Hoffmaster’s Bennington-Chaparral-Cobalt Boats Woodbridge, VA

17 мая 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
Chaparral 224

Sterndrive vs. Inboard

The debate between these two ways of propelling a boat has raged on for decades. When I was growing up in my father’s boat dealership we hated sterndrives. I grew up in an age where the inboard propulsion system was king. But later the sterndrive has overtaken the inboard as the propulsion of choice in general purpose pleasurecraft up to roughly a 37’ Length Overall. This position paper outlines a discussion I’ve been having with others in my profession and it is not the final word, just a carefully thought out attempt to inform the consumer.

What about outboards?

This discussion avoids mention of outboard power. Outboard motors are used mostly in fishing boats, because for various reasons fishermen have a preference for outboard power. That’s a topic for another discussion.

What is an inboard?

With inboard propulsion an automotive engine is inside the boat connected to a transmission. A propulsion shaft goes from the transmission to a propeller outside the boat. The boat turns using a rudder. The steering wheel is turned by the captain who turns the rudder. The propeller pushes water past the turned rudder and that’s what turns the boat.

What is a sterndrive?

With sterndrive propulsion system an automotive engine is also inside the boat but it’s attached to a sterndrive (also called outdrive). The drive unit is the transmission AND the propulsion. When the captain turns the steering wheel the entire drive turns.

Some of the arguments for and against each

Back in the day when we sold inboard boats exclusively inboards were much more dependable than sterndrives. The sterndrives have much more machinery outside the boat than inboards do. That used to make them very troublesome. On the other hand they were a lot more fuel efficient and had a much tighter turning radius.

Fast forward to now


The company I sell boats for is really trying to sell more boats that work for wakeboarding. Wakeboarding is replacing waterskiing as the primary type of water boarding activity because of its similarity to snowboarding and so every boat builder is attempting to capture this way to have fun on the water. As a result I was looking at a Mastercraft (www.mastercraft.com) boat brochure. Mastercraft is a premium inboard tow boat builder and if you are in the market for an inboard tow boat they definitely merit a look. Inboard boats dominated the waterskiing boat market because they dominated the tournaments. They make some compelling arguments for inboard tow boats, some of which are special to the Mastercraft brand:

Chaparral 224

The inboard boats draw less (they need less water to float) than a sterndrive does if the sterndrive is all the way down. The mastercraft’s inboard system turns more tightly than a lot of sterndrive boats. The inboard tow boats put out a flatter wake for waterskiing. The system is simpler if you strike a submerged object so it’s cheaper to fix than a sterndrive unless the drive manufacturer uses a drive saver coupler. For example, Volvo Penta uses one in their SX, DP-s and OSi drives. Because of several factors an inboard boat will hold a speed more easily than a sterndrive. This is mitigated by the use of a cruise control unit called Perfect Pass for more experienced wakeboarders.

Compelling arguments for the sterndrive boat:

The sterndrive boat will go faster than the inboard with the same horsepower. The sterndrive boat will also go faster at any given RPM than the inboard tow boat. This means the sterdrive uses less fuel. In some cases it uses a lot less fuel. On some boats we sell the difference is 20%-25%! The sterndrive draws less when the drive is tilted up. In anchoring situations this is an advantage because a lot of time you anchor in shallow water. You can run your boat at idle with the drive almost all the way up. Parts are more readily available for sterndrives, whether the Volvo or Mercruiser brand. That means less down time. Sterndrive boats have more versatile seating arrangements. Since not as much ballast is needed to weigh down the back of a sterndrive boat you can seat more people even if you are using water ballast when wakeboarding. On an inboard boat you might have to use 1,000 pounds of ballast to create the kind of wake the wakeboarder wants. This is just for serious wakeboarding where a ballast tank is used. Many boats don’t have them. Better sterndrive boats turn almost as tightly as the best inboard tow boats. Sterndrive boats tend to run better in rough water, due to their sharper deep vee hulls. This is meaningless on a small lake perhaps but on a larger lake or tidal water it’s crucial. An inboard boat goes in reverse to one direction no matter the position of the wheel. This is harder than with a sterndrive, where reverse thrust is directional.

So I’d lean towards a sterndrive boat for a family that wants to wakeboard.

Safety issues

There is one absolute non issue that I wish Mastercraft would remove from their brochure. Take a look at the illustration to the right. This picture implies that a sterndrive is extremely dangerous because of the proximity of the propellervery different from the way the propeller is pictured in the photo below. In addition, in the photograph (of a Chaparral 224 Wide Tech Xtreme) the drive is up. When the drive is down the platform protects the drive even more. There is no safety issue here. Very misleading to me. Finally, the caption for this illustration in the brochure says to never board the boat with the engine runningso what’s the point?

I invite comments by email to joe@hoffmasters.com and wish you best of luck in your search for the truth and the right boat!

Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224
Chaparral 224

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