Fiesta Vee 342 — By Capt. Bill Pike
— April 2003
The Ultimate Comparo
|Stern drive versus inboard: We show you the pros and cons in an evenly matched shootout.|
As soon as I heard Rinker Boats was about to launch a couple of new Fiesta Vee 342s, one with twin I/Os and the other with V-drive inboards, I was on the case lining up one of each for an all-day, head-to-head wring-out. From the standpoint of doing a fair, even-handed comparison, it sounded like a perfect setup: two midrange cruisers with identical interiors, dry weights, and powerplants, but with radically different running-gear configurations.
The folks at Rinker were down with the plan. We needed to shoot for the same fuel, water, and equipage loads, the same test crew, the same test venue, and the same sea conditions. Allan Waggoner, the head honcho on the 342 project and a stern-drive maven with a burgeoning penchant for inboards, responded with characteristic enthusiasm, “No sweat, Bill. I’d love to do an apples-to-apples comparo.”
Waggoner and I met at 7:00 a.m. at the little marina behind the Hyatt Hotel on Sarasota Bay, our testing venue. Except for boot and style stripes, the two test boats were indistinguishable. Weather conditions were superb: hot and humid with a flat-calm sea, a scenario that would prevail throughout the rest of the day. In addition to the intense curiosity I ordinarily feel prior to any especially squared-away shootout, I harbored a few preconceptions.
For starters, I expected only a slight difference in top-end performance—maybe 4 or 5 mph. Certainly, the stern drive would be faster; its underwater componentry was less obtrusive, more streamlined, and trimmable. But lots faster? Nah! Not with pricey inboard power configurations selling like hotcakes all over the country these days. I also expected only a slight difference in running efficiency—an extra couple of tenths of fuel burn for the inboard, if that—although I was fairly sure the stern drive would out-corner the other boat in open water due to its steerable props.
Then there was dockside-maneuvering. Because of my long association with inboard vessels while working as a Merchant Marine officer, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of that kind of power, especially on the boathandling front. Inboards are wonderfully simple: You just center the rudder and stick to three basic precepts. Back down on the starboard engine, and the starboard quarter goes right; back down on the port engine, and the port quarter goes left; back down on both engines, and the whole shebang moves straight aft. Stern-drive powerplants? Having to steer my propellers backwards, while keeping in mind the aforementioned stuff, causes my synapses to overheat and steam to emanate from my ears.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.