Classic schooner equipped with modern propulsion redundancy

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The word “unique” gets thrown around with abandon in this age of hyper promotion, but it seems the most apt word to describe the 85-foot schooner America 2.0, a modern high-tech version of the famous 19th-century racing schooner and winner of the first America’s Cup.

“This boat is definitely unique,” said Capt. Andrew Neuhauser. Neuhauser was at the helm of the 85-foot beauty on a Key West sunset cruise in January. America 2.0, designed and built by Scarano Boat Building of Albany, N.Y., for Classic Harbor Line, was delivered in August 2011. The schooner spends the summer as a day tripper in New York Harbor, and high sails it for the winter season in Key West.

Passengers enjoy a winter sailing near Key West.

Scarano Boat Building, owned by the brothers John and Richard Scarano, has garnered a stellar reputation for building beautiful replicas of historic sailing vessels that meet U.S. Coast Guard passenger vessel standards. A third brother, Robert Scarano, is the company’s chief engineer.

Classic Harbor Line, a charter excursion company based in New York City, is owned by other members of the Scarano family.

The schooner’s streamlined hull is constructed of end-grain balsa core, sandwiched between Port Orford cedar planking over laminated wood frames interspersed with structural aluminum frames. An aluminum gridlike structure was fabricated and integrated into the hull to strengthen it and support the free-standing masts.

The mast and spars are carbon fiber with a veneer of Port Orford cedar and finished with traditional spar varnish. The mast fittings are primarily aluminum.

The skipper’s view of the wheel and controls.

“The free-standing rig in a schooner like this makes it much easier to pull and set the masts, and the boat tunes easily,” said Neuhauser.

John Scarano recounted that the boat has achieved 17 knots with a following sea but normally sails at around 10 knots.

The U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements for an inspected vessel, especially one with several banks of batteries, drove up the engineering challenges. Chief among them was choosing the electric propulsion system. In the end, the brothers chose two independent ZF axial flux electric motors drawing power from eight banks of 3.3v batteries. Each bank contains 14 lithium-ion phosphate batteries, primarily located under the main cabin sole.

Power for America 2.0’s two axial flux DC drive motors is supplied by battery banks under the galley floor.

Although wind is the primary power source, there is an abundance of propulsion redundancy on America 2.0. Each electric drive can operate independently. There is a single-drive 200-hp John Deere diesel, with a Twin Disc gear and Walter Marine V-drive. “We’ll only crank up the diesel to keep up the fluids and seals,” said Neuhauser.

Whether you are aboard for the sunset sail off Key West, or ashore cheering from Mallory Square, America 2.0 is a beautiful sight to behold. Aboard, there are the wind-filled sails framed by the mast and spars, and the teak deck and mahogany and cedar brightwork gleaming golden in the setting sun. Ashore, you see a classic schooner silhouetted against a red ball sun and crimson sky.



Capt. Andrew Neuhauser.


Crewmembers Rowana Herndon and 
Janet Snell setting sail.


Relief captain Rhon Opiela steers the schooner during a sunset cruise from Key West.


Neuhauser gathers on deck with Herndon, sitting, Morgan Rhew and Chris Martin.


By Professional Mariner Staff