Kayaks are the epitome of “going green”. We use paddles, pedals, or sails as propulsion. When supplying power to the many electronics I gear my kayak out with, I wanted to keep the same focus on environmental preservation. It works by continuously trickle charging my onboard battery even in low light situations. As a byproduct, I ended up with the ultimate convenience as well as a high tech piece of safety gear. This mod not only gives me piece of mind that my fish finder/gps will always be running, but also allows me to charge any electronics via USB (Cell phone, GoPro, VHF Radio, handheld GPS, etc). In this mod segment, I’ll show you how I turned my TI into a solar powered fishing machine.
Total Cost: $75
Time to construct: 4 hours
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Tools Needed: Jigsaw or hacksaw, Dremel, PVC cement and primer, Drill, Crimpers, Goop
10W monocrystalline solar panel (used an instapark model from amazon)
7 Amp Solar Charge Controller (used a schumaker model with 2 pole flat connectors from amazon)
1 x Hobie Thru-Hull plug (purchased from Sunjammers)
¾” PVC and elbows (optional depending on mounting)
2 x Aluminum Strips (optional depending on mounting)
Several feet of marine grade wiring (14ga)
Multiple Marine Electrical Butt Connectors
2-3 Sets of 2 Pole Flat connectors (2.49 ea at most auto parts stores in the trailer section)
Dry bag or dry box for the Solar Charge Controller
West marine Adjustable Thru Deck Fitting
Female 12V auto adapter port with wire pigtail
12V variable USB auto header
Stainless screws and wingnuts for easy removal
Decide where you will mount the solar panel and the charge controller. I decided to mount mine to the top rear of my TI roll bar. Keep in mind you want the panel in a place that it will be mostly exposed to sun after all gear and rigging are loaded. Also decide the location of the charge controller. This should be a dry place out of direct sunlight. Also pay attention to wiring. The charge controller has 3 ports. First to the solar panel, second to the onboard battery, and the last to the load (Fishfinder, 12V adapters, etc,). I used a hobie dry bag with some dry rags to absorb moisture for mine.
Decide where you will mount the 12V auto adapter port. I used a deep Hobie dry bucket for the 8” cockpit hatch for mine. Use the adjustable watertight thru-hull to run the wiring to a 2 pole flat connector.
Layout and run the wiring for all three connections. Use a twist splice to test all connections before crimping anything to ensure it is wired correctly. Run the fishfinder circuit and 12V adapter for your dry box in parallel. This will be the “Load” circuit. Run a single line from the Solar Panel to the “Solar” connection, and finally a circuit from the battery to the “Battery” conncetion.
That’s all there is to it! I no longer have to remove my battery from my rear hatch as it trickle charges any time the kayak is outside. This type of solar panel is the same type used on roofs and other outdoor applications and has an estimated 25 year lifespan. They are very rugged while only weighing in at 4lbs. The solar panel is never removed from the rollbar and is simply rinsed with the rest of the kayak after a day on the water. Remember to keep the joints lubricated with an electrically safe lubricant. I use Corrosion X which can be found at most sporting goods stores. I also use it on hatch seals, mirage drives, and all other corrosion prone parts.