Lead Line — May 2002 — Testing...TESTING
Lead Line — May 2002
By Richard Thiel

There's a lot of data in a PMY Boat test.
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There are a bunch of boating magazines out there, and some of you--hopefully not too many--may wonder if there's any real difference between them. The answer is an unequivocal yes, and those differences make Power & Motoryacht the best choice by far for serious boaters. One of the differences is our boat test program. No other magazine invests the time, effort, money, and pages that we do to measure the performance of new boats. Measure is the key word; we've spent thousands of dollars on an arsenal of scientific equipment to ensure that you have the most accurate analytical data possible.

If you're a regular reader of PMY, you know we take testing boats seriously, and you also know we're constantly reviewing and upgrading our test program to make it more informative and easier to understand. We've tweaked the design of the spec box a number of times over the years and in June 2000 we added something that no other magazine has: an acceleration curve. Everyone wonders how responsive a boat really is, and this curve tells you. You can even overlay curves from different boat tests and compare them. Adding this feature required the purchase of laptop computers and sophisticated software that interprets data directly from our radar guns. But we think the added information is well worth the cost.

This month we're adding yet another test parameter: running angle. Measured at the same rpm levels as fuel consumption, speed, and sound levels without the benefit of trim tabs, it helps you understand how a boat runs. This time the scientific equipment is a simple ship's inclinometer, zeroed with the vessel at rest, but the information is no less accurate or valuable.

We're not sure how much more information we can provide without overwhelming you, but we're always looking. And we believe that every piece of data in our spec box today is important--a piece of the puzzle, if you will. For example:

· Speed. Everyone wants to know how fast a boat goes, and there are many ways to measure it. We use radar because it provides more accurate, instantaneous readings, where GPS can require time to average out data. However, we always check our radar results against any onboard GPS receiver.

· Fuel consumption. We may measure this either mechanically (with flow meters) or electronically, but either way the results tell us a lot more than just how many dollars are flying out the exhaust ports. Fuel consumption and speed help determine range, which is important to cruisers and sportfishermen alike. If a builder has installed big engines for more speed but scrimped on fuel tankage to save space, here's where you'll see it.

· Miles per gallon. This is the best indicator of hull efficiency. These readings are directly influenced--indeed, dictated--by hull design, horsepower, and weight. Deciding how to balance them is part of the art of boat design. Interpreting them in relation to other performance data tells you what compromises the builder may have made.

· Decibels. We measure all boats on the same kind of sound-pressure meter at the same place: the primary helm, although we may take additional readings in other locations. The key is not so much the raw data as a comparison with other similar kinds of boats and to the level of normal conversation. Clearly a sportfisherman with an enclosed bridge is going to be quieter than a sportcruiser with engines under the helm.

There's a lot of data in a PMY boat test, and that's the way we like it. From what you've told us, you like it that way, too, but if you think we could be doing something better, let us know. We're always looking for ways to improve our boat tests and, for that matter, the entire magazine.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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