Motorboat Monday: SEALEGS:- The Boat With Wheels.

By now we all know the score with amphibious vehicles: to whit- duality of purpose usually means a massive compromise. The Amphicar, for example, was pretty wretched on the road and didn’t make a terribly good boat, either. The astonishing Gibbs Aquada was hugely better in every respect, but was also toweringly expensive. Though a wonderful concept, nobody shows any real sign of getting the amphibious car quite right. Perhaps somebody should look at what, exactly, an amphibian should seek to achieve? Well, ten years ago, in New Zealand, somebody did.
The fact is that boats are very ill-suited to use on land. Unless your boat is permanently berthed, every time you use it there’s the rigmorale of hauling it safely into the wet stuff and later back out again.  OK, some people have this down to a fine art, but it’s still a cumbersome process and a slipway queue is never fun to be a part of. With SEALEGS you can simply drive up the beach and park up.
I’ve actually seen these things before in the flesh, but it wasn’t until I inspected one close up at the London Boat Show that I realised it was something rather better than just a boat with wheels bolted to it.

For a long while there have been “Barrow boats”. Something of a British institution, these were basically small dinghies with a wheels or a roller built in to one end to allow them to be moved easily by one person from storage to sea. You’d lift one end via a pair of long handles and then trundle it along, probably full of provisions for the day’s sailing, until you reach the water’s edge whereupon you roll your trousers up and let buoyancy do the rest. Barring extreme carelessness, with luck then the barrow becomes a boat. You don’t seem to see as many of these around these days, but they used to be very popular for use as rowing tenders or simply for mucking about on the river. Anyway, technically, they were amphibious.
When I first saw one of these SEALEGS contraptions while holidaying in Cornwall I was rather put in mind of those Barrow Boats. To the casual observer I was in the presence of nothing more sophisticated than a hulking great rigid-inflatable speedboat with a trio of oversized mud-tyres hanging off the corners. It looked a bit silly, but then again there was a pretty serious undercurrent of coolness flowing through it; it sat there on this guy’s driveway, next to his 335i (with no towbar), so it must have driven there. Dude’s house overlooks the sea, but there’s a pretty steep path to climb between the slipway and the driveway. I was pretty impressed that this weird-looking wheeled-boat contraption could haul its own weight, let alone be agile enough to make it to where it was.
Well, having checked things out I can now confirm that these things are actually honest-to-goodness awesome. The wheels at the back, which are mounted on swinging arms which rotate up out of the way once in water, can easily handle the weight of both boat and up to 200hp of outboard motor. There’s genuine strength in the structure; a backbone chassis passes from the stern through to the bow and the front wheel is attached via that. Actually, as I found after speaking to the guy on the SEALEGS stand, it’s the front wheel which makes this concept gel so well.
SEALEGS boats are all-wheel drive. The front wheel is driven by a hydraulic pump just like the rear wheels are, with power to all provided by a small secondary engine (a 24hp Honda fourstroke). This unit is used solely for the hydraulic circuits, and is man enough to move the boat up the beach at well above walking pace. That driven front wheel is a boon when landing as it grabs traction on the beach before the rear wheels are anywhere near the land and before the outboard has been swung out of the way.
Check out the video:
My first instinct is to think of this as a seriously cool toy, but there are applications far beyond the role of plaything for the well-heeled. Imagine the effectiveness of one of these for rapid-response rescue in coastal waters? SEALEGS are well aware of this and their website shows recreational and commercial models, indeed New Zealand coastguard and several US Fire Departments use them. With all the hard work of launch and recovery eliminated a SEALEGS rescue can be performed, quickly, by a crew of one.
When I started typing this I had absolutely no intention of turning it into a commercial, but I’m going to continue because I haven’t reached the best bit yet. Looking around this thing on display I was struck by the depth of engineering on display everywhere I looked. The hulls are constructed from aluminium and the flotation tubes made from a wonder-material called Hyperlon, and the construction is properly robust. Far from being a fragile trinket for summer beach one-upmanship, these things seem well suited for taking a beating. The gubbins needed for the transition from sea to sand doesn’t exactly come off the shelf, so all the necessary castings are custom made, and are absolutely stunning.
I put it to you that this is pretty much as amphibious as anything needs to be. In animal terms it compares well to a Sea lion, fabulously capable in water and sufficiently able on land to be useful. That’s a damn good balance, for a boat.
(Copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2014/15. Video from Sealegs Amphibious, via Youtube. Visit If you own one of these I URGE you to get in touch and offer me a go!)

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  1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    Someone who is by definition an obviously, truly live human made the accusation earlier today that we "fabricated this blog against something that's ogle alpha additional significant."
    I think would have to describe the Sealegs as ogle alpha additional significant. I think that says it all right there.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      … You acutely acquaintance so abounding about the submissive, you've covered so abundant bottoms.

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        Yes, I am acutely in favor of keeping abundant bottoms covered.

  2. RSDeuce Avatar

    That is legitimately cool. Thanks for sharing.

  3. stigshift Avatar

    I still want an Amphicar…

  4. MrDPR Avatar

    That falls into the "gotta have" category of goodies. Landing gear on a boat. Excellent!
    I wonder: can it be towed as is or must it be carried?

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I don't think there's a way of clutching the wheels in and out so they're always linked to the hydraulics. Trailer only, I'm afraid. But nice and easy to get up onto the deck…

  5. Rover_1 Avatar

    New Zealand.
    Home of Sealegs
    The Gibbs Aquada and the other Gibbs vehicles
    Bungi jumping
    The Zorb
    Bruce McLaren, and McLaren Cars
    The Turducken of Burnouts
    Not just the land of the Hobbits and Lorde, but of properly followed through, 'Here, hold my beer', thinking and putting it into practice.