CAPT'N PLY'S LATEST FEEDBACK ON BALLAST AND ELECTRIC MOTORS:


We recently ran a couple of tests that generated some info some of you might want to know about concerning setting up hull trim and electric power for the boat.

On our first go-round with electrics, we mounted a 45lb thrust, 24-volt Mercury electric trolling motor putting two full-size (the kind you'll see in a V-8) gel-cell batteries in the cubbies under the cockpit seats. This motor had enough thrust to throw you off-balance if you were standing on deck when someone turned it on full power without telling you (like they always do).
For our new set-up we switched to 12-volt (mostly because 24-volt motors seem harder for people to find, and we wanted to test one before recommending the easier-to-find variety).

Now we're going to mix our subjects (ballast trim and electric power) so we apologise, but here goes:
As far as ballast goes, we've always discouraged the addition of permanent extra weight because it would cut light-air day performance and make trailering and beaching less easy. But the main reason we were against it is that it just won't do much good to keep the boat upright, mounted as close to the hull as it has to be on a keelson boat.

However, there are other reasons to have ballast than righting ability. We've always said that keeping the boat light is great for maintaining lively performance in normal bay and lake sailing. But we've also admitted that our boat's lightness can be its biggest drawback in a heavy head-sea where whitecaps can slow momentum. When we were loading down the weekender with crew weight and batteries -all at the back of the boat, we noticed the steering required a lot of attention in a heavy head-sea.

In our latest installation, we put the batteries up in the forepeak, and moved the anchor and ground tackle back to the cockpit cubbies where they are easier to get at. The results in open sea-tests were great. The steering was back to its old calm, collected self, as it was before we added batteries to the rear. And better yet, the extra 130lbs of batteries up front and low, made the boat really drive through the waves. The drawback (there always seems to be one) is that the stern sits a little high when the boat's at rest with no one on board.

With only one battery on board, I think the balance will be perfect and still not look bow-down when sitting alone. When we first floated the Skipjack, I was dismayed to see that it floated bow-down a little. But then, after finding out how well it sailed, I began to realise that a boat this small and light can't possibly sit perfectly trimmed if no one is sitting in the position that you'd be sailing it from. It has to sit bow-down at rest, if it's going to sit well-trimmed when the crew is sailing it. And the same is true to a lesser degree with the Weekender. The hull bottom should be just kissing the surface of the water at the transom when no one's on it, -in order to be sitting right with crew aboard. If it's sitting visually right with no one aboard, it will be too bow-high when underweigh, and the steering will become a little skittish, needing more attention to keep a straight course. We've always noticed that the boat seems to track better and scoot along faster when one of the crew's up forward. So if you're going to add weight to a Weekender, the best place is down low and up forward in the forepeak.

Now the motor. The new 12-volt version was advertised as 55-lb thrust. But its prop seemed thin and a bit wimpy (small profile and pitch). And that's a lot how it felt. No more acceleration to knock you off your feet. But it did pull us right through a vicious current when we had to drop the mast to get under a bridge. It seems to get the job done, but it just doesn't have that old, satisfying push of the 24-volt, even though it's supposed to have more pounds of thrust. On the other hand, it doesn't have two drawbacks that the 24-volt motor has: -requiring pairs of 12-volt batteries, and needing a 24-volt charger. We can now pare back down to just one battery on light days, and use a standard car charger to refuel. And we can hook up 12-volt accessories all along the wiring system.

Stay tuned. The next experimental upgrade is going to be a semi-self-bailing cockpit that doesn't put your knees up around your ears. So cross your fingers and keep watching this space.