With peak oil and the price per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel, the concept of powering a pleasure boat with a steam engines has become a tantalizing possibility. Virtually any scrap (read, inexpensive) carbon fuel could be burned to create steam and propel a modern-day steamboat. Scrap wood and biomass are the ultimate alternative fuel.
Mike Brown (pictured above) manufactures small steam engines, from one- to 20-horsepower, and has adapted them to a number of hull forms, including pontoon boats driven with a paddle wheel. Says, Brown, "The Coast Guard has no special requirements for non-commercial steamboats under 40 feet." Steam engines can also be used to run a home electrical generator.
Brown is no stranger to alternative fuels. During the oil crises of the '70s he authored a book on how to homebrew alcohol and adapt the family car to burn it. He also resurrected the Fish Carburetor, famous for its multi-fuel capability and fuel efficiency. For alternative fuels the Fish, still in production, remains viable today even with electronic fuel injection.
Finally, the price for a 20-horsepower piston-valve, V-twin steam engine, bench tested and ready to run, is $6,500.00, plus shipping and packaging. Steam engine plans are also available for do-it-yourselfers.
For a wealth of information on steam engines visit:
- Mike Brown's Facebook Page -#