The Boat With Wheels

My test drive on a Sealegs amphibious vehicle was out of this world – and out of the water…

Sealegs Amphibious BoatLast month while attending the Newport Boat Show, I had the chance to take a ride on one of the coolest boats I’ve ever been aboard.

Check out the video I took below (don’t worry, I edited it down to about a minute and added some cool music) and you’ll see what is so unique about this boat.

 

The guy at the helm is Josh Trout, who is part of the New Zealand based company’s North American team. Josh is based out of Sealegs’ national headquarters in Hingham, Massachusetts, but he lives in Newport and stayed in town that day for the show.  Josh was very accommodating, meeting me at the water taxi docks at the south end of the boat show displays.

The boat we’re on is the company’s newest model, a 25 ft RIB. The company offers two versions of all its boats, one for recreational use and one for commercial, but there are only cosmetic differences between the two; the recreational versions are white, while the professionals get a gray version like you see in the video, as well as black rope handles along the port and starboard sides. However, I got the sense that Sealegs can be pretty flexible, and that if you wanted a gray boat with ropes to use at your beach house, they’d sell you one. The bottom line is that they don’t skimp out on the recreational version, and the company benefits from economies of scale by not making two completely different boats.

Sealegs tire

Check out the raised tire while underway

Once we were underway, the boat handled the chop smoothly. The only indication that this wasn’t a ‘regular’ boat was the wheel visible at each corner – but they sort of looked like fenders on a fishing boat. Also there’s a raised inboard engine box at the stern (to house the Honda-built ‘land’ engine), which looks out of place because you can clearly see that the boat has an outboard engine to propel it through the water. The two engines seems redundant, but they’ve found this configuration to be the most efficient way to power the vehicle on both land and water… the cooling system required for the land engine needed more than any water-cooled boat engine could provide.

Approaching the shore, the front wheel engages while still operating as a boat in the water, and appears to protect the hull in case the water gets too shallow too quickly.

On land, the vehicle handled hills nicely; while going up hill at an angle it didn’t feel like we were going to tip over, even though it looks a little top heavy from the outside. The most important thing to remember while driving out of the water is to duck if you are near any trees.

Sealegs beached

Sealegs beached with wheels up

Once you are ready to “park” and get out of the vehicle, the tires are raised up and the boat gets ‘beached’ on its solid aluminum hull making it easy to get in and out on the shore. The ease of use that you gain by not having to trailer this boat is not fully countered by the difficulty of getting in and out of it. With the wheels down, it’s as easy to climb in and out of this boat on the beach as it is to climb in and out of a traditional boat from a dock.

A Sealegs vehicle would make a nice, useful addition to almost any home on or near the beach. It can save you a lot of time at both the beginning of your day – when you are itching to get out on the water – and at the end when you want to get back to shore quickly.

If you want to check one out in person, you can contact Josh or any of the folks from the Sealegs office in Hingham at 781-740-0002, or visit their website at http://www.sealegs.com. And if you’re down at the Fort Lauderdale show this weekend, Sealegs will be showcased in the National Marine booth with interactive demo opportunities in the water.