Converting Dickerson 36 – Case History
I first starting thinking about sailboat electric propulsion long before I owned my first sailboat, around the time I was first learning to sail. It seemed to me at the time, and still does today, that the sailboat is the perfect vehicle for electric propulsion. That is, if you consider the sails to be the primary form of propulsion and the propeller secondary.
I feel fortunate to have had a combination of circumstances facilitate my first electric propulsion installation. As a DIY type with a love of electricity and electronics, and environmental concerns, the idea of purchasing or repairing the blown diesel engine in the project boat I had just purchased was daunting and felt like the wrong direction. As I had done for years as a computer technology professional, I narrowed the manufactures to three potential vendors after doing research in the fall of 2012.
Having chosen Electric Yacht because of the value to performance ratio, design choices such as, non-proprietary components and brushless motor and a kit approach to the product, I moved forward with the purchase. The project went well and I was able to call upon my years of experience in electronics going back to Heathkit’s I completed in the 70’s and 80’s. The mechanical and electrical installation went well and as expected. I chose to replace most of my AC and DC electrical infrastructure as part of the electric motor project so that I would have a proper support system in place for the charging and battery systems.
The only significant issue I had was pulley sizing. I worked closely with Scott communicating over email on the issue, which was a performance problem relating to low RPM. I changed the pulley three times in the trial and error process. The effort to replace a pulley on an existing installation is not insignificant. Scott was very good about sending me pulleys until we found the one that met the performance expectations set during the pre-sales process. I would have however appreciated a greater sense of urgency from Electric Yacht to provide a solution more quickly.
Operating a sailboat with an electric motor is everything that all supporters and manufactures of EP solutions said it would be so I won’t repeat them, as they are all true. The one area that I believe needs more discussion is electrical storage. Regardless of the battery bank, the boats displacement or if the motor is under or oversized, I believe the captain should take an approach towards continually replacing the electrical power consumed, and if possible, as it is consumed. My approach is when I will be motoring for a decent stretch, I start the Honda 2000 generator at the beginning of the motors usage. In time, I’ll add solar and wind power to the boat, and hopefully rely less on the generator. I feel multiple sources for recharging the batteries while underway is essential for extended sailing trips, reducing range anxiety and having the power to handle unplanned events.
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