Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The good, bad and ugly of Boat Trailers

We have sold boat trailers for many years.  We have tried several different styles and manufacturers.  Boat trailers have had the least increase in prices over the years it seems. Dyna-Ski pretty much settled in on a custom welded trailer and up until last year we sold the same brand of trailer with rare exception. The customer paid a little more and got a trailer that should last a long time with minimal maintenance we felt. My how times have changed.

Dyna-Ski 20' Closed Bow with 3 Mercury 150 Pro XS Motors.  
Now living in Canada.

Phoenix Dyna-Ski 20' Tandem Trailer for a triple.

Keep in mind that our hull shape has not changed at all as we use the same pair of molds.  The difference between the 20' and 17.6 model is 2' 6" of length and nothing else.

Notice how far back the two rear axles are located. 
We do this do to the weight of the motors all hanging on the back of the boat.

Last year I started selling tandem Phoenix trailers under the ski team models.  They trailer like a dream even with a heavy ski team triple.  The tandem Phoenix trailers we sell have four bunks including full length bunks. The full length bunks do an excellent job of supporting the gas in the large front mounted tank as well as the counter weight added by all ski teams. Sometimes it is lots of weight like 850 lbs. There are some other nice features which add to the cost of a Phoenix but seem to be well worth it.

Vertical Side Guides
Front loader style bow stop
LED Light Package
Swing Tongue
Aluminum on Fender Tops
Keel Roller on nose cross member
HD Fulton Jack
F2 Fulton Winch

One of the secrets to good trailer towing performance is towing with the boat nose high.  I tow with the tongue almost as high as the trailer jack can raise it.  The higher trailer coupler means less bouncing and better, smoother hydraulic brake performance. This also seems to make it easier to back the trailer without the brakes locking in most instances.

If you look at the brake actuator in the tongue when the hitch ball is lower you should be able to see that bouncing might cause the brakes to go on. When the tongue is high this does not happen unless you step on the brakes.  It is hard to explain but the difference can be felt when you drive down a rough road much quicker than on a smooth interstate highway.  The higher tongue while towing means improved MPG as the boat has less wind resistance and seems to stay cleaner.  The higher tongue even seems to help when towing an empty trailer.

The boat trailer brand we settled on in the past couple years have decreased in quality levels a great deal.  Most notable is the quality of the carpet on the bunks and bow stops.  The bunk & bow stop carpet has a very short life if it gets much use at all.  To help out our custoners I will sell you at cost a higher grade of carpet to recarpet your trailer bunks if you contact me. You can just put the new carpet over the old stuff if you want a quick fix.  Use lots of staples on the side and bottom.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Digital Engine Control & Monitoring

In the past year or so I'm starting to see more and more buyers both recreational and ski teams spend the money for digital engine control and monitoring. What I am referring to is ICON for Evinrude and SmartCraft for Mercury.  The ICON System is available on any V-6 Evinrude while the SmartCraft is only available on Mercury Verado engines.

Evinrude V-6 motors are all two stroke motors while the Verado is a four stroke motor with super charger.

DO NOT CONFUSE engine monitoring with engine control as both engine monitoring systems can be used with conventional cable controls and have just digital engine monitoring.  Digital control means a computer cable with data signals are used to operate the shift and throttle of the engine or engines and not traditional mechanical cables for shift and throttle control.  Digital controls are super smooth and give the ability to control motor speed more precisely than mechanical cables seem to be able to. Once you experience them it will be hard to go back to mechanical controls. Mechanical cables and controls do wear out and should be replaced over the years depending on use.  Digital controls and cables should never need replacing.

The flush mount recessed digital controls look very similar to mechanical controls but feel a whole lot different and take some getting used to.  They cannot be interchanged between systems. Can you tell the difference in the two pictures below?

The mechanical control is the top left one.  Digital on the lower right.

We have been using digital ICON technology for many years wired as a stand alone GPS Speedometer mainly in Evinrude powered Dyna-Ski Boats.  The dial readout is good for a quick glance and the digital speed readout is in hundredths of a mile per hour on the bottom of the display.  The 40 mph range (setting) works well and the digital goes way past 40 mph for those occasional runs at wide open across the lake! The speed reading in hundredths of a mile per hour on the bottom of the display can cause problems.  More on this later.*

I can hardly remember a single Dyna-Ski that does not have a GPS Speedometer since we started offering it.  Livorsi was the first company to offer GPS Water Ski Speedometers and we put a fair number of their product on Dyna-Ski Boats over the years. 

GPS systems on boats have a puck for speed pickup.  Keep in mind that GPS read out is speed over ground and not water.  The speed reading system is very similar to the ones is use on navigation systems in vehicles. Pictured below is a puck and horn on a Dyna-Ski Open Bow along with a snap for the bow cover.

Dyna-Ski built a triple Verado powered and SmartCraft digital controlled Dyna-Ski for the Hartwick Huskies way back in 2008.  It had power assist hydraulic steering so the boat could be driven with one finger and speed changes on all three engines made with a thumb and two fingers. As far as I know this boat is still in use and they have reported zero problems to Dyna-Ski.

 The Dyna-Ski boat below uses two levers to control three engines which is how Mercury and Evinrude systems currently work. Notice the boat batteries are behind the passenger seat to help reduce the weight in the back of the triple motored boat and also help balance out the boat.  Most ski team twins and all triples have ballast in the front of their Dyna-Ski boats. Some have a lot of ballast.

Dyna-Ski put one of the first ICON systems on a 20' Open Bow demo several years ago.  It is an excellent system and people that tried it loved it.  I'm thinking I will put ICON on my 1987 Hydrodyne which will spoil my son and wife forever I am afraid. I have redone and updated most everything on the boat over the years and there is information on this blog about the updates.  With the Evinrude ICON system the motor end mechanical control parts are replaced with two electrical assemblies one for shifting and one for throttle.  Each motor needs its own kit. This motor has hydraulic steering also.

There have been a few updates over the years and Evinrude has added dedicated gauges to their product line. The dedicated gauges are nice however there are a few limitations with using some of them. The first gauges were 3" and 2" now they also offer much more expensive 5" gauges.  Pictured below are the 3" and 2" dedicated gauges.

The original 3" and 2" ICON gauges can be programmed to display many different engine signals 
the new ones cannot as they are single function generally.  The original ones are still available and we have mixed and matched them for different customer needs when requested.

If you have read this blog you have figured out my background is mainly Evinrude and I'm a two stroke or two cycle fan. Twin Lakes Marine is doing a Mercury Verado with digital controls for a customer so I am hoping to get more information and pictures of this Dyna-Ski in the near future.  We are not Verado Certified as the demand for this product has been enough to spend the time and money to do it yet and we have the experienced folks at Twin Lakes Marine to handle our Mercury needs and now they are an Evinrude dealer as well. Dyna-Ski, Evinrude & Mercury so WIN WIN WIN!

Below is the setup used last summer for a triple with 250 HO Evinrude motors.  Mixture of one 3" multifunction gauge used as a speedometer primarily and three dedicated 3" tachometers 
along with three 2" trim and one 2" fuel level gauge. This Dyna-Ski 20' Closed Bow boat has it all including electric power assist hydraulic steering and a counter rotation unit on one of the three engines so the boat sits flatter and has a more even steering (less potential pulling to one side or boat twist).  This all makes the Dyna-Ski boat super easy to drive and remember it has almost 800 HP!

It makes for a neat and clean motor well also.  Notice the outside motors have the hydraulic cylinders and the center motor is connected with tie bars.

Digital controls available allow the driver to make very easy and very fine adjustments of motor speed!  The digital controls don't allow the driver to slam the motor(s) into gear so gear cases cannot be abused.  The mechanical cables associated with outboards will eventually be a thing of the past in many applications however the wide use of the mechanical systems in the past, coupled with the higher costs may keep cables and mechanical controls around for quite some time.  More and more people are seeing the upsides and paying the extra money to have the benefits long term in certain applications.  Digital controls are everywhere. Your vehicles have had them for many years so why not your boats . . . . . . .

*Please note that I mentioned about that one downside of the GPS digital readout speedometers is the digital speed reading in the hundredths of a mile per hour on the bottom of the display.  I was teaching my son to drive this past summer.  John was focused on maintaining the speed for his Swivel Skiing mother at a rock steady speed of 14 mph.  He was constantly increasing and decreasing the throttle slightly causing the boat to speed up and slow down.  I call it see-sawing the throttle. She was not happy.  Once I convinced him that the speedometer was a guide and not to make changes unless he felt the boat speed change or saw the angle of her ski change he did much better.  The old famous "standard" Air Guide Pitot tube Speedometers that every manufacturer used for many years on ski boats were slow to show speed changes so it made the boat seem easy to drive or hold steady at various speeds.  The boats still are pretty steady!  I could write a book trying to explain that the boat is not actually changing speeds and that the system that gives the readout is using a finer of measurement of speed than is needed.   Not to mention that it is speed over ground and not water that is being shown on them.  I hope this makes some sense as it is not the focus of this article. In the old family ski boat I have a pitot tube Air Guide and a GPS Speedometer on a lake that has lots of weeds in some places.

Bimini Top on a Dyna-Ski

Dyna-Ski Boats has had some inquiries about Bimini Tops on our boats. It seems that the first one of anything we do is difficult.  My heart and head told me not to build a demo Dyna-Ski with a bimini top.  Better to have a customer that wants one to do the leg work and report on how it turns out. Rod Penner who just repowered his Dyna-Ski boat with our help decided he need a bimini top and ran with the ball!

Rod lives on Lake Dyna-Ski as I call it.  Lake North in South Bend, Nebraska is a hot bed for Dyna-Ski Boats.  His first motor was the Evinrude V-4 130 E-Tec.  The new motor is a Evinrude V-6 135 HO.  While it is only 5 more horsepower I am looking forward to a complete report on how much of a change this motor is from a fellow that pulls a lot of water skiers all summer long. You know the boat gets lots of use as he skied the decals off of the boat!  I will have to get him some new decals.

We do a lot of our skiing in the late morning to early afternoon the high sun overhead can create problems both from a heat standpoint and exposure to cancer causing UV rays. The best solution for those problems is a bimini top, so I decided to do some research. I looked locally, searched the big online retailers, and searched bimini tops using my favorite online search engine.

First off, I have no financial interest in any of the bimini top sellers, and the opinions expressed are mine and mine alone, and your results may be different than mine. After looking at many options I chose to purchase my top from ANP inc from Ontario, Canada. The reasons I chose ANP are 1) It is a high quality top with double wall aluminum tubing in the main frame. 2) The price was among the best I found anywhere for a comparable top. 3) They offer a nice variety of options as far as size, hardware, and fabric.

I chose the 5' length, 30-36” height, with sunbrella fabric in Jockey Red, which matches the red trim on my boat perfectly. I opted to update the hardware from the standard nylon to stainless steel, but I'm not sure this is a necessary upgrade as I have seen many older tops with the nylon hardware and it seems to hold up well.

From Pete: Dyna-Ski Boats uses Sunbrella for our boat covers.

When I received the top it was all I expected. The instructions are clear and will take you through every step of assembly in a clear and concise manner. The top comes 36” tall which looked a bit too tall for my liking, but with the use of a jig saw with a hack saw blade I was easily able to adjust that to 32”. Total time from beginning of assembly to completion of installation was about 90 minutes, but your time may vary based on your degree of mechanical aptitude.

So there you have it.  Do it yourself and save money!  Dyna-Ski Boats will continue to offer Bimini Tops as an option and we may follow Rod's lead and order them from ANP ourselves as it seems easy and turns out well!

If you'd like to read the Lake Dyna-Ski story:

Thanks Rod!