WPSU

The Boat

DRAGONFLY FAQs
Why are you cruising through Canada in summer 2018? Many boaters we met on our 2011 trip recommended we visit Canada's Rideau Canal, a World Heritage site. Looking at the maps, we realized we could do another "loop" and cruise a number of of Canada's historic canals. The trip is also a chance to test a new propulsion system for Dragonfly. As with our first trip, we'll also be focused on living sustainably and exploring sustainability initiatives in the ports where we stop along the way.

Why did you make the Great Loop trip in 2010-11?   The trip was Bill's sabbatical project as a professor of environmental education at Penn State University, a year-long exploration around eastern North America to learn about environmental sustainability, community development, natural history, and engineering.  We think our trip was the first "sustainably powered" circumnavigation of the "Great Loop," the system of waterways that encircles eastern North America.  It's certainly the first Great Loop voyage to be conducted in a solar-powered canal boat!   
Read more about the voyage on "Penn State Live"

Why did you choose to make this trip in a canal boat? We rented this boat for a 3-day trip in 2010 and just fell in love with her. She was for sale . . . and the rest is history. Now we're eager to spread the joy of canal boating across America!  Let us convince you with Dave Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons to Own a Canal Boat."

How long did your Great Loop trip take?


We budgeted a year to travel about 6,000 miles.

How big is the boat?
Dragonfly is 41 feet long and 10 feet wide.  She draws 3 feet of water, so she can get into some pretty shallow places!

How much does she weigh?

Our boat weighed 13 tons when we purchased her (she's made of steel!) Adding batteries and the solar array brings the weight up to 14 tons.

What’s it like inside?
Dragonfly is very comfortable.  She has two staterooms (bedrooms), and a galley/salon (kitchen/living room).  The area at the bow has a canvas cover and enough seating for a party!

Does the whole boat run on solar power?
We use the electricity generated by solar power to move the boat move through the water.  Power generated by solar panels is stored in a bank of batteries . . .  they power an electric motor . . .  and the motor turns the propeller. We CAN use the solar-charged batteries to power other electrical devices (lights, computers)--for example, when we are anchored out in a remote place.

How fast can you go?

On the original cruise, Dragonfly had both an electric motor and a diesel engine (as of 2018, the engine has been replaced by a diesel generator that can charge the battery bank).  Under diesel power, her top speed was a little more than  6 mph.  She CAN go just as fast under electric power, but we usually run at about 3.5 mph, because she drains the batteries much faster at higher speeds.

More technology info on Bill's blog: SunBoatLoop

Why did you name your boat “ Dragonfly?”
In part, Bill picked the name because he knew Cynthia liked dragonflies. (She's the author of a "getting started" dragonfly-watching guide.)  But the name is appropriate for a boat, because dragonflies are found around water; they rely on the water at all stages of their life cycle.  Another point of connection: dragonflies are "solar-powered" insects—they must bask in the sun to warm up their muscles before taking flight.  Combined, these factors make “dragonfly” a perfect name for a solar-powered boat.