How Sausalito’s Clipper Yacht Harbor Is Leading the Way With Electric Boat Technology

Clipper Yacht Harbor (Photo by Bryson Malone)

When Cliff Pedersen acquired 40 acres of land through the War Assets Administration, he likely didn’t anticipate the legacy he was creating, nor could he see how the needs of boaters would come to change. Now this property, better known as Clipper Yacht Harbor, has become Sausalito’s largest and most diverse full-service harbor. And while Clipper’s size and history generate plenty of buzz in the Bay Area, there’s something else going on here that has people talking, and it’s all about electric boats.

Though it’s a niche market at the moment, boats powered by electricity have existed for well over a century. But thanks to evolving technology and a growing shift away from gas-powered engines, electric boats are slowly starting to become more mainstream. However, there’s a major caveat for using these watercraft: the boats need to be charged rather than fueled, and right now, there’s a significant lack of charging stations. But after a presentation from Aqua superPower, a company working on building a fully electric infrastructure of charging networks for boats, it was decided that making Marin more electric boat friendly was the next logical step for Clipper Yacht Harbor. Aqua superPower began installing Marin’s first marine fast chargers there this spring.

“With the electric boat industry, it’s still uncertain how fast it’s going to come, but it is coming,” says KC Pedersen, Cliff Pedersen’s grandson and Clipper’s current vice president. Clipper’s charging station will be able to fast-charge two boats at a time, in roughly 40 minutes to an hour depending on boat size. The installation is a boon for local electric boat owners, but one charging station alone is just the first step. “The big concern is range anxiety,” says Scott Canning, vice president of North American business development for Aqua superPower, referring to the fact that electric boats typically have a shorter range than their gasoline-powered relatives.

“Right now you can’t travel really far,” says Pedersen. “You can maybe go from Sausalito to Tiburon and back.” Any farther destinations will prove challenging until other chargers are installed, but Canning says Aqua superPower has been in talks with management at other marinas in the area with the hopes of establishing a corridor of chargers around the bay (the company has also installed a charger at a marina in Redwood City).

Once chargers are more ubiquitous, the boats likely will be, too. Electric boat maker Candela has had a sales office in Sausalito since 2021, its leaders already sensing the Bay Area’s potential. “We consider it a great meeting point for people who enjoy futuristic technology from all around the globe,” says Sofia Lerm, Candela’s business developer. Candela currently has two types of electric boats to test-drive in Marin, including the C-8, which is the most-sold electric boat in the world. Leonora Valvo of Vita Power, a developer of electric boats and electric marine power trains, also recognizes that the movement is gaining speed: “As cities and harbors implement stricter regulations on emissions, water and noise pollution, the demand for electric boats will continue to grow,” she says.

Much like with the trajectory of electric cars, there are still improvements to be made before these boats are ready to tackle the water. But as long as there are forward-thinking people around to help jump-start progress, a future with electric boats zipping around the bay doesn’t seem that far off.

an Aqua superPower electric boat charger on a dock
Aqua superPower charging station (Photo courtesy of Aqua superPower Ltd.)