High-Speed Driving Tips
Story provided by John Tiger, Jr.
The Boating and Fishing season is going full bore, but as I write this we still have ice on the lake and snow on the ground (after all, late March and early April in the Northeast is still snowmobiling season). As the days go by, however,thoughts really focus on boating, and what it means to me to really let the throttle rip.
High-speed driving is what it's all about, and this time of year – before school lets out and the lakes get crowded with summer users — is the best time t fly. What better time to go over a few driving tidbits — little tips and tricks — that may be old school for the more seasoned pilots, but can give newer pad-V drivers a little “lift" (pun intended) when trying to balance that rocket ride on their boat's tiny bottom?
I get scores of letters from readers complaining that their rigs list to the port side as they pop on plane, before they really pour the coals to her. Well, that shows they're using the trim properly to get on plane.
All that's needed is a little positive trim; just a few seconds on the “up” button will bring the gearcase out, change the propeller's angle, and level the boat out for a smoother ride.
Slow-speed and midrange cruising should always be done with the trim about halfway out; this makes for a clean ride and the best fuel mileage, without porpoising (trim too high) or dragging (trim too low). In choppy Water, drop the trim slightly from a neutral setting to smooth out the ride.
Speaking of mid-speed cruising, some may be surprised to know that the best fuel mileage and propeller efficiency does not come when the jackplate is raised so that the gearcase is higher in the water. On the contrary, at those speeds there's not enough horsepower or thrust to keep the bow lifted and running free.
When cruising at speeds of 60 mph or less, lower the engine a bit. The bow will rise due to the increased thrust and the advantage given to the prop when itis dropped into the water a bit. The wetted hull surface will decrease and this results in better mileage and better performance.Keeping a sharp eye out for wind and waves will help ensure a safe and uneventful ride, even at higher speeds.
Enough of that slow-and midspeed stuff—it’s time to rip! Before dropping the hammer, though, think about this: If your rig is weight-sensitive and capable of very high speeds (listen up Allison, Bullet, Gambler, Legend, Norris Craft and Stroker pilots), consider adding a few small shot bags to the passenger-side storage box when running solo. A couple of 25-pound bags are usually just enough to do the trick. This will simulate the weight of a starboard-side passenger, it won't slow you down much, but it helps keep the boat running on the pad at high speeds, especially in cross-waves and strong side winds.
For those running a pad-V boat at higher speeds for the first time, or those getting used to a new rig (especially if that new rig is capable of much higherspeeds than the old one), adding weight while you learn is a great plan. The boat will be slower and less responsive to trim and power, but it will be easier to drive. As you get better, remove the weight a little at a time; then practice and re-learn at the lighter weight level. If you have a brave passenger, use him as a ballast– but only if you both agree to participate in the learning experience. Don't subject a nervous or scared fishing partner to your learning curve. Trim must be raised after planning, otherwise the boat will roll to the left at low speeds.Today's rigs that are setup with high-performance hydraulic steering can be difficult to “feel,” as these systems do not offer much engine-torque feedback. Be sure yours is bled and purged properly to remove all the air from the lines before trying to drive it. When driving, especially when balancing the boat on the pad, cock the wheel against the torque just a bit, to help keep the boat steady and prevent it from walking on the pad. This slight tensing against the engine's torque can provide you with just enough “feel” to control the boat, while it also provides for a psychological advantage. The feel of the slight turn is better than trying to hold the rig straight and balanced, so there's less tendency to lose control. It sounds strange when described, but it works well in practice.
Above all, keep your eyes protected (wear wraparound sunglasses or something similar) and wide-open at all times, checking far ahead for obstructions or possible danger signs. Running at 60 mph, you're traveling at 88 feet per second; at 90 mph, that figure is more than 130 feet per second. That's a lot of water to be covering far too quickly to lose your attention for even a second. Watch for wind ruffles on the water's surface. Learn to spot them well ahead so you can react with the “down” trim first, then the throttle if need be.
Keep it deck-side up!