Electric boat to go off the grid

While the cost of fuel kept many boats idle last season, the Greenport Electric Launch Company celebrated its 10th anniversary running Glory, an electric-powered vessel operating out of Preston’s Dock in Greenport, N.Y.

The company’s partners David Berson, who holds a 400-ton masters license and is also an Ocean Navigator contributing editor, and Andrew Rowsom, a lifelong sailor and part-owner of the marine supplies store, S.T. Preston and Son, began their electric boat venture more than a decade ago. Their quest to locate an appropriate vessel for harbor tours led them to discover the neglected, 30-ft. boat in an Annapolis, Md., storage shed. Despite its poor condition, the 1990 ELCO-reproduction was a true find. The 14-passenger Glory’s design is based on the ELCO fantail electric launch that was featured at the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

For a good part of their 10th anniversary year, Berson and Rowsom have been collaborating with Riverhead High School science teacher Bob Jester and his students on a project to install solar panels on the roof of Preston’s dockside building. The goal is to produce enough electricity to charge the eight, state-of-the-art, AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries that power Glory’s 4-hp engine. “Our goal is to become truly green and the installation of a solar-powered, battery charging system will achieve that,” Berson said.

In November 2008, Sun Stream USA offered Berson, Rowsom and Jester free installation of a solar-powered battery-charging system. Jim Moore, owner of a local construction company, has offered to complete the purchase of solar panels. Jester’s science students will also contribute funds won in a science competition. The solar panels should be in place by late spring 2009.

Deborah Kusa

By Ocean Navigator