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Old 07-06-2016, 13:11   #1
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If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

I find myself reading more and more about sailors opting for the "Zen", of no engine ... NO engine, at all ... Nada.

I find the argument for no engine exciting ... valid and in the spirit of discovery ... trailbazing, but I'm not quite ready for such a move.

Considering the "Zen", of engineless sailing, why does it appear to me that all discussions about going electric always revolve around 48 volts and 2-3 kw, or even 5+kw systems, with scads of batteries?

Why do discussions about going electric require one to mimic the EC engine that a sailor no longer wants?

I don't want an electric sailboat with a Genset(another &$%#*&#@%&$ engine). I don't want an electric motor that will guarantee me a 30 mile range with the option of going full hull speed.

But nonetheless and always, without fail, a discussion about electric motors fall quickly into the categories of comparison with either gas or deizel(you know ... I hate diezel, and it's spelled "funny" too).

Two years ago I used an 80 pound thrust Minnkota on my Newport 28 and whenever I took it into the river, I always felt that about twice the power would be more than enough for me(after all the Minnkota took me where I needed ... barely)

Is there anyone else who respects the idea of a sailboat being a near 100% sailboat with an auxillary engine(motor)? JUST an auxillary motor for docking and undocking ... nothing more ... nothing less.

Is there really something inherently wrong with wanting an "undersized" electric engine that tops out at, say 4 knots for a 30' sailboat?
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Old 07-06-2016, 13:23   #2
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

It really depends where you sail

Near where I am, there are some WICKED currents and in the summer the wind can be... twitchy.
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Old 07-06-2016, 13:23   #3
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

I am often fantasizing about going engineless, but in those fantasies the wind is always blowing 15 knots on my beam. I will be doing a trip engineless, I hope, this summer, just for fun... but there cannot be a schedule! I am taking the engine off and my new engine is a pair of oars to get me in and out of windless harbors and anchorages... I have done it a little already, so I know it can be done, but my boat is pushing the upper limit of weight for sure at 8000#!
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Old 07-06-2016, 13:44   #4
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

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Originally Posted by SURV69 View Post
Is there anyone else who respects the idea of a sailboat being a near 100% sailboat with an auxillary engine(motor)? JUST an auxillary motor for docking and undocking ... nothing more ... nothing less.


These kids are going electric with no apparent ambition to match diesel performance. You'll have to go back a few episodes to get the whole story on their electric motor installation and they haven't been out there long enough to really test the idea, but at least they're not selling anything.
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:06   #5
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

It can and has been done, was done for thousands of years, but it still isn't safe. It also isn't realistic in many parts of the world anymore.

At least on the Gulf Coast to my knowledge there isn't a marina that will allow you to sail into a slip. So figure every time you want to leave it will cost you a few hundred bucks to call SeaTow to come and get you, membership only buys you emergency tows, not convenance ones.

It used to be that you could actually tack up a navigation channel, these days if you try it you will likely be fined if it is at all busy. Because traffic seperation schemes prohibit sailing inside channels for safety. In fact you are really not allowed to sail up the Mississippi River anymore, you must stick to your side of the channel.

Many boaters also like visiting ports that years ago were off limits to vessels of their depth. Luckily with modern dredge equipment this is a possibility, but no one cuts channels wide enough to reasonably sail up. And you cannot anchor in a channel so if the wind isn't right, or changes you will have to sail out of the channel, drop anchor and wait until the wind shifts again.

All of these are obviously doable. There is no technical reason you couldn't. But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Then there is that whole, people used to die a lot on boats because they got becalmed, and ran out of water. Even day sailing without a motor you had better figure you could get becalmed and expect to spend at least a day just a few miles from land waiting on wind.
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:11   #6
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

Tide along can run at 3+ knots in places. It's fine in the marina on a calm day. Try heading into real wind and seas.
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:11   #7
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

Do what you want to do. Just recognize the consequences. With less power, you are going to lose the ability to overcome higher winds and higher currents. Marinas are leaving less and less turning room, and 25' boats often have both bow and stern thrusters. Will you be able to get into your slip on a windy day without hitting anyone?

Realize that the invention of steam tugboats revolutionized the docking of ships. Anchoring in harbors was more common than docking back then, and docking took a lot of men in row boats and favorable conditions. You only went in or out on the tide, and ships sat in port for weeks waiting for a wind to take them out.

There are conditions in which a little electric motor will not allow you to get in or get out, and a good sailing wind may keep you in either place. You may be anchored off port until conditions let you enter. You'll need to be much more careful around lee shores, because you don't have the power to pull yourself away if you get blown against one. If you're OK with all that, go for it.
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:20   #8
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

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Originally Posted by SURV69 View Post

Is there anyone else who respects the idea of a sailboat being a near 100% sailboat with an auxillary engine(motor)? JUST an auxillary motor for docking and undocking ... nothing more ... nothing less.
Sure I can respect that. But I sure don't want one!

Other than that is doesn't matter to me if you want an engine/motor or not as long as you never run into my boat.
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:24   #9
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

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Realize that the invention of steam tugboats revolutionized the docking of ships. Anchoring in harbors was more common than docking back then, and docking took a lot of men in row boats and favorable conditions. You only went in or out on the tide, and ships sat in port for weeks waiting for a wind to take them out.
Joshua Slocum describes getting towed in and out in a number of places in "Sailing Alone Around the World".
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:27   #10
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

I am with you on this! But, I am still working (gotta get back on a schedule) and not a skilled enough or experienced enough sailor yet. I hope you try it. My take on it is to ignore yoru engine, sail as if you don;t have one, and if you can go a year or so of normal sailing without having to turn it on, then you are in a better place to seriously consider taking it out, or buying a new boat with no motor (cheaper yay!).

good luck!
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Old 07-06-2016, 14:42   #11
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

I'll keep my engine for sure. But it seemed prudent to pretend I didn't have one and practice without it's power. Knowing one day something would prevent its use. So I sailed in and out without it, on and off the laywall, and on and off anchor as well.

At first the engine was idling in neutral and ready, then as my confidence increased the engine was off during this practice.

Then on two occasions this payed off after mechanical trouble. I was able to resolve the issues without assistance and also garnered some added respect from others.

No engine definitely changes how you go about planning your moves but I found it a fun challenge. In fact, enough so that after securing the means to effect repairs I delayed doing so for a couple of weeks each time just for fun.

So I "get it" so to speak, but still ain't giving up that beast under the stairs. Just not gonna let it spoil the fun.
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Old 07-06-2016, 15:47   #12
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

There's really no "fuss" or conflict. You're talking about two different subsets of the sailing community - the purists who dream of going engineless, and those who don't want to give up auxiliary power, but are intrigued by electric. It isn't the same people wanting both situations.
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Old 07-06-2016, 17:23   #13
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

IMHO it all depends on how/when/why you need the engine.

I can imagine in some places, on some boats, one is better off with a well sized inboard diesel ..

At other times, a smaller engine is all one wants, maybe even an outboard, and why not an electric one (see Webb Chiles recent adventures). And then, no engine is OK too: in a sailing boat. My Opti did not have an engine and I could not care less.

In any case, I would feel fine only in an engineless sailing boat that sails very well. Say a J, a First, a Pogo, an IF, etc. Sailing without an engine, in a poorly performing boat, in between the rocks and eddies ... I do not think my nervous system has been built for that! ;-)

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Old 07-06-2016, 17:36   #14
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

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It really depends where you sail

Near where I am, there are some WICKED currents and in the summer the wind can be... twitchy.
+1! Even if your boat does well in light air, around here it's often like a chess match to get somewhere.
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Old 07-06-2016, 17:40   #15
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Re: If No Engine ... Why All The Fuss About "Proper", BIG Electric Motor?

An internal combustion engine needs to be frequently worked and periodically inspected and maintained. To ignore it is at your risk.
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