Last summer high fuel prices nudged Ken Salch, the owner of the Regal 33 SAV above, into buying a set of Sharrow Props. He says he’ll get his money back in 2-3 years because he puts 130 hours a year on his engines, most at cruising speeds. But he ended up getting more than he bargained for.
Some of Ken Salch’s best childhood memories are of boating with his dad, so when he began to raise his own family on the west coast of Florida, there was no question that he would share those experiences and help his two children create happy memories of their own on the water.
Ken’s first boat in Florida was a 240 Sundancer, in 2010, but as his son and daughter grew into teenagers, it became clear that the family needed an upgrade. He chose a one-year-old Regal 33 SAV, partly because his wife Melanie fell in love with the bow seating area up front, where she could take in the views and hold court with friends and family.
Ken, on the other hand, appreciated the sun protection provided by the boat’s hard top, and the two kids liked to go down in the cabin and stay dry while they weather the thunderstorms and squalls that occasionally pop up on Tampa Bay. The whole family liked the large head with a separate shower.
With a full cabin and head, the Regal is a boat that can certainly handle overnight outings, but Ken and his family use it largely as a dayboat, with plenty of seating and capacity to invite friends along – sometimes as many as 11 or 12. (The Salch’s 16-year daughter, Megan, loves to invite her high school friends out for a day of boating.)
Their destinations of choice are Egmont Key and Anna Maria Island, a 30 or 40-minute ride out from their home in Apollo Beach, in the heart of Tampa Bay.
Ken, Melanie, and their teenage son and daughter thoroughly enjoy motoring to the outer edges of the bay, where they can anchor in their own slice of paradise, off the white sands and gin-clear waters of the local keys, and from May to October they were out on the water almost every Saturday and Sunday.
$8 per Gallon Fuel!
But when gas prices hit $8 per gallon at the local marina over the summer of 2022, fuel efficiency suddenly became a much bigger consideration for Ken and other boaters. In his first two months of owning the boat, going out every Saturday and Sunday of every weekend to the barrier islands, he was traveling 120 miles per weekend.
If he continued using the boat every weekend until late October, which was his plan, he would be running the boat about 3,100 statute miles for the season. He was getting 1.0 statute mile per gallon so the math was easy: Ken would be spending over $24,000 for fuel alone!
Of course, Ken wasn’t the only person in the Tampa Bay area putting a lot of miles on his boat. A friend who owned a World Cat was also reeling at the high fuel prices.
Ordering a Set of Sharrow Props
After reading about Sharrow props on BoatTEST, both Ken and a friend who owned a 32’ World Cat decided to try out a pair of Sharrow Marine propellers. They were pricy, but Ken estimated that if he could achieve the 30% fuel savings at the 25 to 28 mph speeds that he liked to run, the new props would pay for themselves in fuel savings in two or three years.
Together they decided to take the plunge, and spend $10,000 each for a pair of Sharrow props for their Yamaha 300-hp engines.
The Sharrow Guarantee
When we talked to Ken, he told us, “Sharrow guaranteed I’d see a significant increase in efficiency and range, or I’d get my money back.”
Ken soon learned that Sharrow Marine is as good as its word. The company sent a team to Florida with a set of 15.5 x 18 props, and spent a full day running tests on both the standard 15.5 x 17 props, and the new Sharrow props. The results of those tests have been supplied to us by Sharrow Marine, and Ken Salch was at the helm during the tests to verify the numbers.
On Plane at a Lower RPM
While the improvement in efficiency and range had been the main selling points, Ken soon found that he was also getting some unexpected performance benefits: “With the props that came on my twin Yamaha 300s,” he said, “I had to be going at 28-30 MPH to stay on plane. If I slowed down at all I had to use the tabs to push the nose down or I would fall off plane,” he explained. “With the Sharrow props I can get on plane at a much lower RPM.”
“On a windy and rough day, the boat rides best at 25 mph, but when I have a crowd aboard with my old props I had to keep the throttle at 4000 RPM or even more to stay on plane,” Ken said, “and whenever I’d drop below that threshold, the boat’s speed immediately go from 30 to around 18 mph. It’s one speed or the other.”
Staying on plane required extensive trimming, he told us, with the ensuing loss of fuel efficiency because of the added drag from the tabs.
With his standard propellers, Ken had found that the cruising sweet spot for fuel economy was 32-34 MPH (see chart below), but in choppy seas he’d pull back to 25 MPH getting 1.0 MPG.
“But with the Sharrow props I can cruise on plane at a much lower speed and make the ride much more comfortable for my passengers and get 1.35 MPG,” he said.
Better Handling Offshore and at the Dock
Ken also found that the boat’s handling improved with his new Sharrow propellers, allowing him to make tight turns without falling off plane. Around the dock he said there was also a big difference.
“When I used my Optimist joystick with the old props reverse was weak, and getting the stern into the dock was slow. But the Sharrow props really grip the water. All I have to do is just nudge the joystick and the boat responds. It makes it much easier to dock,” Salch said.
Sharrow Props are Quiet
There was another unexpected benefit from the new props that Ken told us about: “The boat runs so much quieter. Even running at 4,500 RPM you can talk without shouting.” This is not only because the boat is running at a lower RPM, but also because there are no “tip vortices” with the Sharrow props. That is what causes most of the noise.
We had a wide-ranging conversation with Salch. He said that by running at lower RPM, there was less vibration and would be less wear and tear on his engines. He also said that his daughter was somewhat uncomfortable running the boat fast because of the noise and high RPM. With the Sharrow props hopefully the operating experience will be less stressful at higher speeds.
Cruising the Dry Tortugas
One of Ken’s dreams for the new season is to go with friends to spend a weekend at the Dry Tortugas. The trouble was, with the standard boat and props, he couldn’t make it even if he topped off at Venice, FL, because he’d run out of fuel before reaching Key West. (There is no public fuel available in Dry Tortugas.) The greatest range with the standard props was 230 miles at 34 mph – a speed he couldn’t comfortably achieve if it were rough.
The testing proved that the Sharrow props have a range of 273 miles at a more comfortable 26 mph, with a 10% fuel reserve. That would make the cruise very doable with a 10% fuel reserve. In fact, Optional Upgrade could make it all the way home from Key West on one load of fuel with the Sharrow props, but not the standard props.
“With the Sharrow props I can make it,” Ken said.
Thanks to his boat’s improved range and fuel efficiency with the new Sharrow Marine propellers, Ken has now started to contemplate longer, more ambitious runs where he is sure to carry on creating happy memories with family and friends.