by Eugene Story
ELCO, Maine Electric Boats and the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard participated together at the Maine Boatbuilders show this year. The Boat Builders Show is a very special show in that it brings together boatbuilders, those that professionally maintain boats and serious boaters. There are very few at the show who do not have a serious interest in boating.
Although ELCO had a booth at last years show, having a boat with an Elco motor installed certainly attracted more people. The show attracts many Mainers but there are also many attendees from Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire and others from afar. It is a time of serious boat talk between boaters and builders.
The attraction this year was the Electric Downeaster. The Downeaster lobster boat of Maine is looked on by boaters as one of the most seaworthy boat designs in existence having evolved over many years of lobster fishing on the coast. While the latest versions have mostly followed the trend to large high powered diesel motors for maximum speed, this has been at the expense of high fuel costs and pollution of water, air, and sound. There is a growing interest is zero emission boats that operate silently at hull speed at a fraction of the horsepower and without pollution.
Maine Electric Boats, the ELCO dealer for Maine, and the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, in searching for a classic lobster boat hull to demonstrate a downeaster hull with electric propulsion found a 50 year old wooden lobster boat in Boothbay Harbor Maine built for a smaller hull speed motor. We installed the motor last fall and ran trials. The boat performed well reaching hull speed (6.5 knots) with a 20HP ELCO motor. Although the boat has not had its final finish there was a steady stream of visitors over the 3 days of the show and a real interest in electric propulsion. There were also many sailboaters who are looking to repower with an electric motor.
It is still an educational process for most boat builders and boaters and seeing an ELCO motor in a classic lobster boat has given them a good boost. It is those pursuing classic boat building and restoration who will be the leaders.