Börteboote have been used for centuries on Heligoland. Now for the first time, there is an electric version with a Torqeedo motor.
Heligoland, Germany (July 30, 2019)
Heligoland and the islet of Düne, two small islands 65 km off the northwest coast of Germany, are famous for their natural beauty, spectacular red cliffs, bathing beaches, sea birds, and unique maritime history.
Traditional handcrafted oak boats known as Börteboote (boarding boats) have been used on Heligoland for many years to transport visitors from large vessels to the harbor. Now, the municipality of Heligoland has converted the first boat to make it fit for the future. In the Hatecke boatyard on the Lower Elbe, the old diesel engine of a Börteboot known as "Pirat" was replaced by a clean, quiet Torqeedo Deep Blue 50i electric motor with lithium-ion batteries.
Heligoland, historically an exclusive seaside spa and resort for upper-class Europeans, was once claimed by Denmark and then Britain. But in 1890, Britain handed over Heligoland to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar. As Germany’s only offshore territory and the birthplace of its national anthem, the islands have a cherished place in the country’s culture and the hearts of the German people. In the 21st century, it is a holiday island, a location for top marine research, and a base for offshore wind services.
Börteboote – a way of life
Every day, large passenger vessels from the mainland arrive at Germany’s only offshore island. The boarding boats each carry up to 50 passengers from the ship to the jetty, the Helgolander Landungsbrücken – a tradition that goes back to time immemorial. In 2018, the Heligoland Boat Exchange Association and the Heligoland Landing Service had the Heligoland Börteboote recognized as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage – an important step towards UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
Torqeedo engineers worked closely with the boatyard owned by Rainer Hatecke, a fifth-generation boat builder and operator, and chairman of the Association for the Preservation of Heligoland Börteboote, to design and install the integrated battery-powered electric drive. The high-tech, 50 kW Torqeedo system provides a modern, complete prop-to-helm solution, including a 40 kWh battery with automotive technology from BMW and a touchscreen display for the boat operator. The fleet's first electric Börteboot will be presented to the public on August 9th during the 65th annual Börteboot regatta.
E-pirate ideally equipped for rough conditions
"Börteboote have been a tradition on Heligoland for centuries. With the installation of the electric drives we have advanced this tradition to make it fit for the future. The new "Pirat" will noticeably improve the passenger experience and set an example for environmental conservation and climate protection in the tourism industry," says Mayor Jörg Singer.
As Rainer Hatecke points out, the old diesel engines were so loud people had to yell to be heard on the open boat. Now they glide silently through the water with no diesel fumes on deck. He also notes that the extra torque provided by the Torqeedo electric drive helps the boat punch effortlessly through the high North Sea waves. "Together with my shipyard crew we have built a real 'e-pirate' for Heligoland," Rainer Hatecke says.
Protection for sensitive ecosystem
Heligoland remains a popular destination for day trips with a growing number of overnight guests. However, the Börteboote fleet has dwindled as new passenger vessels with shallower drafts can directly access the docks and jetty. Today, there are only 11 Börteboote still in service. Rainer Hatecke envisions rebuilding the Börteboote fleet by using the new, emission-free vessels for tours, sightseeing, bird watching, passenger transport between the Heligoland islands, as well as their traditional boarding duties. Additional battery capacity can easily be added to the modular Deep Blue system if required for longer trips in the future.
“Visitors will continue to experience the cultural history of Heligoland while protecting the natural resources that bring thousands of visitors to the islands every year,” says Dr. Christoph Ballin, co-founder and CEO of Torqeedo. “Repowering this iconic fleet with high-tech, emission-free Torqeedo electric drives will serve as a model for maintaining tradition through innovation.”
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