Palatka resident transforms 100-year-old diesel yacht to run on electricity


David Gillespie electric yacht vagabond_1

While there are not many uses for most wooden yachts built about a century ago, a Palatka resident, David Gillespie, knows pretty well that with some modification and a lot of hard work, these classic boats can still take it to the waves. To prove his point David has restored an old wooden boat that was built in 1910 and was rotting in upstate New York since the 1950s. Not only is the restoration work ingenious, David has also transformed the boat’s environmental credentials, by now running the old diesel-fueled boat with electricity.

The 40-foot yacht, dubbed Vagabond, was once propelled by an 1800-pound diesel engine, which after all efforts wasn’t getting back to work. After buying the boat in 2005, David started restoring and almost completely rebuilding the hull and the floor, a task which was completed in five years after spending $4000 in lumber and another $4000 in paint and varnish. Now coming to the engine, David found out that the boat’s diesel engine was completely deteriorated and didn’t run. Finding the options, David tried to look for gas-powered engines, which apart from polluting the environment, were not at all fuel-efficient.

David wanted to try out a more environmentally friendly engine, which led him to Elco Motor Yachts, a company in Athens, N.Y. The engineers at Elco provided a 35hp electric engine with a small diesel generator to recharge the onboard batteries. The new engine weighs about 900 pounds, which is half the weight of the old engine, and hence allows the boat to travel at about 7.5 knots.

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