to do about finishing the hull?
Previous experience in Florida
waters told Gillespie that worms
would be a major issue. In addition,
years of storage had taken at least one
toll on the boat’s wood—Gillespie
could not get the keel to close up
to the boat. An uncomfortably large
gap remained. Jacking the keel to
push it into place did not work, and
he could not count on swelling to
accomplish much of anything. So
he exorcised his restoration purist
guilt and called Mystic to consult
with their restoration staff. The
answer: We live in a practical world.
You want to use the boat. Anything
you do can be undone. Go ahead,
glass it. And so he did.
Vagabond was almost ready for the water except for a new
power plant. On the surface, the issue seemed simple. But
then, very little with boats is simple, and even less is easy.
Vagabond weighs approximately 1,600lb and it had been
powered with a 40hp engine weighing 1,200lb while turning
the prop at 600 rpm for cruising speed. When Gillespie
revisited the electric motor world, he found that conflicting
information (think sales claims) persisted.
Elco continued to be a possibility, but Gillespie needed
engineering assistance. So he turned to Jon Hall of Huckins Yacht,
who had worked with the Gillespies previously. They went over
the requirements and possibilities, and Hall went to work.
Elco soon emerged as the preferred choice. Their engineers
assisted in determining the proper motor, the battery bank
and its charging requirements. This one-sentence description
overly simplifies and masks the effort involved. Technical
considerations meant Elco was involved with working out
the charger specifications and working with the vendor.
The final result is an Elco motor rated as being equivalent
to 45–85hp diesel, a battery bank of AGM batteries totaling
2,996Ah and a Kohler 8.5kW genset. This package weighs
just about the same as the Lathrop engine.
However, weight distribution could be an issue. The
genset would go in the gallery engine area; batteries and
motor, farther aft. So Huckins put Vagabond in the water with
movable test weights (and beefy yard workers to shift them).
They found that the motor and batteries could go under the
cockpit/pilot house deck. Three hundred pounds of lead in
the bow brought the boat to original trim lines. Back to work
for Huckins with a substantial installation job.
The hybrid-electric-powered Vagabond
was launched in May of 2013. And
what did David Gillespie get for his
efforts? A guest is struck by details;
the details that were the standards
of a previous generation of builders
and owners: rich, dark mahogany,
brass fittings and controls. Modern
fixtures and equipment blend in
inconspicuously or contribute to
Vagabond’s new ambiance. Gillespie
has kept the original brass throttle and
gear shift. It is a handsome companion
to the brass wheel, and the two visually
set the stage for small electronic
displays, a Garmin plotter and Elco’s
That engine display and plotter
will show a passenger that Vagabond
will run a bit over 4 knots at 600
rpm while drawing 21 amps. Boost
the rpm to 1600 to get the boat
into the 7-knot range. While this motor package will push
Vagabond up to hull speed, it does protest above 1600 rpm.
Dial back the rpm, and a day cruise of five to six hours
without supplemental generator charge is routine.
Of course, if the generator is run, the cruising time is more
than one would ever want—as would be the noise. This boat
runs totally silently. Gillespie ran the motor up to cruising
output while the boat was tied up under a covered shed. I did
not know the motor was running until he told me. That’s a
lifestyle easy to get used to.
Ultimately, we should evaluate boats in light of their
intended purpose. David Gillespie wanted a boat project. No
doubt he got that. Along the way, Ruth and David moved to
the St John’s River south of Jacksonville—a river well suited
for elegant, quiet, day cruising. Now they have a boat well
suited for their new home.
Job well done.
Vagabond has a mix of tradition and innovation. The steering
controls are original; the brass throttle is a reminder of days long
ago. The display provides electric motor information: rpm, amp
draw and battery status. Vagabond comes to David Gillespie as a
jigsaw puzzle of uncataloged boat parts.