Solar-electric pontoon motors into production

Published online: Mar 24, 2012 News Brandon Barrus
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Monte Gisborne is a man on a zero e-mission. When he built his first solar-powered boat, dubbed the Loon, the economy was booming and the future looked bright for any entrepreneur with a good idea. However, in September 2008, when he partnered with Ray Hirani to ramp up production, the banking crisis broke out and getting money from lenders became nearly impossible. This didn't crush Gisborne, however, and he and Hirani continued along, advancing his project however possible and doing the research necessary to build a world-beating, fashion-forward, solar-powered pontoon.

After years of development work, involving several long-distance solar treks along the Rideau and Trent-Severn canal systems, he decided to take his family on a solar cruise of the NYS Erie Canal.   What better test than to motor this new creation along 250 miles of the canal, from Oswego to Waterford, N.Y.? Before Gisborne and his family set off on their solar odyssey, the first ever on the historic canal, he emailed every township along the way, informing them of the plans, in case they were interested in bearing witness. Of all the townships, one mayor definitely was.

Gisborne remembers, "I hit send, climbed under my van to do an oil change, and my wife tells me I've got a phone call. She throws the phone under the van, and this guy on the other side said, "This is Mayor James Brown from Rome, N.Y. Is this true what you sent me about your plans to travel through our community?'"

A bond between Rome and Gisborne was born. Mayor Brown promised to set Gisborne up with investors and other support he would need to get the project off the ground, if Gisborne would set up shop in Rome.

"There's such a great synergy with Rome that I just can't imagine any other community would get behind us like Rome has," Gisborne said. "The whole community has come out to welcome us into Rome society."

Gisborne set off on the Erie Canal. He is proud to report there were no hiccups over the entire journey, with the exception of an incident where his wife accidentally microwaved their GPS unit.

"The boat performed exactly like gas boats do on a canal system," Gisborne recounted. The Loon was perfectly content motoring along with the other boats, performing exactly as the gas boats would. Gisborne and his family drew a lot of attention with their virtually noiseless craft.

"People often asked `Why have we been doing the gas thing for so long?'" Gisborne said, shrugging his shoulders.

After their successful voyage, Gisborne met Hirani and they began working on a production-ready, improved version, which will be ready for sale in spring 2011, having finally obtained their funding requirements. Tamarack will be headquartered and the Loon (along with its larger sibling, the Osprey) will be assembled in Rome, N.Y., with parts sourced from Germany, England, China and the United States. Their patented technology allows four Loon boats to be packed into a single shipping container, allowing for easy export, an industry first.

The new Loon placed first at the "Future of Electric Vehicles" conference in San Jose, Calif., pitted against futuristic electric airplanes, cars, motorcycles and submarines.

For more information on the Loon, visit or call 705-484-1559.

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