At first glance, Dasher appears to have no power at all, with its low-slung flush deck and minimalist furniture raised above the deck, absent of any engine box. Start her electric motors and there is no sensation, not a sound. Put the boat in gear and it is not as silent as you might suspect, because you hear the rush of the water as you would on a racing sailboat. And, you can hear the roar of the future.
Dasher graced our January cover, so her story is not new to you. The boat has been getting lots of splash inside and outside the boating industry. My story of Dasher is one told from the inside, sitting at the table of What’s Next? from day one.
That question came from the investors who own Hinckley Yachts, a company which, despite the traditional look of its boats, has been a technology leader in the field of composites, waterjets, and joy-stick development for the past 20 years.
To answer it, several industry leaders and visionaries were summoned to Rhode Island, on a -9 degree day in January 2015. Among those invited to join several Hinckley executives was the senior staff of Hunt & Associates, composites guru Eric Goetz, America’s Cup hydrofoil expert Dirk Kramer, Torqeedo Electric Motors President Christoph Ballin, and myself.
This was going to be an interesting day. Led by Hinckley’s owner, the day-long conversation swirled around advanced composites, electric propulsion, multi-hulls, hydrofoils, and all kinds of lofty ideas. What Hinckley wanted, however, was not just a science experiment but a technologically advanced product; a real boat to build and market. The conversation closed in on electric propulsion. Was the technology ready?
A month later I received a call from the owner of Hinckley. My office had been selected to head the design effort to develop a boat utilizing a pair of Torqeedo 80-horsepower Deep Blue electric motors. The two years that followed were a testament to enduring the unrealized promise of increased power and the angst of ever-changing battery technology. No sooner was the prototype tested than the batteries were doubled for increased range as we stacked two BMW i3 batteries on top of each other. The new configuration barely fit in the prototype’s hull, and questions were flying back and forth to Torqeedo every day.
The final result is Dasher. As I write this, she sits across the street at Marina Jack, and I’ve enjoyed using her for the last week. After designing a boat for a period of two years, I am seldom surprised, but I was shocked at the beauty of her faux varnished teak and intrigued by the possibilities explored in the 3D printed parts. But running the boat with her silent power, hearing the whoosh of the water, I was keenly aware that we were riding aboard the future. There have been electric boats since the turn of the 20th century, and there have been other Torqeedo-powered one-off designs, but Dasher represents the first significant point on the curve of electric propulsion.
Like the Hollywood stars that bought the first Tesla roadsters—back when they were just novelties—Dasher will likely only be purchased by very wealthy yachtsmen looking to make a statement out on the water. But as we zipped around Sarasota Bay, I could imagine the day when I could look back at this as the start of boating’s own electric revolution.