did you come to build electric boats and how was the design
boats are nothing new--the first were built over one-hundred
years ago. However, they are rare and the few that were
built have been cherished by generations for their quietness
and lack of exhaust fumes.
In 1987, I was asked to build
an electric boat for a resident at Roaring Gap Lake in North
Carolina. This community tucked away in the Blue Ridge
Mountains, places a high value on tranquility and tradition.
All boats on the lake at that time were electric powered
boats built in the 1930`s, and my customer wanted a similar
style. So those early boats heavily influenced my 15
Lightning Bug design; the two cushioned seats which face
each other allowing for easy conversation, the convenient
side-mount tiller, and the inboard motor were some of the
ideas adopted. From there, I redesigned the hull for better
efficiency, added the classic wood decks, and incorporated a
modern drive system. The built-in cooler, canopy top and
hassle-free charging system are some of the refinements
added along the way. We now have over twenty five boats on that
lake alone, as well as many more elsewhere.
A 1931 Electricraft Electric Boat
pictured on Roaring Gap Lake, N.C.
Do you build other types of boats that are not electric?
At this time
the answer is "no"and I dont foresee that changing anytime
Before building electric boats, I had
mainly worked on 25-55 sailing yachts used in the Great
Lakes, and built 36-53 sportfishing boats used for
deep-sea fishing off the Carolina coast. With that
experience behind me; I have to admit, when I agreed to
build that first electric boat back in 1987, I figured it
would be a fun project and a welcome break from the larger
boats, but little else. However, it didnt take me long to
get excited about all electric power has to offer and the
orders just kept coming in. Now, I also have the
backing of a dedicated and experienced crew who take pride
in their work. I am particularly proud of our new 22'
Phantom design, which unlike most electric boats on the
market, was developed specifically for electric power. Also we have a 25 launch and a high
speed yacht tender on the drawing boardall are electric.
As far as simply installing a
gasoline or diesel motor in our current boatsI feel that
would be too much of a compromise. You would have the
ability to run for longer periods of time, but you would
also gain undesirable noise, pollution and complexity. So
far I havent had a customer come to me and say they wish
the boats had a longer running time. A while back one
customer summed the issue up pretty well, he said that
putting a gasoline motor in these boats would be like having
a picnic by a freeway. Enough said.
How do you know how much power is left in the batteries and
how is the boat recharged?
The boat is equipped with a battery
"fuel" gauge that continually monitors the battery
condition. If the boat has the optional reserve batteries,
then there is a second gauge for them. These gauges act very
similar to the fuel gauge in your car.
The battery charger and its cord are
located behind the aft seat. To recharge the boat, you
simply plug the cord into any standard 110V outlet. When the
batteries are fully charged, the three-step smart charger
will automatically cut itself off, so there is no fear of
over-charging. It takes anywhere from one to ten hours to
recharge the boat, depending of course on how much it was
run. If the boat is to be kept at an unpowered dock, then a
dock mounted wind or solar powered charging system could be
Area under "Lightning
Bug's" aft seat.
The optional reserve batteries are
located on either side of the motor, the battery charger is
just visible under the deck.
What type of batteries are
We use Lifeline absorbed glass mat (AGM)
batteries made by Concord. These are an advanced deep cycle
version of the same lead acid batteries used in cars and
trucks. The AGM batteries offer quite a few advantages over
conventional deep-cycle batteries: 1. The AGM batteries are
completely sealed and maintenance-free. There is no water to
add and they dont leak acid.
2. They have a very low discharge
rate when stored for long periods. Meaning, if a boat is
properly charged and put away in September, the batteries
will still have ample power left in them the following
April. Left alone, a conventional battery would
self-discharge over that time and would be damaged.
3. Freezing temperatures do not harm
AGM batteries, even if they are stored away stone dead. (A
fully charged battery of any type wont freeze.) 4. They
have a much higher cycle life. The AGM batteries will
generally last 4-5 years before they need to be replaced.
Battery replacement is really the only operating cost of
electric boats. The cost of the electricity used when
charging the boat is minimal when compared to the operating
costs of a comparable gasoline motorboat.
What kind of maintenance should be expected?
The electric drive
system itself is very low maintenance, especially when
compared to a gasoline fueled boat. The electric motors
bearings and brushes should be replaced on average once
every four to five years, the same for the underwater shaft
bearing. These are very simple tasks for any marine
mechanic. As far as the woodwork, the real concern here is
keeping the boat clean and out of direct sunlight as much as
possible. Some of our boats are kept either in a boathouse
or under a covered slip, while others are stored using our
specially fitted in-water or trailering covers, which go on
The varnish used on the boats is a
two- part polyurethane which is much harder and has better
durability than conventional varnish. Still, any clear
finish wont last as long as a painted finish when left
exposed to the sun for prolonged periods. On average one
should expect to recoat the varnish work every four to six
years (longer if stored inside, and less if stored outside).
Lastly, the bottom should be cleaned and repainted
occasionally, as with any type boat. How often is dependent
on local water conditions; figure every 3-4 years in fresh
water, a little more often in salt water.
The in-water cover is
held in place during high wind
with weighted canvas bags attached along its length.
What about areas where there are restrictions against boat
houses and covered docks?
Yes, there are
many areas like this and they are getting more and more
popular. So far, most customers in these locations make use
of our covers, which need only a few minutes to take on or
off. Also, we now offer our boats in a version which
retains all the varnished wood inside and around the
cockpit, but has painted decks. In this case, we can incorporate a fitted cover for
just the cockpit that could be put on in less than a minute.
You offer three hull types, what are the differences?
Mainly the hull choice is one of
aesthetics. If a boat is to be kept in the water at an open
dock, then I would recommend using one of the painted hull
versions, to cut down on maintenance. In any other case, the
choice is purely the customers preference.
One hull style I get many questions
on is the "painted hull w/ mahogany sheer plank".
Painted hull with mahogany
With this style, we laminate the
three layers of diagonally planked cedar together, and
fiberglass the outside of the hull. Then before the hull is
painted, we add the top mahogany sheer planks and varnish
them with along with the decks. The beauty is that our
in-water covers extend far enough down the side of the hull
to protect these planks.
I should probably explain why our
hulls do not leak. Yes, older wooden boats that were
constructed with caulking between thick wood planks did
sometimes leak if their hull dried out. However all our
hulls are constructed much differently--they are vacuum
laminated using three opposing layers of thin wood and no
caulked seams, so they are completely water- tight
even before we apply the protective fiberglass to them. This
construction method has an additional benefit in that our
hulls are just as strong but much lighter than a traditional
Laminated hull under construction.
Do the boats need any special treatment during the winter?
Not much, other than charging up the
batteries and making sure the boat doesnt get frozen in.
The fact that the boats dont require any winterization can
really extend your boating season. On those sunny late fall
and early spring days, electric boat owners can pretty much
have the water to themselves.
to six knotshow fast is that in mph?
Six to seven miles per hourabout the
top speed of most sailboats of the same length.
skiers will the boat pull?
Okay Mr. Schmarty Pants.
Two; Ken and
Barbie. Or, maybe a couple of squirrels.
How well does the boat handle large wakes or rough seas?
Well, you are in a boat and youre on
the water so Im not going to say you wont get wet, but it
will take a pretty large wave to wash into the cockpit. The
"Lightning Bugs" lightweight, round bottom hull combined
with its enclosed decks make for a more seaworthy boat than
most people might expect. A two or three foot wake coming
off a large powerboat shouldnt be a problem.
much onboard storage space?
Both seat backs fold down to access
storage areas located under the decks. The largest space is
under the fore deck; it will hold four or five life jackets
as well as a soft cooler and our optional folding table.
Because the battery charger and the optional built-in cooler
are located under the aft deck, there is not as much space
back there. It still makes a good storage area for docking
fenders and smaller items. Also, we mount some mesh pockets
on the fold-down seat backs to keep small items like suntan
lotion, corkscrews and CDs convenient.
Can you customize a boat to fit special needs?
We certainly will try. Since each
hull is assigned to its future owner as soon as
construction starts, we can usually accommodate special
requests. Quite often we are asked to use different woods
such as flame mahogany, teak or curly maple in a boats
construction. Another common request is to incorporate
special hardware or lighting. I count myself blessed to have
a talented crew building these boats who enjoy a
challengeso dont be afraid to ask.
How does one go about ordering a boat and how is delivery
If we cant arrange to meet
personally, I will send off a contract agreement and options
list along with paint and upholstery fabric samples. I
normally require a 1/3 deposit with the order, a 1/3 payment
when the hull is complete and a final payment before
delivery. Construction time depends on our current workload.
An estimated completion date is established in the contract
and boats are delivered in the order in which the initial
deposits are received. A Budsin Wood Craft employee who can
familiarize the new owner with the boat usually makes the
Thank you, for reading this overplease dont hesitate to
contact us if any other questions come up.