Retrieve Boat

Scratch/Custom Builds Article...


See how you can build a retrieve boat for your outings at the lake...and keep it within budget!

If you go to the local lake or river to run your boats you know you must have a means of to retrieve you boats. You might think you can chance it that nothing will go wrong, but trust me eventually a situation will arise that you have to go get a dead boat in the water. Swimming is not an option to consider. A fishing real with a tennis ball tied to the line works great for close retrieves but what if the boat is dead 150 feet from shore? Then what? A retrieve boat is required and should always be available to you when boating on large ponds, lakes or rivers. An inflatable can work, but take is from someone who's been there, you better have a VERY good inflatable otherwise you might end up in the lake with your boats! There are many sharp edges on an R/C boat, including the rudders, turn fins and propellers. Any one of these is sharp enough to pierce through most inflatable boats.

A few years ago, after having had a close call with an inflatable boat, my boating friend and I decided to build a lightweight, compact retrieve boat that would easily fit in our trucks and not be so easily damageable. We built the boat in one night and used it for a couple years with great success. I have since moved and he kept the boat so I decided to build a new one and document the build for

The boat is constructed of 1/4" plywood and some 2"x2" spruce. The boat is 6 feet long by 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep.

Here is the material list:

- 1 sheet of 4'x8' of 1/4" flooring plywood
- 6 pieces of 2"x2"x8' (there are only 4 pictured but I had to get 2 more to finish the boat)
- some wood screws 1" and 3"
- something to seal the boat (I used spar varnish)
- I also used some fiberglass mat and polyester resin for the seams.

Here are some pictures of the actual building process. It took me about 4 hours to build and seal the boat. The resin I used cures in about 15-20 minutes.

This is the sheet of plywood and pieces of 2"x2" spruce used.


Here are all the pieces cut from the plywood sheet.


The assembly is quite easy. Simply cut the 2"x2" to match the lengths of the pieces cut from the plywood and assemble using 1" wood screws. Where the 2"x2" meet in corners I used 3" screws to hold them together, screwing through the plywood.


I made a sliding seat in the bottom. It freely slides on the bottom frame of the boat so you can adjust it to be comfortable. It also prevents you from sitting in water as some always makes its way into the boat when retrieving a dead boat.


In order to get the boat to track better I installed 3 strakes made of 2"x2". Our first retriever did not have this in the beginning and it was very hard to go straight with it. This one is still a little tricky because of its short length but the strakes do help.


I then proceeded to glass all the seas of the boat from the outside using 3" wide strips of mat and polyester resin. Once this was all dry I sealed the remainder of the boat with spar varnish.


That's it! An easy to build and economical retrieve boat that won't empty your pockets and will stay afloat even if you rub your boat's prop against its side!

Here are a few pictures of my friend retrieving his boat at the lake using our newly built retriever. He thought it was a little too tippy for comfort so we are considering making an easy to install and remove side stabilizer to the boat. If we decide to do this I will do a follow-up article. Personally I think it works just fine as is, but more stability can't be bad!

* Always wear an approved Personal Floatation Device (life jacket) when going out on the water! If you decide to build and use such a retrieve boat, you do so at your own risk so please always be safe!

Happy Boating!

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