You may think you know what you want when it comes to building a custom houseboat, but nothing can possibly compare to the efforts one California man put into getting the boat of his dreams. Wayne Wasulko is a very detail-oriented person by nature, and when it came to breaking down the specifics of what he wanted and needed for his next houseboat, he was in his own world. Heading into his second houseboat purchase, Wasulko knew exactly what it was going to take to make this custom houseboat worthy of the name Wayne’s World.
His first challenge was dealing with the size restrictions on Lake Shasta in California. This popular houseboat destination is home to hundreds of houseboats, yet each has to fall within the maximum size of 56 by 15 feet to be on this body of water. But for some manufacturers the task of designing and figuring out how to take basically an 85-foot posh houseboat and configure it to fit within the size restrictions required on this lake wouldn’t be something most builders would be interested in. However after doing his homework, Wasulko knew which manufacturer would be the right fit for his challenge.
“I chose Thoroughbred Houseboats because of the boats they had built on Lake Shasta, some 25 plus,” explains Wasulko. “I wanted it to have everything that the larger Kentucky houseboats have, so space and design were critical.”
Thoroughbred is based in Albany, Ky., and like a lot of the builders in this area, strict size requirements are normally not a factor when designing boats that will stay in this region. So even though Wasulko would be on the other side of the country during this process, he would need to work closely with Thoroughbred and especially his main contact Rod Perish.
“Rod and I worked from the start on the hull design and interior layout and I purchased the same CAD program that he uses at the factory,” says Wasulko. “We exchanged design plans until we had everything dialed in as we looked at every square inch of space for usefulness.”
It took less than six months from the initial meeting to the boat splashing, and that included three trips that Wasulko and his wife Donna made to Kentucky during the construction.
“I actually worked at the plant for ten days during the final stages,” explains Wasulko. “I just wanted to be involved in the entire process.”
Spending Green To Go Green
The boat had to be as green as he could possibly make it for his own personal goals, which only added to the challenge for Thoroughbred.
“Rod and the people at Thoroughbred are experts on solar and through our experience really are keen on its value with houseboats,” says Wasulko, who has been married for 32 years.
“Our goal with Wayne’s World was to build a boat that was as self reliant as possible when it came to using gasoline.”
With gas at the docks jumping to over $5.50 per gallon last summer, it was obviously something that was on the minds of a lot of houseboaters. But for Wasulko it really wasn’t the cost of gas as much as just not wanting to be as dependent on it.
With his increased water capacity, along with the reduced need for gasoline, his trips to the gas docks were far less frequent, as his goal was to only use gas for running the MerCruiser engines and the occasional use of the generator.
Powered By The Sun
The boat had to be able to run all of its electrical items without using the generator for several days, so the next step for Wasulko was to break down the numbers. After building an excel spreadsheet with a list of all the electrical items that he would use, he went to each of the manufacturers websites to learn the required watts that would be needed to operate.
“I came up with the amount of power I would need to replenish the batteries on any given day that would either fully recharge the batteries or put them in a state for full charge the next morning,” explains Wasulko, who has been around the boating industry most of his life. “To confirm my energy needs, I purchased a watt meter that would allow you to plug in items to see what power draw in watts they would have.” (See Electric Usage pdf below)
In his case, he figured he would use approximately 7300 watts on any given day, so he knew that he needed to generate close to or above that to remain generator-free. These figures excluded the heat and air conditioning, as these units require much more battery capacity, plus he didn’t think it made much sense to run these units when he wasn’t at the dock as there is very low humidity in northern California.
His next step was to figure out the amount of panels and size to meet the 7300 watt number. Again using an excel spreadsheet he calculated the amount of power from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most summer days and came up with generating about 8000 watts using 9 BP 195w PV panels.
Finding a good reliable controller for both the inverter batteries and the house batteries became the next task for the long time Californian. On the inverter side he wanted to go with the highest amount of power it would generate to the batteries, and so he went with the Apollo T80 80-amp MPPT battery charge management system.
“What I really like about this controller was its ability to give all current and past charge information on a wireless remote box that can be located anywhere in the boat,” says Wasulko. “Plus the remote would always give you a capacity gauge on what capacity is in the battery bank.”
For the house batteries he used a Blue Ray Solar Boost 3024Di, which also has a remote that is hardwired to the back storage locker. Once it was set, he hasn’t had to touch it again and the 12-volt house batteries are always showing 100 percent full.
All Charged Up
With all the requirements for power, both inverter and house, Wasulko looked at many battery options to take the punishment on any day and produce the power when needed. He ended up installing 12 Life Line GPL-6CT two-volt AGM batteries for the inverter and they are all wired as one large 24-volt battery bank.
“The benefit to this is during a charge cycle the energy goes through each battery equally with the same amount of energy passing all cells,” explains Wasulko. “This eliminates weaker and stronger batteries controlling the charge.”
Each of these batteries weigh in at 100 pounds and are 900-amp, 20 hour rated. The four house batteries are the Life Line six-volt GPL-4C and each is a 220-amp 20 hour rating. Trying to put all these batteries in a same compartment was a big challenge.
“Rod at Thoroughbred and I enlarged the rear battery box to accommodate the much deeper two-volt batteries all in one box and it includes all 12 inverter batteries and 4 six volt hours batteries.
There are many inverters available on the market, but Wasulko, went with the Magnum 4000 and had it installed on the pre-wired MidNite E-Panel. The inverter delivers two 120-volt split phase power outs or 220-volt power.
“This allowed us to wire 220-volt along with 120-volt items without the need for either two inverters or step up transformer, both being very inefficient,” says Wasulko. “The Magnum 4000 was installed with the hardwired remote on the front dash, installation and set up was a breeze. The remote controlling the 4000 was very simple to set up and since has been extremely simple to operate.”
The 12-inch bow and stern thrusters were specially configured by Bob Saint of Hydro Ventures, one of the top suppliers of thrusters in the houseboat industry The new thruster remote controller allows use of thrusters anywhere on the boat or when securing the boat on the dock. The owner is extremely happy with these thrusters because they provide excellent side thrust for docking. Through the use of the boat all last summer, Wasulko says the generator was used primarily for running those hydraulic thrusters and not much else.
“Looking at the hour meter in November, the generator had 32 hours of use with the boat being splashed in May,” says Wasulko. “That comes out to about five hours per month versus four to five hours per day for most houseboaters.”
Sink Or Swim
When the 56-foot houseboat was launched, a major concern was how it would float with an extra 10,000 pounds of tile floor and several thousand pounds of granite over standard boats. When the boat went into the water it was a quarter inch off on the port side and because he had spent many design hours setting up all holding tanks in the center keel, (300 gallons of grey water, 400 gallons of black, and 200 gallons of fresh water) whatever fluid capacity in the tanks the boat remains level with no additional ballast.
Added touches to Wayne’s World include four queen-sized beds for added comfort and eight-foot interior ceilings.
“We saw the higher ceiling on [Thoroughbred President] Shawn Heinen’s boat,” says Wasulko. “It took twice as long to deliver the boat since they had to avoid certain bridges, but it’s something we really wanted and are glad that we have now.”
All the rope lights are LCD because it requires about 20 percent of the power that regular rope light take and the 36-foot party top gives great shade, while supporting all the solar panels.
In the end, Wasulko feels that building Wayne’s World was both a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
“I must say that Rod and the entire crew at Thoroughbred were a pleasure to work with and I think we all learned a lot about space and value of it with the strict size limit,” stays Wasulko.
Wayne’s World is definitely one of those unique boats that are in its own category, thanks to a persistent and detail-driven owner who got his posh boat, while going green at the same time. For more information about Thoroughbred Houseboats call 606-387-7421 or visit www.tbboats.com.
To download the Power Requirements for Wayne's World, click below: