I knew I was in for it. As with most things sailing related I was expecting an inflated price tag. Shopping around I was stunned that it would cost me more than I had paid for the boat fully outfitted just to replace the motor, and that was if I did all the work myself. Used motors all looked dodgy, and I couldn’t help but wonder why these motors were on the market. Where was the hidden flaw or worn-out part that inspired the previous owner to go through the trouble and expense of removing the motor? Why were the purveyors of these engines always unclear on the details and origins of the machine?
I set out to find a better solution: one I could afford and do myself. I’ve always been an enthusiastic sailor and hesitant marine motorist, but I needed the basic function of an engine for harbor transit, emergencies, and doldrums.
I decided that I would try and go electric. I had a little knowledge about electric motors and controllers from dabbling in the remote control car hobby. I knew motors, controllers and batteries were consistently improving. Although I had never met anyone with an electric sailboat, the idea seemed obvious in retro-spec. Every break I took from working on the boat I spent at the end of the dock looking across the harbor at the giant green factor where America’s fleet of nuclear submarines had been built. Although, now owned by General Dynamic, the old name was still denoted in two giant letters across the façade of the massive structure of “EB” electric boat.
The internet forums were the usual noise, some youtube videos showed me it could be done and eventually brought company in Southern California, called Thunderstruck-EV. They provided components for all sorts of DIY electric vehicles, boats being one of them. I shopped around and compared features and specs, and Thunderstruck seemed to have the best product on the market.
So after a winter of struggling to fix the old engine, time was running out with summer fast approaching. So I bought the system Thunderstruck had on offer for boats around our size. The folks at Thunderstruck were great to work with. They set up the wire harnesses and sent the kit.
We never looked back. The first year our battery bank was a little small and there were a few bugs to get around finding a good recharging system, but it was great.
No more noise, no more vibration, no fumes, no oil, no fuel, and push button reliability. When first installed the motor had so much torque that if I wasn’t carful the boat could be accelerated so quickly it could knock people off balance and squat the haul. However, all these features were programmable. By controlling the spooling speeds ultimate motoring comfort was achieved.