Building A Motorized Barrel Boat

[Rinoa Super-Genius] shows us in a video how to build a crude motorized barrel boat using only a few parts, including pontoons for extra buoyancy and stabilisation.

Building a barrel boat is simple. All you really need is a plastic barrel, scrap wood, PVC pipe with end caps, a battery, and a trolling motor. Of course, you could go even further and build your own trolling motor too.

The video shows the process of building the boat. You start of by cutting the barrel in two, making some calculations of water displacement in order to add the pontoons in the correct positions. These are just held in place with scrap wood screwed into the barrel. Connect the trolling motor to a battery and you’re done.

This isn’t obviously the best looking DIY boat out there, nor does it claim to be, but it can be built on a tight budget. If you have the right parts lying around, you could even build it for free.


24 thoughts on “Building A Motorized Barrel Boat

  1. All this attention makes me want to do even more Electric Barrel Boat vids, maybe add a potato cannon to one. thanks for making this article!

    BTW if you ever need better quality pictures, i try to take some pictures throughout my projects to use as thumbnails so feel free to ask me for better pictures of my projects if you ever need. :D

  2. Well, the story does confirm one suspicion – the American dialect conflates the two terms: trolling (bad behaviour on social media); and trawling (dragnet fishing). That does lead to some confusion for English-speaking readers.

    1. Yes, was wondering what a trolling motor was… disappointed, I imagined either an a motor set up to repeatedly press Random keys to post junk comments, or a motorised device for flagelating trolls.

      1. Trawling is dragnet fishing, but trolling is dragline fishing, towing a baited hook behind a boat (at least in the American dialect). The internet use of trolling was derived from the fishing term — throw out an offensive “line” and see who bites.

  3. Rinoa: – Love your makeshift boat project. Here is a Israeli robot boat gadget you should aspire to:

    Erik Christiansen: – I’m afraid you are the one conflating here. We (Americans) use the word “trolling motor” to indicate a small motor used for “trolling” or dragging behind bait fish in a slow moving boat. This is meant to ATTRACT the fish into taking the bait. INTERNET TROLLING is kinda’ sorta’ the same thing only the fish are the sensitive types who get offended by their deliberate antagonizing remarks – like fishermen trolling the waters of the Internet. Abbreviating “trolling” to Nordic Giant or TROLL is a misnomer. You can say a real fisherman is TROLLING the water with his boat but you don’t call him a Troll. That would be insulting. I do not believe the two nouns are connected (TROLLING and TROLL).

    When you call a Internet Troll a Troll you are trying to insult him/her. By adding the suffix -ING that is just an adhoc unauthorized English coinage. However, you might make the connection due to his/her trolling the cyber-water for cyber-suckers. :-)

    Rinoa: consider a trolling motor replacement with those 12 volt 5A submersible sump pumps (possibly 2) – atWalmart?. They act as water jets like on jet skis – but not as fast. Less likely to get the screw (prop) tangled in lake weeds. Also think about an inflatable raft with a backboard transom. That way you don’t need the pontoons and you can control propulsion with three spst push buttons and no rudder nor a tiller. A deep cycle marine Pb-acid battery is better than a lithium battery for obvious reasons. Its heavier though (more payload calculations?). Also think about an unmanned project like that robot patrol boat I mentioned above. And always remember to CENTER your load in a boat.

    You also need to consider long parachord tethering (from Walmart), as a dead battery or other equipment failure on the other side of a deep lake can be a real P.I.T.A. for equipment retrieval. That’s for unmanned – for manned consider small emergency breakdown paddle or backup rescue craft.

    1. Rinoa: – Use Mike Szczys’ article about “Building the yellow submarine” as your guide:

      Mike or [Jason Rollette] uses the word BILGE pumps. I use the word SUMP pump. Bilge is a marine reference. Sump is more a homeowner’s word for water in your basement (cellar). He uses several 1250 gph bilge pumps for his craft’s propulsion. I noticed fish jumping in your video almost every time your prop cavitated. Jet pumps are less likely to disturb the fish (only guessing). Also they would be much slower than the trolling motor with the 130~170 pound (58~77 kg) payload.

      Consider caulking your screw mounts and your end-caps to hold down on bilge seepage. Silicon or bathroom caulk should work. Using some waterproofing paint (wood deck paint) on your wooden beams wouldn’t hurt either. That lumber will start to look pretty bad soon from dry-rot, mold, and mildew – reduced structural integrity (or mid-lake structural failure?) . Consider stuffing Styrofoam (packing peanuts?) inside your PVC pontoons before sealing them up. Also you could double up on the pontoons. Use your portable jigsaw to cut the PVC faster. Use the hacksaw blade attachment. Try gluing down your pool noodles. Your mom was right – you could abrade your skin on those barrel edges.

      And yes blue jeans do suck when wet. Next time try a pair of shorts or swimming trunks (no socks or shoes unless there are sharp rocks there). If skitters (i.e. mosquitoes) are a problem get some DEET from Walmart. Professional or hobbyist fishermen might use rubberized hip-waders but that is over-kill for you. I just hope you are not doing this in our most southern tropical states from Florida to Louisiana! I think you know why… (chomp!) :-)

    2. I repeat: using “trolling” for “trawling” is idiosyncratic to the American dialect. It is not international English.
      Long-line trawling uses lines, not nets, I assure you. Just check:
      Trawl Trawl, n.
      1. A fishing line, often extending a mile or more, having
      many short lines bearing hooks attached to it. It is used
      for catching cod, halibut, etc.; a boulter. [U. S. &
      [1913 Webster]
      2. A large bag net attached to a beam with iron frames at its
      ends, and dragged at the bottom of the sea, — used in
      fishing, and in gathering forms of marine life from the
      sea bottom.
      [1913 Webster]

      1. Trolling for fish isn’t trawling. It very specifically refers to the practice of dragging a line behind a SMALL boat. If it’s a mile long you’re not trolling and you’re definitely not powering your craft with a trolling motor. The big thing about trolling motors is that they are quiet as they propel the boat, so as not to spook the fish. This usage was universal when I was looking into these motors in the 1980’s, and most likely long before.

        You may use another descriptor for small quiet low-speed electric outboards, but it has nothing to do with trawling if you do.

    1. I think he did make a proto-catamaran. Attaching the two halves might make a structural nightmare without proper reinforcement with lumber and / or PVC. I’m thinking maybe a longboat configuration but I still see nothing but this thing swamping (automatic scuttling?). Maybe leave the barrel intact and make a kayak hole in top and still use the catamaran pontoons. How to mount the trolling motor to a kayak is another issue. Here in USA a brand new 50 gallon plastic drum might start around $30~40 (usd). Don’t know if he can find another clean one at junkyard or surplus store that had nothing in it yucky.

  4. Really interesting project Jack – I very well might try this for the fun of it. DIY boatbuilding has actually been somewhat of a struggle for me, and I recently found something curious online: it’s a huge package of resources that includes hundreds of plans and how-to resources for building any kind of boat. The guy on this page says he was able to use the blueprints to build his dream sailboat, but I’m a bit skeptical. Has anyone heard of this thing, and if so, what are your opinions on it? No worries if you haven’t heard of it, but I thought I’d ask. Thanks again for the great boat idea.

  5. Hi Rinoa, I enjoyed the video. If you go through the design process for your next boat, I am wondering if you could explain your buoyancy maths using a simple bathroom scale. You could start by getting onto the scale holding the half barrel with the trolling motor, battery, two pipes, and the pieces of wood for the front and back. This would give you the deadweight of the craft. Then you could weigh a bucket full of water. Now just pour the (dead)weight of water into the barrel, and voila, you have the loaded waterline! I wish you as much fun with your next boat. David

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