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Thread: Converting the "Electric Launch"

  1. #1
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    Default Converting the "Electric Launch"

    So yesterday morning I suffered a fit of madness and bought another boat..

    This one is a 15' x 4'6" Tad Roberts designed inboard launch that was built by the Silva Bay Shipyard School over the winter of '06. She was designed and originally built with electric inboard power and a big battery bank, but due to some problems with the controller systems etc she was never really used as a launch and has only been in the water for a few days total since her launching.

    The boat is traditionally built out of red on yellow cedar with copper rivets, caulked with cotton. I haven't relaunched her yet to see if she'll float, but she holds water just fine so I'm pretty confident.

    The plan as of this morning is to find her a light little high speed diesel and convert the boat with as little modification possible to a diesel work/commuter launch. There is a bronze shaft in the hull and that's about it for drive train. I've got a nice old pair of Concordia Co built Culler oars that her first voyages with me will be made under.

    The boat will be refinished in and out, engine beds adapted for the diesel, a new engine box made and a control station installed on the starboard side just forward of the aft seat.. Just far enough so the helmsman's right hand can rest comfortably on the throttle while the left steers. But really before much of the conversion work can take place, we need a power plant! So the search is on for a little diesel. I've worked with the Beta 14 (marinized kubota 2 cyl) before, and that's a lovely engine but pretty expensive.. 199lbs dry with a gear for 13.5hp.. Not bad! Any ideas there would be appreciated..

    Anyway, y'all want pics, so without further adieu (photos courtesy of Tad Roberts):





    Progress to follow!

    -JR

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Very pretty! My neighbor actually has a little 2 cyl diesel in an H28 he is parting out. Unfortunately it is on the east coast.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Nice.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Kind of reminds me of the lines of a Polsbro Boat. Deffinetly deserves a reciprocating power source.
    Jay

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Electric for sure. Elco makes great stuff and will work with you to match the right prop. Modern instrumentation will be as good or better than a fuel gauge so the new electric owner's fear of running flat without warning is assuaged. You just don't need the shaking that infernal combustion will give those old seams.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Why do people eliminate gas power? Do they prefer stinky, heavy, expensive means of propulsion?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    Why do people eliminate gas power? Do they prefer stinky, heavy, expensive means of propulsion?
    I agree, I personally would look at a little Atomic 2 or even a little four (Atomic 4, Graymarine 60, Chris Craft 60, etc), nice quiet smooth running little engines.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"


    Originally Posted by pcford
    Why do people eliminate gas power? Do they prefer stinky, heavy, expensive means of propulsion?
    I am with you, but cannot name a 12-15 hp water-cooled gas engine that's available, and for which reasonable access to parts is available.


    Air-cooled is loud.


    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    HEY! An Easthope!!! Canuck boat Canuck engine. There are one and two cylinder versions. Made until the 70s...should be some around.

    THERE! I solve the problem. You are welcome!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    I installed a couple of the one cylinder models new back in 1982 - 83. Hmm, ... I'm thinking they would be kind of big & top heavy for this hull, but would be fun.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    You may be right...it is a lightly built boat. If an Easthope were too much...I am sure there are vintage marine engines out there that would work. It would take some time to find...Try http://www.oldmarineengine.com/
    Last edited by pcford; 05-20-2015 at 04:23 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Nice boat! Pity the electric didn't work out. Some discussion of why might be valuable given the occasional interest in electric propulsion on this thread. Tad seems to know what he's about, and presumably had some input into the system. Does it maybe just need a bit of tweaking ,or is it really a complete throw away?

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    There is nothing wrong with the electric solution, in this case it only lacked money and interest. The little Etek motor is perfect in a low demand situation, but it requires a proper reduction and a good continuous duty motor controller. Remember this all happened 10 years ago, electric propulsion has come a long way since. And it's moving forward by leaps and bounds as we speak. In 2005 we were looking at max endurance of perhaps 4 hours at 1/2-3/4 throttle. With currently available batteries you could get considerably longer today. But the motor needs a cooling system if you are going to take max power (15HP) out of it. So add up the used motor, new reduction gear, batteries, controller, charger, cooling system, and propeller. Electric offers limited range and sometimes will be (here in the wilds of BC) impossible to charge. VS a small diesel providing essentially unlimited range and versatility. In Rukk's hands this boat may have to undertake 3 day tows or trans-gulf commutes, overheating or running out of juice is not acceptable in a workboat.

    Right Pat, I mentioned the Easthope solution yesterday. But again the Easthope is fine if you like to tinker and aren't going far. For a boat that may be used for 15 minutes four times a day, to move something, pull a crab trap, or cross the bay, pushing a button and having the engine start in any weather is hard to beat. If set up to be reliable and easy to use, these boats get used an awful lot around here.
    ___________________________________
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    I picked up a Westerbeke W13a from a forum member for @ 1/3 what a new one would cost. 13.5 hp, 280 pounds. Runs very sweet.
    Fight Entropy, build a wooden boat!

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by TR View Post

    Right Pat, I mentioned the Easthope solution yesterday. But again the Easthope is fine if you like to tinker and aren't going far. For a boat that may be used for 15 minutes four times a day, to move something, pull a crab trap, or cross the bay, pushing a button and having the engine start in any weather is hard to beat. If set up to be reliable and easy to use, these boats get used an awful lot around here.
    If one were to be practical, one would not have a bright finished, lightly built lapstrake boat! There are small water cooled engines...a friend has one not much bigger than a football. The point about an Easthope being too heavy is well taken.

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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    Why do people eliminate gas power? Do they prefer stinky, heavy, expensive means of propulsion?
    I prefer petrol (i.e. "gas" in your dialect) too, Pat, and for the same reasons, and I especially object to the nonsense that they are unsafe. But the fact is that modern diesels are not as stinky, not as heavy, and certainly much, much quieter than they used to be. And yes, they cost more to buy but they cost less to own and run.

    So that's why they are becoming more popular.

    Cheers,
    John.

  17. #17
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    Default

    A diesel will cost as much as a whole new electric system including batteries. If the boat is nine years old the batteries are probably shot.

    A new controller would be a few hundred bucks.
    Denny Wolfe
    www.wolfEboats.com

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    If one were to be practical, one would not have a bright finished, lightly built lapstrake boat!
    Doesn't look like lapstrake to me. Doesn't look all that light, either.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by _QB_ View Post
    Doesn't look like lapstrake to me. Doesn't look all that light, either.
    You are correct...I saw the light frames and the rivets and I just assumed.
    As someone said it is comparable to a Poulsbo. These originally had air cooled engines. Noisy yes, but modern sound proofing and a clever box design would work wonders. For whatever reason, electric power is not enticing to me. I prefer a throbbing heart out of the early 20th century. yes.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    I'd go for the nuclear option...That way you could keep the nice quiet electric power, and go years without refueling! Shielding might be a bit of a problem, but then, there would be no batteries, so you would have some extra weight to play with.

    Another option is a zero point energy source.. http://www.calphysics.org/zpe.html

    Yeah yeah, I am sure folks will be all over me about this, given that it defies the laws of physics as we know them, but hey, he wanted to explore the options!!
    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogeniac View Post
    I'd go for the nuclear option...That way you could keep the nice quiet electric power, and go years without refueling! Shielding might be a bit of a problem, but then, there would be no batteries, so you would have some extra weight to play with.

    Another option is a zero point energy source.. http://www.calphysics.org/zpe.html

    Yeah yeah, I am sure folks will be all over me about this, given that it defies the paws of physics as we know them, but hey, it's a possible solution to the problem!!
    Clash of cultures. I prefer the greasy Easthope with open valve springs.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by mcdenny View Post
    A diesel will cost as much as a whole new electric system including batteries. If the boat is nine years old the batteries are probably shot.

    A new controller would be a few hundred bucks.
    Agreed, but he doesn't want electric.

    The solution, which I think is obvious, is to ship it to Western Australia and go find a boat with a diesel already fitted.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Nice boat. That tumblehome toward the transom is particularly handsome. I'll be following to see what solution you come up with, and how the restoration goes overall. Wish I was closer, because I'd love to close the seams with fresh caulking if necessary. Definitely a labor of love.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogeniac View Post
    I'd go for the nuclear option...That way you could keep the nice quiet electric power, and go years without refueling! Shielding might be a bit of a problem, but then, there would be no batteries, so you would have some extra weight to play with.

    Another option is a zero point energy source.. http://www.calphysics.org/zpe.html

    Yeah yeah, I am sure folks will be all over me about this, given that it defies the laws of physics as we know them, but hey, he wanted to explore the options!!

    You left out the gas turbine with optional biomass composter as a methane source!
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    I wasn't very clear, the electrical system was 100% removed from the boat when I bought her, all that remains is the box that held it and the drive shaft. Other than the layout of the beds, we're starting from a blank canvas for systems. Pretty fun!

    The real reason I'm not looking at replacing the electric plant in her is that we live and work on the ocean, often in remote places where there are no plugins or power lines. For a hire boat around the bay and the islands it would really be quite ideal. But if I want security and range, now I have no carry a gas generator around in her.. So we're not really getting away from combustion engines or fuel, just making her complicated heavy and expensive. I could put solar panels on the seats/box and trickle charge, but the sun only shines for 3 months a year here and this boat will be in use 365 or pretty close.

    Pat, my first thought was a Easthope too. There's some nice small ones that would fit in her pretty well, and there's no problem with gas in a open boat, we run plenty of gas boats as it is. The biggest problem with the Easthope (and all those nice old slow turning gas engines for that matter), for this application, is that she has quite a shallow keel and currently only has room to swing about a 10-11" prop.. Whereas the smallest Easthopes would still swing a 16" wheel as far as I know. So yes I could pull the shaft and plug the hole, either replace the outer keel or just stick some more on the bottom, rebuild the beds at a different angle, re-bore the shaft log and keel, re-install the drive train and proceed. And I will do that if it ends up being really necessary, but at this point I'd rather look at a faster turning engine and a high pitch little 4-bladed (maybe?) wheel.

    "Practical" is interesting, everybody has different ideas about what it looks like. I guess if we were "practical" by most people's definition we would buy a aluminum speedboat and put a big hp 4-stroke outboard on it. We've needed a commuter boat for the Georgia Strait all winter and I've looked at dozens of fiberglass and aluminum speedboats with every kind of power you can imagine. In my price range in this part of the world we seem to get a bunch of worn out '60s and '70s glass speedboats, with unreliable old gas guzzling outboards or potentially even worse gas inboard/leg combos.

    This boat has been designed and then built in buildings a few thousand feet apart, completely of local material (red and yellow cedar), using a very simple and durable system of construction (that would be CARVEL plank on steamed frames). She will slip along at quite a lot more than her displacement hull speed with very small horsepower and fuel consumption (especially compared to one of those frozen snot speedboats the same size!). There are no space age glues or expensive imported materials. The boat doesn't need to be dry or even covered to put a plank in her or change a cracked frame or two. She will be a joy to handle at high and low speed, tow vessels many times her size with good control and maneuverability and take her people through seas where speedboats jump and pound in relative comfort and safety. If she's properly cared for her working life will be 50 or 60 years, and when it's over I suppose she will rot away to nothing at the top of some quiet mudflat or in somebody's garden. Most importantly perhaps, she will make me and a lot of other people smile every time she's out putting around. Not "practical" at all.

    So, today we have two new candidates for power around the boatyard.. A 8hp (?) Lister Petter lifeboat diesel. 550lbs, marine transmission, swings a 20" wheel and has a hand crank to start.. The other one is a Yanmar gas engine, 2 cyl, very light, new in packing crate from 1980-something.. Don't have a model or horsepower yet but details are coming.. Apparently it's a marine engine with water cooling and transmission.. Anybody ever heard of such a thing?

    -JR

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Excellent post!

    Never heard of the gas Yanmar.

    On the lifeboat engine? Many of these were started by compressed air. Is your Lister that way--in which case you need a compressor--or has it been converted?

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    The standard Lyster diesel lifeboat engine was strictly hand crank start. Really not bad with the compression release.

    Not a great picture, but here is the one cylinder Easthope that was mentioned earlier.



    They definitely provide the correct amount of neat moving parts & pieces.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by Steamboat View Post
    You left out the gas turbine with optional biomass composter as a methane source!

    Mr. Fusion !!!!

    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by nedL View Post
    The standard Lyster diesel lifeboat engine was strictly hand crank start. Really not bad with the compression release.

    Not a great picture, but here is the one cylinder Easthope that was mentioned earlier.



    They definitely provide the correct amount of neat moving parts & pieces.

    Yeah, I have to admit, that has much more class than the Mr. Fusion power plant...
    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    I have a vague sense of prop sizing...I ran specs on a prop size calculator...it came up with 15" for a 4 blade...something like a 24" pitch!!!
    Soooo, yes you have a problem with a vintage marine engine.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Re: the Lister single.
    I used to race with a buddy who had a Manx Norton (road-race motorcycle) - open valve train, oil flying all over the place.
    If you dislike oil coating everything in sight, maybe look elsewhere. A currently produced engine might be easier to find parts for too.

    If you prefer the retro look and slow hipockita, hipockita thumping busy-ness, maybe go for the Lister. It is cute and would look great with a snazzy paint job, polished brass everywhere would be neat too - sort of a steam punk aesthetic.
    YRMV.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Then, there is always steam!
    Now is a good time!


    Steward of MAKOTO [WB Magazine #232], and Honored Member of the LPBC

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogeniac View Post
    Then, there is always steam!
    The steam guys are great...the boat is an afterthought with some of these guys...merely a place to float the engine.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogeniac View Post
    Then, there is always steam!
    Smooth, nearly silent and smells great if COAL FIRED! Gotta love that stench.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Converting the "Electric Launch"

    Quote Originally Posted by pcford View Post
    The steam guys are great...the boat is an afterthought with some of these guys...merely a place to float the engine.

    Hahaha, .... 'ain't that the truth!

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