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Plugboats: A major conversion of a 100 year old!


Nov 10, 2022

The 100kW electric motor at the heart of the Torqeedo Deep Blue system Photo: Stefan Schorr

More than one owner of a sailboat in the past few years has thought, when trying to fire up a diesel or gas motor, that maybe the time is right to convert to electric for the times when they are not sailing under wind power. Here is the story of a century old boat, TALISMAN, from the Abeking & Rasmussen (A&R) shipyard in Germany, that was recently refit with electric.


Today A&R is probably best known today for building superyachts and cruise ships, but it started out in 1907 when George Abeking hooked up with skipper Henry Rasmussen. They set to work building wooden sailing yachts and in 1920 Rasmussen designed the TALISMAN, the first from the yard to be made with a steel hull. Over the next 99 years she had a Colourful history that included race wins, a near catastrophic explosion and various owners and berths in Germany, Denmark, Majorca and Sweden.

In 2014 TALISMAN was moored in the Stockholm Yacht Club when heavy thunderstorms stirred up. She was hit by a lightning bolt that caused severe damage and prompted the consideration of a complete restoration.

That wouldn’t occur until 2019 when the 77 foot ship was purchased by a new owner who wanted to restore her to her original beauty, but also wanted “To make my small contribution to sustainability and show what is possible with a restoration when environmental friendliness plays a major role.”

Talisman(Left) Lowering the 102kWh lithium-ion battery into TALSIMAN. Photo: Stefan Schorr

Talisman(Right) The Torqeedo Deep Blue system: Lithium-ion battery (L) and electric motor (R) Photo: Stefan Schorr

The restoration was undertaken by HCC Bådeværft in Denmark, who often work with Torqeedo electric systems and recommended the company’s 100kW Deep Blue Hybrid integrated electric propulsion and energy management system. They also suggested a 25 kW electric bow thruster added for manoeuvrability.

Both are powered by a 120 kiloWatt hour lithium-ion battery bank charged with renewable energy from onboard solar panels and by using the electric drive as a hydrogenerator when the yacht is under sail. Because of TALISMAN’s classification by the international society DNV, the system also includes a backup diesel genset.

When the boat needs to be under pure power rather than sail, the yacht can cruise for up to 189 nautical miles at an average speed of about 6 knots in calm weather. The genset kicks in to charge the battery and drive the electric motor beyond that range when occasionally necessary.

The battery and regen system is also used for the 24 V onboard power supply and for operating devices with 230 V alternating current. Cooking is done on an induction stove and there is electric underfloor heating. The outboard motor for the dinghy is an electric one from Torqeedo.

This is all part of the owner’s vision, which included evaluating all materials and systems to ensure a low environmental impact. Everything removed from the yacht during the restoration was closely evaluated, catalogued, cleaned and repaired. Anything that couldn’t be reused was recycled, or “upcycled”. Even the old sails were transformed into bags for onboard guests.

Ole Jonge of HCC Bådeværft says “The Talisman refit has been a great journey in sustainability. As a shipyard, it has been an honour to have a customer that values our planet this highly. It is a good feeling to look at the project in the end and know that we did everything we could to be environmentally friendly.”

TalismanThe ketch TALISMAN

In 1920, Henry Rasmussen designed the TALISMAN to be powered completely by sail. We’ll never know what he would think of the addition of any kind of motor, but the suspicion is he might prefer electric over fossil fuel. The comments of Jens Bottke, a Project Manager at A&R, could give us some insight. “We will be releasing our own corporate sustainability report at the end of this year” he says, “but maybe the most beautiful form of sustainability is to see that the TALISMAN, built at A&R over 100 years ago, is still in use and shining in such splendour.”



Jeff Butler 400Jeff Butler is based in Toronto and is the Editor/Publisher of plugboats.com, the international website covering everything electric boats and boating. He is also President of the Electric Boat Association of Canada and is busy preparing to bring electric motor boat racing and exhibitions to Toronto Harbour in 2023 for the first Toronto Solar Boat Races.

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