Saturday, June 27, 2009

Going electric: Part 1: The why and how


Well the diesel engine that bought both joy and misery to my sailing seasons is finally out of the boat.

I had at first planed to re power with another diesel. But, Westerbeke had no drop in replacement. So I began looking around for other diesels engines too. Finally, I was pretty sure I would go with a Beta Marine diesel. I had heard some good recommendations and I like location of the major items to service were located It would make changing oil filters, and impellers very easy. Unlike the Westerbeke 27 where I had to change the raw water impeller pretty much by feel and hoping I did not drop any screws in the process.
Then one day I was on my boat and heard the whistle of the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport ferry as it left the dock. I recalled a conversation I had with one of the crew a few years ago about what powered the ferry. He said it was diesel electric. It was an "Aha!" moment. So I began to look at the idea of repowering BIANKA with an electric motor.

After much research and mulling it over in my mind and going back and forth on what the implications of going over to electric propulsion. It would require some rethinking and precautions when planning for trips. But, always in the end I reminded myself that BIANKA is a sailboat. So I decided to do it. It may be the best decision or an expensive mistake. So come along with me as I turn BIANKA into an electric powered Nonsuch.
Because I missed out on sailing all last season I did not want to spend to much time tinkering with components. So I decided to go with a Thoosa 9000 system from ASMO Marine. I looked like the best route for me to go and pretty cost competitive with a replacement diesel and much better for the environment and those who will be sailing on board. So after contacting the ASMO Marine rep here in the U.S. I started down the road to spec the correct ASMO system for my Nonsuch and my needs. It took a few months to convince myself that this was the route to go down. There were not any comparable boats to mine that had done this. But, as the fuel prices continued to rise and my less than pleasant experiences with repairing the former diesel I decided to take the plunge and order a Thoosa 9000 electric propulsion system.


When it's a damp drizzly April in my soul there is nothing like the feeling of pulling into your driveway and finding two 45 lb packages that represent the entire new propulsion system for your boat. Well not exactly entire system. As the TV ads say "batteries not included" still I was happy to see those boxes rather than a four hundred pound diesel sitting there.


Mac said...

Hey Mike,

This looks really interesting. I have a 26C. She's not having any engine problems but there's something pretty attractive nonetheless about the clean and quiet of electric. Good luck and thanks for the blog!

Keith MacDonald
Legacy, NS26C #75, Ottawa, ON

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

I found your blog looking for tips on changing impellers, but have been musing about changing my boat's aging 8hp diesel to electric. I will be following your future posts with interest and look forward to any performance results (speed and range) you can post.


Fit the First,
Beneteau First 30
Montreal, QC

Anonymous said...

So- how's it going?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for dropping by. I am about to start updating the Bianka Blog on the conversion very shortly now that the season is over. Stay tuned. But, I will tell you this I am never going back to diesel.


bdillahu said...

Neat site... looking forward to watching your conversion.


Origen said...

I am replacing the Perkins 4108 on my boat with the 72 volt 260i system from electricyacht. Scott MacMillan has been great to work with .I had a lot of trouble contacting the ASMO dealer , no response to emails or phone calls, even after I called Denmark to ask if the dealer was still in business. I am eager to hear how your system goes. I am at exactly the same point... the diesel is out, and the system is delivered, but not installed.

Mike said...


I am into my second season with electric prpulsion and loving it. I'm glad I made the leap and would never consider going back to a diesel onboard. I did have a failure with the Xantrex battery monitor display which has put a crimp into doing more testing data. I am about to install a Paktrakr which should help me see what each battery is doing. But, no problems with the controller or motor and the boat always smells clean. I hope you like your electric as much as I do mine.

Greg Martin said...

Hey Mike, it's really impressive how well documented your experience is with Bianka. Your posts are entertaining, informative and inspirational to read. I hope you don't mind, I've re-posted (of course with pingbacks) a few of your posts on electricseas. I'll be following you, keep in touch!


Thomson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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