Solar-powered boat makes waves in Charlottetown

Powered by 30 solar panels, the Isola Solaretto will be used for harbour tours starting in May 2023. (Submitted by Steve Arnold - image credit)
Powered by 30 solar panels, the Isola Solaretto will be used for harbour tours starting in May 2023. (Submitted by Steve Arnold - image credit)

What is believed to be North America's largest solar-powered boat is making waves in the Charlottetown harbour after being under repair for more than six years.

The Isola Solaretto is owned by Ride Solar, the same business that runs solar-powered pedal bus tours in Charlottetown and Halifax.

Steve Arnold, co-owner of Ride Solar, purchased the boat in 2015 in New Brunswick. It was only after buying the boat that Arnold discovered its fascinating history.

"We found that it was actually from the 1967 Montreal Expo," he said, adding it was one of eight water taxis used to shuttle fair attendees around canals and pavilions at Montreal's world fair.

Submitted by Steve Arnold
Submitted by Steve Arnold

Arnold said he started doing more research, and ultimately found out that a couple from Charlottetown had also once purchased the boat and brought it to P.E.I. The boat was then used to give tours in the Charlottetown harbour in the early 1970s.

"At that point, the boat was literally just a canoe with a canopy on the top. That's the way it was in the Montreal Expo and that's the way that it was when it was used here in Charlottetown," he said.

Long repair journey

Although Arnold and his co-owner bought the boat in 2015, it's only now making its way to the water. Arnold said there were several deep repairs needed, with the cabin, floor and ribs in the fibreglass hull almost entirely rotted.

"We had to tear everything up," he said, adding the boat's 1000-pound diesel motor was also replaced with a 100-pound electric motor.

Submitted by Steve Arnold
Submitted by Steve Arnold

The 40-foot boat is powered by 30 200-watt solar panels, which charge the batteries powering the electric motor.

"We should be able to bring the speed of the boat down to two or three knots on a sunny day, and have the power of the sun equaling the power of the motor," he said.

Arnold said the boat will be used to take passengers on harbour tours from May 1 to Oct. 30, starting in 2023.

On the weekend of Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, tickets to tour the Isola Solaretto are available to purchase on the company's website, with proceeds going toward the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry.