Powerful Push: The Benefits of Pod Drives

The advent of pod drives for recreational motor yachts has taken place over a relatively short period of time. Sabre offers six models in the current motor yacht range and all models are available with pod drives; in fact only two of the six, the Sabre 54 Salon Express and Fly Bridge, can be offered with straight shafts. Our transition from shaft-driven to pod-driven models is almost complete. For those who are still not convinced, here’s an explanation of the benefits.

Commercial vessels such as tugs and cruise ships have been using pods for some time. For the tugboat operator, the ability to direct thrust in any direction as required is a huge benefit. Pods are far more efficient than conventional drives when operating in close quarters. For the cruise ship operator, there are several benefits including not requiring tugs to get on and off a dock. A cruise ship can also hover on a specific location while guests disembark to go ashore for lunch or to enjoy a sandy beach. No anchor required!

And so just as grand prix race-car technology finds its way down to the cars we drive and superyacht technologies come to every man’s motor yacht, so, too, have pods come from commercial to recreational use. I am often asked which benefit I find most appealing from the consumer’s perspective and I would rank the benefits as follows.

1) The joystick provides amazing close-quarters handling and docking in marinas where current and wind make boat-handing a worrisome event on an otherwise calm and peaceful day.

2) Vibration and sound levels are dramatically reduced because exhaust gasses are expelled through the foot of the pod. Typical sound levels are about 10Db lower than a comparable shaft-driven model.

3) Because the propellers are pushing in the same axis that the boat is moving, they are much more efficient and so fuel costs are considerably lower. This efficiency gain can vary from model to model and in most cases we have no direct comparison because our boats only come with pods. It is fair to say that we have seen gains from 10 to 30 percent depending on the model. With fuel prices where they are today, that’s a nice savings.

4) Last, but not least, the station-hold feature is huge. Volvo’s name for this feature is DPS or Digital Positioning System and Cummins~Zeus calls theirs Skyhook. Both systems hold the compass heading and the latitude and longitude of the vessel within a few feet, regardless of wind and current. They also include a built-in autopilot. Imagine waiting for a fuel dock or a bridge or even picking up a mooring ball. So simple with a station-hold feature.

Sabre installs the Volvo IPS in the Sabre 38 and Sabre 54 models and Cummins~Zeus in the Sabre 42 and Sabre 48. In the next few years other engine builders will come to market with their own pods. Caterpillar and Yanmar have both installed test systems. Pods are here to stay, as are the benefits to the consumer.

Should you want to know more about these systems, contact Sabre Yachts; we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.