Skip to main content

Nigel Calder's Holy Grail of Sailing

Calder sees his relationship with the overall cruising community as a symbiotic one

Calder sees his relationship with the overall cruising community as a symbiotic one

My first exposure to Nigel Calder, same as most people, was through reading his great marine technical bible, The Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual. I studied it constantly during the years I spent as a liveaboard cruiser during the 1990s and referred to it simply as “Nigel Calder’s How to Fix Everything Book.” The first time I actually met the man, at a boat show in 1997, where I pestered him about a problem I was having with my marine toilet, I was immediately struck by how down-to-earth he was. Talking boats with him was just like talking boats with any other cruising sailor.

In the years since then—having worked with Nigel as an editor for this magazine, having sailed with him, having gotten to know him as a friend—I’ve seen nothing that contradicts that first impression. Nigel truly is one of us. He’s a humble man, instinctively embarrassed by the notoriety he has achieved, but also deeply appreciative of it. He has described his relationship with his readers as symbiotic. He does their homework for them, thus enabling them to live the cruising lifestyle, and by buying his books they, in turn, enable him to live the same lifestyle.

Now it seems the symbiosis has come full circle. For the past 10 years Nigel has been on a quest, working through various projects and with various people to develop the ultimate cruising sailor’s energy system, a chimera he’s dreamed of ever since he overtaxed the electrical system on his first boat, an Ingrid 38 named Nada that he finished from a bare hull. The revolutionary new Integrel power-generating system—a winner in this year’s Freeman K. Pittman Awards and overall winner of the European Dame Design Award—is very much Nigel’s baby. At one stroke it promises to maximize engine and battery efficiency, allowing those who don’t have the space for a stand-alone generator to enjoy the benefits of one, and those who do have generators to do away with them.

Nigel not only helped create this system, but he has also worked hard at destroying it. As the public face of the project, with his reputation as a writer on the line, he insisted on personally subjecting the Integrel system to rigorous testing. I can tell you Nigel is very good at this, as he has shared with me over the years many stories and dramatic photos of exploded battery banks, frizzled alternators, burning wires, and what-not. He has now, he told me, had an Integrel system on his own boat, the fourth Nada, a Malo 45, for three years. During the first two years, he succeeded in provoking all sorts of calamitous failures. His favorite, I gather, was a harmonic engine vibration he induced that destroyed the drive belt on the Integrel super-alternator (a “Caldernator,” as he once described it to me) in just four hours.

“It was quite impressive,” he told me. “I destroyed 10 belts in 10 weeks before we figured out how to solve the problem.”

For the past year, he assures me, the Integrel system on his boat has been running perfectly. So much so he now intends to remove his propane system and rely on electricity to do all his onboard cooking.

“I know this sounds like a cheap promotion,” he said, “but I think it’s brilliant! It’s the system I’ve dreamed of having on my boat for the last 35 years.”

In conversations we’ve had over the past decade as he helped develop this system, Nigel has intimated he hoped he might make enough money from it to fund his retirement. Full disclosure (Nigel wouldn’t want it any other way): he does have an equity interest in the Integrel project.

Getting back to the symbiosis theme, Nigel also sees Integrel as something he is giving back to the folks who made his career possible. He describes it baldly in a video on the Integrel website (integrelmarine.com) as “my retirement present to the cruising community.” (Note to viewers: Nigel knows he looks a bit silly in that white lab coat he’s wearing there.)

And here’s the rub. It seems the Integrel system may be successful enough that Nigel won’t be getting lazy anytime soon.

“Right now,” he noted, “it’s looking like I’ll be working harder than I have in a long time.” 

February 2019

Related

promo-2048x

Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As ...read more

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more