to sit at the steering wheel and start your outboard by a key turn and watch in the rear-view mirror how a wakeboarder is trying to make a 1800 turn, and what is the most important if you do not have to assemble and disassemble the boat after each trip, then you should head for the electrically controlled outboard, and subsequently extra expenditure of US$900.
Having pondered over all the pros and cons and taking into the consideration the fact that in summers I have the possibility of leaving the boat on shore at a guarded berthing lot and all I would need to do to take it out is get it on the water and then out of the water again. Subsequently, I decided to buy the electrically controlled outboard.
The electrically controlled Selva Antibes 30Å outboard set contained actuator (throttle, reverse) and a tachometer. This device is vital if you are going to optimize your boat performance. All special discounts, which were in force during the Katera I Yahty MIBS-2004 exhibition, included the outboard cost me US$2540 and was delivered by Badger directly to the exhibition site in Moscow.
To be just, I need to mention that after I had paid for the outboard I found in the Internet a company in St. Petersburg that offered the Tohatsu M30A4EPS for US$2650, which is a bargain for a Japanese outboard. The outboard accessories problem was solved rapidly- I ordered all the accessories through the Internet from the company Technomarine and they were delivered by post within a month.
The boat was delivered by a carrier company within 5 days and the delivery cost me just 540 roubles. Although I had waited for the consignment from Korea for 2 months, it did not bother me since the season did not start till 10th June.
In April I got the licence for small craft helming, got the boat and the outboard registered, and in May I received the check-up documents. The boat, the outboard and all the accessories were taken to my summer house and I started the assembly to embody my ideas and thoughts, which I had been nursing for half a year, and turn them into something real.Part 2. Assembly, launch, three month exploitation experience.
The first assembly of the boat was successful; I assembled it on my own, after having read the manual and having looked through the photos on the assembly process at Badger?s site. First time the whole process took me some 50 min.
Two people can assemble the boat approximately twice as fast, in half and hour. The electric control equipment was easy to assemble; all the connectors were enclosed with the outboard. I had bought from Badger an additional seat, which fitted the prow perfectly.
For completeness sake a speedometer was bought and installed next to the tachometer. As ‘halyard? fastenings I used galvanized threaded rings that were secured onto the boat transom with nuts and washers (photo 2).
A floating halyard, a wakeboard, its fastenings, water skis, a wet suit, gloves, and life jackets were bought at the Extreme na Smolnoy chain outlets.
The sport equipment cost US$950 altogether, and it was amateur equipment, not professional stuff. Well, sport and water recreation is pretty expensive nowadays, especially in Moscow. Everything was ready by 10th June.
On second Sunday of June all the equipment was taken to the Ivankovskoe water reservoir shore to the future berthing lot at the Marina-Zavidovo Yacht Club, where the boat and all the additional equipment was successfully assembled.
Launching of the boat required no less than 4 people, because it turned out to be quite heavy: the boat — 66 kg, the outboard — 54 kg, the bag with the required equipment, such as an anchor, a torch light, a first-aid set, tools etc — 11 kg, the electric control equipment — 14 kg, the battery — 12kg, the safe jackets — 3 kg, altogether — 160 kg.
Four men of medium build, not athletes, without heroic effort can carry such weight for no more than 5 meters.
So in case there are less than four of you, you will have to hang the outboard and attach all the electric control system connections (throttle cable, reverse cable, steering gear cable, battery cables, steering engine cable, and steering rack) in water, or to use a trailer to launch the boat.
There were three of us, my sons and me, we asked a security guard and the wharf master for help and five of us managed to drag the boat into the water, where it immediately started leaking. At the first moment I could not even understand what was causing the leakage and thought that we had torn the bottom while assembling the boat. Yet the reason was very simple: our Korean friends felt greedy about joint sealant when they were screwing the drainage plug into the boat transom. We quickly dragged it on the wharf, disassembled the unit, sealed it with sealant, and started waiting for sealant to harden in the sun.
We were told that it happened because we had not broken a bottle of Champaign on the prow, it is a joke, of course, but the incident is troublesome — what would we have had to do had we launched the boat say on Lake Seliger, far from shops that sell sealants? In two hours the sealant hardened and we started second launch attempt which was successful.
The next trouble we noticed was when we started connecting the fuel tank to the outboard. The pipe nipple got unscrewed from the fuel tank socket, and since the tank and the nipple are made of plastic, the thread can be easily damaged by overzealous tightening.
Most probably, we had squeezed the nipple when we were transporting the boat. So I would advise you to treat the tank carefully, it is pretty delicate. To solve the tightening problem we used insulation tape — not a very reliable method, but it would do for the first time. And finally the thrilling moment came — I turned the key and the outboard switched on practically immediately (well by the third attempt at any rate).
Having warmed-up the engine for some three minutes the three of us started our first trip called the engine run-in. We ran the engine in according to the manual, added 3-4 % oil, we did not put it into full throttle, we kept it within 4500 -5000 rmp.
The first impressions were like this: the boat with 3 men aboard (the total weight 218kg) plus the fuel tank with 20 l of petrol and 0.7 l of oil, plus 4 kg of various small items, altogether 400 kg quickly goes into hydroplaning after 3800 rmp, it is easy to manoeuvre, has a small turning radius, quickly throttles down, continues hydroplaning down to 3600 rmp.
I would like to note that I used 98 petrol from the BÐ petrol station and Selva mineral oil, that was supplied with the outboard. The running-in process lasted for 30 hours, after which I started using semi synthetic oil of the Start Brite TC -W3 brand, reduced its content down to 2% and tried to go into full throttle.
The engine showed its rating 5500 rmp with its own (*the chap means that the outboard was supplied with this propeller*) alumni propeller with pitch 11??, the speed according to the speedometer was slightly over 40 km/h
Thus it looked like the outboard was specially designed for our load.
Theoretically the outboard should reach the rating revo /rmp/ when the boat is 80% loaded. In our case to reach such a load we need 186 kg more, i.e. 3 more people, for the boat?s rating capacity is 6 people or 650 kg. However with our boat completely equipped it comfortably seats only four people. Of course, we can take aboard 6 people, but then we can not go at high speed or very far.
With just one person aboard the engine at full throttle went up to 6000 rmp and the speed increased to 45 km/h, but the boat yawed badly. I tried to adjust the outboard angle, but it did not help. The outboard should not be operated at such a regime, the valves will not cope. For such regime a different propeller with a larger pitch is required.
The next step was to experiment in towing a water-skier or a wakeboarder. You need to be aware that for those who are interested in serious wakeboarding, will not settle for any old inflatable boat, for there are no high waves. Yet, you can learn basic things, practice turns, low jumps. In addition you will need a wet suit, preferably 3 mm thick, fully covering.
So my sons and I decided to start with the more difficult thing first- wakeboard. Our further experience showed that it is better to start with water-skis. Our half an hour long attempts to rise (5-6 falls per each) proved to be fruitless. Our arms and backs ached, and there was no positive result, though we had watched a videotape with an educational film for novices!
Our main mistake was that we tried to tow gradually increasing rmp, but a 30 h.p. outboard can draw out a water-skier or a wareboarder only if it starts with full throttle. .
We made our next attempt with water-skis and went into fill throttle, and after 3-4 falls we all managed to rise from the water and ski. We tried to repeat it all with the board, and it worked!
We were exulted. All our dreams came true.
Below you can find several ideas for novices. When a wakeboarder rises and starts gliding, go down into 3800-4000 rmp, it is approximately 20-25 km/h.
In the beginning falls are inevitable, and if you do not go down, you will be moving at 40 km/h. At this speed a fall feels like if you were knocked out and fell on asphalt. I have to confess that we all have experienced it, but we wished that we had not.
With the equipment described the boat can pull a water-skier or a wakeboarder of up to 85 kg. All our attempts to tow heavier people failed. I have to note that our water-skis were rated for up to 85 kg though. But do not despair, even if you are of a heavier disposition, this problem can be solved.
We solved it with the assistance of Badger's staff, who advised us to install hydrofoils on the outboard. These are 2 plastic foils that are screwed to the outboard. This item costs just 730 roubles for an outboard up to 50 h.p., but it significantly increases the outboard traction. Before installing it we had to start in full throttle to draw out a water-skier or a wakeboarder, and with hydrofoils it was enough to start with the throttle a bit higher than the medium position, and the wakeboarder successfully rose from the water. We have not tried to tow a person of 100 kg, but I guess that with hydrofoils we will be able to do that.
More details on performance characteristics for the outboard equipped with hydrofoils are listed below. The boat goes into hydroplaning at 3200 rmp, the traction on going into hydroplaning has increased significantly, hydroplaning is kept down to 3000 rmp.
At the above mentioned load and full throttle rmp remained the same, even if the speed went down a bit, it was impossible to notice on my speedometer, though theoretically it should go down due to the fact that the hydrofoils provide additional resistance. It turned with a larger radius and not quite as sharp as it had done before. And after sharp deceleration it slowed down more quickly. With one man aboard, the boat still yaws, the rmp at the full throttle remains the same, the engine goes up to 6000 rmp.
Over three months of exploitation (about 70 hours of operation) there were no problems with the outboard — it has been easy to start, and has worked faultlessly. The only problem that we faced was that after 65 hours of operation a screw at the air shutter drive magnet became unfastened, but it was fixed in 5 minutes.
Another minor problem was with the outboard tilting mechanism. The spring hook sometimes got out of the hole and it was impossible to tilt the outboard — the locking device just would not rise. This was fixed with a hammer, the hook just needed a bit bending.
The only problem with the boat was that after 20 hours on water the release valve started to leak air. It was fixed by simply tightening it, apparently, the tightening had weakened because of the jolting.
Generally I am very pleased with both the boat and the outboard.
All in all if you would like to go into the water recreation and are looking for a foreign-made boat, outboard, and other water-skiing and wakeboarding equipment, you will need to be prepared to invest at least US$5000 into this hobby.
This season is over and in the next one I am going to experiment with propellers trying to find a proper steel propeller, and promise to write about the results.