You probably don't have time to wade thru the rest of this nonsense, so here's the skinny:

I intend to scratch build an ultra-light epoxyed plywood pontoon boat with a deck area of about 7 ' by 14' on 16 ' pontoons.
The craft will be powered by two 24V DC motors. The power will come from eight 12V Deep cycle marine (lead/acid) batteries that will be charged by solar panels and small vertical axis wind turbines.
The system will be split into two separate, isolated units
with one motor, two pairs of batteries, 2 wind turbines and solar array for each side.

The craft itself is still on the drawing board, there's some details left to work out but they're minor.
The current design displaces over 2200 pounds with only a 12" draught.

The plan is to take this boat from as far up the Mississippi as she can navigate down to New Orleans,
relying only on the solar and wind generated electricity she can create on board.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Piranha Prop's and a "virtual Elvis".

The sketches for the hull and deck are essentially done.
I'm transferring images to a set of prints I can actually build from.
The belt drive is now enclosed inside the pontoon and the tail comes up from the keel at a shallower angle with a smaller transom.

I was figuring on a relatively low prop RPM with an aggressive pitch. Amazingly, this is what one of the engineers at Piranha recommended when I contacted them.

Piranha has an interesting concept.
They make hubs to fit different outboard and I/O drives and you can buy blades in sets, separately and/or individually.
If I were to whack a blade(s) or decide I want to experiment with a different pitch.
I can purchase new blades rather then a whole new prop.

Tech support there are really accommodating!
When she didn't have an answer she forwarded my inquiry to one of the engineers ...unfortunately the fact that the engineer didn't read more then the first sentence in the eMail was painfully obvious from his response. But I cant fault him, I'm sure the questions fell out side of his job description and he had real clients to deal with.

I'm definitely going with the piranha prop. When I shoot the documentary, the girls in tech support definitely get a plug...

My support team liked "scale man" so much they want to see a "virtual Elvis" as well so...

He'll be onboard the next set of sketches.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More drawing, more problems

I started to do more math and it looks like the GVW of this boat isn't going to be even close to the 2200 pounds she displaces.
Which means the props are going to be splashing like bass on the surface and if I were to get a good gust of wind up under the deck and the canopy, she's going to turn turtle on me.
I knew she was going to be small, I had chalked her out on the driveway out of curiosity. When I threw a "scale me" onto the drawing, it was even smaller then I thought.
I was considering making the canopy larger for more cover from the weather, but now I'm not so sure it's a good idea.

Introducing: "Scale Man"
If you've seen any of my recent YouTube videos (Jump to 4:30), it's not a bad likeness.
At 5' 5" and 150 lbs I'm not exactly a big guy unless you live among the !Kung on the Khoikhoi.

Another designer had recommended using AGM batteries which are sort of like a jell cell. They're more durable and a lot more efficient then the automotive type wet cell batteries
I was thinking about using.
They're also a lot bigger and heavier.
We had come to the conclusion that they really wouldn't make much of a difference in a boat that wasn't trying to store power from re-charge point yesterday to re-charge point tomorrow, but now I'm thinking I may need the extra weight. It will all come down to the $ in the end.
How much will 8 RV batteries cost compared to 4 AGM's?

The "support staff" and I have been tossing around names for the craft. I wanted to go with something classic sounding like Ra or Sol but so far the only thing that's stuck is "Floating Spaghetti Monster".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

About the dog...

His name is Elvis and to be honest, I can't see him not coming along.

He lives to go for rides in the truck and he's been great company on a bunch of road trips.

He swims okay, but he's not a big fan of the water. My nephew decided to put him in the pool one day and Elvis was done with swimming thereafter.

I've had him since he was weaned.
You could have fit him in a Kleenex box and still had room to hide a pint of Johnny Walker (Red Label) when I got him,
but he's getting on in years and his sense of humor isn't what it once was.

He's a great watchdog but I'm worried about him falling overboard spazzing out over a duck or something.
After a lifetime of my 14 nieces playing dress-up with him, chances of me getting him to wear a PFD are pretty slim.

The drawings are almost done, I'll have them loaded up and the links reset tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon.
The canopy is still bothering me, but I think I've got the tillers and console worked out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's official

I just bought an old naval ships bell on eBay.
The first offical purchase for the as yet unnamed boat.
...I guess I'm committed now.

I'm still at it.

I'd be so much better off drawing in AutoCad then Adobe Illustrator,
but that's all I've got on this iMac.
The hull is re-drawn. It turns out I didn't leave enough room in the
stern for the motors. I'm working on the hardware for the tillers now.

I'd like to set up my control console dead center on the deck,
but that's the only place I can sling my hammock.
If I locate it aft, it simplifies the tiller and shortens the wiring for the
controls, but a console will eat up valuable deck space no matter where I put it.
...when your whole world is going to be contained in 98 square feet for a couple of months, you don't want to give any up. I may end up add 2 feet to the deck and pontoons anyway.

I got a chance to exchange emails with an incredibly nice gentleman
from up in Canada who's scratch-built a really neat electric powered canal boat. It's a really elegant little craft. Here's an article on it:
Greenhorn I
It's a radically different craft from what I intend to build, but he was
very helpful regarding motors and I may pick his brain again later on
when it comes to hooking up the solar array and turbines.

I also had a guy link me to some ESC's that are designed for an electric motor scooter. They seem to do everything I need and at $40 each they're a way better deal then the $300 industrial duty jobs I was looking at.
Slow progress is better then no progress right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drawing and drawing and drawing.

The sketch attached to the "Current drawing" link to the right has been revised.
I'll change the illustration in the header tomorrow or Monday.

I came up with a design for the canopy I like better.
It also shrinks the size of the footlockers on the deck which I think is a good thing. I don't see me needing as much storage space as the earlier drawing had, and having storage at a premium will inspire me to not pack things I don't really need.

I also think I solved the problem of mounting the rudders.
I'll have to do a separate, more detailed posting on the drive set-up, but in short:
The motors will be mounted to the transom inside of the pontoons above the waterline. There will be a large pulley on the motor shaft driving a V-belt. The lower pulleys will be attached directly to the props which will spin on fixed shafts on the keel.
This design keeps the motor more accessible and out of the bilge.
If one of the pontoons were to take on water, a short circuit at the motor would not only take it out, it could also take the batteries out. (like Ka-freakin'BOOM out!).
It also keeps me from having to worry abut the prop shaft seals leaking into the hulls.
Having all that stuff on the transom created problems mounting the rudders. Since I'm not sure the charging system will give me enough power to run all day every day, I may have to spend part of my trip drifting with the current. This would make large rudders a necessity.

That "Throttle telegraph" in the middle of the sketch would be big fun as a control console, but it would take me a month to build and just isn't in the budget.
...maybe on the next one.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

About the boat .3 (Electronics)

I'm in a little over my head on some of this.
If you look over to the right under the heading "Some older projects"
you'll find links marked TV2 and TV3.
You'll see I have some skills with basic electronics, but I'm going to
need help with a couple of components.

The plan is to have two wind powered generators on masts at the
front of each pontoon and two solar panels, one mounted on each
side of the canopy roof. There will be a total of four deep cycle 12v
marine batteries powering two 1/3 or 1/2 horsepower 24vdc motors,
one in the stern of each pontoon spinning belt driven propeller shafts.

First of the issues is: I have no idea what I need in between the solar
panels the turbines and the batteries, and I'll need 2 of them because
I plan on dividing the components into two separate isolated systems.
One turbine and solar panel charging 2 batteries and driving one
motor. This way if one side fails, I still have power to maneuver.

The other issue is the ESC.
I think I'd be better off with some sort of electronic speed control for
the motors. I know rheostats eat up a lot of power and I've been given
to understand that they are hard on DC motors.
But I have no idea how an ESC actually works, what sort of ESC I'd
need for 1/2 horse motors, and if it's something I could build or if
will double the budget for the drive.
I will have rudders for control, so the ESC's wouldn't have to be too
high-tech, but I would like to have at least 3 forward speeds and 2
reverse. I'd also like to be able to control the motors independently,
being able to run them at different speeds for additional steering.

I'll need power for navigational lights. I plan on using LED clusters for
them. The spot light will have to have an incandecsent bulb, but it
won't see much use and most of them run on 6-12vdc. I'll need a way
to recharge the various electronics I'm planning on bringing along.
The cameras all run on AA batteries, I could probably pack enough of
them and I can use the car charger on the cell phone. The laptop runs
on a 10.5v battery so I'll have to figure out a way to re-charge that.
None of this seems like a major obstacle. But that ESC has me worried.

About the boat .2 (Structural considerations)

At this point I'm thinking the boat should be modular.
I don't have a space big enough to assemble this boat as a complete
unit. (Actually, I don't have any space at all as yet)
I want to make the components small enough to fit thru a standard
6'5" X 30" door opening and be able to assemble them into the
completed craft with just some basic hand tools.
This way I can ship the disassembled boat from point A to point B if I
decide not to (or can't) trailer it.
The pontoons will be no problem, they're 16' long but only around 2' X
2.5' and since they're 1/4" ply, they won't weigh much.
The deck will have to split in half, or maybe quarters. The canopy can
be as many pieces as I need it to be if I cover it with fabric.

I kept the pontoons very narrow because I'm concerned about the
motors not being powerful enough. I don't plan on setting any speed
records but the craft has to be able to maneuver in a "following sea".
I also skeletonized the bulkheads to keep the weight down.
I know I should break the pontoons into several cells cells for flotation
in an emergency situation, but any sort of a hull breech is going to
spell the end of the trip anyway so I'd rather have the extra payload.
I can't possibly pack enough tools to rebuild a section of hull.

I did some quick math and I believe I'll have close to 1400 lb. of
displacement. Once I get the design firmed up and a closer estimate
of my loaded weight I can lengthen the pontoons if I it turns out I need more displacement.

About the boat .1 (general dimensions)

As the design stands so far, the boat will be a scaled down version of
a standard pontoon boat.
The overall length will be 16' 10" from the bow to the end of the rudders, and 7' 6" wide at the waterline.
The pontoons will be of laminated plywood with epoxied joints and coating and connected by 5 laminated trusses attached to bulkheads in the pontoons.
The deck will be 7' X 14' with two 1' 4" x 7' 4" storage lockers I can stretch a hammock between.
The canopy will be fabric over a wood frame a little over 7' X 9' with roll down soft sides. I'm not crazy about the canopy in the illustration and it will probably change.
There will be two home made wind turbine generators on masts at the bow and 2 solar panels on the roof of the enclosure.
The size and output of the solar panels will depend on the budget.
The electrical storage will be four 12v lead/acid batteries that will power two 24 volt electric motors.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

So I had this idea...

I guess maybe it's more of a midlife crisis then an idea.
But considering the life I've lead "midlife" has most likely come and
gone. With the economy in the tank and construction in New England
at a standstill, I've got a lot of free time, and the urge for one more a
dventure while I'm still in shape to take it on.

I'm going to build a small pontoon boat with electric motors, using a
combination of wind and solar for power. I'm hoping to launch the
boat from as far up the Mississippi as is navigable in a boat that stands
6 feet off the waterline and draws a foot of water.
Destination: New Orleans.

I suppose questioning my qualifications would be a good place to s
start. No, I've never built a boat before.
But I have been a carpenter for longer then most of you have been
alive. I'm sure I've got the skills and tools and there appears to be
enough info available on line to cover what I don't know about the
assembly process.
I live in Rhode Island, "The Ocean State" and grew up around boats.
Cruising Naragansett Bay and Block Island Sound.
I'm sure there will be a learning curve in running a seriously
underpowered craft in strong currents,but I figure I can handle it.
I'm not sure if this trip has ever been made in a solar powered water
craft. I did find an article about a couple from Texas that were going
to attempt it this summer, but there haven't been any updates in a
while so I don't know if they gave up or they're still under way or what.

I'm hoping to document the trip. Both on-line and with video and digital images. I'm packing my little iBook in hopes of finding a way to get internet access with enough speed to upload the photos and video, but I'm also packing a spare HD and memory sticks just in case.
I've made a dozen or so videos that have done okay, so the end product should at least be watchable. I'm not shooting for a Pulitzer Prize or anything, but maybe some local access air would be nice.

So that's what passes for my mission statement.

Thanks for looking in.