Greener Options for Recreational Boating

Reader Contribution by John Ivanko
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Whether you live or travel on the coast, next to a lake or along a river, we often find ourselves setting foot on a boat. For many fishing enthusiasts, a boat is as necessary as the bait and tackle. The same is true for aquatic adventure seekers, whether diving or snorkeling. For me, there’s nothing more enthralling than gliding over the waters in a sailboat, spinnaker raised.

On a recent trip into the Miami area when working on a three-part ecotourism blog, I had a chance to attend the Miami International Boat Show, to learn about some of the ways the boating industry is greening itself, from new all-electric touring boats to propane-powered engines. While numerous issues remain related to fuel use and construction materials for what most people view as luxury items, the fact remains that many of us do, in fact, like to get out on the water. And sometimes a kayak, canoe or surfboard won’t do the trick. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, 88 million Americans participated in boating in 2012, with 12.1 million boats registered in the US.

So, when self-propelled boats or boards are not an option, here are few of the boating choices and technologies along the continuum of sustainability.

Solar-Powered Touring Boat

There’s no noise and no pollution with the 22-foot Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company’s Loon, a pontoon cruising boat that’s propelled by a 4 kW motor drawing juice from an on-board battery bank. Accommodating up to 10 passengers, the roof canopy sports a .7 kW PV array. As the world’s first solar assisted pontoon boat, it’s ideal for boaters who like to troll inland waterways, lakes and calmer waters. It’s for those who don’t want to have the equivalent of “two sticks of dynamite” on board, as Tamarack Lake President Monte Gisborne likes to say, referring to the engine and fuel on most boats.

Twin Vee Catamarans

If you have a need for speed and getting out on the open waters of an ocean, the Twin Vee twin engine catamarans are among the most fuel-efficient options. Because the boat hydrofoils, the Twin Vees use about half the fuel of any other boat in size and price range, says to Roger Dunshee during our test ride. The catamaran design reduces drag in the water, making it more efficient that other boats. This durable and highly stable boat is well suited to the open waters, whether to hook your fish dinner, dive to spearfish the exotic and problematic Lionfish that are decimating reef fish populations, or go on a snorkeling expedition.

Sail Away on Sailboats

How can you go wrong when the wind is doing all the work to propel your watercraft? While most sailboats come with a gas-powered engine to get you out of the harbor or around tricky situations (like windless days), a sail boat can be both a majestic and fossil-fuel-free way of getting around out at sea. If course, if you have the financial means, you can go all out in a 65-foot Beneteau sailboat, with optional PV or wind turbine systems to power all on-board appliances. However, there are plentiful options for sailboats that can satisfy nearly every budget, though some may take some major DIY work to get seaworthy.

Propane Outboard Motors

“It’s priced like gas and has zero evaporated emissions,” says Captain Bernardo Herzer, CEO and Founder of Lehr, a company that makes reliable and less ecologically-damaging 5 horsepower to 15 horsepower propane outdoor motors. Propane is an approved alternative fuel in both the Clean Air Act of 1990 and National Energy Policy Act of 1992. He’s quick to point out that unlike gasoline, propane never goes bad and the propane engines are up to fifty times cleaner than gas. The propane engines also sidestep one of the biggest problems with the boating industry: fuel issues related to the engine. A boon for wildlife, propane eliminates the possibility of the highly toxic gas being spilled in the water. The company expanded into the boating industry after their successful start in propane-powered lawn and garden products.

Want to check out your boating options first hand, the International Miami Boat Show is held every February.

Photo: Courtesy of Twin Vee

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authoredRural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winningECOpreneuringandFarmstead Chefalong with operatingInn Serendipity B&Band Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer andphotographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently,9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.

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