When the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s committee boat needed repowering, the decision was made to go electric!

The Port Townsend Sailing Association, Blackbird Associates, and Steve Scharf have relaunched the 1979 CHB Trawler race committee boat, Committee(Yes, that’s the name. Underworld sounding? Or a little like naming your dog, Dog?) Fresh from the Port Townsend Boatyard, simplified for purpose, and with a new electric motor, Committee is meant to augment the local sailing community and to oversee the local Thunderbird fleet and PHRF buoy and long-distance races.

Originally put on the hard for winter storage and routine maintenance in the fall of 2020, the refit turned into more of a rescue. As work commenced, it became clear that many of the systems of the 42-year old boat were at end-of-life. The leaky and smokey Ford Lehman diesel, which the “house” mechanic Dan Ginther had kept running, was ultimately going to need a rebuild or replacement. With parts difficult to source, the latter was the reality.

Steve, the boat’s owner, decided to pull the trigger on installing an electric motor. “At that point,” said Steve, “other diesel options were considered, but I convinced myself, despite a real mix of opinions concerning my sanity, to go electric.” It’s a progressive and new-age conscionable decision, though not yet widespread, whereas a diesel engine is time-honored but not necessarily forward-thinking. Full speed ahead, Steve enlisted Revision Marine to help design the new system.

Removing Committee’s old fuel tanks.

In the meantime, there were other tired systems to remove that were unnecessary for a day-use committee boat. Out went the two-cabin heating system, the cooktop, and the hot water. Say bye, bye to refrigeration, radar (a tough call), and extra cushions. Get rid of the two large diesel tanks and the oversize freshwater tank. They removed the excess plumbing, renewed much of the remaining wiring, and rebuilt the steering. Other cosmetic and functional improvements are ongoing.

After a long winter of prep, the boat was ready for the motor to be installed. The new propulsion system Matt Mortenson of Revision Marine, a self-described tech geek, designed for Committee, has a 108 volt, 40hp, Elco EP-40 electric inboard powered by a 26.5 kilowatt-hour battery consisting of five recycled Tesla modules. It will have an operating time of about three hours at six knots. This operating range should be adequate for local race use.

A clean, new Elco electric engine.

The refit and repower of the committee boat demonstrate a commitment to supporting PTSA races and leading-edge technologies. The trawler’s structure is solid, providing a good viewing platform. Its operation will often be by volunteers, so it’s important to have a safe, simple, and reliable vessel that is easy to operate. As the days get longer and the Port Townsend race season heads into full swing, Committee is ready to play her star role out on the bay. As we see the reign of the combustible engine challenged in our modern world, the Port Townsend marine community is embracing the future.

Note: This post was first published at SailingwithJosh.com