Jean Bealieu of Classic Boat

Electric power compliments Pisces daysailers

TREMONT — Most of the Pisces 21 daysailers built and delivered by Jean Bealieu and his crew at Classic Boat shop in the last two years were built with electric auxiliary power.

The C.W. Paine-designed, Herreshoff-inspired boat is offered with optional diesel (Beta 14) or electric (Mastervolt 24-volt) power. The electric option offers the right amount of backup for the boat’s sail power for maneuvering into a slip or onto a mooring, while requiring very limited installation and maintenance costs.

A demonstration boat including the electric drive is being built now for use this season.

“With the single 24-volt battery, the range is about an hour an a half. So it’s about a 10-12 mile distance,” Bealieu said. The boat can reach five knots at full throttle. It’s also very quiet. “You can hear the water moving on the boat,” he said, which is rare for any marine engine. “You can hear the propeller spinning under water.” A good, efficient propeller is important to that range calculation. Popular options are Max Prop two- or three-bladed feathering props.

It’s unusual for a Pisces owner to complete a trip under power the whole way, he said. “Chances are you’re sailing. You have a daysailer. If it’s stormy out, or if it’s not windy, you’re not going out. You’ll say, ‘I might take my motorboat today.’

“I say that because a lot of our customers have a little powerboat as well as their Pisces. Most of my customers come from having much larger sailboats, and they got older and they realized the big boat was a lot of work, and hard to get enough crew to sail. They realized after they sold the big boat with the money they got out of the big boat they bought a small powerboat to go to places like a car, and they got a Pisces with an electric drive, and still had change in their pockets.”

Those customers find they can sail more often with a smaller sailboat, he said, and become better sailors. “With a Pisces, you can go every day for just half an hour or an hour, alone, if you feel like it. And the electric is ideal because you’ll only need it for half an hour.”

The crew at Classic Boat has tried several different electric models since they began building the Pisces in 2000. “The first generation electric I used was Elco brand from New York. They would supply us with a complete package of batteries, battery charger, motor, drive train, and we would do the install.” That system was 36-volt, requiring three 12-volt batteries in series and three battery chargers.

They tried other brands and settled on the Mastervolt 24-volt system with a single lithium ion battery. It’s simpler because there are off-the-shelf components like 24-volt lights and bilge pumps.

It’s a large battery and a little expensive, Bealieu said. But he sees at least three advantages. They weigh a third of what the equivalent lead-acid battery weighs, and they recharge in a third of the time. They give you a longer range because it’s safe to deplete the battery to zero, like your electric drill or your cell phone. There’s no reduction in power over the 21-29 volt range.

The charger is installed on the boat. An owner only needs access to conventional house current.

“Everything is built in. It’s very similar to an electric car,” he said. “You just turn the key and go, and when you’re done, you plug it in. The ideal situation is a boat at a marina. Most marinas have power so you just leave the boat plugged in.” His customers have calculated their “fuel” costs in marina electricity to be only a few cents per day.

Classic Boat has a robust service department, where they store and maintain 20 of the 50 Pisces they’ve built to date. Because the boats are trailerable, and the Bernard shop is not on the water, theirs is a mobile operation, and they deliver boats to sales and service customers across Mount Desert Island and beyond.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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