The latest gyroscope is designed for boats from seven to nine meters. It doesn’t weigh much and it doesn’t take up much room. And it doesn’t need much energy. It can be retrofitted or included in new builds
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Seakeeper and Andrea Muscatello
OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS, I HAVE OFTEN FOUND MYSELF GOING ON BOARD BOATS alongside people who might become owners. We are talking about mega yachts, so the room was not an issue and we could always maintain social distancing, in line with Covid regulations. While the potential buyers visited boats accompanied by sales and PR people, I would go and ask the Captain a few questions.
I noticed that the item that the owners were shown most were stabilizers, or rather they were shown how they work. It’s a straightforward thing to do: you go into neutral taking the waves side on and wait a few seconds.
With the stabilizer on stand-by and the would-be owner just about to get seasick, the captain would press the on button on the display on the bridge, and the magnificent stabilization work was demonstrated. There’s no longer any debate as to whether they are essential, but the firms that build them also want to get into the market for small boats.
The active control system means that the stabilizer can continue to work even when underway. You don’t have to worry about stopping it when you go fast on a rough sea because the “machine” adapts automatically to sea conditions.
That is why the latest Seakeeper model is called 1 and is suitable for boats from seven to nine meters, and which don’t weigh more than 5,500 kg. This is the smallest of the Recreational line and has a 12-volt power supply. So it doesn’t need a generator, not least because it doesn’t use a lot of power. We tried it out at Sanremo for a whole day. A day on our own, without any buyers.
It was fitted to an Axopar, and the display showed that it was using 15 Amps. If you bear in mind that batteries are normally ninety Amps, you quickly get an idea of how long it will last. Of course, you can consider having a battery just for the stabilizer. This is nevertheless a very standard battery, which you add to the one for the engine and on-board facilities. It takes up just less than 60x60x40 cm, and both the weight and price are not excessive. As you can easily imagine, it is not difficult to find room to install it on board. The manufacturers have also redesigned the casing.
The list price of the new Seakeeper 1 amounts to five to ten percent of the cost of the boat on which it may be installed.
Since 2008, Seakeeper has sold around 12,000 stabilizers around the world. Europe is about 40% of the market, and the most widely-sold models in the old continent range from the Seakeeper 6 to the Seakeeper 16, so for boats from 14 to 21 meters. The range now includes ten models: from the smallest, and the latest, Seakeeper 1, which is suitable for seven-meter boats, up to the Seakeeper 35 for 26-meter yachts. Thirty percent of the stabilizers are fitted on boats that have already been launched, and the remaining 70% on new boats. A gyroscopic stabilizer is now considered as being pretty much a standard accessory. The number of models installed as retrofits is set to jump with the arrival of Seakeeper 1, which is designed to work on boats of up to nine meters.
Everything comes in the same container, which is transparent so you can check that the gyroscope is working. That isn’t just practical, it also looks good. The casing and everything inside can be viewed, and perhaps put inside a locker. And the casing even has a control panel. This is an option that was specifically researched for retrofitting when even putting through a couple of cables to hook up an instrument can turn out to be a problem. But if you want, and you’ve got enough room, you can also bring all the information to the bridge. What doesn’t get reduced, however, is the efficiency.
We witnessed the fact that the gyroscope works as well as it does onboard yachts. Indeed, perhaps models like the Seakeeper 1 might even have a greater effect. These boats are much smaller than a yacht, and when a stabilizer reaches the required speed, you can forget about the roll. It disappears. Instantly. The difference between On and Stand-by is even more obvious on a boat than onboard a mega yacht. And then there is the Seakeeper technology, which is very much tried and tested now, and which has been used for this model too. There are two main characteristics: the flywheel is in a vacuum, and there is liquid cooling. So how is that an advantage? A vacuum-seal flywheel has lower energy consumption and can go faster. So there is none of the wear that might occur in an unprotected environment. Seakeeper 1 gets to 9750 rpm using just 15 Amps. Maximum efficiency and low energy usage. Also, a flywheel that moves very fast and is liquid-cooled can be smaller and less cumbersome. That is why the flywheel is small and doesn’t weigh very much. It saves weight and room but without losing its stabilizing ability.
Seakeeper aims to eliminate up to 95% of boat roll and to have a maximum heel of only ten degrees. That means not suffering in rough seas. Finally, the Active Control system optimizes the stabilizing torque. It works as if it were an electronic control, a kind of software that means you can always get the best performance according to sea conditions. Put simply, you turn it on and forget about it. Whether you are at anchor or underway.
Low energy consumption is vital because small boats often don’t have generators. The Seakeeper’s vacuum seals and liquid cooling mean that the flywheel is small and light and thus doesn’t need much power. Despite that, it is very efficient.
It is a model that is aiming to bring the comfort of stabilization to small boats. This one is specifically suitablefor boats of 7 to 9 meters.
Model: Seakeeper 1
Boat size: 7/9 meters long
Boat weight: up to 5,500 kilograms
Size: 0,582 L x 0,598 W x 0.398 H (meters)
Weight: 165 kg
Max rated speed: 9750 RPM
Angular Momentum at max rated RPM: 1000 N-M-S
Max anti-rolling torque at max rated RPM: 2620 N-M
Spool-up time to max rated RPM: 30 minutes
Spool-up time to stabilization: 15 minutes
Spool-up power: 600 W max
Operating power: 300-600 W
Operating power input: 12 VDC
Price: $ 15,900 USD
(Seakeeper 1, great comfort for small boats – Barchemagazine.com – May 2021)