Boating: Steadying Influence

As long as sailors have suffered from seasickness, they have sought remedies for the maritime malady. British naval hero Horatio Nelson, a chronic sufferer, used to chew gingerroot, an antidote that, as the French and Spanish navies that encountered him at Cape Trafalgar would learn, apparently worked quite well for the admiral. Perhaps because he soldiered on despite his discomfort, Nelson, it seems, had little sympathy for fellow victims. Once, while at sea, a sailor whose symptoms had spiked asked him if he knew of a cure. Nelson drolly responded that his queasiness would disappear if he would “go and sit under a tree.”


Today various pills, patches, diets, and even acupuncture purport to offer the stricken some relief. However, the Italian boat building consortium the Ferretti Group, along with its exclusive North American retailer, Marine Max, has adopted and developed a novel redress, one that treats the boat instead of the body. Based on a model that engineers at Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries devised for the International Space Station (and which is now widely employed by geostationary satellites), Ferretti’s Anti Rolling Gyro (ARG) is supposed to suppress a vessel’s rolling motion by approximately 50 percent. (It is generally accepted that rolling, and not pitching, induces seasickness.)

Simply put, the ARG, like all gyroscopes, resists rotation. The electrically powered unit, which Ferretti installs below deck and out of sight, weighs more than 1,500 pounds and consists of a flywheel supported by a gimbal mechanism. The spinning flywheel rotates on the gimbals in response to the movement of the boat and produces a torque that counters the boat’s rolling motion. The effect is analogous to leaning left on a bicycle when taking a hard right turn. “It’s like you’re on a sea of Jell-o, not water,” says Pete Bronkie, corporate captain for Marine Max. But, he acknowledges, the device does take some getting used to. “It’s fascinating—you can’t feel the water.”

Ferretti can install or retrofit the ARG on any of its motor yachts, although larger models require multiple units of the $33,000 to $64,000 device. Unlike other features that reduce rolling, such as fin stabilizers, the ARG does not introduce drag, so it does not hinder the boat’s speed or its fuel economy, and novice captains need not worry about scraping ground.

The top speed at which the unit mitigates rolling is 12 knots, but more significantly, it works while the boat is at rest. “You can be taking 6-foot seas,” explains Bronkie, “but the ARG dampens the effect.” In other words, it be might the next best thing to sitting under a tree.

The Ferretti Group

(through Marine Max, the exclusive North American dealer for Ferretti)



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