Echo, Endeavour 26 powered by Electroprop Mariner

Echo is a 1979 Endeavour 26 yacht. The Endeavour 26 was designed as a junior offshore racer – a fast, stable boat which is fun to sail and will look after its crew in heavy weather. Many of these sturdy, simple masthead sloops are still in use around Australia as club racers and small family cruisers.

To its (entirely biased) owner, Echo is one of the best examples of her class. Unlike many Endeavour 26s which were home completed to variable standards, she was factory finished with a high quality of interior fit-out.

My wife Susan and I bought Echo in 2003, mainly for day sailing with maybe an annual week-long trip in mind. We also wanted to use her as occasional overnight accommodation when we were in town for the evening and didn’t want to drive home.

By 2010 we really weren’t getting enough use of Echo to justify the expense of keeping her. But I was very reluctant to sell our boat, and so she languished in the marina for two years, getting little use.

Thinking about the reasons we weren’t using our much-loved boat, I realised that the diesel engine was a big factor. The little 1989 Yanmar 1GM diesel was reliable, but noisy, smelly and also underpowered, at 6.5 hp. It was also costing us $800 a year to maintain it, with occasional expensive surprises like a new cylinder head and exhaust elbow. There was the prospect of more frequent repairs in future as the motor got older.

I started looking around for alternative propulsion and was attracted to the idea of an electric motor. Back when I lived in the UK, sailing large boats offshore in often dirty weather, I had always found the steady throb of a diesel engine reassuring, but now, sailing in sunny Australia on landlocked Port Phillip, it seemed like an unnecessarily heavy-duty, intrusive option for our small boat. I wanted our boat to be a sailing boat with auxiliary motor; not a motorboat with auxiliary sails.

I found James Lambden’s Electroprop website. A few minutes watching the video of Kapowai gliding almost silently through the water and a tour of the clean, uncluttered motor compartment had me sold on the idea of an inboard electric motor. If I wanted to get my wife back on board, and enjoy clean, quiet, hassle-free sailing, this must be the way to do it.

Propulsion Marine’s Australian dealer, Chris Baker, was able to provide detailed advice about the choice of batteries and what sort of performance and range I could expect from an Electroprop electric drive.

The refit was quite straightforward. The 5.5 kW motor came with the gearbox, custom-designed motor mount and coupling ready fitted, and a complete wiring harness which was a breeze to install. James’ excellent new book The Electric Boat gave lots of useful advice for the installation.

I took the opportunity to replace Echo’s old sterngear with a new sterntube, propshaft and PSS shaftseal to go with the CNC bronze propeller made to James’ specifications specially for our boat. For power I opted for a pair of Torqeedo 26V 104Ah lithium batteries. Together these weigh 50 kg and provide 5.4 kWh of power.

This means that Echo is about 60 kg lighter after the refit, but the combined 100 kg of the motor and batteries is exactly where any yacht owner would want it: low down, amidships, over the keel.

My stated aim when I approached Propulsion Marine was to have at least 15 nautical miles range under motor alone at a cruising speed of 4–4.5 knots. From my first experience on the water with the new motor, Echo’s actual range at that speed is more like 20 miles, and will be much greater at lower speeds.

Even better: power consumption when motor sailing is negligible. Under 1 amp of current is sufficient to keep Echo sailing steadily at 2–3 knots in a fluky, light breeze. That would be nearly 100 hours of motorsailing on one charge, as the Torqeedo batteries have advanced onboard protection against complete discharge and can be run close to their nominal capacity.

At present Echo is reliant on shorepower for recharging the batteries, but we’re looking into solar charging options for the future to make our sailing even more environmentally friendly.

Sea trials have confirmed that I made the right choice and was well advised by James and Chris. The Electroprop drive performs beautifully: powerful, responsive and very, very quiet. There is virtually no vibration in the drive train and the Shaftseal keeps the bilge completely dry.

All in all, Echo is just like a new boat – only better, because she is still our beautiful Endeavour 26. Motor sailing in light winds is a dream, and there is plenty of power for heavier conditions. Susan is looking forward to her first sail in our ‘new’ boat.

Thank you James Lambden for designing an excellent piece of marine engineering.