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Sailing Lake Taupo: Eco-Friendly

Our Vision is to provide each and every customer that comes out on our vessels with an experience so exceptional that they step off the boat with a Cheshire grin.

Our commitment to protecting Taupo Moana (Lake Taupo) is fundamentally engrained in everything we do. Our aroha (love) for the fantastic area we are lucky enough to live and work in, provides our devotion to use Taupo Moana responsibility; continuing to sustain the wellbeing of local people, flora and fauna – we are dedicated to making this wonderful area of the world safe and vibrant for future generations.

At Sail Barbary we believe that Lake Taupo and the surrounding area is one of the best places on the planet. We are extremely proud of our sustainable efforts to reduce our impact on the environment in everything we do.

We consciously work on being as environmentally friendly as possible, from reducing package waste to using environmentally friendly cleaning products and bio-degradable cups, plates, napkins etc on board, through to replacing a noisy, smelly fossil-fuel driven engines in our vessels with eco-friendly electric engines.

We manage our usage of all resources as this helps reduce our impact, as well as helping our back pocket! Win-win!

We are conscientious and passionate about being clean and green and leaving beautiful Great Lake Taupo pristine. By having the eco-friendly electric engines we’re enhancing the romance and magic of our pristine environment.


Electric Engines

The fluffies:

Jamie & Sarah purchased Barbary in 2011, and after a very short time running her, decided to fully refurbish her, including an electric engine to meet a clean, green future head on.

The Sail Barbary fleet expanded in 2016 with the addition of Agathis (AKA Barbary II), and Jamie also completed the conversion to electric before she began her career as a commercially operated yacht.
Barbary & Agathis are the only two commercially run electric yachts in NZ.

The decision to convert from diesel to electric was easy – the wind conditions on Lake Taupo are not always favourable. So, while the vessels sail when possible, the 48ft ketch’s often need more breeze than is on offer and therefore the need to “donkey on” and motor-sail to keep to a timeframe. This would often see the old 55hp Perkins in Barbary doing her share of the pushing – It is not enjoyable running a smoky, noisy old engine while trying to show off some of NZs most beautiful natural landscapes; when the opportunity came to shut down the diesel engine you could physically see customers relax. The wind is free and clean though not always a good business partner, and no wind, means no sailing.

No-one wants to turn on the engine in a sailing ship – its disturbs the peace and offends the ear, but every sailor knows it’s inevitable. There is a sacred atmosphere on Lake Taupo, with pristine mountain backdrop and crystal-clear waters (which serve as Taupo’s drinking water supply) – Jamie & Sarah wanted to make sure that the operation of Sail Barbary’s yachts would be not be intrusive or foul the air in any way, as well as offering a Taupo sailing experience second to none. The best way to do this, was to go for an all-electric engine system.

Sail Barbary’s yachts now produce no noise or pollution and take passengers back to the core reason for boating & yachting – to relax, commune with nature and gad about at a leisurely pace.

The yachts can now take their planned route to a schedule regardless of wind direction, but maintaining no noise or fumes and with a clear conscience. Lake Taupo is one of NZs wonders and being able to operate a clean wake policy on its enclosed waters sits well with us and all who share it.

Refitting and re-powering with eco-friendly electric engines was not cheap, but the result is something that is so worth it. The engine and the entire Sail Barbary operation is as eco-friendly as possible – no noise, no smells, no pollution, no vibrations, and definitely no regrets.



The nitty-gritty:

Barbary had been running her original Perkins 55hp diesel engine when Jamie shifted her to the Elco all-electric power train in 2011.

The Elco engine had proven its self with 5 years of hard running on board Barbary, so when Agathis (AKA Barbary II) arrived, even though she was running a very clean and tidy 2011 D2 Volvo 40hp diesel engine, Jamie replaced it with a 72-volt 15kw AC Elco electric engine.

Both Barbary & Agathis’s electric motors were supplied by ELCO in New York, USA, batteries by Hawker and charger by Enatel, here in New Zealand.The actual time to make the conversion on both boats was very short – it took only about two hours to fit the ELCO motor onto the existing straight shaft running gear. The hardest part on Barbary was cleaning up after the old Perkins.

Barbary runs 54 batteries, Agathis runs 36 batteries. The Hawker two-volt batteries are lead acid, and though they weight more than a lithium pack, they are much cheaper.

The batteries have 1,500 recharge cycles, recharging is done overnight, plugged into the mains power at the dock.

The fuel savings from the conversion has paid for the batteries twice over in five years (on Barbary).

Topping up the batteries is never a concern as Barbary is tied up and connected to shore power every night.

The impressive battery bank is contained in an airtight box, air is forced through it to prevent a build-up of fumes, then vents to the outside. An automatic float system supplies distilled water to the batteries.

Starting with the Elco ep4000 electric propulsion unit, the motor is built with components widely used in fork-lifts, which means replacement parts are easily obtainable, which was an important factor in the build. The electric engine is 108 volts AC and has a 50,000-hour life expectancy, as it only has 2 moving parts. The unit is sealed watertight and can run submersed, should the worst happen.

The Elco motor is not much bigger than the old Perkins gearbox. Stripping out the old engines and in with the new was pretty straight forward on both vessels – the EP-4000 has the same engine mount pattern as a modern Volvo or Yanmar.

The conversion involved a complete rewiring and re-cabling of the boats systems, lighting, radios, chargers – everything! The whole installation for the conversion added only a tonne to Barbary’s 13 tonnes. An inverter runs the 240-volt systems, including the big screen for movie cruises.

A 220 amp/hour battery bank was recommended by suppliers, but Jamie went ahead with a 500 amp/hours of deep-cycle traction batteries on both vessels, to be safe.

These batteries are designed for the commercial sector and are a real workhorse. Maintaining the cell blocks requires visually inspecting the batteries once a week to check for moisture on top of the cells and check the floats are all reading full.

Charging 1400 kilos of batteries at 108 volts isn’t an easy task – you can’t just get a battery charger off the shelf! The yachts chargers are 94% efficient at converting shore power to the required amps to charge the systems. The charger is fully programmable and is easily modified by plugging in a laptop computer, if we feel the batteries are not getting the required amp or volts. Charging is automatic, at the end of the working day, all we need to do is plug her in to the shore power, turn her on and walk away.

Under power Barbary has a maximum cruise speed of 6.2 knots, she can travel for 26 hours at three knots, 18 hours at four knots and 10 hours at five knots on the battery bank.

Agathis has a maximum cruise speed of 5.5 knots, can travel for 18 hours at three knots, 14 hours at four knots, and 6 hours at 5 knots on the battery bank.


If you are interested in further information about our Electric Engines, why not book a trip and come and see them for yourself?


Eco Sailing

New Zealand's only two commercially operated electric yachts

Eco Sailing