DIY Plastic Speedboat For One

Coroplast (short for corrugated plastic) is an interesting material. It has a structure similar to cardboard, but since it’s plastic it’s waterproof and can be used for a unique set of applications. It’s typically used for political yard signs, but there are more fun things to do with this lightweight material than advertise. [Paul Elkins], for example, uses it to make speedboats.

The boats that [Paul] builds make use of a piece of coroplast which he cuts and folds into a basic hull shape. From there he begins to assemble the other things needed to finalize the boat, including strengthening the shape with wood, adding a steering wheel, building a transom to mount the motor to, and placing controls in the cockpit such as throttle and steering. The entire build is enough to propel a single person on a body of water at about five knots, which is impressive.

To make one of these yourself you’ll need a small outboard motor, but all of the other details of the build are outlined clearly in his series of videos. If you want to build your own boat but don’t like the idea of a noisy two-stroke motor right behind you, you can also look into building a boat with a silent mode of propulsion.

And if you’ve got a good supply of Coro, definitely check out [Paul]’s other projects, including a tiny house.

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An Open Source Shipboard Computer System

We’re not sure how many of you out there own a boat large enough to get its own integrated computer network, but it doesn’t really matter. Even if you can’t use this project personally, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the work [mgrouch] has put into the “Bareboat Necessities” project. From the construction of the hardware to the phenomenal documentation, there’s plenty that even landlubbers can learn from this project.

In its fully realized form, the onboard computer system includes several components that work together to provide a wealth of valuable information to the operator.

Inside the Boat Computer module

What [mgrouch] calls the “Boat Computer” contains a Raspberry Pi 4, a dAISy AIS receiver, an RTL-SDR, a GPS receiver, serial adapters, and the myriad of wires required to get them all talking to each other inside a weatherproof enclosure. As you might expect, this involves running all the connections through watertight panel mounts.

Combined with a suite of open source software tools, the “Boat Computer” is capable of interfacing with NMEA sensors and hardware, receive weather information directly from NOAA satellites, track ships, and of course plot your current position on a digital chart. The computer itself is designed to stay safely below deck, while the operator interacts with it through an Argonaut M7 waterproofed HDMI touch screen located in the cockpit.

For some people, that might be enough. But for those who want to do big, [mgrouch] further details the “Boat Gateway” device. This unit contains an LTE-equipped WiFi router running OpenWrt and all the external antennas required to turn the boat into a floating hotspot. Of course it also has RJ45 jacks to connect up to the other components of the onboard system, and it even includes an M5Stack Core with LAN module so it can display a select subset of sensor readings and navigational data.

If you’d like to do something similar on a slightly smaller scale, we’ve seen sailing computers that pushed all the data to a wearable display or even a repurposed eReader.

The High Seas Are Open Source

One of the biggest problems of owning an older boat (besides being a money pit – that is common to all boats regardless of age) is the lack of parts and equipment, and the lack of support for those parts if you can find them at all. Like most things, this is an area that can benefit greatly from some open source solutions, which the Open Boat Projects in Germany has been able to show. (Google Translate from German)

This group has solutions for equipment problems of all kinds for essentially any sized boat. At their most recent expo, many people were interested in open source solutions for situations where there is currently only an expensive proprietary option, such as support for various plotting devices. This isn’t the only part of this project, though. It includes many separate projects, like their solutions for autopilot and navigation. There are even complete hardware packages available, all fully documented.

Open source solutions for large, expensive things like this are often few and far between for a number of reasons. There are limited options for other modes of open source transportation too, as it seems like most large companies are not willing to give up their secrets easily. Communities like this, however, give us hope that people will have other options for repairing their vehicles without having to shell out too much money.

Thanks to [mip] for the tip!

Eight Motors Speed This Boat Along

Messing about in boats has always held a curious appeal for the hardware hacker. Perhaps that’s because it remains an approachable way to make something that moves under its own power with a bit of speed, and barring calamities, the worst that can happen to the unwary boater is a soaking. [NASAT Channel] is a Vietnamese hacker who is a serial producer of small motorised boats, and one of his latest is a particularly impressive example.

The boat itself is a relatively conventional expanded polystyrene hull covered with fiberglass, but the motive power is something a little special. He’s taken eight of the ubiquitous 775 DC brushed motors and used them in a star configuration with beveled gears, which in turn drives a flexible shaft which goes straight to a propeller under the craft. Each motor shares a water cooling pipe serviced by a small pump, and the drive comes from a pair of cheap PWM motor controllers. We see him zipping up and down a stretch of river next to some moored boats, and if we’re honest, we wouldn’t mind a go ourselves.

We’re not entirely convinced such a rough-and-ready eight-way gearbox will be reliable for long-term use, and we’d be interested to know just how equally so many motors are actually sharing the load. But we like it for its sheer audacity, and we think you will too. Take a look at the video below the break, and if you’re inspired then grab a hammock, some friends, and have a go.

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Is It A Boat? Is It A Hammock? No, It’s Both!

If you’re enjoying a Western Canadian summer, two of the best ways to do so involve a hammock, or a boat. Seeking to improve on this mighty duo with a hammock-boat combo, [Jarrett] describes his progress at Vancouver Hack Space.

The boat he chose was a one-person catamaran with an aluminium frame and what appear to be inflatable pontoons, while the hammock is one designed for a garden or patio with a steel tubular frame. A design goal was to not modify or destroy the structure of either item, so the challenge was to securely mount the two frames together. A variety of false starts involving bent steel or aluminium were tried, followed by a final success with the aluminium tubes reinforced with more tube inside them, and the hammock attached with U-bolts.

The testing took place on what appears to be a public lake, and the contraption floated well. When it had been pushed out to a landing stage our intrepid adventurer boarded the hammock —  and promptly the whole edifice tipped itself over, depositing him in the drink. Further experimentation revealed that balance was critical, and a revised position could achieve a stable boarding. He paddles off into the sunset as you can see in the video below the break, though as his friends remind him, without his beer.

Commercial hammocks are surprisingly expensive for what they are. Don’t worry though, if you find them to be beyond your budget you can always make a frame for one yourself.

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ArduRover Boat Uses Tub To Float

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a plastic box merrily sailing its way around a lake to symbolise how easy it is to get started in autonomous robotics. This isn’t a project we’re writing about because of technical excellence, but purely because watching an autonomous plastic box navigate a lake by itself is surprisingly compelling viewing. The reason that [rctestflight] built the vessel was to test out the capabilities of ArduRover. ArduRover is, of course, a flavour of the extremely popular open source ArduPilot, and in this case is running on a Pixhawk.

The hardware itself is deliberately as simple as possible: two small motors with RC car ESCs, a GPS, some power management and a telemetry module are all it takes. The telemetry module allows the course/mission to be updated on the fly, as well as sending diagnostic data back home. Initially, this setup performed poorly; low GPS accuracy combined with a high frequency control loop piloting a device with little inertia lead to a very erratic path. But after applying some filtering to the GPS this improved significantly.

Despite the simplicity of the setup, it wasn’t immune to flaws. Seaweed in the prop was a cause of some stressful viewing, not to mention the lack of power required to sail against the wind. After these problems caused the boat to drift off course past a nearby pontoon, public sightings ranged from an illegal police drone to a dog with lights on its head.

If you want to use your autonomous boat for other purposes than scaring the public, we’ve written about vessels that have been used to map the depth of the sea bed, track aircraft, and even cross the Atlantic.

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Building An RC Air Boat From Garbage

What do you get when you combine an old optical drive, some empty soda bottles, and a microcontroller? Well…nothing, really. That’s still just a pile of rubbish. But if you add in a battery, an RC receiver, and some motors, you’re getting dangerously close to a fun little toy to kick around the pond as [Antonio Rizzo] recently demonstrated.

A couple of plastic bottles lashed together make up the hull of the boat, and [Antonio] has used the internal frame of an old optical drive bent at a 90 degree angle to hold the two small DC motors. In a particularly nice touch, the drive’s rubber anti-vibration bushings are reused as motor mounts, though he does admit it was just dumb luck that the motors were a perfect fit.

For the electronics, [Antonio] has paired a custom motor controller up with the uChip, a diminutive Arduino-compatible microcontroller in a narrow DIP-16 package. Wireless communication is provided by an off-the-shelf cPPM receiver such as you might see used in a small plane or quadcopter.

The whole build is powered by a common 18650 lithium-ion battery, which could also be easy enough to recover from the trash given how common they are in laptop batteries; though if you threw a new cell into this build we wouldn’t hold it against you. Everything is put into a high-tech plastic sandwich bag to provide minimum of waterproofing with the minimum of effort.

If using a commercial RC receiver and transmitter is a bit too mainstream for your tastes, you could always roll your own radio.

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