Monday, May 28, 2012

Solar Powered Fishing Boat

usbackroads product--Solar Powered Fishing Boat

The lakes of eastern Washington have plenty of large trout.   Over the years specialized "boats" have been created specifically for fishing the lakes of eastern Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.  The float tubes were a simple steal from the bass fishermen of the mid-west.  I don't know if anybody uses them back there anymore, but in the inland west you will find more float tubes than boats on the trout lakes.  Prams appear to have become popular in the Kamloops country of British Columbia.   The other popular watercraft is the fly fishing pontoon boat which appears to have originated in the Boise area.

I have used a float tube for over 30 years now.  I did own a pram for several years, but finally sold it.  It was great for ONLY chromonid fishing and Bugaboo was too large to safely fit in the pram.  I wanted a pontoon for floating rivers, but watched as my friends fought the wind on lakes and quite frankly had a miserable time.  There was no way that I was going to do that!!

Then I traded my pram for a pontoon boat for an afternoon of fishing on a windy day.  The pontoon was outfitted with an electric motor and battery.  After two hours of fighting the wind I had enough, but my friend had snuck off and hid so I could not swap floating craft.

Then for some reason I flipped the electric motor into reverse and pointed the pontoon into the wind.  With the electric motor pulling instead of pushing the pontoon suddenly became VERY stable in the wind.  By dropping my flippers I could steer and move the pontoon at any rate of speed I chose.  I set the electric motor on low, just enough to counteract the wind and then used the flippers to move and steer.

IT WAS GREAT!!  Fishing was much easier than out of the pram or the float tube in the wind!!   Very comfortable and I was sold on the combination of electric motor and pontoon boat.

However, there were several significant problems.  Well, just ONE very heavy and dangerous problem.  The battery.  Lead-acid.  Yes, acid.  I own a solar house and every work shirt I have has acid burns.  There is just no way to avoid acid burns with a unsealed lead acid battery.  On a pontoon boat made of plastic??  No way.

After thinking about it for several months the solution was obvious.  A small electric motor with a small solar panel and a sealed AGM battery.  I had a Mini-Kota 10 electric motor.  It actually was too large for trolling with the pram as it moved the pram at too high a speed!!  But with the pontoon boat, I would only be using it to counter the effect of wind for trolling and at high speed head back to the launch site.

Deciding on the correct size panel was easy.  I am a firm believer in taking your most demanding application and buying enough panel to run that motor.  In the solar house, it is the water pump or vacuum cleaner.  On the boat it was the motor.  A 30-watt panel ran the electric motor.

It ran the motor at maximum solar absorbtion.  So when you have lunch you can speed up the charging process by facing the panel directly at the sun.

A 30-watt "unbreakable" Power Up solar panel coupled with a 12 volt sealed battery.  As you can see in the picture the solar panel sits on top of the Rubbermaid action pack box.  The battery and lunch are both inside the box.  As with any batteries you should not use them in a confined space, be sure to ventilate them.  You also need a charge controller to avoid over charging the battery.  I am not an here is a link to setting up a 12-volt system.  Add Solar Power to Your Truck.  

Does it work?  Like a champ.  The panel keeps the battery sufficiently charged that even under cloudy and very windy conditions there is sufficient reserve at the end of the day.  If I do not use the electric motor much the panel remains fully charged.  Even on a cloudy day there is some charging going on so the you no longer need a LARGE lead-acid marine battery to "make it through the night".  Be sure that everything is properly grounded to avoid sparks!!

I used a 30-watt "unbreakable" solar panel.  The first one lasted 12 years.  Flexure is what finally caused that panel to fail.  So be careful to keep is from flexing.  Here is the link to a 20-watt "unbreakable" panel from Amazon.  It is complete with cigarette plug.  Smaller panel means a larger battery or more efficient electric motor.

If you need a charge controller this is the one I use.   With a twenty or thirty watt panel a charge controller will keep you from overcharging the battery.  This one also has a jumper cable that lets you charge AGM batteries.

Solar power might not make sense for a large industrial nation, but  we have owned a solar home for the past 13 years so we are aware of when solar makes sense.   It makes sense for a fly-fishing pontoon boat.  We will be looking at other uses of solar power in the outdoors in future posts.  I never leave home without a panel or two.


Kurt Amezcua said...

That’s a pretty smart idea to install a solar panel on that boat. The good thing about that is you never have to worry about running out of fuel while you’re out fishing because you have all the energy you need being given to you by the sun. And it is true that it can still produce 80% of its maximum input even on cloudy days. That’s good news when you wander too far from shore, and the sky looks like it’s about to pour down rain.

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