Hello Everyone! Thank you for following along on our adventure as we sail to new lands with our electric motor and synthetic standing rigging. We are venturing along using only the power of the wind to carry us across the great blue world that we live on!
Arriving in the Azores was magical. The month at sea has come to an end and in such a splendid fashion. On our last day, we passed the island of Corvo, enjoyed the majesty of land with its high cliffs, and then sailed onward without stopping. Our port was still beyond the horizon and out of sight, probably another day away at this point.
Once we passed Corvo, the winds grew in our favor! We held a steady 8 knots for most of that afternoon and night, rocketing us towards Faial at speeds we have never had before!
Typically, there is no wind in the Azores, as you are in the Azores High. For this very reason, we were planning that this last hundred miles would take us several days with our light air sails set. Well, all that changed as the winds were wonderful and we were screaming along under full sail and having a blast!
As we approached Horta, the winds vanished which meant that we had to push our electric motor to the limits by trying to motor into port. Once in there, the lack of wind meant that docking would be as easy as possible. There was no wind pushing us around, everything was under the full control of the helm and we could graciously enter the harbor and tie up.
Our Transatlantic Voyage has come to an end for now, as we have made it to the Azores and have now crossed an ocean. It’s time for a steak dinner!
Bermuda is not a wise port to enter in the dark. The waterways are littered with illuminated and non-illuminated markers. The reefs are so bad that there are cardinal markers all over the place! This is definitely a harbor to enter with the light of day, but we didn’t!
The island is surrounded by a vast reef which is littered with wrecks from centuries of sailors who lost their way and smashed into the punishing rocks and corals. We were not going to become another wreck that tourists snorkel over on a tour!
I began studying the charts of Bermuda way back in July 2017, when we were going to sail to there in October. I knew the different markers, the different channels, the different reefs. I knew it all and I knew it was bad and that I didn’t want to do it in the dark! That is precisely what I ended up doing.
As we approached the island, I stayed to the south to avoid the large reef that secretly lies to the west of the island. My rational was simple, if the winds died and we were drifting in to shore, the eastern side of the island has a more gradual rise of the sea floor than the western side. This would give us a better chance at anchoring and trying to wait for better winds.
Since dawn on July 4th, we had been in contact with the Bermuda Coast Guard. They knew we were close to their country, and they knew our intentions were to enter their harbor and anchor. If you are planning to sail to Bermuda, it would behoove you to email them ahead of time (email@example.com). They will reply with an email that details all the information they request from you (this email will come from
This makes the entire process so much easier, since over the radio they will go over every last detail you could ever imagine! If they already have your information, they are less suspicious of you and therefore the super lengthy questions are kept to a solid 15-30 minutes.
The Bermuda Coast Guard can be hailed by calling out for “Bermuda Radio” and they are truly the most helpful and courteous radio people we have ever encountered. Not only did they aid us in coming into their country, but they also offered suggestions for where to eat once we were settled and got most of the paper work started for us with the customs agent. When we finally did arrive, all we had to do was fill out a few forms, hand over our flare gun (it's technically a fire-arm), and pay $35 per person to get our cruising permit for the country.
We were sailing close to the island in strong winds during the morning, then the winds all seemed to vanish as another system was coming in. The next system was going to rage down on this little island for the next 4 days, so if we didn’t make it into the harbor today, we were going to be stuck hove to while we ride out a long duration gale. We did not want to do that.
We contacted Bermuda Radio and let them know that we were kind of stuck in the water without any wind and worried that we would be arriving at the entrance to the harbor (called Town Cut) in the dark. I knew this passage was very small, very tight, and with plenty of current and perils!
Bermuda Radio organized with a cruiser on a yacht that was already in the harbor to come out and meet us in the channel so that they could guide us into the harbor. We went from worrying about coming into the harbor in the dark to being guided by local knowledge as we slowly made our way into the island through the narrow pass.
We are often asked how we feel about the electric motor, and this is one of those moments when a diesel would have been nice. We would have cranked it on when the winds died and powered our way there in no time, come through the pass, and entered the harbor all on our own with no outside help. The truth is, the electric motor makes us more cautious sailors who plan everything and work with all the forces around us to safely navigate the ocean. If we had a diesel, we would have wanted to use it back in the doldrums, but that would have sucked up a lot of fuel! Would we have fuel in the tank at this point? If we are going to have a diesel motor, why go small, and only move at cruising speed, why not have a motor so inconceivably huge that it can power us at hull speed into wind and waves? Enough will never be enough and there will always be some drawback to any system in some situation. The secret is finding one that works well for you!
Yes, we love our electric motor just like someone loves their dog. You love it even when it poops in the kitchen! It is not perfect and, just like with a diesel motor, it has its drawbacks, but it is perfect for us.
We made it into the island and anchored safely in the harbor where the tall rocks of the island provided us wonderful protection from the winds that were soon to come.
We arrived in the harbor 1 day late. Our crew member began pondering if that was really so bad and if maybe he should carry on with us. Maddie and I quickly proclaimed that it would be best for him to fly back to Europe so that he doesn’t miss any scheduled deadlines he has imposed on himself. Besides, a day late is a day late, why start forgiving lateness now?
While we were in land now, we were not done yet, as we were tied to the customs pier. We were told that we could not stay tied to the pier because the pier needs to be open for other arriving yachts. We were the last boat to be checked in by the customs agents that night, and that it would be safest to move the boat at dawn when we could see better.
Happy Independence Day! On July 4th, 2018, a US Documented Vessel sailed into the port of a former British colony. Oh how times have changed in 242 years!
After 21 days, sailing what should have only take 5 days in a fast boat and 7 days in a slow boat, or the 10 days we were planning to make it to this point in our crossing; we see land!
On the horizon, we see the small rocky formations of land and all of its glorious components.
It is important to note that after 21 days, we are not on land, but merely see it on the horizon. All day long, we have been beating into the weather with land in sight but out of reach. The winds were not letting up and were very unfavorable but we could see it and we wanted to touch it, so we carried on into the seas.
Bermuda is, in my opinion, one of the worst places to sail into. The low flat island is surrounded by a massive barrier reef. If you see land and simply sail right to it, you will join one of the thousands of wrecks that pepper the reef surrounding Bermuda.
The western coast of the island is completely unobtainable, as the reef has no gaps in it that will allow safe passage over it. On the north-eastern side of the island, there is a very tiny cut made through the reef and through the land that lets you into St. George’s Harbor.
From here, you can sail around the island to Hamilton, but you will be snaking your way through corals and wrecks in a very narrow channel that you need to share with massive cruise ships and all the local traffic. This is not a good place to sail, because there is just no room to tack. Having an electric motor, we felt it was best to explore the island by bus and avoid moving Wisdom from her safe and secure anchorage within the harbor.
Electric propulsion is growing in popularity! A few years back, the thought of something being powered by an electric motor was just a distant dream.
I remember when our school was “visited by an electric car.” The engineering department at the local university put a considerable amount of focus and effort into creating an electric vehicle. This car was something out of a science fiction movie, with everything being ultra sleek and efficient in an attempt to barely meet the minimum standards of what a normal citizen would consider to be a “car”!
Jump forward a few years and electric cars are common place on streets and parking lots. They no longer draw a crowd around them when they appear, as they have become somewhat accepted and commonplace.
The same seems to have occurred in the marine environment. Boats are being powered by electric motors instead of by an internal combustion engine. Large boats have inboard electric motors, and their dinghies are being fitted with electric outboard motors.
When it comes to propulsion for your dinghy, is it worth the upgrade to electric? Well, it depends on what you want.
The most prominent and trusted brand in electric outboard motors is Torqeedo. They are the motor that people picture when they are talking to someone about electric outboards. This is because Torqeedo made the perfect electric outboard.
The battery is included in the motor assembly, so it looks like a clean installation. Then they made the battery information clear and easy to understand! When you are motoring along, it tells you how long you can sustain this speed and how many miles you can go at this speed. This made it easy for people to realize and understand that you can’t go full power all the time! The faster you go, the shorter a distance you can motor. The slower you go, the farther you can go on a single charge.
So, what are the great advantages to a Torqeedo motor? Well, first of all, the thing is silent! The motor is powered by electricity, not thousands of explosions per minute. This means that the motor will be silent when you are coming in to dock, which makes it easy to communicate with people in the boat with you as well as those on shore. How often is it that someone is trying to tell you something but you can’t hear them because you are sitting right next to the noisy outboard? That problem disappears!
The drawback to this very green situation is that the motor runs on electricity and that power won’t just fall out of the sky! Or will it? Charging the battery is a slow process. If you have the time and enough solar panels, you can easily charge the battery with the sun, which does mean that power is falling from the sky. Charging the battery up is going to take a few hours, whether you have a giant solar array and all the sun in the world, or if you are plugged in to a generator. Charging takes time and that time means that you can’t use the outboard while the charging is taking place.
I had the opportunity to speak with the Torqeedo representative at the Annapolis Boat Show in 2018, and he said that the outboard will charge overnight when plugged into the mother ship. This is fine, but the problem of generating the power just got shifted over to the main boat.
In our opinion, the boat or the dinghy can be electric, but not both. We have an electric motor in our sailboat, and therefore can't run our motor to generate the power to charge the outboards’ battery; we already need that power for the boats battery bank! We rely on solar power to charge up the boats batteries, and barely have enough for that task, throwing in the need to charge another battery is simply out of the question.
We find that when we anchor somewhere, we then motor around in the dinghy to get to different beaches, snorkeling spots, or shore. We have to be conservative with our motoring when on the boat, since we have limited range with our electric motor, and the thought of having to be equally conservative in the dinghy would get old really fast!
Sometimes, we feel like we are putting on a show in the anchorage, as we will go between shore and our boat a few times before we actually “go to shore.” This is because we may have forgotten something and need to return to the boat to fetch it before we go. With an electric outboard, these “whoops I forgot something” trips might be too much and consume your range too quickly. We also do a fair amount of exploring by dinghy, going into uncharted waterways where we can explore. Having the worry of range will quickly take away from the carefree joy that comes from exploring new mangrove canals in an island you just landed on.
For these reasons, we have a gasoline outboard which we use on our dinghy. We have a 2hp Honda air cooled outboard, because it is light enough that I can carry it in one hand, which makes mounting it on the dinghy even easier, and it has an internal gas tank that holds a quart of fuel.
The setup is just as clean of an installation as the Torqeedo, and the range is probably also very similar, but the charge time is where the Honda runs ahead of the Torqeedo.
Since the fuel tank is 1 quart, we simply carry a 1 quart mason jar of gasoline in the dinghy, along with a funnel. Should we find ourselves low or out of fuel, all we need to do is decant the jar of gasoline into the outboard motor, then we can fire back up and continue on our way. Technically, that was the recharge phase which would take the Torqeedo hours to complete.
The Honda is much louder, and you can’t really have a conversation in the boat while motoring, but you will get there faster than rowing, and you can carry an entire “tank of fuel” with you.
We feel that if you have an electric motor on your boat, maybe a gasoline outboard would be a good idea over an electric outboard. This is because charging is the biggest hurdle to overcome with electric motors, as the power has to come from somewhere and if the sun isn’t power the solar panels and the wind isn’t powering the wind generator, you will need to fall back on fossil fuels for electrical production.
If you have an internal combustion motor in your boat, then you can generate the power needed for the outboard motor’s charging, and suddenly, the thought of producing power for the outboard’s battery doesn’t seem like such a stressful point!
So, if your boat is electric, consider a gasoline outboard for your dinghy.
If your boat is not electric, an electric outboard would be a fun way to enjoy the joys of electric propulsion while still having a reliable source of electricity for the charging times.