Seakeeper Ride: New Tech Smooths the Seas

Seakeeper shocked the boating world with its gyroscopic stabilizers for boats, and now they’re shocking it all over again with the new Ride vessel attitude control system. As awesome as gyro-stabilization is, it’s expensive and too bulky for most boats under 26’ or so. It’s also designed to counter roll (side to side motion) as opposed to pitch (up and down motion). The Ride system is intended for relatively small boats (up to 35’), costs significantly less, and mitigates both roll and pitch whenever the boat is underway at speeds of 10 or more mph with full effects at 20- to 25-mph or more.

seakeeper ride sportsman 212 open
The Seakeeper Ride system counters pitch and roll. This Sportsman Open 212 model was one of the first to incorporate it. Photo via Legendary Marine.

What is Seakeeper Ride

This vessel attitude control system incorporates rotary blades mounted on the transom at the bottom of the running surface (where one would normally find trim tabs), sensory hardware and software, and an interface with your MFD (certain models from Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad, Lowrance, B & G, and Furuno). The rotary blades do all of the physical work, swinging up and down to keep the boat’s ride level and smooth. The sensors and software make all the decisions as to when and how the blades deploy. And your MFD provides the user interface and system display.

How does Seakeeper Ride Work

As you most certainly know already, as a boat moves through the waves at speed the bow goes up and down and the boat rocks from side to side. Ride works by deploying the rotary blades to adjust both running angle and list via drag and force, much like trim tabs or interceptors can be deployed to mitigate running angle and list. But there are some major-league differences, starting with the inertial sensors and software. The digital “brain” of the Ride system takes up to an astonishing 1,000 measurements per second, sensing the motions caused as the boat moves across the waves.

seakeeper ride on scout boats
The Ride system makes 100 adjustments per second to smooth out all the bumps. Photo via Scout Boats.

There are some trim tabs or interceptors with automated systems, but they don’t have this same level of sensory input. And the second major difference between other systems and the Ride is in the rotary blades themselves. The actuators can deploy at a rate of 300 mm per second, making an also-astonishing 100 adjustments per second. This speed and rate of adjustment allows for the system to adjust the boat’s rolling and pitching in microseconds, before an impact with a wave has the chance to have its full effect on the boat.

A Real-World Sea Trial with Ride

So, what happened when we went for a ride with Ride? We jumped aboard a center console about 30’ long and took it out into the open Atlantic in a mild breeze, with seas of about two feet and a chop on top of the waves. Within about 30 seconds of opening up the throttles, it became apparent that the effect of an activated Ride system makes a significant difference in the boat’s motion. Very significant.

Seakeeper puts the pitch and roll mitigation at 45- up to 70-percent, and they have a slew of test reports including graphic recordings of pitch and roll rates both with and without the Ride active to prove it. The results for individual boats in different sea conditions do vary a bit, and interestingly, depending on the boat and sea state, in some cases the pitch reduction is more significant than the roll reduction while in others it’s the roll reduction that scores higher.

Spending about an hour on the test boat, running into, with, and across the seas, our “feeling” without any hard objective data or quantitative measurements was that it improved the ride of the boat by somewhere around 50-percent. With the Ride system activated it felt like we had to hold on half as hard and use our legs as shock-absorbers half as much. When it was deactivated, suddenly it was necessary to tighten the grip on handholds and prepare for the shock of slamming into waves. And overall, it certainly felt at least 50-percent more comfortable with Ride turned on — in fact, as different test-drivers took the wheel, it became rather annoying when the captain turned the system off so they could sense the difference at the wheel.

How to Get a Ride System

Seakeeper Ride has been introduced via OEM partnerships with several boatbuilders and is currently available on select model Chris-Craft, Scout, and Sportsman boats. Seakeeper says they’re currently working with numerous other builders to incorporate Ride into their lineup, so we’d expect this list to grow quite a bit in the near future. They also say that Ride will be available on the aftermarket “soon,” and that installation will be simple enough for boat owners to handle on their own.

chris craft boats ride system
Chris-Craft is one of the early adopters, and they put Ride on many models including the 30 Catalina. Photo via Walstrom Marine Harbor Springs.

Should you get a Ride on a new boat, or retrofit your current boat with the system when that option becomes available? That choice is up to you. But after going for a ride on a boat with Ride, we can say one thing for sure: do so, and you’re in for better boating. Significantly better boating.