Innovators: Shep McKenney

Read how Shep McKenney's Seakeeper gyro left a mark on yachting.

The Seakeeper gyro is an involved technology that accomplishes an amazing feat: It stops boat roll.

Shep McKenney

Sometimes when the stars align, maritime magic happens. Sometimes twice. Such is the case with Shep McKenney. He once co-owned Hinckley Yachts and brought boaters the famed Picnic Boat and the first-ever joystick helm setup. His current company, Seakeeper, produces one-of-a-kind gyrostabilizers for yachts.

Bringing stability to those who have a passion for being on the water, but are not fans of excessive motion, is his calling. And McKenney is one who finds a way to get it done. When he couldn’t locate someone to help him develop Hinckley’s joystick helm, he sought out hardware developers and software engineers to make it happen. Similarly, when it came time to bring his one-of-a-kind gyro concept to reality 11 years ago, McKenney found out through an industry friend that a naval architect named John Adams happened to live close to McKenney’s Maryland home base and was specializing in motion control for high-speed ferries operating in the Southern Hemisphere. Call it serendipity. This dynamic duo developed the Seakeeper gyro.

Creating technology that borrows from myriad industries, including automotive, aerospace and marine, was harder than originally intended. There were failures. McKenney, who was steadfast in his belief he was on to something that could change the experience of boating forever for the better, would not be denied. Currently, there are 1,700 gyros keeping yachts on an even keel.

Seakeeper gyros were originally limited to larger vessels because of cost. Now McKenney’s team has them for the 35- to 45-foot market and says the next iteration will fit boats starting at 25 feet. Let the good times roll (gently).

The iconic Hinckley Picnic Boat was the first joystick-drive vessel. Here’s Hull No. 1 as she looks today. Her current owner’s kids certainly seem to be fond of her.