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The Resourceful Sailor Watches Aged Committee Boat Go Electric

We’re used to The Resourceful Sailor sharing his experiences as he repairs and sometimes MacGyvers his way through sailboat problems. This time, however, he found himself in the role of observer.

The Resourceful Sailor was privy to some goings-on this past winter at the Boat Haven Boatyard in Port Townsend, WA. While a bit more high-tech and high-budget than his typical subject matter, he was impressed by the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s (PTSA) ambitious commitment to the local racing scene.

The Port Townsend Sailing Association, Blackbird Associates, and Steve Scharf have relaunched the 1979 CHB  race-committee trawler Committee. (Yes, that’s the name. Underworld sounding? Or a little like naming your dog Dog?) Fresh from the Port Townsend Boatyard, simplified for purpose, and with a new electric motor, Committee is meant to augment the local sailing community and to oversee the local Thunderbird fleet and PHRF buoy and long-distance races.

Originally on the hard for winter storage and routine maintenance in fall 2020, the refit turned into more of a rescue. As work commenced, it became clear that many of the systems of the 42-year-old boat were at end of life. The leaky and smoky Ford Lehman diesel, which house mechanic Dan Ginther had kept running, was ultimately going to need a rebuild or replacement. With parts difficult to source, the latter was the reality.

Committee boat
House mechanic Dan Ginther removes the old tankage.
© 2021 Steve Scharf

Steve, the owner of Committee, decided to pull the trigger on installing an electric motor. “At that point,” Steve said, “other diesel options were considered, but I convinced myself, despite a real mix of opinions concerning my sanity, to go electric.” It’s a progressive and new-age conscionable decision, though not yet widespread, whereas a diesel engine is time-honored but not necessarily forward-thinking. Full speed ahead, Steve enlisted Revision Marine to help design the new system.

The recycled Tesla battery takes the place of the old tankage.
© 2021 Joshua Wheeler

In the meantime, there were other tired systems to remove that were unnecessary for a day-use committee boat. Out went the two-cabin heating system, the cooktop, and the hot water. Say bye-bye to refrigeration, radar (a tough call), and extra cushions. Get rid of the two large diesel tanks and the oversize freshwater tank. They removed the excess plumbing, renewed much of the remaining wiring, and rebuilt the steering. Other cosmetic and functional improvements are ongoing.

Committee won’t be needing these buckets of piping anymore.
© 2021 Steve Scharf

After a long winter of prep, the boat was ready for the motor to be installed. The new propulsion system, which Matt Mortensen of Revision Marine, a self-described tech geek, designed for Committee, has a 108-volt, 40hp Elco EP-40 electric inboard powered by a 25kWh battery consisting of five recycled Tesla modules. It will have an operating time of about three hours at 5.5 knots. Efficiency increases at slower speeds, with 6.2 hours of run time at 4.5 knots. “They used about 15% of the battery capacity for Wednesday’s race,” Matt said about Committee’s first outing for the T-bird racing.

The Resourceful Sailor helped with new electric engine
The final install is clean and tidy.
© 2021 Joshua Wheeler

The refit and re-power of the committee boat demonstrate a commitment to supporting PTSA races and leading-edge technologies. The trawler’s structure is solid, providing a good viewing platform. Its operation will often be by volunteers, so it’s important to have a safe, simple and reliable vessel that is easy to operate. As the days get longer and the Port Townsend race season heads into full swing, Committee is ready to play her star role out on the bay. As we see the reign of the internal combustion engine challenged in our modern world, the Port Townsend marine community is embracing the future.

Jeff Brantley at Committee’s helm, headed out for the inaugural race.
© 2021 Amanda Landon

*This story originally appeared on the Port Townsend Sailing Association website.

2 Comments

  1. John Arndt 1 year ago

    Richard Kinder asks via email: “electric engine???????????? Is a motor and an engine the same thing??? electric is magnetically induced — gas and diesel are internally combustible fossil fuel.” To which we reply, “We think it’s electric motor and diesel (or gas) engine. We believe electric engine is incorrect, though, if you google it, most people seem to say they are now ‘interchangeable.’

    • Joshua Wheeler 1 year ago

      My understanding is it’s a diesel engine and an electric motor. I tried to make that differentiation. Thanks for reading.

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