NEWPORT HARBOR – Newport Harbor Yacht Club recently proved electric motors aren’t just made for vehicles when the organization ditched a diesel engine in its shore boat and replaced it with an electric motor.
After the shore boat’s latest engine, a Volvo diesel, burned out after thousands of hours of use, it was time for another engine. When it came time to decide what to do next, yacht club members had several discussions, including one with Newport Harbor YC member Marshall “Duffy” Duffield on whether they should rebuild or replace the engine.
They ultimately decided to go with a battery-powered electric engine instead of gas.
While electric motors cost $10,000 more than a gas engine, the yacht club’s leadership estimated the conversion from gasoline to electricity would save money in the long run.
Pat Werner, vice commodore of Newport Harbor YC, said the shore boat named NHYC 1, is kind of a Toyota Prius on water, saving his group thousands of dollars in fuel.
“The beauty of the engine is it’s burning no fuel, it’s no longer diesel and completely electric and probably saves us $5,000 a year in fuel,” Werner said, adding the yacht club would be able to recover the extra $10,000 spent on the new Duffy electric engine within two years. The shore boat would be able to pay for itself within five years.
This is the fifth time the shore boat has gone through a change or rebuild. It took three months to convert the shore boat from gasoline to an electric-powered vessel.
Operating as a water taxi service delivering people to boats in the mooring field within Newport Harbor, the shore boat was built in 1962 and can hold up to 20 people. Its batteries, which were donated to the yacht club, are charged every third day.
The most recent diesel engine had 150 horsepower. The new electric engine can get about 90 horsepower, but there is no need to use a throttle.
“The beauty of an electric motor is it has immediate torque, so you don’t have to use a throttle to go faster. You have all the pulling power in the world immediately. It’s actually faster and turns better,” Werner said, adding the shore boat now has a bigger rudder, allowing it to have a better steering area. “It’ll just about turn in its own circle.”
As if to demonstrate his point, Werner took The Log on a brief test drive of the electric-powered shore boat and, within an open space of water, made a sharp u-turn. The shore boat’s response was nimble and on a dime.
Bill Moses, who has been with the club for more than 30 years and witnessed previous refits of the shore boat, was pleased with the latest iteration.
“I must say that from an aesthetic standpoint this is the nicest job we’ve had done,” Moses, who did not participate in this year’s refit of NHYC 1, said in an email.
Indeed, matching the tidy and efficient electric motor inside the shore boat was its vibrant exterior. One would never know upon first or second glance that the shore boat was 52 years old, not with its bright white paint and updated features to the deck and hull.
Newport Harbor YC Commodore Gale Nye Pickney said electric motors in shore boats and other vessels is the wave of the future.
“This was something fun to try. We created a useful boat that is emission-free, has more torque and has greater maneuverability,” Pickney said, adding NHYC 1 is a prototype. “It’s used every day. I think it’s terrific.”
Newport Harbor YC offers its shore boat service to boats on moorings daily between 7:30 a.m. and sunset.
Located at 720 Bay Street on Balboa Peninsula, Newport Harbor Yacht Club was established in 1916 and is approaching its 100th birthday. The shore boat has been with the club for more than half that time.