You couldn’t help but notice the Velodyne Martini 1.5 motoring around the Sea Isle Marina during the last Miami International Boat Show, its pilothouse platform elevated 15 feet on four spiderlike aluminum legs above a pair of foam-filled pontoons.
Designed by California-based Velodyne Marine (velodynemarine.com) to demonstrate the viability of its computer-aided gyroscopic stabilization technology, the experimental Martini 1.5 is so named because you’re able to drink a martini while underway. At least, that’s what the company claims.
I took a ride on a rainy, blustery afternoon to see if it was true. The platform rides on a suspension system of four pneumatic cylinders fed by a central air compressor and accumulators that allow the pontoons to travel individually up to 5½ feet up and down. Powered by twin Evinrude 150 E-TEC outboards, we ventured outside the inlet into 3-foot seas at 25 mph. True to the claims, the pontoons appeared to step individually over the waves, and we experienced no more than 2 degrees of pitch or roll, according to my inclinometer. However, I felt significant deceleration at times — enough to spill every gimlet on board had we been imbibing — as the pontoons met larger waves.
Also, skipper Steven Shonk, Velodyne’s marine division manager, turned off the gyro system while coming about in seas, allowing the entire craft to bank into turns. Otherwise, the craft might have banked uncomfortably outward.
The Martini 1.5 will handle up to 5½-foot seas at 30 mph, Shonk told me. After that, the stabilization system bottoms out, and the pilothouse platform begins to experience the pitch and roll of a normal boat ride.