The smallest in the range has arrived. Ideal for boats from 6 to 9 meters, it works at 12V, so you don’t need a generator.
by Niccolò Volpati – photo and video by Andrea Muscatello
Those who have tried it never come back. Nowadays, stabilizers are an accessory considered almost indispensable. New boats offer them as optional extras, but they have practically become a standard, since no owner is willing to miss them. However, we are often used to think that a gyroscopic stabilizer is a product that can work for medium or large boats. This is no longer the case. Seakeeper has devoted all its investment in research and development to make the smallest models. In fact, the latest addition, the Seakeeper 1, is designed for boats from 6 to 9 meters in length. What characteristics must a boat stabilizer have? Low weight, reduced overall dimensions, low consumption and low cost. Vacuum technology and liquid cooling satisfy the first three characteristics.
Seakeepers, in fact, work with a vacuum sphere inside which a high-speed flywheel turns. Seakeeper 1 reaches 9,750 rpm in 15 minutes from the moment it is turned on. How does it do so? Thanks to the fact that the flywheel is inside the vacuum sphere. If there was no such technology, the ball would have to spin slower or take longer to reach maximum speed and therefore, performance would be lower.
There is another advantage brought by this technology and it is the low consumption. The flywheel can afford to run at 9,750 rpm with low consumption, precisely because it is located in a vacuum environment. Less friction also means less energy consumption. But how much less? Seakeeper 1, like its older brothers Seakeeper 2 and Seakeeper 3, is powered at 12V. In other words, a battery is enough, there is no need to have the generator on board. The battery can obviously be neither that of the engine nor that of the services, but a dedicated one.
During our test, we consumed 15 Ampere, so with a normal 90 Ampere battery, it is easy to understand that there are several hours of autonomy. If you want more, all you have to do is add a second dedicated battery or get a more powerful one. Thanks to vacuum technology, therefore, the performance is remarkable. Seakeeper 1 aims to reduce the roll of the boat by at least 80%. And the consumption, as we said, is low.
Size is not a problem either. Seakeeper 1 measures 60x60x40 cm, that is about half a metrocube of volume, so it is easy to place it under the floor or in a locker. Why is it able to have such a small size while maintaining high performance? Because in addition to vacuum technology, the Seakeepers are also liquid-cooled and this allows you to have a smaller flywheel that runs faster. With a smaller and less heavy “ball” that spins very quickly, you get the same stabilization you could have with a larger and heavier gyroscope.
Moreover, finally yet importantly, there is the active control system of Seakeeper which is used to optimize the stabilizing torque. In simple terms, Active Control improves performance compared to a passive control gyroscope. In this way, you will not have to turn it off when the sea is rough or at high speeds.
In fact, Active Control allows Seakeeper 1 to work in any sea conditions because the stabilization is comfortable when you are stationary at anchor, but also when you are sailing.
There is one last feature that a gyroscopic stabilizer must have to meet the favour of boat owners from six to nine meters: the price. Seakeeper 1 costs 14,900 US$ to which must be added the cost of the dedicated battery and installation. It is designed to make maintenance and installation as easy as possible. In this perspective, for example, it has been designed the control panel that can be mounted on the dashboard or directly above the stabilizer.
Those who have no place on the dashboard or want to avoid pulling yet another cable towards the consolle, can still have all the information they need under control. This also reduces installation time and, consequently, costs. The price thus remains around 5% of the cost of a new boat and, even in case of retrofit installation, it is a lower cost than an outboard motor or electronics that you already have on board.
(Seakeeper 1, the smallest of the range – Barchemagazine.com – November 2020)