By Dan Fannon
For quite some time, I’d wanted to build a boat. But what kind of boat? Would it float when it was done? Would it look more like a workbench, or would it have graceful lines?
My wife, Melissa, and I had many questions. In search of answers, we went to an annual gathering of boatbuilders in Guild, Tennessee, at Nickajack Lake on the Tennessee River, where we could talk with people who had built their own boats.
What I learned encouraged me. Most of the boatbuilders hadn’t started out with special abilities. They had bought plans, followed the instructions, and learned as they went, often from fellow boatbuilders.
Deciding what boat to build
We live near Hoover Reservoir, a horsepower-restricted lake. Melissa likes to bird-watch, and I’ve always been intrigued by things electrical, so I thought, why not an electric boat? We found plans from Glen-L Marine Designs for a four-passenger electric launch called the Amp Eater. It came with full-size patterns, which made cutting out parts easier, and had stitch and glue construction, which sped up hull construction significantly.
Building the boat
After purchasing four sheets of quarter-inch marine plywood for the hull, we traced the patterns and cut out the hull pieces. Then we encapsulated all the plywood in epoxy resin for waterproofing and stitched the pieces together with short pieces of copper wire. The boat was taking shape. We reinforced all seams on both sides with fiberglass cloth and covered the outer hull in fiberglass.
We put about 80 hours of work into the hull and were finally ready to launch one year and nine months later. Our first day was a success. We had one little leak around the drain plug, which we quickly repaired with silicone sealer.
Hitting the water with our electric boat
In August 2017, we took the boat on its first big adventure to Old Hickory Lake near Nashville to see the total solar eclipse. We camped with about 20 other family members and friends and spent two days giving boat rides. What fun! We got nearly eight hours of boating on one charge of the batteries.
In mid-September, we brought the boat to the boatbuilder gathering at Nickajack Lake. Melissa and I stayed in one of the floating cabins and tied our boat to the dock outside our door. We enjoyed getting up at daybreak and going out for a nice quiet boat ride, watching the fog lift and the sun rise over the mountain.
Each meal at the gathering was like a buffet. People would put out the food they’d prepared and share up and down the dock. On Friday, everyone went upstream 42 miles from Hales Bar to Chattanooga for lunch. I got a ride on a 23-foot, seven-passenger Belle Isle mahogany speedboat. We docked the boats at the public marina in downtown Chattanooga and walked up to the Big River Grille for lunch.
Loving our electric boat
Melissa and I cruised a little over 30 miles that weekend in our little Amp Eater that we named Aquatron.
We averaged 4.2 mph using approximately 4 kilowatts of power. At about 133.33 watt-hours per mile, we are getting about 262 mpg equivalent. Not bad.
Though Aquatron still needs some finishing work, we already appreciate our quiet little boat and look forward to years of happy moments aboard.
David Fannon has been a member of Columbus Sail & Power Squadron/29 for almost 24 years and was editor of the squadron newsletter, Galley Gossip, for half that time. David spent many years sailing with his father, Bob Fannon, at Hoover Sailing Club in Westerville, Ohio, where they won the coveted Challengers Cup series in their Flying Scot. This article originally appeared in the Galley Gossip.