Fiesta Vee 342 — By Capt. Bill Pike
The Ultimate Comparo
|Part 2: Docking was a real mindblower.|
Ever had all your cherished preconceptions blown slam out of the water? Although the inboard version carried an extra 25 gallons of gasoline, which added 155 pounds to her load (6.2 pounds per gallon of gasoline x 25=155 pounds), she ran a full 10.5 mph slower, way slower than the extra fuel could possibly account for. Moreover, although the inboard boat uniformly consumed less gasoline from the standpoint of fuel burn alone, it was significantly less efficient when speeds were factored in. The most dramatic example of this occurred at 4000 rpm. While the fuel burn was slightly less than the stern-drive version’s, it was approximately 20 percent less efficient all-told.
Open-water performance was a bit surprising, too. Besides the stern-drive 342’s ability to cut sharper, more responsive turns in open water (an anticipated development wholly attributable to the side-to-side articulation of her I/Os), I noted a bigger-than-expected plus: The stern drive evinced considerably less bow rise coming out of the hole, and it also manifested a much shallower, more efficient running attitude on plane. All this was due to the substantial lift double-prop Bravo Three drives are famed for, I’d say. Tucking them in against the transom while throttling out of the hole produced extra lift at the transom, thus levering the bow down. On plane, extra lift accomplished much the same thing.
But docking was the real mindblower. Several times I eased the stern-drive version of the 342 into her slip like she was a little ol’ pickup truck—the steerable Bravo Threes displayed incredible traction and tracking. Trying to dock the inboard version, on the other hand, was challenging on two counts: 1) Although our test boat’s 320-hp, gasoline-fired MerCruiser Horizons are excellent engines, they simply didn’t have enough bottom-end maneuvering torque to be authoritative; 2) Our single-lever Mercury engine control functioned poorly, with détentes so faint I found it hard to know where I was—reverse, forward, or neutral.
Late-afternoon showers started to loom just about the time we finished up on the bay. As Waggoner and I eased on back to the marina, him driving one 342 and me the other, I felt just a tad conflicted. The performance-type advantages of the stern-drive version were undeniable and significant, especially considering the fact that Rinker is selling it for $1,700 less. But the real-world virtues of the inboard were undeniable too, at least for those of us who keep our boats in salt water. Stern-drives are prone to corrosion in such an environment and they generally require more maintenance, repairs, and haul-outs.
A compromise snuck up on me, at last. If I were shopping modern, midrange, midcabin cruisers for use on the Great Lakes, I’d go with the stern drive—no question. If I were shopping modern, midrange, midcabin cruisers for use on the coastal Atlantic (and I had a little extra cash for incidentals), I’d go with the stern drive again, believe it or not
But hey, I’d stow this stout little cruiser on a great, big, whopping, corrosion-thwarting lift!
Rinker Phone: (574) 457-5731. www.rinkerboats.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.