Part 2: The machine is built to rigorous, water-resistant military specifications.
By Capt. Bill Pike - November 2003
“Imagine you’re simply standing on the ground,” Gelbwaks explained. “And you start leaning forward—way forward. At some point, your brain realizes you’re getting out of balance, thanks to a shift in the fluid in your inner ear, and it moves one of your legs forward to stop you from falling. The Segway works similarly, except it has wheels, not legs; motors, not muscles; microprocessors, not brains; and sophisticated tilt sensors instead of an inner ear.”
Emily and I hit the Segway trail. To go backward or forward, we simply leaned backward or forward. The further we leaned, the faster we went, although three separate speed settings programmed for varying levels of expertise and/or traffic density kept us safe: 6 mph for beginners, 8 mph for intermediate users, and 12.5 mph for experienced folks in noncongested areas. Turning was accomplished via the left handlebar grip—to go left or right, we simply rotated the grip. In a half-hour, we were cruising around the parking lot like low-flying seagulls.
Ultimately, however, the time came to see how suitable the Segway might be for yachting. With our machines set for 6 mph, Emily and I headed down a long, concrete pier towards a lovely 94-foot Hargrave motoryacht called Carissima. A fair representation of modern, mainstream motoryachts, she’d been put at our disposal by Hargrave Custom Yachts of Fort Lauderdale in hopes of answering the questions I’d had at the onset.
First, are the machines practically stowable? Minutes after we’d stopped our Segways at Carissima’s gangplank, we found all kinds of places to easily and conveniently salt them away, whether beneath stairways, under berths, or in the engine room. Convenience was enhanced by the fact that our machines weighed just 69 pounds and could be quickly broken down into two parts.
Second, can the Segway tough out the marine environment? “Yes,” Relay told us. The machine is built to rigorous, water-resistant military specifications and can easily endure long stowage periods onboard, although total immersion in either fresh or salt water for more than a half-hour will likely do damage. Furthermore, the Segway’s sealed twin NiMH battery packs can be recharged from any onboard 110-volt outlet in about six hours. Full-charge range for protracted runs is between nine and 14 miles.
Third, what about thievery? Relay reps showed us how a Kryptonite/Segway bicycle-type lock-and-chain system can fasten the machines to stanchions, stairs, or padeyes onboard or trees or lamp posts ashore.
That Emily’s a wild one. Because mundane concerns like stowage, saltwater corrosion, and thievery were getting just a tad old, she suggested one last Segway ride. Given the smile her dad subsequently captured in the photo here, I’m guessing the fun factor played a big role in her decision.
It certainly did in mine.
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This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.