Call us Ishmael. Just when things were slowing down a bit on the personal watercraft scene, along comes a new specie – the personal porpoise craft, or PPC, for short. Sea-Doo and Yamaha hold on to your handle grips, because you haven’t seen anything yet! Powered by a 215-hp Rotax engine the new, trailerable two-person “Sea Breacher” is capable of speeds up to 40-mph, can breach, dive, roll over, jump into the air and come smashing down upside down. It is a great craft for wakeboarders who don’t want to get wet! The two men who have built this purposeful personal porpoise have made some terrific videos and have cooked up some big plans.
Built by Rob Innes and Dan Piazza in Lake Shasta, California, the new watercraft is called a “dolphin-inspired submersible watercraft.” Their website says, “Now you too can experience the thrill of playing like a real dolphin: leaping in and out of the water in the safety and comfort of a dry, sealed cockpit. Enjoy panoramic views above and below the water as you perform wild aquabatic tricks, like 360 degree barrel rolls or porpoise like a dolphin.”
Innes and Piazza started working part time on the porpoise project in 1997 and last year Innes quit his day job to spend 100% of his time building and promoting his novel boat. Over the past 12 years several hundred thousand dollars have been spent in building prototypes, experimenting, and finding the right materials and equipment to make this surprisingly complex little boat functional, safe, livable, and of course – be able to “porpoise like a dolphin.”
Two of the units have already been sold – one in Korea and the other in Dubai. Innes and Piazza toured the country going to several boat shows last year promoting their new water toy and have been seen on NBC’s Today Show, and a segment about the motorized dolphin will appear on the Discovery Channels' “Recreation Nation” next month. The Travel Channel will feature the PPC this summer.
The company says that “…each Sea Breacher is tailored to meet individual requirements: customers can choose from a host of available options, including underwater viewports, snorkel mounted camera, electronics packages, and personalized interior.”
|The units cannot dive far under water or be without air for long.|
Possibilities for the Porpoise…
Like any pioneer, a look at the website will show that these courageous inventors don’t quite know where the PPC project will go. One web page suggests races or contests where individuals compete with each other in different colored craft like Indy cars – sort of like a steeple chase on dolphins instead of horses. Yet another page suggests that they would make great promotional vehicles to publicize events. Indeed, one of the early units has already had a cameo role in one of the Austin Powers movies.
A video camera on the dorsal fin transmits to a screen in the cockpit so the
skipper can see forward.
Hey, why not be the first megayacht in Monaco Harbor to have his and hers Innespace Dolphins on the boat deck instead of wave runners? Why not sell them to the DEA to intercept by stealth coastwise drug smugglers? Innespace Dolphin Drones could be used by the Navy to protect its ships in dangerous ports. It seems that there is a plethora of possibilities for the Innespace porpoise. Since it is well known that sharks stay away from dolphins, every swimming beach in the world should have an Innespace Dolphin on patrol!
The Innespace website says that the company has been custom building submersible watercraft since 1997, but it was more of a hobby until last year. The two boat builders are now building in earnest creating not only a new boat, but also a new market for porpoise-built boats. Currently the two-person Sea Breacher is custom made of fiberglass, Kevlar and honeycomb. The all-important ¾-inch polycarbonate canopy is the same as used on an F-22 Raptor, they say. We’re told it currently takes the company about three months to make one of the two-person craft.
|The all-important snorkel provides air for the engine.|
Rotax to the Rescue…
The unit is propelled by a 3-cylinder 215-hp Rotax engine driving a water jet. It is the same engine that Sea-Doo uses so the engine and drive components can be easily serviced at a local Sea-Doo dealership. Like the Sea-Doo, the engine’s exhaust is directed into the water jet. There is a sealed bulkhead between the passengers and the engine.
In the Cabin…
The cabin is sealed watertight with the aid of pneumatic aircraft seals. Three automatic bilge pumps keep the interior dry while driving with the canopy in its open position, the builder says. “The Sea Breacher's hull contains enough flotation to keep the hull afloat and upright, even if fully flooded. Pilot and passenger are safely restrained in five-point racing harnesses, and on-board spare air bottles provides an extra level of safety, says the website.
In an interview yesterday Rob Innes told us that the snorkel feeds air to only the engine. There is enough air in the cockpit to last the five minutes or so that the canopy is buttoned up. “Before you run out of air you want to open the canopy because of the heat,” said Innes. He said the boat can be fitted with an optional battery-powered air conditioner which will last for two hours.
Clearly, the sealed cockpit poses potential problems for passengers in the propelled porpoise. The website addresses this matter by saying, “The build-up of hazardous fumes can pose a problem in a totally sealed marine environment, so we have taken every precaution to avoid any such problems. The Sea Breacher has a vent-free collapsible fuel cell, as well as using the very durable, vent-free, dry-cell Optima battery. Onboard fume detectors also notify the pilot of the presence of any hazardous fumes.”
The two-passenger Sea Breacher is now on sale and can be shipped anywhere in the
We asked Innes what were his safety concerns with his new contraption. He said he is concerned with visibility behind the craft and that the pilot will have some blind spots. For that reason, he recommends that the Sea Breacher be operated with a chase boat close astern. “The Sea Breacher usually draws a crowd of other boats and it is safer to have a chase boat nearby in radio contact with the porpoise pilot,” he said.
Has the craft received USCG approval for sale? Innes said that he is currently working with the Coast Guard and at the appropriate time will petition for a USCG exemption, much like the ones that PWCs have. “The Coast Guard has been very helpful,” he said. “We meet the Coast Guards intentions for all of the standards, we just don’t do it in a conventional way.”
So, how much does an Innespace Sea Breacher cost? We’re told it is about $48,000 for the standard unit. We assume that is the MSRP for a base PPC.
From the Innespace Website-- FAQ
How deep can the Innespace Dolphin dive?
Currently dives are restricted to just a few feet below the surface. When the snorkel, (located in the Dolphin's dorsal fin) is submerged, the engine's fresh air supply is cut off and the engine will start to lose power. The engine draws such a vacuum during these dives that cockpit air pressure will lower to the point where it often pops the pilot's ears. Deeper dives may be possible in the future with the use of supplementary compressed air. Most of today's engines with the necessary horsepower are too air-hungry for this to be a feasible option. The Dolphin uses 200 cubic feet per minute of air, while a Scuba tank holds only about 70 cubic feet of air. (Theoretically enough for a 20 second dive.)
What other tricks can the Dolphin perform?
The Dolphin has full 3-axis control (pitch, roll and yaw) much like an airplane. This allows the Dolphin to perform numerous tricks, not possible with any other watercraft today. These tricks include:
- Prolonged snorkel dives of 20 seconds at 20 mph
- Dipping below the water and then jumping clear out of the water
- Porpoising like a Dolphin - Barrel rolls and multiple rollovers
- Mid air rolls with inverted landings
- Pitching straight down and popping up backwards
- Planing at 30 mph with the canopy fully open
- Diving underneath a rubber raft or prop boat
For more information, or to place your order, go to the Innespace website…