It’s been 6 seasons since I made one of the best decisions of my life and purchased my 47’ (Constant Dilemma).  I absolutely love the boat, but I’m starting to consider boats that cruise a little faster to expand my weekend cruising radius on the Chesapeake Bay.  (I just had my first child and the way I use the boat has changed) My ideal would be to find a boat similar to Jim Mathis’s (Lena Estelle) on the east coast for less money.  I know this might be a tough request, but I figured I’d ask here.  If anybody knows of any leads or hears of anything in the future, please let me know.  I’m thrilled using and enjoying my 47’ until I find the right boat!

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What are you looking to change?


More speed (and 12 Volts would be nice). I get jealous when I see yours!

A smaller boat is probably more realistic than more speed out of a 47. Not that it’s no possible, just expensive. 

How about new gas engines for your 47?  When not full of gear, we top out at 26 MPH.

Time to call Lee Dahlen and make it happen.  ;)


But, realistically, a different boat is probably I am wondering what a pair of 8.1s with transmissions would cost.

New engines (then I'd do a new electrical system) is more of a project than I want to take on. I'll just keep looking. 

What engines do you have now ? What speeds do you get ? Does the boat plane ? Do the trim tabs work? Do you have the correct props ? 

When I got my 47 it wouldn’t plane, just pushed water. Lot of people said it was normal with 853’s and the boat was just underpowered and oh well. I was like are ya’ll nuts, they ran 20+ knots from the factory and a 10+ knot difference is waaaay more than fuel levels or pots and pans could account for. After correcting everything my boat now cruises 16 and will reliably hit 20 on gps, slightly more or less depending on fuel levels, and by that I mean like a knot. Unless you want a sport fish style boat or it’s an unlimited budget and you can shoehorn C12’s in there or something and burn 70gph, then these speeds are about what you’re going to get out of this size and weight.

Trading boats or repowering is far more expensive than working with what you’ve got. 

The boat I sold this spring is what you want, and don't.  Cruisers Yachts 375, 20,000-lb, twin 8.1 Horizons, deep-V, it cruised at 27mph burning 40gph and topped at 35mph burning 60gpm.  Aft cabin, huge interior space for it's size, 6.5' ceilings everywhere, full galley, aft suite had a bathtub in the head.  Huge flybridge for entertaining.

Those engines seem made for pushing big boats, torque was plentiful all the way to redline, night and day difference compared to any other gas engine I've run in a big boat.

But the balsa core would surely fail some day.  The decks and superstructure had so many factory holes that were not sealed through the balsa core, it would have cost me a solid summer to seal them all, and hopefully there wasn't already moisture in the core.  There was.  The balsa core hull was probably better done, but I didn't know and didn't want to find out.  Great performing and layout, sad to have to sell it.  Except for over $100k back in my pocket.

That is why I'm here, I've found a solid glass Commander I don't have to worry about.  I worried about the Cruisers.  The Cruisers was a luxurious and impressive live-aboard for a small family, my commander is a spartan fishing boat without even an enclosed cabin, but I think I'll love it when I get it home in the spring. 

If I needed a family cruising boat again, I'd drop a pair of 8.1s in a boat like yours, would not get a more modern boat.

This is a different strokes for different folks thing. A pair of 8.1's in a 47 will run about 26 knots WOT, a guy in Vancouver or Seattle or somewhere over that way did this same repower from the factory 427's. After a bunch of prop dialing that's what they got the boat to run. Which is impressive at first blush.

But - and this has been debated on here before so in the interest of saving time finding the thread I'm just going to give you the bottom line - you can't run a gas engine at or near WOT, they're not made for it. Naturally aspirated diesels you can run at 80% or 90% power with no problem. The factory manuals for my 8v53's state that's the recommended cruise speed for them. Given the fuel consumption even if you could run a gas engine at those power settings you'd have to tow a fuel barge behind you.

The actual cruise speed on the 47 with 8.1's was the same 16 or 17 knots that I get with my detroits, except with worse fuel economy. I had a sea ray express that had twin 7.4 mpi's in it. I would cruise around 18 knots and the fuel burn was just abysmal and got worse the faster you went. That boat held 300 gallons of gas and if I actively used the boat on the weekends I was filling it up every couple of weeks for $700 a pop. The old adage that fuel is the least expensive thing you put in the boat doesn't hold up up with large gas-powered boats. Once you get up around 20,000 pounds it just gets to be a lot of boat for gas.

My 47 holds I think 375 gallons of diesel and I fill it up like once every 4 months if I'm actively using the boat. The diesels are a lot less troublesome than any gas marine engine I've ever owned. You can reasonably expect thousands of hours instead of 1500 hours on average. There are outliers of individual diesels blowing up early (mostly the new computer-controlled ones where the ECU's are $10,000 by themselves- jesus) and random gas motors turning in 3000 hours, but those are the exception.

You couldn't pay me to go back to gas. If he already has diesels then doing a gas repower in this size boat makes little sense. The other ones have been gas-to-gas repowers. Last point, and it may or may not be important to you, but there's no market for 50' gas motoryachts. I have watched exceptionally maintained 47's come on the market and sit for years because they're gas. The problem with Lena Estelle is the price. It's a hard reckoning that spending $200k on a $90k boat means you still have a $90k boat. When the price on that gets around $100k it'll sell. 

I understand these are likely not popular opinions, but they're true.

Good advice Chris.  In my search for an old Hatt or Commander, I found occasional boats with newer engines.  They were generally asking about or less than what it probably cost them to re-engine.  I ended up only looking at those, generally the rest of the boat was in great shape to make it worth new engines.  So it appears you won't get a lot of resale value out of new engines.

In my search a few years ago for bigger and newer boats, I found a lot had rebuilt or replaced diesels.  I thought that was odd, but did some research, and there is a lot of complaining about the longevity and durability of modern marine recreational diesels.  They are lighter, higher-performance, lower emissions, and not as durable.  Recreational boats get a very different engine than commercial boats: higher revving, higher output, much lighter and less money (but still spendy, my neighbor boat replaced a turbo-diesel at $100k).  They cannot run at 80-90%, that not only wears them out, but voids their warranty, and they will download the history before paying warranty.

If you have gas engines, modern versions of those engines will give you significantly better performance and longevity.  An identical boat to mine with 454s topped out at 27mph.  That was cruise speed at 2/3 max fuel flow with my 8.1s.  The 454 version couldn't really get on a nice plane where fuel flow flattened out on mine, It was a much more enjoyable boat with the modern engines.  And plan on the 8.1 lasting many thousands of hours, they were built from scratch as truck engines, and delivery trucks and shuttle vans are running over 500k abusive miles before getting inexpensive rebuilds.  Performance of boat with new 454s, won't impress a buyer like a boat with new 8.1s. 

What was the before and after for the guy in Vancouver or Seattle, 427s vs 8.1s?  The torque curve on an 8.1 is a fairly flat curve, lots of torque all the way to redline.  Every gas engine before the 8.1 had a torque curve that peaked at low rpm, and made a straight line toward zero as the rpm went up.  They were designed as car engines.  The 8.1 was the first gas engine designed specifically for trucks, to compete with diesel engines.

A rebuilt long-block 8.1 is $5500, 8.1HO 425HP with the forged crank is $6k.  I'm not sure what a complete engine with accessories is, have to do some checking.  I looked at those because that is less than the cost of a 3000-service on the diesels available on my boat.  I knew if I had a serious engine problem, I could replace my engines relatively cheaply.  You would be looking also at transmissions, shafts, props, maybe gauges, but I also had the gauges on my iPad using SmartCraft over Bluetooth.

As far as fuel costs, I didn't really cruise like I thought I would.  I spent a lot of time at 8 knots burning 4GPH, can't really empty my tanks in a season doing that.  I made a few 8-hour runs over the years, that was more expensive than diesels would have been, but the difference was less than replacing my mooring lines.

Well said Chris!  Out of curiosity, what does the manual say about the recommended cruising speed? We cruised our 47’ with the same 8V53’s you have, at 2600RPM which produced about 16kts and at full throttle 18kts. Fuel burn at cruise was 25 gph.  This boat has since been repowered with DD 6V71TA engines rated at 465hp@2300RPM and now cruises at 22 knots.

Still my favorite power combo for this hull is a pair of CAT 3208TA engines rated at 450HP@2800RPM with Twin Disc MG507 gears.  These engines utilize the same mounting points as the 8V53N.  Easy install! 

Jim Rivas

Chris Wickersham said:

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