The time has come for electric boats

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 04/13/02)
By Ray Pendleton

By devoting this week's column to a boat under construction at Brookins Boat Works near Sand Island, I may surprise the boat's builder, Gary Brookins.

Last week, in attempting to e-mail me detailed information about his nearly completed vessel, his computer became hyperactive and began repeatedly sending the same document.

Unfortunately, what resulted was an overload for my on-line mail box, which in turn shut down its ability to receive messages from anyone.

For a writer who is constantly dependent on information sent via the Internet, this created a rather uncomfortable situation. So when Brookins learned of the problem, I'm sure his hopes for a little favorable publicity took an immediate downturn.

But he needn't have worried, the glitch was short lived and his project is way too good to ignore for any reason.

Brookins, together with naval architect Robert Armstrong, have designed and built a 25-foot, 20-passenger prototype vessel they hope will one day be used in a variety of commercial operations, from water taxis to tour boats.

The special aspect of their design -- for an increasingly environmentally conscious society -- is that the vessel is powered by an electric motor. That translates to a boat that is pollution free.

"The ElectroLaunch 25 will run all day at a cruising speed of roughly five knots (just over five mph) without noise, vibration, air or water pollution, fumes or explosive fuel," Brookins points out.

At that speed, the boat's displacement-type hull can slide through the water without leaving a wake to disturb other boaters.

The boat's physical design harkens back to the Victorian era, rather like the current design features being added to Waikiki by city planners.

Its hull incorporates a fantail stern, rounded wood cockpit coamings and a plumb bow. A surrey-style top to protect passengers from sun or rain completes the picture.

"This launch relives the elegance and charm of a day gone by," Brookins says.

"It's reminiscent of the 19th century Hawaiian Monarchy days," he adds, "but of course everything will be crafted and installed with 21st century adhesives, sealants and finishes."

BROOKINS SEES commercial potential for his ElectroLaunch 25 in inner harbors, protected bays and lee shores such as Honolulu, Kaneohe, Hawaii Kai, the Wailua River and Lahaina.

He also envisions some of his vessels as water taxis, quietly plying the Ala Wai Canal from the Convention Center to Kapahulu, with stops along Waikiki.

To be sure, the most numerous users of the canal in recent years -- kayak and canoe paddlers -- will question any intrusion into what they might now consider their exclusive venue.

But once the canal is finally dredged (this summer, we're told), its expanded usable width could allow for a small measure of multiple use, and particularly with such a benign vessel.

Brookins invites anyone interested in owning one or a fleet of ElectroLaunches to visit this year's Hawaii Boat Show and Ocean Expo in Ko Olina on May 25, 26 and 27, or to give him a call at (808) 841-2525.

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