Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - Daniel Hard­ing Jr. dhard­ing@aim­me­dia.com

Re­flect­ing on the suc­cess of the roll-can­cel­ing gyro and Power & Mo­to­ry­acht’s role in the growth of Sea­keeper.

There’s a story that’s been re­peated around our office for years. It seems the late Power & Mo­to­ry­acht Editor-inChief Richard Thiel was re­spon­si­ble for help­ing a lit­tle com­pany called Sea­keeper get its start. The de­tails of the story vary, as they should in a proper leg­end. I be­lieved it was pos­si­ble that Richard saw the value in the com­pany’s gy­ro­scopic, anti-roll tech­nol­ogy be­fore it went main­stream. But then again, it was equally plau­si­ble that the mag­a­zine’s role in the com­pany’s start has been stretched over the years. We are, af­ter all, pro­fes­sional sto­ry­tellers.

I re­cently con­nected with Sea­keeper Co­founder Shep McKen­ney and I couldn’t help but ask about the ru­mor.

“Oh, yes. That’s why I al­ways make time for a call with you guys,” said McKen­ney, who, as the former pres­i­dent of Hinck­ley, gave the world the Pic­nic Boat and joy­stick ma­neu­ver­ing be­fore he went on to launch Sea­keeper. “When we had our first pro­to­type I was work­ing hard to try and get pub­lic­ity. [Richard] kept putting me off. I think he thought we were just a gim­mick. Fi­nally, I of­fered to char­ter a jet to get him on a demo boat. He re­lented and flew down. He went out on the boat, saw the Sea­keeper in action and un­der­stood im­me­di­ately this was no gim­mick.”

McKen­ney pressed Richard for ad­vice on how to crack the Euro­pean mar­ket. Richard di­aled up—on what must have been a ridicu­lously large mo­bile phone—Az­imut Founder Paolo Vitelli, vouched for the new sys­tem and con­nected the two en­trepreneurs, McKen­ney re­calls.

“Ten days later I was in Viareg­gio [at the Az­imut yard]. An­other month later we signed a con­tract to sell them six hun­dred gy­ros. That was in 2006. They ended up be­ing our largest cus­tomer and got us through the early years,” says McKen­ney.

Sea­keeper has come a long way since Richard boarded that jet. It cur­rently builds more than 250 units a month and, with the launch of its small­est unit yet, the Sea­keeper 2, the com­pany is now smooth­ing seas for cen­ter con­sole boats 27 feet and up.

I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to run Sea­keep­ers on boats rang­ing from 20-foot day cruis­ers to 90-foot bat­tlewag­ons. That feel­ing of be­ing aboard a boat that plants it­self in a rolling sea at the push of a but­ton still elic­its a head shake and a wow.

I ad­mit that even af­ter all those tests, I strug­gled to ex­plain how the sys­tem worked. “There’s a gyro in­side a vac­uum that spins, and uhh, fights the roll,” was about all I could muster. Enough was enough: I hit the road to see first­hand how these prod­ucts are built. (Check out “In­side Sea­keeper” on page 64 for my re­port). I left the fac­tory just out­side Amish coun­try in Penn­syl­va­nia with a new re­spect for the com­pany that wants to put a gyro aboard ev­ery boat.

An­other com­pany that con­tin­ues to change the way we go boat­ing is Volvo Penta. Capt. Bill Pike was among the first to test and en­dorse its rev­o­lu­tion­ary IPS. To­day, Volvo Penta con­tin­ues to be an in­dus­try leader. Capt. Pike re­cently re­turned from their head­quar­ters in Swe­den, where he gained in­sight into the man­u­fac­turer’s plans for hy­brid propul­sion sys­tems and self-dock­ing yachts. You read that right. Volvo Penta demon­strated how its new sys­tem al­lows an Az­imut to dock, sans helms­man. Is it the tech­nol­ogy of the fu­ture? We in­ves­ti­gate on page 78.

Also in this is­sue you’ll find a re­port from Jeff Moser on the cur­rent state and fu­ture use of car­bon fiber in boat­build­ing (“The End of Fiber­glass?” on page 96), and Managing Editor Si­mon Mur­ray tests a Blue­tooth-ac­ti­vated kill switch that shuts your en­gines down should any­one fall over­board (“Life-Sav­ing Kill Switch on page 50).

I un­der­stand why Richard may have been skep­ti­cal when he first heard about Sea­keeper. My in­box is reg­u­larly filled with press re­leases for prod­ucts promis­ing to rev­o­lu­tion­ize boat­ing. Tech­nol­ogy for the sake of tech­nol­ogy never ap­peals much to me. But tech­nol­ogy that makes boat­ing eas­ier and, more im­por­tantly, safer? That’s a trend we can all get be­hind.

Sea­keeper is a house­hold name to­day, but it wasn’t too long ago that a boat-roll-elim­i­nat­ing gyro seemed too good to be true.

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