A veteran leisure boat captain whose family was affected by cancer plans to offer patients a little relief next summer with free tours aboard a battery-powered lake cruiser with help from his electric cooperative.
“Our goal is to provide a respite from the daily struggles of dealing with this disease that touches far too many of us,” said Chris Johansen, a longtime member of Vermont Electric Cooperative. “We are grateful for all the help we’ve received, including the support from the VEC fund.”
VEC’s Community Fund helps local nonprofits with contributions from consumer-members in the form of rounded-up electric bills or donated capital credits. The Johnson-based co-op is giving $1,000 to Floating Grace, Johansen’s charitable group and the name of its all-electric “picnic” boat.
The boat will host cancer patients and their families and friends for tours of Lake Memphremagog in Newport. Its inaugural launch is set for Memorial Day 2021.
“VEC has been awesome,” said Johansen, who has captained diesel motorboats for decades. “They have also given us a lot of technical support with the electric end of things.”
Built by California-based Duffy Electric Boats, the 21-foot vessel runs on 16 six-volt batteries. A full charge will allow Floating Grace to cruise, noise- and fume-free, for about 12 hours, Johansen said. He expects the batteries to last five years, providing tours for patients 100 days a year.
“I’m an old diesel motor guy, but I can see the writing on the wall with this technology,” said Johansen. “It’s going to grow fast. We are definitely impressed with it.”
He said low maintenance—no starter, fuel pump or water pump to replace—and low operational costs convinced him to go all-electric.
“It’s really pennies a day to charge,” he said. “When you figure out the amount of gasoline you burn in five or six years in a boat, you will come out well ahead with the electric version.”
The idea of Floating Grace came about when Johansen’s wife was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. At the hospital for treatments, they saw many other patients grappling with the mental toll the disease takes.
“People are scared. They are looking for answers, and the journey through treatment can bring a lot of stress,” he said. “This is a just a simple way for just one day to leave cancer on shore.”
Eventually, Johansen said he wants to work with Vermont Electric to purchase solar energy to charge the boat.
“It will be an ongoing partnership,” he said.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.