An Electrifying Experience

February 14, 2011 in An Electrifying Experience, SEA

Sean Seamour III has a new master, Daniel will further Seanee  III’s  destiny. If I never attained the dream of a green Seanee with electric propulsion and a methanol fuel cell feeding an advanced battery bank, better yet the ultracapacitator technology Eestor promised, I did radically transform her below decks. For those who know the Nauticat and may have dreamed of a main cabin amidships have a look at the presentation Sean Seamour III.

Since the loss of Seanee II our yearning for faraway horizons has abated. Seanee III was a composite of compromises. First for Mayke to accept a new home on the water; for so many years at the end of a workday in her studio she would close the house in Port Grimaud, cross the garden and move on board for a quiet evening. I had hoped the pilothouse and redesign of the below decks layout might reconcile our loss. For me it was the challenge to build but mainly to return to the water after the ordeal.  Time and events proved otherwise.  In reality the breadth of our horizons had diminished in favour of our mountain retreat overlooking the sea, only minutes away when the urge for the water beckons. A day-sailor proved a better fit.

Sean Seamour IV

Sean Seamour IV made her Mediterranean debut this summer after 40 years on the Baltic Sea. Built in 1970 in the true tradition of the Nordic Folkboat, Seanee IV is clinker built wooden sloop originally designed in 1942 by the Scandinavian Yacht Racing Union. Her intricate latticework of planks and frames has since been an inspiration to many naval architects and her offspring perhaps as numerous. To learn more about this unique design I recommend reading Dieter Loibner’s book The Folkboat Story.

Seanee’ propulsion was a noisy 6hp Suzuki outboard that beyond its inherent nuisances ruined the harmonies of her clinker hull lapping through the water. Thierry Pacraud at Monaco Marine who had followed my previous dreams knew in an instant what I needed, an electric outboard. With her long keel and heavy displacement I was not sure an electric outboard would provide the power and autonomy needed but there were precedents, another vessel with heavier displacement had set a benchmark.

We initially installed the tiller version of the Torqeedo with surprising results (version on the picture above) but I was weary of the low position in following seas and the risk of corrosion. Torqeedo management was quick to respond to my concerns and we moved to the fully marinized Cruise version. Thierry had me install two Crown heavy 110 amp duty deep cycle batteries to output 24 volts DC and off we went on sea trials before the Voiles de Saint Tropez regattas.

Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 under way

As the Cruise unit is designed to be installed with a steering unit I considered rigging it to the rudder but this would require a disconnect attachment when lifted under sail so I temporarily used a bungee cord to hold it in alignment.  In the end this proved practical manoeuvering in harbour as I can direct the thrust before Seanee has steerage, notably in reverse.  I can sit on the rear deck and use the motor to drive the stern out of the slip then swing the bow into the channel.

The Cruise version with its remote throttle and information display is a great plus oveer the tiller version. I temporarily attached it to a board that easily stows when under sail.

Remote controller and information center

I have not yet defined the optimal fixed positioning for the unit; allowing an easy readout of the information requires a flat surface which is always used on a sailboat.

This year’s Voiles de Saint Tropez were marked by the absence of any wind of substance. Under these conditions Folkboats are rather, say unperforming.
Staying out of the way of the tall new and old like Maraquita while enjoying from close up the magnificent sight of these extraordinarily maintained and skippered treasures in windless air put our new Torqeedo to the task.

Between 5oo and 600 watts or about a third real output (torque is immediate with an electric motor regardless of RPM) Seanee moves along in these calm waters at somewhere over three knots.

Remote controller on rear deck beside autopilot

In the end I will probably look for a rubber sole to affix under the wood support to provide a nice gip on the teak deck or bench behind the pillared traveller, when under sail stowing the unit in the drawer beneath.

My autonomy test took place early in the morning on Thursday, perhaps the most windless of the regatta days and well before the crews were preparing to make way. Timing provided the added benefit of avoiding the clutter of wakes made by motorboats circle eighting relentlessly around the fleet once sheets are up.

The sun was coming up as I reached Saint Tropez three miles into the journey

A sleepy Saint Tropez barely awakening

While the fleets lay at anchor, helped by the natural current of 0.3 knots that skirts around the Gulf  I trudge on at 3.7 knots, into then past the Baie des Canebiers to the Cap Saint Pierre at the mouth of the Gulf.

Calm prevails this year by midday air will rush to fill the rising heat of the landmass around the gulf

I have logged 4.8 nautical miles at constant speed of 3.7 knots an hour and a half into the journey.

On the readout of the controller I have been watching the remaining capacity of the battery bank, I am at 80% of  capacity and know if I reach 40% I will begin to irreversibly damage the batteries. It is time to turn about considering this the halfway point while keeping the extra 20% margin for security.

I will need some of it as the winds begin to pick up and will also need to steer away from their courses.

The chop becomes a pain as motorboats in their usual disregard for smaller craft rush from one photo take position to the next.  Seanee is slowed down by the slop of crosswaves which provides more time to take in the sight of these waking vessels.

My journey is not finished, close to three hours now and my remaining capacity is dropping slowly towards my reserve marker of 60%.  With over a mile to go I will then need to work my way up the Giscle river to my slip and manoeuvre my way in.

Every boat is searching for the minute breeze that may provide the edge

By the time my lines are secure and I am ready to lock down the readout indicates remaining charge at 58%. I have logged 11 nautical miles in close to four hours.

The Torqeedo as an auxiliary source propulsion is a success.

Just imagine.

With or without wind.



An Electrifying Experience


    1. seanseamour says:

      Hello James, yes I would do it again. I doubt the propulsion technology has changed much but storage is a moving target. Don’t know if I would go Lithium Ion… yet.
      The cruise 2 was quite sufficient beating up against a brisk Mistral for the six nautical I needed to reach my slip. Do make sure you order the log shaft for your waters.
      The one weakness I discovered with the Cruise, likely amended since I informed Torqeedo, was corrosion of lead cables under the cover.
      All the best, JP

    2. James lazell says:

      Hi. I read your blog entry about using a Cruise 2 Torqeedo on your Folkboat with interest. I’m thinking of doing exactly this and not surprisingly, there aren’t many people who have gone the electric route on a Folkboat!

      I think the technology has probably improved since you wrote this. Do you have any thoughts on this? I would get two lithium batteries (expensive!), so range shouldn’t be a problem. Was the 2 powerful enough to push her along in a chop?

      Would be interested to hear from you.



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An Electrifying Experience

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