On the Water: High-tech stabilizers tame boats’ rock-n-roll

Seakeeper’s roll-angle meter appears on multi-function displays, such as this Raymarine unit on the company’s 33-foot Boston Whaler demonstration boat. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

By Willie Howard

People who have avoided boats because of seasickness in the past have been taking to the water on boats equipped with computer-controlled gyroscopes that eliminate most of the roll.


Maryland-based Seakeeper says its gyros work in all sea conditions and can eliminate up to 95% of rolling, both while the boat is at rest and underway.


Other companies — including Mitsubishi, Quick and Mohmei — build boat-stabilizing gryos. Seakeeper is a fast-growing brand that has become popular on sport fishing boats in South Florida.


Stabilizing gyros are available for boats of many sizes. The smallest Seakeeper 2, for example, is designed for boats 27 to 35 feet. It runs on DC power and costs about $20,000, not including installation.


On the large end, the Seakeeper 35 is designed for boats over 85 feet, runs on AC power and costs $216,300. There are several models in between.


Introduced in 2008 after five years of development, Seakeepers are basically computer-controlled gyroscopes that tilt to counteract boat roll. A steel flywheel spins at high speed in a near vacuum (to minimize friction). The momentum of the spinning flywheel generates the stabilizing force.


The Seakeeper 2 on the company’s 33-foot Boston Whaler test boat took about half an hour to “spin up” before it was ready to work during a Jan. 24 trip led by Seakeeper demonstration captains Brian Mullinax and Pete Nolan.

Capt. Pete Nolan, the demonstration boat manager, shows the Seakeeper 2 stabilizing gyroscope. On a test run it dropped the roll angle to 2 to 4 degrees from port to starboard and back compared with 13 degrees when it was turned off. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star


After running south from the Nautical Ventures marina in North Palm Beach, Mullinax ran the Boston Whaler to the wavy mouth of Palm Beach Inlet and stopped.


When Nolan turned off the stabilizer, the boat rolled about 13 degrees from port to starboard and back. With the Seakeeper on, the roll dropped to 2 to 4 degrees.


For the record, gyro stabilizers do nothing for up and down pitch of the bow when a boat moves over waves. They address side-to-side roll.


Mullinax and Nolan said Seakeepers are becoming popular with owners of deep V ocean fishing boats. The V-shaped bottoms help the boats slice through waves, but make them more likely to rock from side to side when drifting.


Anyone attending the Palm Beach International Boat show in late March can step onto the Seakeeper Boston Whaler for a “dock rock” test or visit the company’s booth to schedule a demonstration ride on the ocean.

Boat Show March 26-29
The 35th annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, featuring boats in a wide range of sizes, marine electronics, fishing and diving gear and educational seminars, is scheduled for March 26-29 along Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach.


Produced by Informa Markets and owned by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, this year’s boat show will offer more than $1.2 billion worth of boats, yachts and accessories on display.


Seminars offered at the show include youth fishing clinics presented by Hook the Future and adult fishing clinics produced by the IGFA School of Sportfishing.


New this year is the separate Superyacht Show Palm Beach, featuring about a dozen yachts ranging in size from 180 to 300 feet.
The invitation-only Superyacht Show will be March 26-28 at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.


Hours for the regular boat show are noon to 7 p.m. March 26; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 27-28; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 29.
Standard show admission is $28 for ages 16 and older and $18 for youths 7-15. Children 6 and under will be admitted free with adults.


Boat show attendees can choose the $150 Windward VIP experience, which includes show admission and access to a VIP lounge with food and drinks.


For details and tickets, visit www.pbboatshow.com.

Coming events

March 7: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Fee $35 ($5 for youths ages 12-19). Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 561-391-3600. Leave a message.

March 19: Kickoff party for 26th annual Lantana Fishing Derby, 5:30-7 p.m. at Lakeside Anchor Inn. Captains meeting April 30. Fishing tournament set for May 2. Early registration fee $200 for up to four anglers through April 17. Regular entry fee $250. For details, call the Greater Lantana Chamber of Commerce at 561-585-8664 or visit www.lantanafishingderby.com.

March 28: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Fee $20. Register at the door. Call 561-331-2429.

Tip of the month

Want to refresh your boating skills before the spring and summer boating seasons? Go to BoatUS.org/courses to find a list of online courses such as using GPS for navigation, marine weather, boating basics and cruising. Use the code “Spring25” to save 25% on the cost of the courses through March 31.

Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at tiowillie@bellsouth.net.

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