You’ve seen the struggle; a man on boat ramp untying straps, bracing for impact, trying to control the slide of the unwieldy canoe that is precariously close to falling off the roof of his undersized car. If he does not injure himself in the offloading process, there is still the reloading to look forward to.
But wait, what is this? A canoe speeding down the bike lane, descending the boat launch and entering the water with the owner never getting out of the canoe, or even slowing down? A small splash and he canoes across the bay and out of sight.
Too good to be true you say?
John Montgomery from Port Townsend has designed just such a craft. The Autocanoe is a recumbent bicycle dropped into the body of the canoe. The driver sits back in relative luxury with tiller in hand for navigation on both land water. The wheels have a clever paddle wheel adaptation that provides enough forward thrust in the water, leaving other hand powered canoes behind in his wake.
A backyard engineer, Montgomery has experimented with several versions of the vehicle and has completed a DIY manual for those inclined in the area of boat building, woodworking or just plain hobbying. The Autocanoe’s friendly design allows even the novice tinkerer to successfully put together a smart looking vessel in the comfort of his own shop.
Montgomery uses thin plywood, epoxy and rivets to provide the strong yet lightweight body of the boat. He then takes the parts and pieces from 2 or 3 bicycles along with some custom machined parts to create the drive train and wheels. To keep the splash to a minimum, generously flared fenders drop over the wheels and lend a classic car and paddlewheel riverboat feel to the whole design.
Appealing to both the wooden boat crowd as well as the bicycle community, the Autocanoe is a real crowd pleaser.
Montgomery has been recognized for this contribution to the alternative transportation world by the Lane Motor Museum who bought a model for their collection which you can find on public display in Nashville, Tennessee.
With the renewed enthusiasm for the great outdoors and pedal vehicles in general the time is right for the benefits that this boat brings. It allows people to get out in nature, to get their exercise and to look good doing it. The fact that the Autocanoe functions just as well or better on land gives the driver confidence to take it through town, and on local bike paths. With plenty of room to stow gear and the ability to pull in and out of the water at any boat ramp and just pedal down the road makes this piece of engineering revolutionary. No fuel, no paddling, just pedal power. For those that prefer a little pedal assist, Montgomery now has an electric version in the works.
The next time you see the struggle of securing a canoe to a car top, remember the Autocanoe running seamlessly down the ramp and out onto the water. If you’d like to see the Autocanoe in action there is a comprehensive video on YouTube showing the craft being run through its paces:
The Autocanoe has breathed new life to the sport of light water craft and deserves a second look.
If you’re interested in further study or would like to build your own Autocanoe complete plans are
available at Duckworks.