The Loon: Solar-Powered DIY Pontoon Boat


Six-day boating cruise along Ontario's scenic Trent-Severn Waterway: "Cost of fuel for the 100-mile cruise? Zero. Amount of air and water pollution? Zero. Number of stares from other boaters? Countless." Monte Gisborne is a mechanical engineer who built The Loon, a solar-powered pontoon boat. "A guy with a 45-foot powerboat said his fuel costs were $5 a mile. I can do 10 miles a day for free with the sun [and 30 to 40 miles with batteries]," Gisborne said.

Their eight-seat pontoon boat called The Loon is solar-electric. On overcast days, eight 6-volt batteries kept them clipping along all day at 5 knots (6 mph). At night, The Loon was plugged into standard electrical outlets at local marinas to recharge its batteries. [...]

According to Gisborne, the cost to recharge the batteries is about 1 to 2 cents a mile. On a full charge, the boat travels 30 to 40 miles before it needs recharging.

Gisborne's an electro-geek: He rides a self-built electric snowmobile dubbed the Sk-E-Doo in the winter and an electric lawn tractor in the summer.

He's converted all manner of cars, trucks and scooters to electric. He would love to be in the electric-car business but the red tape and other barriers made it seem impossible


The Loon is 20 feet long and is topped by a custom 738 watt solar panel. Since most recreational boating is done when the weather is nice, solar power is particularly well adapted to the task.

"All things being equal, and to avoid being around a stinky motor, most people would choose a green alternative like this," said Brad Collins of The American Solar Energy Society.

::Sun Powers Loon-y Pontoon Boat