At Sea With Sea­keeper


Power & Motor Yacht - - BOATYARD -

Sev­eral com­pa­nies build gy­ros for yachts and small com­mer­cial craft. VEEM ( veem­ 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 ( sea­, 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 (mjmy­, 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.

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