Issue: September 2000
Blow Boating, For Real

How a car stereo expert came up with (we think) the first power kayak on the Bay.


     Kensington, Md. resident Jim Meyersburg could never be criticized for lacking imagination. Just look at the device he came up with for powering his sea kayak when the old biceps got to burning. It’s constructed of two Mercedes-Benz radiator fans, a wooden frame and a souped-up car battery, and it manages to drive Meyersburg’s yak at about four knots. There is no throttle-just an on/off switch-but the inventive boater says a typical battery charge lasts about two-and-a-half hours. He steers the kayak with its factory-installed foot rudder.

     “I just sit there and drink my lemonade and steer with my feet,” says Meyersburg, a die-hard tinkerer and owner of Auto Sound Systems in Arlington, Va. He says the idea to power his kayak first struck during a dumpster-diving session at the Mercedes dealership next to his shop. “I found these fans and thought, well, it might work. I just thought that this would be a great propulsion system for the sea kayak.”

     So far, the idea has panned out nicely. After Meyersburg designed and built the original version, he fine-tuned the rig until it was perfected. Now, the device can be dropped into just about any sea kayak with a storage hatch in its stern. “The battery drops into the hull, so the center of gravity remains really low,” Meyersburg says. “You’re just sitting in the kayak with two 14-inch diameter fans behind you, side-by-side.” The fans are powered by a single electric motor and a shared drive belt. They produce a noise similar to that of a car’s cooling fan, which means they aren’t as quiet as paddles. Still, Meyersburg says that, considering how useful the system has proven itself to be, the noise factor is trifling. “The last time I had it out, we had three kayaks at the end of the lake. The other two people were a little tired, so we just tied them to my boat and I blew us all back across the lake,” he says.

     The inventor is currently at work on a similar motor for his wife’s yak. Unfortunately, that’s where the production run is likely to end. “I’m not planning on marketing this or anything,” says Meyersburg.

     We just have one question: Why not?