Saturday, September 10, 2011

End of season summary

I say "end of season" but in reality we still have a few more weeks left, at least 5 I'm hoping. We've had several outings on Coincidence since the new motor went "online."

There really isn't much I would change about this system. The newness and unfamiliarity of the throttle and nature of control has gone. In fact, I find it to be much more responsive and beneficial when docking. I've had the boat out on a few days with heavy weather (on our lake: 20mph winds and 2-3ft swells). The electric motor performed as well if not better than its 15 hp ICE predecessor.

The other common reservation with electric systems, battery capacity, was one that I shared going into this. Time and experience with the new system has done much to add to my level of comfort if not completely erase this concern. Granted over time the batteries will hold less and less of a charge but this will be a gradual process. The bank's lifetime expectancy is around 1000 cycles provided they are well-maintained. Battery abuse has a lot of gray area, but an example would be heavily discharging them then letting them sit for a week.

On one particularly long motor outing I took them down to about 65%. We motored for over 2 hours at 4-5 knots, at a distance of 5 or 6 miles. When motoring in heavy seas, I saw depletion of about 6-8% after heading into wind and waves for about 2 miles.

While I do dread having to put the boat in storage for 6 months, I do look forward to the winterization process (or lack thereof) for the new system. Draining and replacing the outdrive oil is about all that will need to happen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Updated data

I realized I never posted new performance data. As mentioned in an earlier post, the knotmeter was off considerably. Below are the new figures. This time around I also made sure the boat had come up to speed for a full minute or two before taking a reading.


2.4  /  14.6  /  6  /  50  /  720
2.8  /  8.5  /  10  /  50  /  920
3.7  /  3.6  /  23  /  49  /  1170
4  /  2.7  /  29  /  49  /  1290
4.6  /  1.6  /  47  /  48  /  1460
5  /  1.2  /  63  /  48  /  1730

Scott at Electric Yacht is generally pleased with the performance, but said he expected a little better. I was hoping to get 5.5 to 6 knots, which is close to the boat's theoretical hull speed. Scott said this could be approached with a swap of one of the pulleys transferring power from the motor to the outdrive. I may opt to do it in the off season.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Electronics and waste

After a few more outings the motor (and myself) are settling in. Shortly after taking the new system online, I realized my instrument pods weren't working. Knotmeter is operational but that isn't powered--anemometer, wind indicator and depth gauge aren't showing any signs of life. I think it's a good thing that all are not working, indicating it could be a fuse or switch, which should be easier to diagnose than an individual wire. These were hit or miss in the seasons prior but last year I finally found the ground issue that was causing the problems. Then the motor went out. So now that the motor is working, the instruments are not. Nothing totally necessary at this point though.

Also, a few days ago I realized the head is having issues too. I much more like dealing with electricity. It's less dangerous.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Second outing

Took family out this evening--and recorded more data using two GPS units. Apparently my knotmeter is due for calibrating. Full throttle is giving me about 5 knots.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shore power

I hooked up the shore power today to top off the battery bank. Even though the battery monitor was showing a 77% charge, the charger indicated somewhere in the low 30s. The manual states this number shouldn't be interpreted as progress to full charge, i.e. it could take 2 hours for it to go from 30% to 40%, then another 2 to get to 100%.

I didn't want to leave it unattended, so my wife, son and I rigged the boat and cleaned it while it was charging. It was plugged in for about 3-1/2 hours and it got up to about 85%. We had finished up everything we needed to do, so I disconnected the power cord and checked the battery monitor. It read 100%--confirming my suspicion that the monitor may not indicate the same charge as the battery charger.

Later,  I returned to the boat and hooked the charger up again. The readout indicated 85% and within 15 minutes it came up to a completed charge.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First outing - commissioning

I was getting anxious and finding someone who was willing to go out and help me with this was proving more difficult than I thought. May have been the way I posed it: "Hey, I just put a new motor in my boat, would you like to go out with me and test it out to see if it works? No, not sure how long it will take--probably depends how it works. Could be 45 minutes if it works great. Could be half a day if I have to tow it back. Why wouldn't it work? Oh I don't know. Because it's a boat. With an electric motor. Yes, electric. Um, 4 batteries. Yes, people have been using electricity to power boats for years--granted those people probably know a lot more about this sort of thing than I do."

Also, many of my friends' experiences on the boat have been tainted by outings on the boat when the old motor was in place (and semi-operational). Not many quite enjoy the smell of gasoline and exhaust from 2-cycle engines as I do. Something I may miss with the electric.

My wife and 6-year old son like things to go as planned when at sea. My son has very high expectations for the new motor after hearing about it for the last 9 months, and will probably be disappointed the new motor still won't make the boat go as fast as a Cigarette boat. So I thought I'd try the commissioning myself. 

I wasn't overly thrilled--but mostly due to the nail-biting experience of trying to make it through a shallow channel to get to open water. It takes me a few times to get to know where the channel is each year since the placement of the marker buoys isn't based on science or with any accuracy.

There was a 5-8 mph headwind heading out. Here are some readings I took:

w/ 5-8 MPH headwind

3.75 knots / .9hrs / 69A / 47V / 1770 RPM
3.5 knots / 1.2hrs / 54A / 47V / 1750 RPM
2.5 knots / 1.7hrs / 40A / 48V / 1530 RPM
2 knots / 6.4hrs / 12A / 49V / 1000 RPM

with tailwind
3.75 knots / .9hrs / 69A / 47V / 1750 RPM
2.5 knots / 1.6hrs / 43A / 48V / 1500 RPM
2 knots / 5.7hrs / 13A / 49V / 960 RPM

I made a slight adjustment then took these readings (still with tailwind)
2.5 knots / 2hrs / 35A / 48V / 1330 RPM

Overall, the motor ran smooth but seemed to be a little erratic at lower speeds (motor would rev up and down). Seems overly sensitive at certain spans. Upon return, battery level was reading 77%. In hindsight, I probably should have double checked my knotmeter with a GPS prior to the test.

I haven't been able to bounce these off Electric Yacht yet. I'll plan to share these with Scott next week to get his opinion. This one of the first few EY installations with the Sillette saildrive. The OEM engine was a 15hp, with effective hp probably closer to 10. I seem to be in that range with the new motor.

I still need to arrange my shore power connection. I have an outlet about 75 ft away from my slip, and due to nearby slips I may need to jog the boat down a few pilings to get the cord to reach. I'm really hoping the length doesn't affect the charger. It would be ironic to have to pull up to the gas dock to use the outlet there.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dry run

Did a dry run motor test today at the boatyard. I can't tell you how nice it is to have a motor that doesn't require water to cool itself. It was impossible to start up the old motor while out of the water.

I had to make a few adjustments to the controller based on throttle orientation--other than that it worked as it should. Throttle seems very touchy but probably due to lack of resistance. I'll plan to launch and commission the motor sometime over the next few days. Hopefully minor things at this point like adjusting the power output, confirming voltage/RPMs, etc.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Batteries in place

I now have all the batteries in place, cables in order and ready for a dry run test of the system. Checked voltage of battery bank to make sure I don't fry anything before getting the rest of the components online. Hopefully will have some time tomorrow for the dry run.

Overall view showing motor compartment and lockers on the sides. Shot from fore facing aft.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Motor Controller Mounted

I had originally intended to mount the controller just forward of the motor on the bulkead in the engine compartment. It would've fit but wouldn't have had enough free area to access it. I've opted to install two aluminum rails in the engine compartment, suspending it about 7" above the floor. This arrangement was easy to put together and will provide more heat dissipation. I finished this up this afternoon, as well as running/connecting most of the non-battery cables (fuse/switch/contactor/controller/motor). I have installed 3 of the 4 batteries at this time but the devices to secure the batteries are all in place. I had to leave one out until I mounted the switch, fuse and contactor.

Photo below is prior to any "cable management." I'm hoping to clean things up a bit by securing them to the walls of the compartment. I'm also hopeful that I'll be able to keep the wiring in more of a line than a loop, which would likely cause magnetic interference with the compass on the pedestal (located just a few feet away).

The last photo shows the mounting of the fuse, switch and contactor on the bulkhead of the starboard battery compartment, formerly a gear locker underneath the cockpit seating. The cable extending from the right is going to come off the + on the battery bank. From right to left, we have the fuse, main switch, house battery switch (which also controlled the starting battery, now removed) and contactor/solenoid. From there a cable runs to the controller.

I'll be leaving town for a few days and I'm hoping to have the boat cleaned while I'm gone, leaving just a few more cable connections to make before doing a dry-run test on the motor during the week of July 11.

Engine compartment, or shall I say, motor compartment, with controller installed.

Controller with cover removed.

Forward bulkhead of starboard battery compartment. From right to left: fuse, main switch, house battery switch and contactor/solenoid. The thinner stray wire is from the charger which will connect to the + of the battery bank.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mendota Boat Works

As mentioned in previous posts, Mendota Boat Works performed the install of the motor/outdrive. In addition, they've also permitted me to work on installing the rest of the system in their facility. This has been a huge favor. I wouldn't have the space at home to do this, nor would my neighbors appreciate it.

Mounting Battery Charger

Oddly enough, mounting the charger was probably one of the more difficult aspects I had to deal with. Despite its compact design and footprint, this thing weighs about 40 pounds. I wanted it close to one of my two AC outlets, and figured I would have to add an extension cord to the 12" cord it came with. The weight prevented my mounting it to a few surfaces which I thought may be good options but were constructed with thinner fiberglass. While it might have worked, I wouldn't want the thing ripping a hole on a vertical surface. Like many boats, Coincidence is very tight and has limited access behind panels from where you could add reinforcement.

I was fortunate to have a cubby space underneath the chart table. A microwave is usually positioned in front of it, so it wasn't used for much other than electrical access. Maybe 2 or 3 cubic feet. I found that I could rest the unit on the floor of the space, but I did have to raise it slightly to get the louvered door to close. I also had to be sure the wire could reach the negative post of the battery bank. It was a perfect fit. Probably the only one in this project!

Charger mounted in cubby space beneath chart table. Black area behind it is the hull, starboard side. AC outlet is just to the left.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Motor installed

Motor installation was completed this morning. I was hoping to mount the controller forward of the motor on the engine compartment bulkhead. It would fit but would be hard to access and might make access to the motor more difficult than it should be. Since cable lengths are limited (~6 ft) I'm looking into fabricating a shelf or rails that will be located aft of the motor and raised slightly to get the controller off the floor. The controller can be exposed to moisture so long as it dries out, but I wouldn't want it too close to bilge water which may be present. The compartment is fairly dry unless it rains or excessive water is splashing into the cockpit.

On to mounting other components like the charger, contactor/solenoid, and securing batteries.

Outdrive in its final position

Motor installed, aft view. Bulkhead in background.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Throttle and Control Panel

A few things I was able to start on these past few weeks (Mid-June) was reconfiguring the control panel and making a new throttle housing. The fuel gauge and tach were obviously no longer needed and the system from Electric Yacht included a new ignition switch. Using StarBoard (a HDPE product suitable for marine use) I was able to cover up the old holes from the old components. I wanted to preserve the original appearance of the boat, not adding anything that would look out of place.

For the throttle, I thought it would be best to construct something that would attach to the wheel pedestal without having to drill any holes. I may eventually remove the old throttle and transmission levers, but doing so would leave some holes. Incorporating the new throttle into the existing holes wasn't feasible--the new throttle is larger and much more than just a mechanical lever. Using StarBoard I constructed a box to house the throttle. This may be a temporary setup until I get more comfortable with the system. The box will offer some flexibility until I decide what to do different--if anything.

Old control panel

New panel with battery monitor and new switch

New throttle with housing (front)

New throttle with housing (back)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Begin Glasswork

The boatbuilder opted to use the existing base knowing that it was very stable, level and centered. We wanted to raise the mount pad 2" to 2-1/4" to get the prop location we needed. They began fabrication of a round plate that is going to bolt down to the existing mount ring. Bolts are going to be countersunk and glassed in. 5200 adhesive will be used to ensure a watertight seal with the existing mount ring.

An additional rectangular plate with studs projecting upwards will be fabricated. The studs will be recessed and glassed in, then the plates will be adhered together with 5200 adhesive. Fiberglass mat and resin will be used around the base to fill in the gaps between the new and existing fiberglass. The rectangular base of the motor will then slide onto the studs and hard mounted to the new fiberglass.

8 holes around the round plate will secure it to the original motor base. 4 holes around center cut out will have studs that continue through rectangular plate. There will be an additional 4 studs going through the rectangular plate only.


Motor w/rectangular plate 

Both plates—rectangular plate has a rectangular cutout to accommodate rectangular relief on the bottom of the outdrive base. Circular plate has an oval shape to maximize amount of material and stability.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Engine Placement

Once we had the new motor at the boatyard, we needed to place it in the existing mount to determine optimal placement. The outdrive was available in two lengths, I opted for the longer since it gave us the flexibility of raising the motor bed/pad within the engine compartment, thus getting the prop off the keel line. The shorter version wouldn't have provided enough clearance between the prop and hull. The prop used on the old gas saildrive was 12 inches diameter. The new prop is 14".

New motor/outdrive in
position for determination
of placement

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motor and system arrives

Components of the system started to arrive at the boatyard this week. System as provided by Electric Yacht includes the motor/outdrive, prop, motor controller, charger, four group 31 AGM batteries (100Ah), throttle control, key switch, battery monitor, master switch and a few misc fuses and relays. I'll still need to get battery cables once I determine the required lengths.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Engine Removal

Regardless of which approach I was going to take (electric, diesel, outboard), I know we had to get the old engine out of the boat. This was also necessary to help rule out some engines due to size--the engine compartment, accessible as it may be being located under hatch in the cockpit, was still awkward and difficult to measure with the engine in there. This boat was built to last... and not to be maintained. Most aspects are overbuilt, which is a good thing unless you need to take something apart.

Removal of the saildrive in April 2011 revealed an almost circular mounting ring, which actually includes the flange/protrusion seen from beneath. One problem I encountered in spec'ing an engine was the length of the outdrive. It needed to be short enough so that the prop didn't fall beneath the keel line but long enough to keep the prop clear of the hull and protrusion, hence avoiding cavitation issues.

After the engine was removed,  the compartment was scrubbed and degreased, and the no longer needed exhaust system was removed. I may opt to repaint after the new engine has been installed--since there will be glasswork involved, an unpainted surface will be necessary.

Removal of engine with lift

 Engine compartment prior to removal


Compartment with engine removed

Compartment degreased and cleaned

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I've just started the process of repowering Coincidence, our 1982 Victoria 26
(Victoria Yachts, DeBary FL). Actually the process started over a year ago, when the existing auxiliary power source finally failed. It was an OMC Zephyr saildrive. 15hp of gassy, smoky hassles.

My family is fortunate to have this boat. There were less than 10 made and there are less than 5 in operating condition (to my knowledge).  I inherited it from my father who passed away two years ago. He had just one season with the boat, after searching for one for many years. I've yet to write the story of how Coincidence came to be. Another blog some day soon.

I had planned on replacing the engine with a diesel saildrive, however after research and conversations with boatbuilders, it was realized most of the diesels simply would not fit in the engine compartment without extensive modification.

After ruling out diesels I found a gas saildrive/engine system that would fit in the engine compartment, but soon realized the outdrive component would hang too low, putting the prop below the keel line. Another option ruled out. In summary, the saildrive configuration is very limiting. There simply aren't many repower options available. Converting the boat to a shaft was impossible to cost-justify given the boat's age. Another option ruled out was an outboard. Given the traditional sloped transom, a bracket mount device would've had to been made custom. Aside from non-standard mounting issues, the aesthetics of hanging an outboard off the back were hard to swallow. Shortcomings such as the possibility of having the prop come out of the water in heavy weather, and resulting steerage issues from having the prop located behind the rudder as opposed to in front, both helped me rule out this option.

I had considered the electric option when I had first started researching engines (in 2009, before the OMC had even began to show signs of trouble), but ruled it out due to the unknowns: battery life, feasibility, knowledgeable local installers, etc. After having conversations with owners of boats with electric systems I became more comfortable with the idea, and along with the lack of internal combustion engine options that would work, I found electric to be the way to go. I discovered a company I had talked to a few years back, Electric Yacht (Golden Valley, MN), was now selling a UK manufactured outdrive (Sillette) which I had considered last Fall but had ruled out due to their lack of an overall package--one that included a motor, controller, etc. Electric Yacht had before just offered solutions for shaft drive configurations.

Given the displacement and LWL of Coincidence. and considering my expectations and sailing habits, Scott at Electric Yacht recommended their 100ibl system along with a battery bank of four 100Ah AGM batteries. The system is based on a Mars 5kW brushless motor and a Sevcon controller.

While I was hoping to have a boatbuilder do the repower, I've found it necessary to be more involved with the project. There are plenty of boatyards that are knowledgeable with the install of electric systems, one in Chicago was the closest but they had only done one or two. Honestly, I found it quite difficult to get anyone interested in taking on this project. I opted to contract Mendota Boat Works (Madison, WI) to do the glasswork involved with mounting the saildrive, and I plan to handle the mechanicals (battery bank, mounting controller/throttle, wiring, etc.), under the guidance of Electric Yacht, of course.