WisBusiness: New company aims to take hassle out of boat ownership

By Emily Ziegler

Ven-T Boats has a unique edge in the small boating industry. This Allenton, Wis., company has created a boat that requires almost zero maintenance, no water pump, no overheating problems and no winterization requirements. In other words, you don’t need to be an experienced boater to climb aboard and shove off into a whole new hobby.

“Our goal is to bring new people into boating. If you don’t bring them in, they can’t move up to buy other boats and engines,” said Dave Gruenwald, vice president of engineering for Brook Stevens, Inc.

Statistics suggest that once people enter into boating, they will buy five more boats over their lifetimes. But boating participation has been on a general decline since the mid-1980s when Bayliner was the last company to make a significant impact on entry level boating. One of the primary causes of that decline is that the cost of a new boat/motor/trailer package has gotten out of reach for the average consumer.

According to a recent article in Composites Manufacturing Magazine, the average outboard boat sold for $10,144 in 2001 and for $15,006 in 2005. That’s an increase of 48 percent.

Brook Stevens is planning on launching the Ven-T Boat to consumers in late 2008 and it will carry a $7,000 to $8,000 price tag.

“We aim to change that,” Gruenwald said. “By using the low-cost Briggs and Stratton engine and joining it to a revolutionary new form of the proven power-vent propulsion system, we have made a boat ‘for the rest of us.’”

Ven-T Boats, Inc. created this boat and with some help from a Milwaukee-area angel investment group. This group has committed $2 million to Ven-T Boats Inc. to get their innovative boat out on the market. The company was brought to the group’s attention at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium put on by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The 15-foot, 6-inch boat uses a surface piercing propeller in a vented tunnel. It also houses twin rudders and a reliable 26-horsepower engine. The engine is air-cooled instead of using a water pump to cool the engine. The lack of a water pump allows the boat to run quieter. The engine is also housed in a noise cover to make it quieter.

The boat also comes with “POWER-VENT.” This patented propulsion system utilizes a surface piercing propeller. This propeller system works just as well as non-surface propellers, because the propeller is twice the size of those propellers. Since the propeller is surface piercing, it sits higher than most propellers. This allows for the boat to run in only 12 inches of water.

The engine is unique but still powerful. It can pull water tubers, although not water skiers. It can reach speeds in the low 20s. A special clutch allows the boat to slow dramatically down to half a mile per hour via Slow Troll technology.

No outbound engine allows for more fishing room off the back of the boat. There is also rod storage on board and the in-tunnel, protected propeller allows for improved safety while boating.

The Ven-T Boat helps out with all common boaters problems. Prior to this technology, boaters would have to avoid muddy water as the water pump takes water from outside the boat to cool the engine and the muddy water would harm the engine. Boaters also had issues with weeds getting tangled around the propeller. With the special POWER-VENT system all the boater needs to do is drive in reverse to get the weeds off of the propeller. The inbound propeller also makes it safer for swimmers and water tubers to be in the water around the boat.

The Ven-T Boat is also less susceptible to damage. The propeller is higher and does not hit rocks as easily. The rudders are special a “pop-up” kind and they pop up to avoid being damaged by rocks and other obstacles.

All in all, a boat that should prove a lot less intimidating for non-boaters – and even experienced boaters who are ready for a change.

Ziegler is currently a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.