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Yachts and Weight Gain

Michael PetersSightlines - January 2014

Calorie Counting

It’s not just about milkshakes and Big Macs anymore.

Admit it, we have all binged at McDonald’s more than a few times in our lives, or they couldn’t have sold the billions and billions they claim. But have you bought a Big Mac since they started posting the calories on the menu board? Big Mac—590 calories, super-size fries—610 calories, and large chocolate milkshake—700 calories: 1,900 calories, wow! Compare that to the recommended 2,500 calories per day and it is virtually impossible to order this stuff without feeling guilty when you see the numbers. We all know a steady diet of fast food can lead to a heart attack, but what about the diet we are feeding our boats? The truth is, our boats are getting fat, too.

Streets of Monaco from Yacht Island Design
Yacht concepts like Streets of Monaco from Yacht Island Design take the idea of an overweight yacht to new extremes. What do you think about the plethora of onboard accessories? Let Michael know at inbox@pmymag.com

The trend over the past 20 years is beamier boats and these tubby forms by themselves are hard enough to push though the water, but compound the problem with today’s menu of “standards” and we now have genuinely overweight boats. These new lists of standards read like yesterday’s “options” and not long ago were totally nonexistent altogether. Who would have dreamed that must-haves would include things like exterior air conditioning, cockpit ice shavers, and the return to teak decks. On many yachts standard equipment now includes: hydraulic transom platforms, passerelles, diesel drive pods, sliding sunroofs, Sub-Zero refrigerators, granite countertops, hull-side windows, gyro stabilizers, stern thrusters, dinghy garages, watermakers, and Jacuzzis. All of this cumulative weight comes as the evil enemy of performance, making your boat strain as it vainly attempts to plane. Your boat will forever have a future of poor health and gasp for fuel everywhere it goes, if you make too many of these irresponsible choices.

 Would it make a difference if you knew a hydraulic lift with a PWC on it weighs as much as 1,700 pounds, or that a passerelle weighs 400 pounds, or a Sub-Zero refrigerator weighs 500 pounds, or a Seakeeper gyro stabilizer weighs anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds? Typically, extra added weight can be measured in the thousands of pounds these days and tends to center around the boat’s butt, and have you ever seen anything with a big butt run well?

Earlier generations of boats did not have to lug this stuff around. When asked how fast a boat will go, my standard answer is: “Your boat will run exactly as fast as what it weighs.” It all comes down to the horsepower-to-weight ratio and the more modern inventions you add the slower your boat will run. Trying to compensate with lighter, high-tech composites is a fool’s game that can never catch up and the ever increasing horsepower from today’s diesel engines is consumed by the added weight of these things. Nothing can save as much weight or add as much performance as simply leaving the stuff off the boat to start with. Count your calories and make smart choices.

I don’t want to be the Mayor Bloomberg of the yacht business and impose a nanny-state directive to eliminate these Big Gulps of our industry, but I don’t think anyone considers how detrimental these options are, except for maybe when it comes to the cost of them. It seems like every boat we design now, from 40-footers on up, has the same features list. Does a 40-foot outboard boat really need a gyro stabilizer? What happened to people that they can’t stand the natural movement of a boat anymore? I have always had the philosophy that a good boat should be able to take care of itself at sea. If a boat isn’t overloaded or top heavy it will be okay on its own. But you can kill it with weight.

If you take the time to add up the weight of all the options that you want on your boat, it may really surprise you. Then ask your salesman or builder if all that weight makes a difference. Ask if the added weight will hurt your boat’s performance or seakeeping ability. Or do you really want to know?

Just like when you pull into McDonald’s, you know what you are doing, but you just may not want to be faced with the truth. After all, it sure makes it a lot easier to indulge when you don’t see the calories listed. So go ahead and order. Go ahead and say, “Supersize me.” It’s only your boat we are talking about.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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