What do you get when electrical engineers decide to jump into the boating world? Electric boats, naturally, but also a group of marina owners passionate about a more sustainable industry.
That’s the mission behind Electrified Marina in Norfolk. The three partners, all engineers with experience in Silicon Valley, are transforming an old marina on Knitting Mill Creek, a tributary of Norfolk’s Lafayette River, into a base for electric boat explorations. Two of the owners, Erin Gatling and husband Casey Schilling both worked for SpaceX before relocating to Virginia. The third, Erick Pinzon previously worked for Tesla.
Electrified’s fleet of boats available for sales and rentals come from Vision Marine Technologies and X Shore. These boats are well suited for leisurely trips on the Lafayette, offering an attractive mix of salt marshes stocked with ospreys and great blue herons, waterside houses and woods. Thanks to extensive restoration of its oyster reefs, and conservation work with the Elizabeth River Project, there is a lot of life in the river, including enough small fish to attract dolphins.
Gatling and Schilling spent time sailing on a catamaran after leaving SpaceX and decided it was a way of life they wanted to pursue with their young children. “We sailed back to America and had our boat retrofitted for all electric,” recalls Gatling. “We came to Virginia to say goodbye to our parents and two weeks before we were set to leave, our boat was dropped and destroyed.”
The family decided to travel in an RV, spending the pandemic in Mexico, but again returned to Virginia to care for their parents. While buying an electric vehicle—due to her continued support of former employer Elon Musk—Gatling met Pinzon, who was known around the area as an expert on electric vehicles.
“We hit it off and realized we had the same kind of investment goals and green energy goals as Erick and his spouse, Chelsea. Our families became friends and through that we showed them a love for boating,” says Gatling. “We started racing on Wednesday nights on our trimaran and between that love of preserving nature and green energy and being on the water—our idea for a marina just kind of formed naturally.”
Gatling and Pinzon would be delighted to introduce boat buyers to the models they have in stock (which have punny names like Volts Wagon). The company is currently accepting bookings for rentals as well, so people can experience the boats firsthand.
“The rentals are for anybody who wants to try them out,” says Gatling. “We are family and pet friendly, we provide life jackets for all—even infants and dogs. It’s for anybody who wants to enjoy a boat without owning a boat, and in a different way. It’s quiet and doesn’t smell like fuel. It’s a nice clean way to get out and see nature with your family.”
On a recent visit, CBM took a short cruise on the pink Fantail Wattever with Gatling and we can attest to the fact that these boats fit the river beautifully.
Vision Marine Technologies has a promise of more excitement in its new electric powertrain which pairs a 70-kilowatt-hour battery bank with a 180-hp E-Motion outboard motor. Vision is working with several major boatbuilders in the U.S. and Europe on applications for the E-Motion system. In time, Electrified Marina hopes to offer that motor on appropriate boats as well.
In the meantime, the queen of the Electrified fleet is Traceless Wakes, an X Shore Eelex 8000, a 26-foot-3-inches by 8-foot-5-inch Swedish-built center console launch with a 170-kilowatt (228-horsepower) inboard electric motor driving a 19 inch-diameter, five-blade propeller. Battery capacity is 126 kilowatt-hours. Top speed is 30 knots, while cruise efficiency on plane peaks at 18 to 20 knots. X-Shore claims a fast charge time of one hour and 10 minutes. The acceleration of the electric motor turning the big five-blade is immediate and powerful. The boat planes out cleanly as promised. This boat will be a blast to ride behind on any kind of tow toy.
A smaller version is on the way—the 21-foot x 7-foot 4-inch, 125 kW (168-hp) X Shore 1. This boat offers the same top and cruise speeds as the Eelex, with a 63-kWh battery pack for a range of 50 nautical miles at low speed.
X Shore’s East Coast Sales Manager Mike Provost lives in the area. Retired from the U.S. Navy, Provost made extensive use of the Eelex 8000 with his family last year, including a round trip from Little Creek to Cape Charles, running 20 knots. It was roughly a 100-minute run each way for a total of 74 miles, with a dock power recharge during an overnight stay. They also spent full days on the water in the Lynnhaven River/Broad Bay complex, both running at speed and poking along (at 5 to 6 knots, the range is 100 nautical miles). He has taken the Eelex out to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on blustery days to verify her solid, Scandinavian seaworthiness.
Both the Eelex 8000 and the X Shore 1 run sophisticated infotainment software designed by X Shore, managed from a 24-inch Garmin touchscreen. X Shore has also developed an app to allow control of the boat with a smartphone, and the company offers an optional Garmin X Shore captain’s watch—both can function as remote keys. The software offers real-time range estimates, route planning, a man overboard safety feature, sound, lighting, and energy management.
The engineering behind Electrified Marina’s offerings is complex, but the skipper’s interfaces are impressively intuitive. The boats may not fit everyone’s uses, but they invite us to think about how we actually use our boats.
Electric power could have much promise on the Bay’s waters as it does on our roads, and the technology is growing exponentially. Stay tuned, and welcome Electrified Marina to the Chesapeake.