Not long ago, I advocated the use of diesels in runabouts, but then another notion hit me like a freight train. What about tow boats?
A diesel is perfect for application on tow boats. Towing skiers and wakeboarders requires torque, and diesels have it in abundance. Tow boats also aren’t known for their speed — most top out at 45 mph — so you wouldn’t be losing anything by going with a diesel.
But think about what you would get from a diesel-powered tow boat. In addition to the aforementioned torque, you’d get greater fuel economy, if for no other reason than there is more latent energy in diesel fuel. You’d also be able to use something other than a V8, which means more flexibility in packaging.
A Yanmar straight six-cylinder would allow for larger stowage compartments in a V-drive or more floor space in a direct-drive inboard. The same holds true if you were to use, say, the Volkswagen Marine V6 available through Cummins MerCruiser.
Available in 225-, 230- and 265-hp output levels, all three Cummins MerCruiser TDI V6 engines achieve maximum torque at 2,000 rpm. That means you can spin a higher-pitch propeller, and that translates to higher speeds at lower rpm. Fewer rpm means lower fuel consumption, something every boater can appreciate.
I will go out on a limb and say that a diesel-powered tow boat is a better approach than Nautique’s new electric-powered tow boat. Nautique’s “E boat” is innovative and forward thinking, so I can find no faults with the boat, but current battery technology just doesn’t allow people to use their tow boats the way they’re accustomed to using them. You can’t spend the day on the water with your family with an electric boat because the range just isn’t there.
But with a diesel, you’d have no problem spending a weekend at the lake without having to add a drop of fuel. That’s how people use their boats in the real world, and a diesel engine would do the trick.
The same pitfalls are there, of course. In new or used boats, diesel engines always cost more up front and the fuel itself is more expensive, but you use less of it. Tow boats cost enough these days that people are keeping them longer, so the upfront costs would be amortized through reduced fuel consumption.
I’m curious what real-world boaters think. Would you pay a little extra up front on the sticker price for diesel power to save on fuel costs every season?