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The Segway

Groovy

We test the newest new thing in tenders: the Segway Human Transporter.

By Capt. Bill Pike - November 2003

   

Photo: Robert Holland
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Segway
• Part 2: Segway


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While channel-surfing recently, I came across a primetime program on the Segway, “the world’s first self-balancing human transporter.” The program handed the gizmo some great PR—folks were shown silently whizzing around on leafy sidewalks, inside buildings... virtually everywhere. Postmen were using Segways, as well as policemen, college kids, and tourists. The little machines looked like handtrucks, with cushy Michelin tires, a 16"x22" rubbery footpad between, and a short, height-adjustable column with handlebars on top.

Of course, the program featured in-depth interviews with famous New Englander and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, the guy who brainstormed the Segway. And what he was saying was compelling—the way I heard it, the Segway’s going to change the way people bop around the planet and cut automobile pollution big-time.

After listening for a while, though, I began losing focus, mostly because I was thinking of a dreary episode I had on the eastern shore of Maryland. It started when I brought a Fairline motoryacht into a deserted marina at about dusk. I soon discovered the nearest convenience store was a million miles away. Luring a taxi to my remote location was out of the question, and so was an eight-mile jaunt with grocery bags on a back-breaking folding bike. So I was constrained to thumb a series of rides, each more fringy than the last. I got back about midnight—sweaty, ticked off, and darn near ready to quit boats and take up golf!

While cogitating on all this distracted me from the Segway program, it engendered a wholly fascinating idea: What about Segways on boats? Could cruising folks stow them onboard, then break ‘em out dockside and zip off to convenience stores, restaurants, chandleries, movies, and museums? Could they adapt to the marine environment? And with retail pricing starting at approximately $3,995 for the smallest machine—three sizes of Segways are available, along with cargo/grocery baskets and other accessories—how could a boater thwart thievery?

The next day I contacted Relay Transportation, the largest Segway dealer in America. Relay’s located in Celebration, Disney’s famous “new urban” community near Orlando. “Anybody buying Segways for yachts?” I queried. “Yeah,” came the reply.

I immediately suggested doing this story, and within days Matt Gelbwaks, a Segway director who had recently joined Relay, a crew of Relay employees, and seven Segways made the trip from Celebration to Harbor Islands Marina, a new yacht haven in Hollywood, Florida. Photographer Robert Holland, Holland’s ten-year-old daughter Emily, and yours truly were anxiously awaiting them. As the morning sun cleared the palm trees, Emily and I underwent Segway instruction.

Next page > Part 2: The machine is built to rigorous, water-resistant military specifications. > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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