At Sea With Seakeeper
TIRED OF LOSING YOUR LUNCH IN THE TROUGHS? ADD A GYROSTABILIZER AND STAY ON AN EVEN KEEL. BY MIKE SMITH
Several companies build gyros for yachts and small commercial craft. VEEM ( veemgyro.com) and Tohmei ( antirollinggyro. com) are two major players. VEEM active-control gyros are for boats 75 feet and up, or thereabouts; they’re great for megayachts, but not for the boats most people own. Tohmei gyros use a Mitsubishi-designed passive system developed for satellites; a passive gyro operates without external control, other than the motor that spins it, letting physics do the work. Advocates of passive-control gyros tout their simplicity and need for virtually no maintenance; critics note their tendency to be ineffective in calm weather and over-exuberant in rough, putting excessive strain on their mounts until they have to be shut down before causing damage. A stabilizer that can’t operate in rough conditions? Kind of defeats the purpose, I’d say.
The gyro builder du jour is Seakeeper ( seakeeper.com), with an array of active-control models to fit commercial and pleasure boats as small as 30 feet. With active control, the speed and angle of gyroscopic precession (a gyro’s tendency to react to an input force at right angles to said input force) is controlled by hydraulic rams, which are, in turn, controlled by input from sophisticated sensors. Active control makes the gyro more efficient and more effective over a wider range of conditions, including very calm and very rough seas, without operator input: It’s all done by a computer. Active technology also adds expense, complexity, and maintenance, but those are trade-offs that top-notch yacht builders accept. Many now offer Seakeepers as options, and some, including MJM Yachts, include them as standard equipment.
Like a Rock in the Water
Bob Johnstone has been around boats for a long time, so if he says something is worth having, it most likely is. And Johnstone, president of MJM Yachts (mjmyachts.com), does more than talk about Seakeeper gyrostabilizers—he’s one of their biggest advocates. “It’s the most important innovation in powerboating in the last 10 years,” Johnstone said. “It’s like a rock in the water. Waves try to rip the hull off the rock, but they can’t.” Johnstone says a Seakeeper reduces roll by more than 90 percent. He includes one as standard on his MJM 50z and as an option on other models. “You don’t want to buy a boat without one,” he said.
The Seakeeper 3 mounts on deck in a leaning post.