Hydraulic equipment used in boat restoration

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A trust established to restore the last remaining first class Essex skillinger smack, named Pioneer, has used hydraulic equipment from Parker Hannifin to update the propulsion system.

Hydraulic equipment used in boat restorationParker Hannifin, one of the world's leading manufacturers of motion and control technology, has supplied hydraulic motors, modular load-sensing hydraulic valves and hydraulic proportional remote controls to a marine restoration project commissioned by the Pioneer Sailing Trust. The restored vessel's twin-propeller design, made possible by hydraulic transmission system specialist Anglian Diesels, using Parker Hannifin's products, is enabling a combination of outstanding manoeuvrability and impressive cruising speeds.

Rupert Marks, Brian Kennell and Shaun White established the Pioneer Sailing Trust in 1999, with the purpose of restoring back to sailing condition the last remaining first class Essex skillinger smack, named Pioneer. The 70' long smack, originally built in 1864, was an abandoned wreck lying in the mud at West Mersea when the trust took on the project; after four years of careful restoration, the boat was successfully re-launched at Brightlingsea.

Rupert Marks says of the project: "It was important to us that Pioneer's restoration be carried out with the greatest respect to the original design, using the highest-quality materials and suppliers, while making it a modern vessel in terms of performance and functionality."

From wind to diesel and hydraulics

Unlike its original incarnation, which was powered by wind, the restored Pioneer is powered by a single diesel engine with a hydraulic transmission system, supplied by marine specialist ARS Anglian Diesels, driving the vessel's twin propellers.

The system incorporates two pump-powered Parker F12-80 hydraulic motors fitted to the top of sonic legs, creating the effect of a hydraulic outboard motor system. The F12 motors are extremely lightweight and compact with just a 40-degree angle between shaft and cylinder barrel. Despite this lightweight design, their heavy-duty roller bearings permit substantial external shaft loads and combine with the motors' limited number of parts to result in an extremely robust design with long service life and proven reliability. Furthermore, powering the Parker motors can require less fuel than conventional products because of their high overall efficiency and the use of only one engine to drive two propellers.

A fixed-displacement F12-60 pump is used in conjunction with a small 22-litre oil reservoir and Parker's BLA6 250 boost unit. The BLA6 Boost unit is a non-mechanical device that enables the engine to use its full speed without allowing the pump to cavitate and it creates a semi-closed-loop system that allows the use of a much smaller oil reservoir. Pioneer's two hydraulic motors are controlled with Parker's PCL402 twin-function friction-braked control levers. These are used in conjunction with a Parker L90LS modular hydraulic valve to control the power efficiently and proportionally from the pump to the two motors. The valve only allows a maximum of 90 litres of oil to go to any one motor at any time, irrespective of engine speed, which prevents the over-speed of any one propeller. The twin-propeller system enables the power to be directed to one single propeller or both, in either direction of rotation, for easy manoeuvrability. It also allows both propellers to be used together for cruising, with the load-sensing valve ensuring that the correct amount of oil is pumped to each propeller. The system has an overall reduction ratio of 2.66:1.

Smooth and easy control

Thanks to its compact dimensions, the PCL402 remote control unit was easy to install into Pioneer, with its robust, simple design offering excellent reliability and performance. The user-friendly equipment enables smooth and easy control of the vessel, and greatly assists in its new purpose, as a training centre.

The smacks were originally working boats, dredging oysters or scallops from the coasts of the UK and northern Europe, but Pioneer has a very different purpose in its restored state, being used to train people in sailing, teamwork and leadership, able to accommodate three crew and 12 trainees. Rupert Marks comments: "The trust is making the boat available to those people who might best benefit, but who may not normally have access to such opportunities. We are working with life development trusts, training agencies, councils, social services, schools and other organisations committed to social welfare."

To make a donation to the Pioneer Sailing Trust or to book the boat for a training session, please visit

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