H. B. Estes launched on July 4th, 2010

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It was appropriate that this being a "Patriot Boat" that it be launched on a special day thus July 4th. Launching took place without any fanfare. Some boats did see us and gathered around. Some anxiety on my part since we did not know what would happen. However; Harold sat well in the water and the engine, hydraulics and wheel performed as expected.

First trial run

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After backing off the trailer and making some system checks we got underway. Boat handled well, tilt worked fine and rudders seemed to be o.k. But a problem did arise. When backing up, the front rudder spun all the way around binding up. I was only able to make left turns for the rest of the trial run. Some rudder stops were added later to correct this problem but steering was hard and not acceptable. I decided to convert them to full hydraulic which was my first intuition. Should have gone with this in the first place. However; everything else went well. A couple things that were added after the trials was a hydraulic cooler and a third pontoon. On a long run the hydraulic oil seemed to be getting hot so I decided to add a cooler. It may not have been needed but it was a relatively easy modification and I wanted to protect the hydraulic components. Regarding the third pontoon, I had not carried any more than two people on board and the water level was nearing the half way mark on the pontoons which is max capacity so I decided to make the H.B. Estes a tri-toon. Information and pictures can be found on the "Under The Deck" page. Paddlewheels are not known for speed. Without the third pontoon approximate speed was 6 to 6 1/2 mph by GPS. I think I can improve that by another 1 to 2 mph. Overall, I am satisfied with the design and performance. I love the handling and variable speed that the hydraulics offers. The open centered control valve allows changing directions without any adverse affect or concern of damaging components or blowing hydraulic hoses. While a paddlewheel lacks speed, it has lots of torque. Very noticeable when docking. When you reverse the direction of the wheel, it is almost immediate. You can literally stop the boat in its tracks. The wheel tilt turned out to be a great feature. Not only to be able to adjust paddle depth but when launching, the wheel and the rudders both are raised to eliiminate any bottoming out. Another thing nice about the tilt is being able to park the paddles and rudders out of the water while docked. This helps keep down the corrosion and algae growth. I would have to say for a boat that was built totally by "the seat of the pants" it turned out pretty well. In closing, once again I want to thank James Hunter for his hard work, creativity and design contributions and providing space in his shop for the building of the H.B. Estes.   

MODIFICATIONS: While everything worked, like most projects there are always room for improvements. Following changes made 11/2010 - 4/2011

Auxillary Power

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Addition of a modified Minn-Kota electric trolling motor that is remotely operated from the console provides a backup propulsion system in the event of engine, hydraulic and/or rudder failure. It has its own marine battery that is solar charged. A 3 way battery switch allows use of its battery, engine battery or both. Motor is located behind the center pontoon in front of the flanking rudder so it does not detract from the boat design and appearance.

Auxillary electric motor

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Crossmember was added to mount motor to. This was a Minn-Kota hand controlled trolling motor. Shaft was shortened, pivot bracket added to allow a steering push/pull cable for remote steering. Motor is located slightly above bottom of pontoon to protect it.

Batteries and Switch

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Main and Auxillary motor battery are located inside the rear port seat compartment. Batteries can be independent of each other or together via the switch.

Battery Switch

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Battery #1, Battery #2 or both can be selected.

Engine mounted on top of center pontoon

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Engine is mounted on top of center pontoon that allows cool air to ciruculate around it. Also, improved gravity feed to carburetor allowed removal of electric fuel pump. Engine mounted on a piece of plywood (painted red). Engine was rotated 90 degrees from its original position to accomodate space and make it easier to install exhaust and hydraulic suction hose from reservoir. Black intake hose shown will be extended and routed to console air inlet. Console will be completely sealed (front grill removed) and additional insulation installed. Most engine noise and heat will be directed under the boat.


Engine now sits 80% below the floor. A little engine that does a lot of work thanks to hydraulics. Left lower
is the hydraulic shut off valve. Next to it is the exhaust that now runs in cool air. Before it created a lot of heat inside the console.

SEE NEXT PICTURE CHANGES TO LOWER HEAT INSIDE CONSOLE

More cooling changes:

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Hydraulic lines insulated. air cleaner removed and sheet metal air deflector added to divert hot air down and under the deck.

Auxillary power (modified electric trolling motor) controls

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This is a lever that can be quickly accessed by removing the rear console panel. The troliing motor mounted behind the middle pontoon is powered bya separate marine battery. There is an electric switch (see below) to control on/off/forward/reverse and several speeds within reach from the helm seat. This switch is the twist control from the original trolling motor).  Lever allows emergency steering in the event there is a mechanical or hydraulic failure of primary rudder system. Lever folds up inside console when not being used.

Backup steering lever in stored position and electric motor control twist switch
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Cup holders added:

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Cup holders installed at end of side seats


View of engine from below the floor mounted on top of middle pontoon:

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Engine now runs much cooler and engine/hydraulic noise has been reduced. 80% of
engine is below the floor. Pontoon was notched to allow room for hydraulic hoses and wiring in original engine installation. This ended up being a perfect place to mount the engine for the aforementioned reasons.

Website address added

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Curiosity seekers and boat enthusiasts now know where they can go to get information.