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The Wye Island Electric Boat Marathon 2016

Jim Campbell

The 2016 EB Marathon was scheduled for Friday, September 30th, but due to small craft warnings, it was postponed until 10 AM on the morning of Saturday, October 1st.  Al Sutton (2016 volunteer eCanoe Crew) and I got in to St. Michaels on Thursday evening, but didn't even take the boat off the car until Saturday. After hanging around the Miles River Yacht Club for an hour on Friday to be sure the marathon was delayed, we wandered around the town, talking to old fishermen on the San Domingo Creek dock, walking along the abandond RR line, and helping people launch their boats at the town ramp down E. Chew Street. The stiff E. wind and occasional rain kept the sailors mostly in port. A "Pre-Marathon" dinner was held at the Yacht Club, where participants had some great conversation, but awards would have to wait for the Marathon in the morning.

Saturday morning was still spitting slight rain and the E. wind had diminished only slightly. The marathon start was delayed until 11 AM in the hopes that the wind conditions would improve, but by the start it was still blowing steadily out of the E. at 10 kts. Al, several bystanders, and I got the eCanoe in the water and loaded. We had barely bolted the bow cover in place when the horn blew to get out to the starting line. I pushed off without getting fully prepared. In the heat of the race I would have no time to do much beside steer, bail, and record some brief audio notes.

eCanoe pulls away from the dock

The eCanoe Pulls Away for the Marathon Start

Here is a transcritiption of those Audio Notes:

1. 23:14 Starting volts = 51.1V, 0 Watts; 49.3V maneuvering for start. Arguing about route around red – or green – buoy. One min warning sounds – green buoy – or red? Green buoy it is…. Frustrated realizing I left the dock in a hurry. Not fully prepared. No spare prop. No drinking water or snacks on board, Cell phone in a pants pocket – unreachable with all the foul weather gear and gloves I am wearing. No time to reset the GPS trip miles or time. Suddenly we’re off at the starting horn blast.

2. 23:23 Around red buoy toward E shore. Straight into wind due to waves. Everyone else turns left at the buoy and heads directly toward the Wye river. Glasses wet, can’t see well.

3. 23:24 Motorboat alongside. Now near E shore. Less wind, waves.

4. 23:28 By big white house and dock. 9.6mph, 2300W, 47.6V

5. 23:30 Following E bank. 100 yds off shore, by big duck blind. 47.6V 2380-2400W choppy, wind E. By small bay.

6. 23:32 Little traffic. Low 70s, Near trees, Less Wind fromE. but still Gusty, 47.5V 9.4mph 2400W

7. 23:45 Trying to get cell phone out of inner pocket to call Al to have him drop me a Frappuccino. Wrestling with my clothes when my slicker got caught in the tiller and pulled the boat into tight turn to R. Almost capsized. Now back up to speed: 47.1V, 9.4mph, 2500W into stiff breeze. Quite a journey so far. Approaching Bruff’s Is point.

8. 23:47 Cruising calm by trees on Bruff’s point. Whitecaps ahead. 47.2V, 10.1mph, 2440W.

9. 23:49 Slamming and jamming into whitecaps crossing Wye E. River. 47.0V, 2540W, 9.4mph. Lot of splash!

Taking Splash in the 2016 Marathon

10. 23:52 “Great God almighty that was rough! Had to bail a bunch out there.” Got some GoPro pix of it. Now in wind shadow of Wye island. 47.0V, 9.6mph, 2450W.

11. 0:00 (audio recorder clock rollover) approaching the point on R w/ nice beach. Tide is low. Heading out around sand bank off the point. Don’t want to run aground. Chop ahead. Need to head into stiff wind. 46.7V, 9.2mph into wind, 2570W.

12. 0:07 Passed point on L w/ duck blind. The big white house has burned down. Only chimneys are left. Headed for last broad point on R before Wye Narrows. 46.6V, 9.6mph, 2508W. “Not hypothermic yet, but it isn’t pleasant out here. One long salt water shower.” Luckily I did get good clothes on before the start.

13. 0:16 Passed duck blind by last point before bridge. Bridge into sight through mist. Into stiff wind w lot of splash. Bailing. 46.3V, 9.5mph, 2500W.

14. 0:19 Bridge drawing in sight. White car crossed L to R – Al in the Volvo? Brutal 20 mph wind coming directly from bridge. 46.2V 9.4mph, 2550W. Goin’ strong!

15. 0:21 Bridge drawing closer. Big wake from passing boat. Everything working backward. Batteries straining against their holding rope, but staying in place. Splash water flows to back of canoe where I can bail it out. I pass Jay Bliss in his black boat just before the bridge.

16. 0:25 Under bridge – 10 miles gone! Al tried to drop Frappuccino from bridge into canoe, but it went into water and sank – Damn! Waves quieter after bridge 45.9V, 9.4mph, 2500W. But very breezy blowing splash on me. I’m going to do my best to take a leak in these quiet waters, but I don’t know whether I can…

17. 0:30 With all my foul weather gear and clothes on, I can’t get my cold, shrunken pecker out enough to pee in bailing bucket, so I pee in bottom of canoe instead and bail it out with the salt water…

18. 0:36 Coming around corner into Wye Landing. Lot of splash still, but looking good. 45.6V, 9.4mph, 2470W.

19. 0:41 1.5 min into break. 48.6V, 0W, 0mph. Mind numb, trying to recover before the trip home…

20. 0:50 Off again after stop. Hobie eCat pulled in just as I was pulling out. Weather nice when you are stopped. Clouds thinning. I need to put on sun glasses; hopefully they will stay on me. 45.9V, 9.7mph, 2500W.

21. 0:55 Almost pleasant in Wye E River with 10 mph wind behind me. Almost calm as I am going about 9 mph. No splash to bail! 45.5V 9.7mph, 2500W.

22. 0:59 Passing duck blind at Nathaniel Point. 45.3V, 9.8mph, 2480W as I turn toward next point. Still doing fine. Tail wind and smooth sailing.

23. 1:14 Just passed the Riverkeeper’s boat docked at Presque Isle on L. Wind from aft. Running smoothly. Motor still sucking a little air. Aerating a bit. Needs a better cowl. 43.9V, 9.6mph, 2490W.

24. 1:20 Headed for Bruff’s Is point. Running w whitecaps. Little splash. 43.2V, 9.6mph, 2520W. Watching voltage – 40V is bottom point. Took another leak into bottom of boat during the calm. Too exhausted for shame anymore.

25. 1:22 Approaching Bruff’s point. Waves coming 45 degrees off port stern. Rolling strangely. Hard to keep canoe on course. 43.1V 2400W, 9.4mph.

26. 1:25 At point. Pleasant roll. 42.7V, but dropping fast, may slow down to preserve battery power. 2400W, 9.7mph. No other boats in sight, fore or aft.

27. 1:28 Rounded the point headed for St. Michaels. Calm behind trees. 42.2V, 2300W, 9.2 mph. tide coming in? 4 miles to go to finish. Will try to stretch these batteries out…

28. 1:36 3.14mi to go. 40.7V, 2385W, 9.3mph. Wire drop may be a factor. Winds from L with some roll and chop.

29. 1:37 Dropped power to 2000W, 40.9V (was 40.1V at 2500W), 8.9mph. 2.89 mi to go.

30. 1:52 Exactly 1 mi from finish, odometer = 22.6mi from dock. 40.1V, 8.1mph, 1236W. Need to slow down more to protect batteries. Big trawler coming in from R.

31. 1:54 Lucked out. Had to scoot ahead to get in front of trawler, punched speed up temporarily. Pulled batteries down below 39V with voltage recovering some, 1100W, 7.7mph. 0.68 mi to go.

32. 1:59 Club is in sight. Running well with 0.16 mi to go… 39.3V, 7.4 mph, 1000W. Will speed up for finish…

33.Running into club fast. Just as I crossed finish line, motor gave an error message and quit suddenly! Batteries exhausted. I had to paddle to the dock.
The Torqeedo entry with the 10KW motor comes in just behind me. He ran out of power too quickly after running at high speed most of the course.

34.Hooked up batteries to 48V charger ASAP after tying up. Then headed for lunch at the club. No appetite, but I drank a lot of tea as I was dehydrated. Realized I was coming down with a migraine from all the stress of the run. Took a dose of rizatriptan and naproxen and rested in the car for a half-hour. Then I felt good enough to pack up the gear and load the boat on to the car. Al was a great help in my weakened state.

35. After a nap at the Old Brick Inn we joined the group at the Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michaels. The tide had come in and was so high the restaurant had to have a shuttle car to carry patrons over the flood. I was still feeling sluggish from the medicines, but a good IPA and great conversation made me feel much better.

36. I found out that I had come in first place in the singe hull, lead-acid battery division after all, with a speed of 9.37 MPH. The plaque is now hanging on my office wall along with the others – three wins in a row.

37.Now I plan to lay back in the marathons of the future and cruise the course in what I am calling a “Six-Knot Regatta”. I’m getting too old for the fast lane.

Here is the Power/Speed/Battery Voltage Graph for the 2016 Run:

eCanoe Data Graph 2016 Wye Is Marathon

Power/Speed/Battery Voltage Graph


Of course, the Marathon experience is not over until you return and clean up the equipment to put it away for next year! Here is a full inventory of the eCanoe entry on returning home:

Unloading After the Marathon 2016


Wye Island Electric Boat Marathon 2016 Inventory

20-ft Old Town Tripper XL Canoe
    Front seat removed
    Equipped with battery rails to prevent battery movement
    Motor-mount area of gunwales reinforced with pop-rivets
Torqeedo C4.0 Motor (4 KW@48V, max)
     Control handle
    Remote controller
    Rear motor splash guard, custom made
12 55AH – 12V lead-acid batteries w/ lifting handles – wt. 13 Lb. each
Instrument “Dashboard” w/ Velcro strap fasteners
Custom clamp-on hardwood motor mount, motor on Right.
Torqeedo Propellers:
    1 virgin racing prop
    1 damaged racing prop
    1 stock prop
9 short Red-Black clip-on unfused inter-battery jumpers
1 Spare inter-battery jumper
11-ft unfused DC extension cable, 8 GA with triple-parallel battery clips
Pilot’s Seat Back
2 seat cushions
1 type IV PDF float cushion
2 type III PDF jackets with whistles
Plastic Bucket with:
    2 baling scoops
     Micro-fiber cloth
     Spare rope and cord
     2 bow/stern ropes
     2 sunscreen bottles
     2 bumper floats
3-ft battery wedge rod, foam coated (holds batteries to Left side)
1 battery holder rope
Clear Lexan battery cover
     3-piece wood frame for battery cover
     20 SS Battery cover screws
     20 neoprene washers
     Plastic box for screws and washers
Splashproof plastic “Captain’s box”
     AC/DC Volt-ammeter, clamp-on
     Audio Recorder for race data
     Spare parachute cord
     Several cell-phone protector bags
     Screwdriver (had two, one dropped overboard)
     Toilet paper and trowel
     Hull Registration Certificate in waterproof container
Splashproof plastic “Orange Box”
     Garmin GPS with route map in software
     GoPro Camera with safety lanyard
     Stop Watch
     Film canister with spare prop nuts and pins
     Magic marker
     Circular level
     Schrade multi-tool pliers
     3/8” socket wrench w/ 17mm socket and 2” extension
     Torqeedo magnet “key”
     Flare pistol with 3 flares
Floating Paddle – custom eCanoe non-conductive design
Anchor – 1.5 Kg folding grapple type with anchor rope on spool.
2 – 6ft docking standoff rods, grey plastic, flexible
Passenger seat with back
48V / 6 amp battery recharger, splashproof
50-ft 3-wire AC extension cord, orange
Shore Power to standard AC plug 2-foot adaptor cord
Waterproof foul-weather coat and bib overalls, yellow
Marine boots, white, foam plastic
Paddling gloves with open fingertips
Brimmed marine hat with neck cover

All the above fits in or on a 2004 Volvo XC-70 wagon with a standard roof rack and two custom tie-downs on the front bumper. There is also enough room for 2 people and their luggage. Eight batteries go in the front of the rear compartment, and four go on the floor in front of the rear seats.

See you next year!
Jim Campbell
22 Oct. 2016