“So this is my awesome solar boat!”
That is how Jaime Mantzel introduces the pontoon he built over the course of the last year—and we have to say, his description is pretty accurate. Mantzel, a self-taught builder of everything from robots to housing structures, created large portions of the boat with free reused materials, and the result is a ramshackle vessel with lots of quirks and character.
Mantzel has rigged the entire vessel up to suit his specific needs. There’s a steering shaft built using pulleys that reaches the entire length of the boat so he can steer from wherever he happens to be, a cozy sleeping space, and a straight-shaft propeller rigged up to the boat’s solar-charged battery. Mantzel also built his own anchor, using fibreglass to create a mould, then filling it with concrete.
But of course, the true highlight is set of solar panels that powers the entire vessel. Heading along at 7 or 8 miles per hour, Mantzel notes, “I can go this speed pretty much all day when the sun’s out. It’s kinda nice, not having to worry about gas.” There are five 10-by-260-Watt solar panels on the boat’s roof that do everything from powering the motors to charging Mantzel’s phone. “In all honestly, I don’t know why anyone is driving around with gasoline when we’ve got this technology,” Mantzel says.
The boat cost about $10,000 to build, with half of that going toward the solar panels and batteries. And Mantzel makes use of the power source even when he’s not out on the water. He uses the boat’s battery as a backup power source for his house, and even uses it to power a chainsaw when he has to do some wood-cutting.
So why is it called the Shark Slicer? Mantzel explains that it’s because of the sharp pontoons that keep the craft buoyant and help it slice through the water. Though he’s quick to add (a little ruefully) “. . . I’ve never actually hit a shark, though.”