This solar electric narrowboat in the UK was purpose-built to navigate the extensive inland waterways of the UK and proved herself admirably on her maiden voyage. Over the course of sevreal weeks in May and July 2019 ‘Shine’ travelled nearly 500 miles through a wide variety of different waters from the idyllic serenity of the Oxford Canal to the fast flowing Tidal Thames.
Because of the length of the boat – about 20m / 60ft – it has 10 solar panels with total of up to 2kW of generating capability. The motor is electric with a diesel back up generator.
Shine was made using a Mothership-developed system in which the narrowboat is built roofless and then the solar panels – integrated into the roof itself – are floated into place and attached. The animated video below appears to be an older video in that it shows a different arrangement of panels than those on Shine, but it demonstrates the concept and process.
The main advantage of this technique is that those integrated roof panels can be built in a workshop which is much easier than trying to do it all in the confines of a boat only about 2m / 6ft wide. (Hence ‘narrowboat’).
The boat was also very handsomely finished inside, with a surprising number of the comforts artfully designed to fit into the limited space. The kitchen/galley has a 230V combination oven and grill and the heating is both efficient and whimsical. The wood fireplace is fashioned from an old fishing net buoy and the log holder is a retro TV cabinet that also holds a new LCD screen.
Solar electric narrowboat did indeed ‘Shine’ on her journey
The proof is in the sailing, of course, and Shine did indeed shine on her journey. Adam Porter’s Boat Test in the CanalBoats magazine/website and Mark Langley’s review in Waterways World both gave her the thumbs up for helping lead the way in greening the canals of the UK.
In addition to offering narrowboats, Mothership makes a few different solar electric boats: a catamaran/pontoon houseboat with a few variations, a Riverboat 32 and a 20’ Dayboat.
The venture was started by Tim Knox, in search of a boat that both he and his wife would love. They agreed they wanted something environmentally friendly, but the problem was that Tim likes sails and Sue doesn’t appreciate the yelling that is sometimes involved. So what could be better than a nice quiet electric motor powered by the sun?
Spousal discussions seem to be a bit of a theme in electric boats! It’s what first got Scott Masterson of Stealth Electric Outboards interested in putting together an electric inboard/outboard for his Bayliner 17, and Mark and Jennifer Fry of Canada to start Templar Boats, which sold its first electric Cruiser 26 in March.
The first Mothership houseboat set a world record for solar boat distance
To put his dream boat together in Australia, Tim enlisted the talents of Naval Architect Andy Dovell, who has 50 prestigious yacht designs to his credit and has participated in 5 America’s Cup, serving as Designer of Record on 3 challenges. The banking, finance and commercial background of Rick Marks rounds out the Mothership corporate team.
The houseboat was the first design out of the gate and in 2014 Tim, Sue, their three kids and two friends set out to travel down the entire 50km / 90mi length of New South Wales’ Hawkesbury River using only solar power. There is a great blog account of this record-breaking expedition on the Mothership website.
In addition to their own designs, Mothership also advises on and converts other boats to solar electric and hybrid propulsion. There are specific details about converting a narrowboat »» here on the site, and a contact page for other inquiries.