Late last winter, my crew and I were faced with a dilemma: sell our faithful 1987 48-foot Viking charter vessel, and be forced to purchase the best boat we could find, or refit her. Canyon Runner had more than 10,000 hours on her engines, and while they'd served the boat well, they were downright tired. But at the time the expense of a comparable vessel that could do 150 fishing trips a year—with 100 of those days venturing 100 miles offshore—would be way more than Canyon Runner originally cost or ever would. Considering value for the dollar, we decided to give this ol' girl a new heartbeat and a facelift.
As with any great boat, everything starts with the engines. During the last four years, our business got killed on fuel costs, burning 60 gph at 25 knots (29 mph). So we began with one priority: more efficient engines. After hours of research, we kept coming back to the same answer: Cummins QSM11s. Despite the fact that the Cummins deliver 660 hp and our old motors delivered more than 725 hp, we went for the QSM11s because they have almost twice the torque. Still, we were afraid to write the check until we found another 48 Viking, a 45 Viking, and a 45 Hatteras that had all been repowered with the same engines. Their performance numbers sealed the deal.
The only problem was, it was March 30, and we needed the boat no later than June 1. Called crazy by several folks for even attempting this repower in two months, we nevertheless forged ahead in an attempt to find the right yard. John Lane and Forked River Diesel in New Jersey (609-242-8448) fit the bill. One phone call, and the boat was out of the water; work had begun.
Now, this crew has never been known for taking the easy way out, so we also decided to replace the electronics, steering, electrical system, and running gear, as all were in need of it. The repower evolved into a total refit. Once the old engines were out, we began yanking out all of the old and worn gear, starting with the four 8D batteries, which we replaced with eight Group 31 batteries. At the same time we swapped the older and larger battery charger with two smaller, more powerful ones, creating a redundant system. We now have four banks of batteries: one for each engine, one for the genset, and one for the electronics. Each charger is set to juice two banks, but one can be switched over to power all four if the other charger goes down.
The powerplants weren't the only things that were old. We replaced our GPS, radar, recorder, autopilot, and VHFs with a fully networked Northstar electronics package: three 6100i 12-inch displays with GPS, a high-definition digital radar with 6-kW open-array antenna, a 491 sounder/ fishfinder, an autopilot, and two VHFs. The sounder, radar, GPS, and autopilot data can be brought up on any one of the displays. In addition, we'll soon be linking satellite TV into the displays so we can catch the baseball postseason on the bridge while chunking tuna during those long October nights in the canyons.
Everything has been functioning to near-perfection, and the most impressive has been the radar. Its clarity, consistency, and ease of use are, to quote one of our captains, "freaking unbelievable."
Northstar's satellite weather system was another substantial upgrade for Canyon Runner. The company has partnered with Sirius Marine Weather to deliver what this crew believes is the most comprehensive weather display system available, unless of course you are sitting at home with access to the Internet. In fact, that's exactly what I used to do if my crew was offshore without me. They would call me asking me to download the latest weather maps, forecasts, and, most important, water-temperature charts. Now we do all this from 100 miles offshore with the touch of a button. The Northstar delivers current weather info directly to the bridge's 6100i displays, along with sea-surface temperatures, precipitation data that includes lightning strikes so we can avoid them, NowRAD and Canadian weather radar information, and NOAA forecasts. After just two months, we can't imagine going offshore without this setup.
Lots of Wire
An extensive part of the refit was replacing things like gauges (electronic and mechanical), the throttle control system (our new electronic single-lever one features low-idle capability and an engine synchronizer), and all the other bells and whistles—including the actual bells and whistles that come with a new engine-alarm system. The crew and yard had already removed all the wiring associated with the electrical system and all the cables for the electronics and transducers, so we decided we might as well replace every single cable and wire that ran all the way from the engine room up to the flying bridge.
When we were done pulling those wires, we had no fewer than four 55-gallon barrels filled with old wiring, and we didn't stop there. A high-pressure steering line replaced the copper tubing for the hydraulic steering system (it was 20 years old). The copper filled yet another 55-gallon barrel and saved a lot of bulk and weight in the process. In doing just this job, we estimate we removed close to 750 pounds. Considering each engine saved approximately 750 pounds more and the new battery system shaved another 250 pounds, I figured we removed about 2,500 pounds from Canyon Runner's total weight.
The Big Payoff
Thanks to a lot of late nights and long weekends, we met the June 1 deadline. The cost was considerable (over $200K), but we figure that in just three years, it'll be paid back in fuel savings. We now run 26.5 knots at 75-percent load and burn only 42 gph. We went from burning 475 gallons on a typical canyon trip to only 325 gallons. At 60 canyon trips per year, that comes to 9,000 gallons saved annually on these offshore trips alone. And taking into account the now-warranteed engines are smooth, quiet, and clean, have no oil leaks, and burn virtually no oil; the brand-new electronics never cease to impress us; and the electrical and steering system has been revamped, this project is without a doubt the best thing we could've done for the boat and our charter business. New boats are great, but there's a lot to be said for this ol' "new" boat.
Proper Prop Performance
A crucial component to any repower is making sure you have the correct props to handle your boat's new horsepower and the torque that comes with it. We turned to Atlantis Propeller, which uses Prop Scan, a computerized propeller-inspection system. It enables propellers to be remanufactured and/or modified within tight tolerances.
Properly tuned props increase a boat's overall performance, including faster speed and, most important, reduced fuel consumption. With our new power and dialed-in props, we'll save several thousand gallons of fuel this year.
Serious About Sirius
A big part of the Canyon Runner refit was the Northstar electronics system with Sirius weather. One Friday night we planned to leave the dock to go offshore for a Saturday day-trolling trip, but there was the threat of severe lightning storms close to our location. However, we turned on the Northstar 6100i with the Sirius Weather Package and tracked them. We saw that the storms were moving away, so off we went. A few miles offshore, I put the Sirius Weather on a radar loop and clearly saw the track of the storms was 100 percent to the north and that they were dissipating with virtually no lightning present. Without that confirmation, we would have had our stomachs in knots the whole ride out and may have in fact cancelled the trip all together.
On the way in Saturday afternoon, I again saw severe lightning storms right over our homeport inlet. The weather loop on the Northstar 6100i showed that these storms were not moving and we were heading right for them—but it also revealed that the storms were losing strength. So all we did was slow the boat down, timing our arrival at the inlet. We were never hit with a drop of rain.
This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.