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Hinckley 36, Grodersby, Germany

In 2015, Tom Serrao, our founder and chief engineer, received a call from Peter Foerthmann in Northern Germany. Peter, a mechanical engineer who designed a mechanical autopilot called Windpilot, was having trouble with the Jetstick on his Hinckley Picnic Boat, named Bluesiana. He had no control of steering or propulsion, and Hinckley’s German representative was unable to help. His internet research led him to Tom, and over the phone and internet, they worked to identify the issues – a microprocessor that had lost its memory, and two short circuits on the Jetstick control board. After considering his options, Peter decided to purchase the Control Stick™ from Control Engineering. He liked the idea of a redundant system to maintain steering in the event of a fault.

Within two weeks, Tom flew to Germany, tools and system in hand. Peter picked him up in Hamburg, then drove to his home in the small village of Grodersby, where Tom stayed in his guest house, and the two became fast friends. Peter is a perfectionist who has a keen understanding of mechanical systems. His own work is precision, so it came as the highest form of praise when Peter wrote an entire blog about Tom and his experience with Control Engineering. He told Tom personally that our system was one of the highest quality he had seen, both mechanically and electronically.

One quiet morning in Grodersby, near the Baltic Sea, two older women were walking the pathway along the shore. They stopped, stared at the boat, saying “Hinckley, Hinckley.” As Tom popped his head up from his work on the boat, they exclaimed, “Ah! Americano, Americano!” In that remote village, any foreign visitor became a topic for local gossip.

Tom has such fond memories of his time with Peter and his wife, who made delicious food for him during his stay there in Grodersby. On the day he flew home, Peter showed him the old neighborhood in Hamburg, where in his youth, right after World War 2, he peddled fruit by bicycle. He told Tom that every street was lined with rubble – no homes or buildings left standing, with the exception of one which survived the bombings without a mark – the Hamburg post office.

To read Peter’s blog, go to

Video of the Hinckley Picnic Boat EP sea trials and Peter’s interaction with Tom Serrao of Control Engineering can be found here:

High Praise FROM THE