|Waypoint ready to depart from
Waypoint, Lagoon's first Solomon Technologies-powered
cat, made a record-setting, gale-filled maiden voyage in October
from France to Annapolis USA. Then she took a more leisurely cruise
in November to Tortola, BVI where she has now gone into charter
On the trip over from France - the first-ever transatlantic crossing
by an electric cat - Waypoint was sailed by a professional crew,
booked by The Catamaran Company, Lagoon's largest U.S. dealer.
After a couple of weeks rest and refitting in Annapolis, 0wners
Dennis and Denise English brought another professional crew aboard
the Lagoon 410 for the second leg of the nearly 5,000-mile voyage.
worked just like it was supposed to," Denny said of the Solomon
Technologies electric drive system. ?There were 18-foot swells
at times, and we could see on the meters how the motors would draw
current as they helped push us up the wave. Then, when we surfed
down, the numbers turned positive as they regenerated electricity.
It was exactly what Dave said would happen."
Dave Tether, the CEO of Solomon Technologies, calls it regenerative
motorsailing. "Our motors work as either motors or generators,
and you leave them on all the time. Even though you're motor-sailing,
all of your energy comes from the wind."
The Englishes hired
a professional crew for their first Waypoint trip, because they
had never sailed offshore before. "That's a big ocean out
there," Denny says, "and we wanted to make sure she was
in experienced hands."
|Denny and Denise English
heading accross the Gulf Stream
Putting the motors in step
The crew, Captain Scott Vanerstrom and First Mate Michelle Lundin,
both had their first experience with regenerative motor-sailing
on the Tortola trip, however, Tether had briefed them on it before
they left Annapolis. "I call it putting the motors in step," says
Scott. "If you set it just right, you get Scott. "If
you set it just night, you get a zero net use of electricity. And
you also get an additional one-half to one knot of boat speed.
There's a net speed increase," he explains, "because
the electric drive motors maintain boat speed even while climbing
a wave or during lulls in the wind. That prevents apparent wind
from moving aft, as it would if the boat slowed down, and keeps
the sails drawing efficiently. It keeps your sail trim optimized."
41' overall, with a 23-foot beam, Waypoint has the largest system
currently available from Solomon Technologies: twin 12 hp ST 74
electric motor drives, a storage pack of one dozen group BD AGM
batteries, and a 15kw HFL diesel generator to recharge the battery
pack when there is not enough wind for regeneration. The company
expects soon to start selling a new 20hp motor for larger boats.
Waypoint made the 1,440 nautical mile trip from Little Creek,
VA to Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs in the respectable time of eight
days and two hours, Denny says. "There's a race called the
Caribbean 1,500 that follows basically the same route," he
notes, "and it takes them anywhere from 8 to
12 days. So, we feel pretty good about our 16 trip."
|Waypoint at the Indians
Although it was the Englishes' first trip aboard their new vessel,
it was Waypoint's second blue-water voyage. The Catamaran Company's
transatlantic crew, Royal Yachting Association Captain Jorge Ventura
of Alcobaca, Portugal, and First Mate Tommy Lee of Liverpool, UK
brought the big cat over from France in record time, hitting speeds
that Captain Ventura had never seen before in a Lagoon.
found good winds off the Azores, they motor-sailed all the way
across to Norfolk-without once using the generator. Regeneration
supplied all the electricity they needed. "That's a brilliant
thing, that regeneration," says Jorge. Tommy agrees. "It's
In the open Atlantic Waypoint had more than enough wind for regeneration.
The anemometer maxed out at 57.5 knots. Along the way the crew
encountered three gales. "We had gale seas crashing over the
boat," Jorge says. "Not just spray, but solid water." But
the sturdy Lagoon took it all in stride. The crew sailed her hard
the whole way, heaving to only once for an emergency repair to
the main gooseneck, which had sheared a clevis pin.
Too much at times
Jorge says there were times when he could have done with less
regeneration. In prolonged high winds he grew concerned that the
motors were overcharging the battery pack. He and Tommy turned
on the air conditioning and hot water heater, and often motor-sailed
at full throttle to drain power. "It put a few knots on her,
didn't it?" says Tommy. Neither man had been in a Lagoon that
traveled that fast before, but Jorge says there were a couple of
times when he would have been happier going a lot slower. Tommy
says he didn't mind the extra speed though. "I thought it
was great." Over dinner with the crew
in Annapolis, Tether explained that they could have stopped regeneration
by setting the motors' throttle controls to reverse so they opposed
the rotational torque from water rushing by the props. "Unfortunately,
we were all in such a hurry to get the boat ready for the Annapolis
Sailboat Show," Tether says, "there wasn't an opportunity
to brief the crew fully on the STI system."
|Mate Tommy Lee
No compromise on electricity
On Waypoint's trip to Tortola, the Englishes didn't encounter
the winds that Jorge and Tommy had, so they felt no need to slow
the boat down. They took hill advantage of the power produced by
the motors. "She regenerated more than enough electricity," Scott
says. "We never had to compromise our electricity usage in
anyway." The crew and passengers made heavy use of the luxury
cat's deep freeze, refrigerator, two computers, flat-screen TV,
DVD player and stereo system.
In a traditional boat, Scott points
out, it's necessary to fire up the generator (or engines) once
or twice a day to top up the house batteries. "But in this
case, we didn't have to do it." In fact the sailors on the
Tortola leg occasionally turned on the air conditioning and water
heater and cranked up the motor to drain off excess electricity
from regeneration, just as the transatlantic crew did. "But
that just added another knot to the speed we were already making," says
The trip to Tortola included two extended stints of motoring
with the generator running: the first was 24 hours of motor-sailing
after leaving The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in order to get
across the Gulf Stream as quickly as possible. The second was a
long windless stretch between the front they had been riding and
the trade winds when Waypoint motored for 30 hours with sails down
With the motors drawing 42-43 amps, the boat generally ran at speeds
from 7.5 to 8.5 knots. Fuel consumption, while motoring with the
generator, was 1.3 to 1.4 gallons an hour. Scott points out that
this consumption rate is less than with the Lagoon 410 s standard
twin 40hp diesel installation. "Each
12 hp motor is equivalent to a 40 hp diesel," he says, "and
you'd burn about 0.8 to 1.0 gallons an hour in each diesel engine
to reach the same speed."
"We actually used the generator a lot more than we really
needed to," Denny adds. "But this was our first trip,
and Scott was extra-conservative at the beginning. He wanted to
make sure the batteries were fully charged at all times. "Scott
agrees that he initially ran the generator more than required but
says he did it "just
to be on the safe side. "Except for the windless days, he
says, "We probably could have gotten by without it."
fuel consumption on the 1,400-mile voyage showed how little they
depended on the generator.
"We used a total of 90 gallons of fuel," Denny says, "which
we thought was pretty good. I ran into one guy down there in a
40-foot cat with conventional diesels, and he said he had burned
400 gallons on the same trip." Scott adds that only about
half of the fuel consumed by the generator was necessary for propulsion.
The rest was used for luxury items, mostly the air conditioning
and water heater.
|Royal Yachting Association
Sea unspoiled by noise and fumes
Without the noise and fumes of conventional diesel auxiliary engines,
there was nothing to spoil the natural beauty of the open sea,
even though the electric motors ran the entire trip. "I had
the night watch from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m.," says Denise English, "and
I couldn't hear them at all on deck." What she liked most
about the trip, she says, was "the quiet and solitude of sailing
at night, then seeing the sunrise in the morning and watching the
ocean change. I never got tired of it."
There were times in the middle of the night when it was so quiet,
she says, "I felt as though I could hear voices from the water. "She
admits it was probably just the gurgling wake but adds, "now
I know why people believe in mermaids. I told my husband and Scott
about it, and they just laughed. But when I told our First Mate
Michelle, she said she knew what I was talking about. She'd heard
Denise also appreciated the elimination of much of the routine
daily maintenance required with conventional diesels. "This
was our first trip on a boat with just a generator," she says.
On past catamaran charters, they had to conduct oil level and belt
checks in the awkward and sometimes exposed confines of each hull's
engine room, It was especially difficult while underway. But, with
no propulsion engines and only a single generator, routine checks
were simple. "We just opened the front locker by the anchor
Although all agreed that Lagoon's first electric cat performed
admirably over the combined 5,000 miles of open ocean travel, Waypoint
did have a few teething pains. "It was a new experience for
everyone," says Tether, "and it disrupted normal operating
parameters. Something's always going to be overlooked on the first
I thought you filled it.
The first thing overlooked was a classic: someone forgot to fill
up the diesel furl tanks before the boat was launched at Les Sables
d'Olonne in France. Soon after Tether and Catamaran Company President
Hugh Murray started up the generator in preparation for the initial
sea trials, the tank ran dry and air was sucked into the fuel system.
The fuel pump in the tank below the floorboards wasn't strong enough
to move fuel past the air lock and up to the generator, which is
located in a front cross beam locker.
They decided to take Waypoint out anyway without a generator,
and she ran fine for hours - even though the batteries were almost
completely depleted. On their way back, Bruno Belmont the chief
designer for Lagoon's parent company Beneteau, took the helm, He
had the boat moving so fast under power that French marine police
pulled her over for speeding. "We were all congratulating
ourselves because the motors had performed so well," says
Tether, "when all of a sudden we heard that unmistakable whoop,
whoop, whoop' sound. There was a five-knot speed limit in the channel
heading back to the pier, and we were winging along somewhere over
six but, the motors were so quiet we hadn't realized how fast we
Tether says he knows they should have been remorseful about breaking
the law. "But, instead, we were proud of ourselves. Hugh and
Bruno were looking at each other and grinning from ear to ear.
We were all thinking the same thing' 'Ain't this something? Batteries
almost gone, and we're going too fast."
|Maximum anemometer reading
during transatlantic crossing
More to come
Although that first day on the water ended up as a great success,
the fuel problem was a portent of things to come. After the fuel
system was repaired, Captain Jorge Ventura and Mate Tommy Lee set
out into the Bay of Biscay for the long trip to Annapolis. They
first headed south along the coast to pick up favorable winds and
stay close to shore for assistance in case of further problems.
Winds were light, and they had to motor by using the generator,
which eventually began to overheat. They put in to La Coruna in
Spain to try to diagnose the problem with Tether and Lagoon engineers
by long-distance telephone.
After a temporary fix, they set out
to sea again, but the overheating continued. Finally, they put
into the Azores and called for an engineer from HFL, the generator
manufacturer, to fly down from England to meet them. It turned
out that there was nothing wrong with the generator. Fixing the
problem was simply a matter of cutting additional ventilation
openings into the generator compartment and installing another
pump to get fixed up from the fuel tank to the generator.
set out from the Azores in light winds and again had to motor
under generator power. This time it worked perfectly. When the
wind finally picked up off the Azores, they shut off the generator
and regenerated electricity the rest of the way across. The generator
wasn't started again until they reached the Chesapeake. The Bay's
notoriously fickle winds were elsewhere that day, so they motored
north under power to Annapolis. A Solomon Technologies crew met
them there and installed the correct external breathing ports,
which should have been on the boat from the beginning.
"Ventilation for the generator was just overlooked during
the installation," Dave says. "That's why we wanted to
give this first electric Lagoon a blue-water workout with a professional
crew to sort out any problems that might arise before turning her
over to her owners."
A side benefit of the unplanned time spent motoring about in European
ports was the opportunity for the crew to discover how easy it
is to handle a boat with the Solomon Technologies system. "The
power is amazing from only 12 horsepower," Jorge says. "For
maneuvering at close quarters, it's beautiful. Just push the lever
back and forth." He says electric drive
is a big contrast to the diesel auxiliaries he's accustomed to
working with - which must first be started up, then worked through
neutral from forward to reverse gear and back. With the Solomon
Technologies system, he says, "you have immediate power and
torque. Whenever you want it, it's there." The same thing
is true under sail, he adds. "It's always on, so if you miss
a tack you have the power tight there. Just push the lever."
Problems on western side
Waypoint also encountered a few problems on the western side of
the Atlantic. The day before the Englishes were to depart from
Annapolis, a shear pin broke when Scott was test-sailing the boat,
and the motor shaft coupling was damaged. "There was no stress
at all on it at the time," says Denny, "we were just
backing into a slip." But the boat had just completed a 3,500-nautical-
mile Atlantic crossing with the motors on all the way, he points
out, "so it's not surprising that there was some wear and
tear on the system."
Scott feels that a major contributing factor was the irresistible
urge in everyone who took the helm to perform "crash stops" with
the powerful Solomon motors. The motors produce "a ton of
torque," Scott says. "People were pushing the throttle
from full forward to full reverse in both France and the Chesapeake.
My comment to Dave and Hugh was 'that shouldn't be happening because
all that torque has got to go somewhere.' We found out later where
Tether concedes Scott's point, but adds, "It's
too hard to resist when you take the helm. You can shove the throttle
control forward, and the boat instantly surges through the water.
And then, because the motors can switch directions in milliseconds,
you naturally get the urge to jam it into reverse to bring her
to a screeching halt. Let's face it It's fun. And it's something
you just can't do with a diesel." Under those conditions,
it's not surprising that the shear pin did what it was supposed
to do. It sheared. "We learned where the weak link in the
chain is," Scott notes wryly. But with "proper operation," he
adds, the pin probably would not have failed.
Another problem cropped up after they had spent some time in the
warm waters of the Caribbean. One of the motor controllers overheated
and tripped out. "The water temperature there is 85 degrees," Denny
says. "So it was quite a different environment from up north
where the cold water could dissipate the heat." There are
two 6hp motors on one shaft inside the 12hp casing, and each is
operated by its own controller. With one controller down, Scott
says, "I lost 50% of the power on my starboard engine." He
throttled back the port motor to match the starboard's amperage
draw, he says, "and even so our boat speed was in excess of
In both cases, Denny says, Solomon Technologies "was there
when we needed them." The company overnighted shear pins and
a new coupling to Annapolis, and Scott was able to fix it the next
day. And when the controller overheated in the islands, a Solomon
technician flew right down to repair it. All it took was adding
a ventilation fan to cool down the engine room. Says Denny, "As
a consumer, you really appreciate it when a company stands behind
its product like that."
When Waypoint first arrived in the Virgins, the Solomon System
revealed additional virtues, Denny says. "There are a lot
of boats down there sailing between the islands. An empty mooring
buoy isn't always easy to find." As they headed into Norman
Island for their first stationary night after 1,440 nautical miles
of sailing, they were in no mood to spend hours searching for an
unoccupied mooring. "So we cranked the motors up to beat the
rush." Because there is no noise or exhaust from electric
drive, it looked to other boaters as if they were moving under
sail alone. "We were just blowing the doors off everyone else."
Captain of choice
It would have been hard to find a more capable Captain
for the first electric catamaran than Scott Vanerstrom,
who took Denny and Denise English to Tortola. Scott, the
principal North American Captain for The Catamaran Company and Lagoon, figures he has logged a quarter of a million
blue-water miles, nearly 200,000 of those in catamarans.
He's made he transatlantic crossings and three Transpacs,
sailed from South Africa and Brazil to Annapolis and from
San Francisco through the Panama Canal to Miami, has been
to virtually every eastern U.S. and Caribbean port and
sailed in the South Pacific in Tahiti, the Marquesas, the
Formosa Strait, Bali and the Komodo Islands.
But the Englishes say his seasoned boat-handling skills
are only part of Captain Vanerstrom's repertoire. He's
also an excellent cook. "He's owned restaurants in
Colorado, and his brother went to the Cordon Bleu cooking
school," Denise says. "He brought me coffee every
day on my 3 a.m. shift, made omelets for everyone in the
mornings and even cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Once he came
up to me and asked where the emergency through-hull plugs
were. I said 'Why? Are we taking on water?' He said 'No,
I need them to mash the potatoes'." Denise says that
Waypoint encountered a few squalls, with winds approaching
35 knots, that ordinarily would have caused her some anxiety. "But
Scott had explained beforehand what would happen and how
we would handle it. So even the squalls became nothing
more than just another nice challenge. He's very patient,
never harsh, always on an even keel, a great teacher." Adds
Denny: "Plus he can fix anything. He's just a great
Scott Vanerstrom can be reached at Scott@catamarans.com
In the mooring area of Norman Island bight, the fingertip control
of the twin Solomon motors made it easy to thread through the boats
already tied up, to find an open buoy. Other boaters at the mooring
asked many questions about the Solomon Technologies system, and
they spent a lot of time explaining how it worked.
Once Waypoint was secured, the crew felt that their successful
trip called for a celebration. They made their way to that venerable
Norman Island institution, the Willy T floating bar and restaurant.
There they spent the rest of the night "partying like Australians," Denny
says. "We really needed it. We all felt it was quite an accomplishment
for a new technology like this to travel 5,000 miles." There
were "a few little lumps' along the way, he says, but "that's
what a shakedown cruise is all about - shaking out the lumps."
agrees. "Obviously with a brand-new system, you're going to
have a few hiccups. But, once we left Norfolk and headed out to
sea, it gave a flawless performance in the vessel."
Regenerating around the world
Captain Jorge Ventura was equally impressed during his transatlantic
crossing. In fact, he likes the system so much he's now looking
for sponsors to back him on a solo circumnavigation in a Solomon
Technologies-powered boat. He notes that despite Portugal's centuries
of seafaring history, no Portuguese sailor has ever circled the
globe alone. He wants to be the first, and he wants to do it without
a generator. He's convinced that regeneration under sail with the
Solomon motors will supply all the electricity he'll need.
"These are captains who have logged hundreds of thousands
of miles on the open ocean," says Tether "It's one thing
for people to say that I'm blowing smoke when I rave about the
Solomon Technologies system. But, these are guys whose opinions
you have to take seriously."
And those opinions can be summed up very simply. As Scott puts
it, "The bottom line is, these motors are wonderful."
Waypoint can be chartered from Tortola during the fall and winter
through The Catamaran Company