BYOB=Build Your Own Boat

Messing About on the Water


It was a particularly warm day, and cider was involved.


The conversation at the riverside soon turned to matters green, and whether renewable energy and recycling could be applied to boating.


“Only one way to find out”, I slurred, “build one.”


Ernest Hemingway once said “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Wise man.


What you will need :-

  • A dory or weekender 15-21 ft, ideally on a trailer
  • Solar Panels 100-300 watt output @12v
  • A few sizeable UPS batteries
  • 20m 10mm copper or steel flex
  • 20m 2.5mm single core cable
  • A selection of alloy tubes, nuts, bolts and screws
  • Time. lots and lots of time.
I started with a Microplus type 15 footer off ebay for the princely sum of £440 on a good trailer, the solar panel kit (3 panels plus controller, 145W) and the electric outboard came from the same reputable outlet. 

The UPS batteries were found on Gumtree (so obviously stolen) and cost £20 each.


Putting it together was a breeze, in the same way Hurricane Katrina was a breeze, but 95 hrs later we had a solar boat.



The boat I bought already had a steering wheel fitted, so some meccano and a bicycle seat clamp took care of controlling port and starboard (I know, very professional) and that left the forward/reverse and power control.


The outboard I bought came apart easily enough, so I pulled the top part off and simply extended the wires that run from it to the motor. This allowed me to bolt the control by the steering wheel, morse style, and do everything from the captain’s chair.


To be fair, the workmanship was very poor, but in use it was a total joy. This tiny boat took four of us camping for a week, we were cruising during the day and falling over in the evenings. The weather was a mix of cloud and sun, and the batteries never dropped below 60%.


Our mileage was of the order of 40 miles for the week, and top speed probably 8-10 mph, but by my reckoning you could cruise for eight hours a day every day for the summer months without resorting to a mains recharge.


Highlights –

  • The looks on faces of dog walkers as you pass.
  • The near silent cruising.
  • The absence of fumes.
  • The complete reliability of the system.


Lowlights –

  • The way the boat listed to port when no one was in the seat due to the daft positioning of the batteries (whoops)
  • The fact that I needed to “realise my assets” and it is now sold.



The buyer of the boat uses it at the weekends for sea fishing trips with his family off the Northumberland coast. He has used it for 3 months in varied conditions and reports that the little motor is more than adequate for coastal use and can easily beat a fast receding tide to get them home. He has had no breakdowns and feels he has a bargain.


All in this boat cost me £825, and it sold to him for £1500.


If you are looking for something to do with the kids over winter, there are worse ways to spend your time, but please work a lot quicker and neater than I did!


I will be doing it again this year, the satisfaction I felt first time out was very addictive. If you fancy having a go yourself, send us an email for some truly bad advice.

Tech Spec

MAKE Blood, Sweat and Beers
MODEL Sunfish I
ENGINE 300w electric o/b
PRICE £825
RANGE 16 hrs on batteries
RECHARGE TIME 32 hrs daylight
CO2 g/Km 0g/km


Words – Mark Wolens

Pictures – Nina Graves