Solar Boat Bayou Tours
Shoofly correspondent Lisa Monti gets a delightful, insider's view of local waterways on a silent solar-driven vessel, guided by boat builder Mark Isaacs.
The lightweight, Coast Guard–certified craft can be hauled on top of a car or on a trailer and accommodate one or two passengers in cushioned swivel bucket seats. The boats run on German-made electric motors charged either by the sun or by electric outlets and have a top speed of 5 mph, the better to take in the rivers, bayous and bays and far quieter and fume free than gas-powered motors.
Putting in at the end of North Beach Boulevard at the Cedar Point boat launch for a late-afternoon tour of Old Joe’s Bayou, Isaacs slid our two boats into the water and unloaded the gear from his car: two motors, one battery for each plus a spare, life jackets with compass and whistle, two paddles and other accessories. Isaacs takes extreme caution in his preparation and instructions on safely operating the boats.
My own experience running a boat is negligible, so I admit to palpitations right before stepping onto my boat and settling into the chair. My main concern wasn’t for my safety but for my new iPhone in my life jacket pocket.
Isaacs does take care to talk about the proper way to board the boat and keeps a dry bag for your wallets and keys. “We have ways to address those concerns,” he said.
Facing sideways and with right hand gripping the tiller, I rolled the tiller handle forward to slowly pick up speed and followed close behind Isaacs’ boat as we set out into the peaceful bayou on the back side of Hollywood Casino.
It took no time to get the hang of changing the craft’s speed and direction, and with the beautiful marsh scenery and birds of all kinds flying all around, the fact that I was on this boat by myself didn’t distract from the peaceful sightseeing.
“As many times as I’ve done this, I continue to not quite get over the quietness of the experience,” Isaacs said. “This for me is quiet and meditative. It’s the most powerful aspect of the experience.”
As to what you’ll see on one of these tours, Isaacs said that’s up to nature. “Different locations offer different experiences,” he said. The possibilities include a heron with a six-foot wing span taking off close at hand, dolphins feeding in the Jourdan River, and sand crabs scurrying on shore.
Bridge swallows put on a show for us at the old bridge near our launching spot. Isaacs once saw an enormous alligator gar in a full arching breach through the air. “You can’t control what you see but most of the time there’s a nice diversity of birds,” he said.
Tours of Old Joe’s Bayou are about an hour and cost $60 for a boat for two. Catfish Bayou takes about three hours to tour and costs $90. Bayou Bogue Homa on the Mississippi side of the East Pearl River typically takes about two hours for $90 and No Name Bayou in Diamondhead is $80.
Conditions have to be right before any tour to ensure safety. Wind can’t be more than 12 mph and temperature must be over 60. “Typically, wildlife are more active either in the early morning hours or evening so think of this as a sunrise or sunset tour,” he said. Tides also have to be right, so Isaacs recommends calling well in advance to plan a trip.
For more information, call or text (228) 363-2529 or visit the Solar Boat Tours website.