LACONIA — The boating season has begun and with it marine dealers are offering a fresh array of boats and motors to tempt enthusiasts into upgrading and repowering the fleet that will ply the waters of the Lakes Region throughout the summer.
At Fay's Boat Yard in Gilford mariners can chose between the power of a jet engine or a stiff breeze. "They look just like a regular boat," sales manager Sean Mulligan said of the newest Vortex vessels by Chaparral, noting that at first glance most customers do not realize they are jet powered. Three models are available, ranging from $35,000 to $60,000. The 20-foot boat is driven by a single supercharged 200 hp Rotax power plant while the 22-foot and 24-foot models offer a choice of either twin 200 hp or 250 hp engines. Mulligan said all three "provide instant throttle response and pin-point accuracy on demanding turns.
New at Fay's, the largest sailboat dealer on Lake Winnipesaukee, the J/70 Speedster is a spirited entry in the fastest keelboat class ever granted international status by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). With a 22-foot long waterline and carbon mast and boom, the superior performance and stability of the j/70 lends it character of a much larger boat before the wind.
At Irwin Marine in Laconia, Tara Galligan can hardly take her eyes off the new Sea Ray 350 SLX. "It's the most beautiful boat I've ever seen. The lines on it, the craftsmanship, it's a beautiful, beautiful boat, she said. The twin-engined, 34.5-foot boat seats 18 and comes loaded with everything its passengers could want on a day on the lake. "It's a good size boat, it's got everything, every bell, whistle you could think of," she remarked.
Pontoons preside at Trexler's Marina in Moultonborough, said Scott Trexler, the marina's general manager. Pontoon boats continue to gain in popularity despite a stigma from early pontoon designs. It used to be, Trexler said, that pontoon boats relied on two small pontoons for buoyancy. The bow of the boats would swamp if passengers didn't distribute themselves evenly and the boats couldn't handle powerful outboards.
"These aren't your grandfather's pontoon boats," Texler said about the vessels currently on the market. Modern versions use larger pontoons, often three of them, for excellent flotation and stability on the water. In fact, Trexler said the pontoons he's selling now have better on-the-water manners than conventional v-hulled boats, especially in choppy and rough waters. And, the large platform typical of pontoon boat design makes for great utility.
The power deficit is gone, too. Some of the Crest boats in his inventory come with a 250-horsepower Suzuki outboard, more than enough power to pull a waterskier or tube. "They're a lot sportier, more nimble on the water," he said, than people who haven't been in a modern pontoon boat would imagine.
Personal watercraft — jet skis — are a popular option for boaters with tight budgts. Brian Whalley of HK Powersports in Laconia said that this year SEA-Soo has introduced the Spark, an entry level model with a price tag of just $5,499. At the same time, Yamaha has improved the handling of its line of personal watercraft by offering a dual throttle control on the port side, which enables drivers to shift into reverse without taking a hand off the controls. "All our machines are four-stroke, which means that they're clean, reliable and quiet," Whalley said.
At Thurston's Marina at Weirs Beach, Mark Thurston touted the second generation of Evinrude E-Tec G2 two stroke outboard engines. Introduced last September, he said that the engines are 15 percent more fuel efficient, have 20 percent more torque and dispel 75 percent less emissions than conventional outboard motors while using 44 percent less fuel and 50 percent less oil. "This is a very high tech piece of machinery," he said.
Thurston said that the E-Tec G2 will run for three years or 300 hours before requiring its first scheduled maintenance. Without valves, timing belts or camshafts, he noted, "they're simple and cheaper to live with and the only thing cleaner than an E-Tec is a sailboat." Thurston acknowledged the E-Tec G2 is more expensive than competitive products, but stressed that lower maintenance and service costs soon offset the difference.
Next door, at Channel Marine, sales manager Jay St. Gelais touts the Yamaha four-stroke outboard motors the marina has carried for several years. "It's quiet and dependable," he said, noting that the Yamaha engines are well-suited to pontoon boats, including the full range of Bennington models stocked by the marina. He said that the marina also offers the Black Diamond edition of the Cruiser Sport Service 328 Bow Rider, which earned boat of the year honors in 2013.
Whether jet powered, wind blown, or propeller driven as well as rowed or paddled, boats of all kinds, like migrating birds, will return to the lakes for the summer.
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