WPSU

The Boat

DRAGONFLY FAQs
Why did you make this trip?   The captain of the vessel, Bill Carlsen, is a professor of environmental education at Penn State University; this trip was his Sabbatical project.  The voyage of the Dragonfly was 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 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 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 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!
View Pictures
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.
Now that our long trip is over and we're using the boat for weekend cruising, the Captain is modifying the system so that we can use solar power for "house" devices routinely.
How fast can you go?
Dragonfly has both an electric motor and a diesel engine.  Under diesel power, she makes about 6 mph.  Under electric power, we usually run at about 3.5 mph.  Dragonfly CAN go faster on electric, but 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.   But the name is appropriate for a boat, because dragonflies rely on the water at all stages of their life cycle.  Also, dragonflies are "solar-powered" insects—they must bask in the sun to warm up their muscles before taking flight.  Those two factors make “dragonfly” a perfect name for a solar-powered boat.