There is no doubt that technological advances across everything from navigation systems to performance driven engineering changes have had a big impact on the luxury motor yacht sector and none more so than with propulsion systems.
Shaft drive technology has been at the forefront of the sector for many years and its popularity is increasing with a shift ‘back’ to shaft drive by many major manufacturers.
While there has been significant choice for buyers, which at times could be a little confusing to some, the benefits of tried and proven shaft drive propulsions systems can be easily explained.
Shaft drive propulsion systems have direct straight shafts, struts, rudders, and often thrusters and trim tabs which together can pack a performance punch and are hard to beat in the long haul both in terms of maintenance as well as performance and economy.
Alternative propulsion systems such as POD Drives, V-Drives and Stern Drives provide a system where the gearbox and propellers are submersed under the hull in the water and/or engines and machinery are located further aft in the hull to achieve more accommodation space.
Having weight positioned aft in the hull with alternative propulsion systems, although adding a small amount of accommodation space, has some performance and efficiency trade offs versus straight shaft technology.
Weight distribution is critical to performance of any vessel, especially recreational vessels that require being used at various different cruising speeds and in varying sea conditions.
A neutral weight distribution is ideal for increasing the efficiency and drivability of a vessel at slower cruising speeds and increasing range, by preventing the hull from displacing large amounts of water due to an aft bias in weight distribution.
A neutral weight distribution is also well known for maximising performance in rougher sea conditions, as weight further forward in the hull settles the vessel from being bounced around by swell and chop.
It is for this reason that the majority of well established and well known offshore fishing, expedition explorer, or long range cruising boat brands opt for straight shaft drive technology.
A key consideration that is often overlooked when boat buyers are questioned with their preference to drive systems, is their preference of engine supplier.
One key downfall of various pod systems on the market, is that the systems rely on their specific engine supplier.
Straight shaft technology is very flexible as to different power options that can be integrated, so boat buyers are able to opt for the exact supplier that they feel offers the best support or resale value in their region.
Along with the flexibility of engine supplier, another key aspect where shaft drive technology offers more benefits is the flexibility of propeller specification and supplier, along with gear ratio specification.
Where pod systems limit available gear ratios to a select number of options, it is when this is met with the limitation of propellers, that it can have a large effect on the performance of a boat.
Straight shaft drive vessels offer very little limitation to what propeller supplier or specification can be used. Brands using straight shaft drive are able to extract greater performance and tune-ability from propellers and ratios than what is possible with a pod system.
The versatility and flexibility from the combination of propeller and gear ratio also enables straight shaft drive vessels to better optimise setups for various fluctuations in loads such as boats that store tenders, jet skis, large fuel capacity, large water capacity, gyros and guests, where a pod drive boat with small diameter propellers and high speed gear ratio can often be negatively affected by large amounts of fluctuating loads, limiting how boaters can use their boat.
Docking manoeuvrability and joystick systems were one of the key drawcards for alternate drive systems for many years. There is no doubt about the benefits that joystick technology offers any boater whether novice, or the most seasoned skipper. Joystick technology revolutionised the market, and made boating easier for those who may have been a little daunted in the past.
Once only available to alternative drive systems, joystick docking systems are now available to any straight shaft drive vessel, and the variety of systems on the market enable boaters to select a system that best suits their needs.
When it comes to manufacturers around the globe opting for shaft drive technology though, there is one factor that stands above all.
Reliability. The simple principles of straight shaft technology mean there are far less mechanical components and mechanical gears and components are not mounted outside of the hull, or submersed in water, which means less on-going servicing, and less headache.
Maritimo has largely stayed true to shaft drive technology since its inception and with the benefit of years of refinement and evolving straight shaft drive technology the company is now delivering greater performance outcomes than those companies who altered course, and are now re-beginning their shaft drive development.
Maritimo is now delivering industry leading performance and efficiency numbers with new generation shaft drive systems and hull designs.
It will be interesting to see where the industry heads with propulsion systems in the coming years. For Maritimo you can be assured it will be with more highly developed straight shaft drive technology.