Gato Verde: our name says it all. We are the Green (tending to preserve & improve environmental quality) Cat (short for catamaran).
On Gato Verde we strive to model the highest levels of environmental stewardship and make it our mission to share that knowledge. We follow and teach the protocols set forth by the National Clean Boating Campaign on the water and Leave No Trace on land.
We also pride ourselves as an evolving platform demonstrating sustainable & environmentally friendly technologies. Since Gato Verde is a sailing vessel, if we have wind we use it! There is no cleaner fuel. Her sails are optimized for light wind to keep her sailing when others have started their engines. If the wind does die we use our silent electric motors for the first hour or two. If there is still no wind or a destination must be reached by a specific time the diesel generator is started to turn the propellers, charge the batteries or both simultaneously. The fuel we burn is bio-diesel, a renewable fuel that burns cleaner and minimizes wear on the engine itself.
Aboard Gato Verde we try to instill an awareness of the worlds that many of us rarely think about. On whale watching tours we carry a hydrophone for listening to the underwater world (it is LOUD and fascinating under there), and a microscope for looking at the tiny stuff.
The Greenest Catamaran On The Planet?
Gato Verde's Sustainability & Efficiency Upgrades
Propulsion: In March of 2006 the Gato Verde became the first charter vessel on the west coast to replace her diesel auxiliary propulsion engines with a plug-in diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system. The conversion to this cutting edge system involved removing the 2 old 27HP diesel engines and replacing them with two 9000 watt electric motors, a single 12KW diesel generator, and a large battery bank. The resulting system is quite amazing. The goals of this conversion were to:
- Provide a cruising speed of 6 knots or more with the generator running
- Silent electric only performance of 4 knots for at least 1 hour. This makes whale watching and wildlife viewing aboard Gato Verde a truly unique experience.
- Decrease underwater noise by at least %50
- decrease fuel consumption by at least %30
- Regeneration of electricity under sail
All of these goals were met or exceeded! If there is any wind at all on trips out of our Bellingham Cruise Terminal base of operations the diesel generator is usually not needed at all since the boat is able to get to and from the dock silently under battery power alone. Once back at the dock the Gato Verde is simply plugged into the grid to recharge the batteries. By having the plug in hybrid system Gato Verde eliminates point source emissions when recharging at the dock. The addition of the plug-in feature has resulted in approximately %50 fuel savings. The diesel generator, built by Ample Power in Seattle, is powered by bio-diesel making this system a “Plug-In Bio-Diesel Electric Hybrid”
Lighting: Gato Verde has also converted approximately %85 of its lights (both house & navigation) to LED's. This conversion from incandescent bulbs to LED's has resulted in an unbelievable 86% reduction in electricity consumption for lighting.
Future additions to the vessel to improve her sustainability & energy independence while decreasing her carbon footprint are in the works. In 2008 Gato Verde upgraded to a brand new, larger and more efficient mainsail providing better light-wind performance and increasing the wind range where battery charging via regeneration from the free spinning propellers is possible.
Hopefully a larger solar array to recharge the propulsion batteries will be added in the near future. Gato Verde is currently seeking sponsorship for this project.
Improvements in Gato Verde's waste management systems are also being researched. This includes a gray water treatment and storage system and black water treatment system.
Hopefully in the next 5 years or so large battery technology will also improve. Once these technologies evolve Gato Verde's propulsion system will be capable of significantly longer sustained silent electric only propulsion. Gato Verde currently uses lead acid gel batteries. Current lithium ion or nickel metal hydride battery technology could provide Gato Verde approximately 3 hours of propulsion at 4 knots, twice her current capacity. Unfortunately these newer batteries can be very complex to manage safely and cost approximately 5x lead based batteries. Hopefully better options will be available in the not too distant future.