A speedboat or powerboat gets its power from an engine, as opposed to a sailboat which is powered by the wind. Most speed boats use one of three types of engines: inboard, outboard, or a hybrid inboard-outboard. Outboard motors are installed outside the rear of the boat and contain the engine, gearbox, and propeller in one portable unit. An inboard-outboard is configured with an internal combustion engine installed inside the boat, and the gearbox and propeller are outside.
The inboard motor has two configurations, direct drive and V-drive. A direct drive has the engine located near the middle of the boat connected to the propeller shaft that exits straight out the back. A V-drive system places the powerplant in the back of the boat facing backward with a shaft that goes towards the front of the boat then makes a V towards the rear.
High-Performance powerboats are built for speed, featuring a high power to weight ratio, steep deadrise, and narrow beam. The deadrise angle measured at the transom is often used when comparing speedboats and is defined as the angle between a horizontal plane and the hull surface. A boat with a deeper, sharper V-shaped hull has “a lot of deadrise.”
Also known as go-fast boats, these high-performance boats have spartan cabins and cockpits that seat 2–6 passengers. Designed to be fast, light and strong, and ranging from 25-60 feet in length, they are powered by high horsepower outboards, stern drives or surface drives.
Most people are familiar with these basic designs, but the following are 20 surprising things many don’t know about speedboats.
20–CALIFORNIA DOES NOT REQUIRE A LICENSE TO OPERATE A SPEED BOAT
U.S. Coast Guard data indicates that nearly 70 percent of the approximately 7,700 boating accidents reported each year are caused by operator error and not boat malfunctions or environmental factors. Incompetent boaters cause more accidents, and they tend to be more severe.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), fatalities resulting from boating accidents are second only to highway fatalities. More than 80 percent of recreational boat operators involved in fatal boating accidents lack driver training and have not attended any boater education course. An inexperienced boater lacks the knowledge required to take the proper steps in a life-threatening situation, such as a collision, fire, capsizing with a man overboard, and sinking or flooding.
Many states have liberal policies regarding boat operation, and in the state of California, for example, no boat license is required.
19–THE WATER SPEED WORLD RECORD IS HELD BY A WOODEN BOAT
Ken Warby, of Sydney, designed the Spirit of Australia, world-record-holding boat on the family kitchen table and began construction in his backyard in 1972. With a limited budget, Ken purchased plywood and timber as his funds would allow.
He used only three power tools, a circular saw, a drill, a belt sander, and several hand tools to build the boat.
He purchased three j-34 engines, 2 for $100 each, and one for $60, at a RAAF surplus auction. On October 8, 1978, at Blowering Dam Lake, New South Wales, Australia, Ken Warby set the official world water speed record of 317.58 mph (275.97 knots or 511.09 km./h) in his backyard-built, unlimited-class jet-powered hydroplane Spirit of Australia.
The record still stands!
During prohibition in the U.S., high-speed boats brought rum onshore from big yachts and cargo ships miles offshore. These were initially called rum runners, but the name changed to “cigarette boats” when they were used to outrun the Coast Guard smuggling cigarettes between Canada and the U.S.
Today, a cigarette boat is a slender, fiberglass vessel that is built for small crews and high speeds. The “go-fast” design, which raised the bar for extreme speedboat performance, was the innovation of designer, builder, and professional racer Donald Aronow in the 1960s. Aronow raced several famous boats including the Cigarette, Cary, Magnum Marine, Donzi, and Formula speedboats.