“Where I live in northern California, houseboating is a big hobby, possibly more than anywhere in the country outside of Lake Havasu in Arizona, which is more for spring breakers and less for houseboating enthusiasts. I’ve refurbished an old beat-up houseboat I actually won in a poker game. This year’s upgrade: a houseboat inverter.”
Living for nearly 20 years next to Shasta Lake, I always had friends who took up the hobby of boating, namely houseboating. The lake is somewhat magnetic, calling people from all over the country to explore its seemingly endless fingers, all of which offer diverse landscapes, colors, depths and wildlife. There are plenty of marinas spotted around the lake that rent their fleet of high-end, furnished houseboats to tourists. I’ve rented from all of them on numerous occasions over the years. I’d been thinking of buying my own as an investment, but there always seemed to be something else that tied up my finances.
Then, 4 years ago, I won the boat title of a worn and weathered houseboat built in the late 1980s. While some people may have seen winning the boat as a money pit or a “my-problem-now type thing,” I was ecstatic. Where my wife saw an eyesore, I saw a fulfilling project that would allow us to spend more time together on the lake we both cherished. The first few projects on my new boat were all mechanical (and painting). Once it was in running order and we got out on the open water, we both knew my new hobby was going to be worthwhile.
Once the boat was operable and we knew it wouldn’t leave us stranded in one of the lake’s deep fingers far away from help, we started refurbishing the inside so we could feel at home. New bedding, fire extinguishers, board games, portable lights and new flooring came first. Then, it was time to upgrade the kitchen. My wife begged for an oven and stove for cooking, something we’d enjoyed on the many rentals we experienced together with friends. For this, I knew it was a good excuse to tackle the issue of electricity. Most rental houseboats come with a gas-powered generator to power your devices (and provide the luxury of in-boat air conditioning; something we didn’t have). I’d considered installing a generator, but we had both experienced issues getting old generators cranked up when we needed them. Plus, the noise wasn’t something we enjoyed when we were anchored on the lake under the stars with the owls hooting from the shore.
After talking with a friend (the same one I’d won the boat from in the first place), he was determined to sell me on the idea of a DC-to-AC power inverter with a bank of deep-cycle batteries that were designed to be drained of power and recharged over and over again without issue. He recommended a solar panel setup for recharging the batteries and that’s something I kept in my back pocket on my wish list.
When we first installed the battery and houseboat inverter setup, I was fine with recharging the batteries with an AC charger we could plug into shore power at the marinas (or back at the house when we trailered the boat home, which we did more times than not after an outing). Sure, the batteries are quite heavy, so I typically use an extension cord at the house instead of hauling them out each time.
The setup is simple and it allows us to cook, run fans, keep lights on to play games after dinner and plug in our cellphones to charge when we are out on the water for an extended period.
Simply put, the setup is awesome. I still plan to invest in solar panels, but first I’m looking at a new grill for the front deck of the boat. When we catch a largemouth bass, a string of crappie or an elusive Chinook salmon off the back of the boat, there’s quite the urge to get to fileting and cook the fish right on the spot. Oh, and my wife would like a kayak to better explore the narrow channels. So, grill, then kayak, then solar setup.
Oh houseboating; it’s the greatest hobby in the world. Happy houseboating.
Inverter R Us choice for a houseboat inverter : Spartan Power Inverter / Chargers