Post and Courier
October 23, 2014

Floating Hybrids: Lowcountry yacht dealer to market environmentally friendly, diesel-electric boats

Posted: 11/08/2013 12:01 a.m.
Updated: 11/08/2013 02:41 p.m.


By Jim Parker

A cruise around Charleston Harbor can be entertaining, breathtaking and pulsating. It also can set a boater back $50 to fill up the diesel tank.

But what if the same trip could take place for $5 in fuel expenses, or even at no cost?

That’s the promotional pitch for Greenline, which bills itself as “the first true hybrid yacht.” Based in Slovenia, the boat’s manufacturer started developing the diesel-electric vessel in 2006 and kicked off production a few years later.

The hybrid hadn’t been sold locally, but that’s changing this month.

Charleston-based St. Barts Yachts placed an order for a Greenline 33-foot model that’s set to arrive here in mid-November. The yacht dealer’s sales territory covers the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee.

Chuck Laughlin, owner and president of St. Barts Yachts, described the Greenline as “the most successful 33-footer in the last four years.”

Greenline has crafted 330 vessels of that length since 2009. “That’s phenomenal,” he said. St. Barts Yachts also intends to sell 40-foot Greenline models and, eventually, 48 footers.

Laughlin said the boats operate similar to automobile gas- or diesel-electric vehicles. “It’s a hybrid like a Chevy Volt or a (Toyota) Prius,” he said. “It’s the only (yachting) hybrid out there now.” The watercraft is “very quiet,” he said. “You just hear the interaction between the hull and the water.”

The 33-foot Greenline supports a diesel engine and not-so-heavy 165 pound battery pack that supplies the electric power. The 40-footer showcases a similar layout to the shorter vessel but boasts two diesel engines and two battery systems.

“We can do up to 20 nautical miles,” – roughly 23 standard miles – “and fill up essentially for free,” Laughlin said.

The electricity bill of powering a yacht amounts to 10 percent of the diesel fuel rate, he said. Laughlin estimated that a Charleston Harbor trip would use 10 gallons of boat diesel fuel, which at $5 a gallon would be $50. The same trip on all-electric fuel would be $5, he said. In some cases, the out-of-pocket cost is zero since some marinas roll the expense into the slip fee, he said.

Laughlin, who’s also the Beneteau yacht dealer for a four state territory, didn’t disclose the Greenline’s exact price. But he pegged it as “about the same” as a 34-foot Beneteau trawler.

Expected buyers, he said, would include boaters who like the Greenline’s roominess for entertaining while also appreciating the yacht’s eco-friendly design, he said.

Laughlin foresees the fuel-efficient yacht proving popular with boaters tackling the Great Loop, a mostly circular, scenic route of the eastern U.S. tracing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, inland canals, the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

SeaWay, the Greenline manufacturer, started as a large Eastern European engineering firm specializing in nautical projects. It branched from there into developing the hybrid yacht, Laughlin said.

To give enthusiasts the chance to experience a hybrid yacht, St. Barts Yachts will be setting up rides starting around Thanksgiving through early December, Laughlin said.

“The fact that you can come out of the slip and go to Fort Sumter (and all around Charleston Harbor) and never use a drop of diesel is amazing.”


Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.