Slow Your Roll
by Jeff Moser
Fifteen years ago when big-game fisherman talked about stabilizers, the chatter was all about fuel additives used during a winter layup or when picking up diesel in some backwater port with questionable products. The term “gyrostabilizer” hadn’t entered the boating lexicon yet: no one was building units that were applicable in recreational yachts and so most of us knew next to nothing about them. However, yachting industry veteran Skip McKenney saw an opportunity and in 2002 founded Seakeeper to develop gyrostabilizer units for the recreational market. After a five-year period of research and development, the company launched sales in 2008.
Since that time, Seakeeper’s gyrostabilizers have grown in popularity in the sportfishing community. Mitsubishi is another big player in the market and had recently enjoyed the benefits of an exclusive contract with the Ferretti Group’s line of luxury vessels. Seakeeper claims that its gyros provide a 70 to 90 percent roll reduction; that’s a heck of a declaration and a shot across the collective bows for those of us who have lost lunches over the gunwales or missed out on a hot bite due to bad weather. In short, these units are total game changers.
“You don’t ever want to have them turned off,” said Capt. Eric Soderholm, a veteran big-game tournament skipper. His current battlewagon, the Viking 76 No Vacancy is fitted with a Seakeeper that was installed at Viking’s New Grenta facility in New Jersey. Soderholm said it’s a no-brainer when considering adding one to a new build. “Any boat [around] $5 million, the price of the unit is nothing,” he said, adding that “the units are going to be a marine standard.”
Solderholm told me of a recent tourney with a Bimini start when rough seas had a lot of competitors backing off the throttles. No Vacancy was able to make mincemeat of the breakers and get on the bite faster thanks to the gyros. He also dismissed the notion that some dead-bait trollers have that the noise from the units would spook fish. “They’re no louder than a watermaker,” he said.
Capt. Joey Birbeck agreed. “It makes the life of a captain a whole lot easier,” he said of the Seakeeper that was retrofitted on You Never Know, a 72-foot F&S. The boat’s owner, Thomas Turner, was aboard another vessel equipped with gyros and after experiencing the much-improved conditions at sea, had them retrofitted aboard his boat.. Birbeck exclaimed, “[We] wouldn’t consider building another boat without them.”
Turner’s wife is a gourmet chef and is also a big fan. “We were 200 miles offshore and she’s in the galley using the oven and the cooktop,” said Birbeck, “You would not believe the difference they make.”
“You’re not as fatigued at the end of the day,” Daniel Spencer of North Carolina’s Spencer Yachts told me. To Spencer, the feeling of not having fought so hard against the sea conditions means more time……………………………….(To continue reading this article click here) You can also subscribe to InTheBite The Magazine to enjoy more industry leading editorial.