1000 miles sailed on electric, 0 diesel!

Introducing one of the North Devon Marine Project’s fully electric sailboats, SV Nazca.

Our sailboat, SV Nazca is a 1984 Contessa 34 offshore one design, fully electric, and prepared for expedition sailing. As a one design she was originally produced as a racing yacht – a well proven, robust and seaworthy boat. Nazca is the first vessel of its type to sail on the Bristol Channel.

We set the challenge to sail the South West using only electric and asked, could we sail the Bristol Channel without a diesel backup? Since we launched her back in March, we’ve had the most amazing fun, experience and support, so we thought we’d tell you a little more about her and sum up the first three months sailing with only electric between Appledore in North Devon and Plymouth in South Devon. 

Microplastics surveying with SV Nazca - North Devon Marine project

Over that time, we’ve rounded the Lizard and Cape Cornwall, Carbis Bay, Lundy, Hartland and across the Bideford bar, called into Lundy Island, the Helford River, Falmouth and Plymouth to name but a few. We’ve made appearances at events and locations on the North and South coasts, and with over a thousand miles sailed we have not needed shore power, or run a generator and we have definitely become better sailors! 

Sailing with induction cooking

Nazca was becalmed off Plymouth and beaten up in gale force winds in Falmouth Bay. She has motored back from Lundy Island in the fog, searched for a lost shark tag in the middle of the Bristol Channel and conducted surveys for microplastics and benthic exploration. She was used as a floating power station, negotiated tight marinas, arrived (and left) silently into anchorages and kept us safe and (reasonably) dry. We’ve entertained dolphins, seals, guest crews and cooked up some fantastic meals on induction cooking. Project founder, Wayne Peters explains: 

“The great thing with Nazca is how she performs. She’s light, fast and will go in a breath of wind, yet also safe in a blow, she was the perfect candidate for a fossil fuel-free sailboat for marine science expeditions. With bases in both Falmouth and Appledore she plays a vital part in the NDMP decarbonisation strategy, testing both technique and equipment, but also questioning our attitude to the wider marine world and exploring how we can all improve our relationship with the ocean.

Sail electric - North Devon Marine

“There is approximately 10hrs of motoring range on battery only at 3.5 knots, as long as any wind is aft of the beam (further on a sunny day). The lowest the battery has been is around 50% after motor sailing back to Appledore from Lundy Island in the fog.

The solar does the leg work and, in very good conditions, the solar on the stern arch is capable of propelling her at 3 knots directly. The Silentwind turbine keeps the batteries topped up at night and we can lower it to avoid shading. We can also regenerate under sail. 

Nazca has LED lighting throughout. Induction cooking is so much more efficient than gas and we can heat water, power a kettle, run tools etc. To go fully electric though, there have been compromises made in order to stay off grid and keep our power demands low.” 

Currently Nazca’s power and propulsion system operates with the following equipment: 

  • Lynch Drive Motor – 24v peak of 6kW nominal 3kW
  • Victron Energy 400Ah 25.6v LiFePO4 Smart Batteries parallel strings for propulsion 
  • Victron Lynx Smart battery management system (BMS) 500A with distribution system 
  • 12.8v 100A LiFePO4 Navigation, lighting and 12v house loads
  • Victron Multiplus 3kVa Inverter / 120A charger (electric cooking, water heating, sockets)
  • 2 x 415W LG neon2 Bifacial solar modules on a custom stainless arch
  • Victron MPPT smart solar controllers, one for each aft solar panel 
  • SilentWind Pro 24V Wind 450W turbine (switchable from port to starboard and stowable)
  • Victron 24 – 12 Orion DC-DC converter that supports the 100Ah 12.8V LiFePO4 house battery
  • There is supplement charging from a fixed Tough Sunbeam 54W mounted on coach roof with a removable 108W solar module with Victron 75/10 MPPTs (you can walk on these solar panels!)
  • Regeneration capability when sailing over 6 knots
  • B&G navigation, power and environmental monitoring and display
  • Victron Energy “Cerbo GX” – system wide control and remote monitoring

Cerbo GX runs Venus OS; this operating system captures every amp, watt and volt moving throughout the entire boat in real time. This is relayed to the chart plotter so we can see the precise performance of the entire system. The data is remotely collected and stored on the Victron Remote Monitoring Platform, so we can see what’s been used, what’s been generated and view our battery health in incredible detail. 

Victron Energy VRM portal

Motoring is a delight; instant start, instant thrust for manoeuvres, a near silent experience, no vibration, no smell, no smoke! All systems information is displayed on the Multi Function Display. 

Accessing the data in real time, but also historically, is a critical part to understanding the limitations of electric, but also the possibilities. Time remaining provides the safety net and, as always with any navigational task, detailed planning is required.

B&G Zeus system chatplotter

From our North Devon base, being able to motor sail to South Wales or Lundy and back by day on electric is a huge achievement for the technology. NDMP shows that it is possible, and tested in some harsh conditions too. None of the equipment has faulted, not even a little. 

The NDMP Sail Electric Campaign is making all of this technology accessible. It provides a valuable resource on how steps can be taken to make your boating cleaner, more informative and more enjoyable. 

Everything we do has the ocean’s best interests at heart. By supporting us you are funding further research and development for a greener, more sustainable future for everyone.

Electric sailboats, Muhuhu and Nazca in Plymouth Sound

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