Introduction: Incredible Soda Bottle Pontoon Boat

Picture of Incredible Soda Bottle Pontoon Boat

FOURTH UPDATE: The Incredible Soda Bottle Pontoon Boat is gone, no more, nada. It's at the dump in pieces or recycled. Watch for a new build in the spring. Sleeker, lighter, svelter, cooler. Drawing on what I've learned.

THIRD UPDATE: So, the boat has as of this writing been in the water for 7 years. It's never been pulled out just beached and left outside in winter. I noticed a few pieces of plywood coming loose and the batteries are nearing end of useful life. When you deep charge/discharge marine batteries over and over they eventually lose their ability to hold a full charge.

The third picture you see below is ugly. It's the final pictures before total and complete dismantling of the Incredible Soda Bottle Pontoon Boat. In the spring I'll start again. this one will be different. Basically sleaker, lighter, faster. and simpler. I consider the first one a prototype. I learned a lot and I found out what works and what doesn't. I had lots of fun and many, many pleasant hours cruising, fishing, and fielding questions from people on lake from the banking and from boats.

This is the end of the ISBPB. Tomorrow it's a date with the sledgehammer.

SECOND UPDATE: I have had problems with burning out switches with the high current. I have recently installed 4 automobile solenoids. Wired properly they act like a DPDT switch. I have one small three position toggle switch for a control now. Forward-off-reverse. I might have to replace two of them with continuous duty solenoids though I don't know how long the intemittent ones will hold up going long periods in forward. I'll post pictures of the set-up when I get the chance.

UPDATE PARAGRAPH: Below is the barge, as it's called now, 4 years later. The one without the canopy is the original launched picture. The canopy is a rather expensive but impervious to weather material called 'sunbrulla'. The pipes are galvanized 1" electrical conduit. Other changes: the seats didn't weather well so they were covered with latex sheeting. An American flag and holder, Oh, and a new pier I welded up.

I made a soda bottle raft a few years ago. It was just 940 two liter bottles enclosed on all sides with a deck. Later on I decided to make a pontoon boat. A sort of movable raft or barge out of soda bottles and materials from Home Depot. When I'm making a boat suddenly all stores carry boat making materials. It's fun to improvise with what's available.

The boat is basically wood pontoons with 2400 soda bottles filling them. It's electric and has become a wonderful place to spend an afternoon to glide silently on the water or to fish. It's big, 20' by 12' and heavy, I'd estimate about a ton. but it moves nicely even in a stiff wind, rolls with waves but doesn't overly rock, and is highly maneuverable. It just isn't very fast but here in Maine that the way we like it. A BBQ grill, a tall Moxie, a fishing pole and you've got it made on the water on the incredible soda bottle pontoon boat (alias the Pahty bahge). You need to pronounce that with a Maine accent,no R's allowed.

Step 1: Framing It Up

Picture of Framing It Up

Materials are mostly from Home Depot. Pressure treated lumber is used for the skeleton. and yes, most of it is the non toxic kind. I don't know if it will stand up in the water as well as the old stuff used to though.

Step 2: Floatilla

Picture of Floatilla

About 2400 soda bottles in two wood pontoons float this beast. I tried to do some buoyancy calculations by estimating final mass and volume. And I predicted that it would float about 50 percent of the boat below the surface. I was right.

Step 3: Finish Work and the Seat

Picture of Finish Work and the Seat

I knew I couldn't make it look like a new pontoon boat with that plastic and cushy look so I went instead for the Jules Verne look.

Step 4: Propulsion and Electrical

Picture of Propulsion and Electrical

See the picture descriptions for more information. The boat runs (slowly, about 5 mph) using Four modified trolling motors made by Minn Kota.

Step 5: Figure Head

Picture of Figure Head

A carved dragon's head turns in the direction you're steering. It also has two LED lights for Eyes, one green and one red as required for night riding.

Step 6: A Few Conveniences

Picture of A Few Conveniences

Joyce is my wife BTW. And a ladder is needed after a cool swim and of course an anchor so you can swim and not get stranded.

Step 7: Launched and Doing Fine

Picture of Launched and Doing Fine

We launched it at night as to not draw too much attention at the boat landing. Evening rides are nice and serene. No noise besides the gentle rippling of the water that is pushed aside by the boat as it glides along. And, it's great for fishing too.


jw58479 (author)2016-11-12

What a cool idea - If you added a structure to this deck, would it stay dry ? And the panels shown - is their function to contain the bottles ? When this boat is on the water, the hulls are full of water, flowing through them ? It sure looks like it would work well and not cost a lot. good job -

deceiver (author)jw584792016-11-12

Not sure what you mean by a structure? I did put on a biminy top. Yes the hulls fill with water at least about half way up them. I think your questions can be answered in the text if I haven't addressed them well here.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-06-26

Since I'm older & not interested in sewing my oats like I was at 19, I have always wanted a pontoon boat....I think that I will try & build one but I'll use plastic barrels(6 or 8 of them) for the pontoons.

A 20 footer should be enough to pahty on & catch fish with as well. 8=D

And if I get REALLY bored, I just might end up with a home made houseboat.

I loved reading how you did this, gives me lots of ideas!!

deceiver (author)SIRJAMES092011-06-27

As a kid we had a steel pipe raft, a big one floated with 6 steel drums. It bobbed like a cork. I'll bet you could get by with 4 of them if they are about the size of the steel ones.

robertg (author)deceiver2011-07-24

Perhaps a little water inside the barrels will reduce the stability problem.

SIRJAMES09 (author)robertg2011-07-24

this is prolly true guys....however, I would rather have too much floatation than not enough.

as far as water in the barrels, that might work....kind of like a counter balance thingy...there's a 64 million dollar name for it, but I have no idea what that name is. :)

TY both for the input. Much apreciated. 8)

xarlock667 (author)SIRJAMES092015-09-06

Ballast, now, where to pickup my 64,000,000...

zootalaws (author)SIRJAMES092012-07-25

Except that you will be hauling that water around with you - at 64lbs/gallon.

Light is best.

Cylindrical hulls aren't really great, hydrodynamically - flat bottoms are much better.

2ftx2ft pontoons on a 20ft x 8ft platform will give you more than enough flotation for 10 people and all their gear, assuming you don't make it all out of cast iron!

Here's a great, cheap, easy plan for a scalable platform boat from Pop.Mech.

zootalaws (author)zootalaws2012-07-25

Doh! 64lbs/cu ft, not per gallon!

deceiver (author)SIRJAMES092011-07-24

It's called ballast.

SIRJAMES09 (author)deceiver2011-07-24

TY. ballast is not the word I was looking for, but it works too. :)

teamcoltra (author)SIRJAMES092012-04-15

I think you mean "keel"?

zootalaws (author)teamcoltra2012-07-25

The keel is the bottom of the hull.

lucek (author)2015-07-02

Sad. I remember reading about this when I was in college. Luck with your new tardy boat.

csamariner (author)2009-06-11 pong balls

LadyBarbara (author)csamariner2014-06-15

much to expensive

LadyBarbara (author)2014-06-15

would love to build with my grandsons WE did build a raft from G-2 bottles Last summer I used liquid nails to hold the bottles together in our very hot and dry Arizona air the bottles started to come apart we had great fun for a summer season and cost me under $10.00 scrap wood from Home Depot bin and Liquid nails on sale it was a piece I cut down to 4X5 and had two layers of bottles that covered the bottom

Kids had fun making the raft and more fun with it in the water

camping crazy (author)2014-03-27

Yous should keep a similar design for the new one but have the pontoons made from 4 50 gallon drums stacked lengthwise. Then make nice cones on the ends and possibly sheath the top in sheet metal so you cant see the tops of the barrels but so that the bottoms come in contact with the water. It would be alot easier to move through the water.

55 gallon drums...

kattmanduu (author)2013-06-05

What about recycling a few of those old aluminum drop tanks from old retired military aircraft from the Bone yard in Arizona. Can be repaired/patched real easy and sealed up with that extreme duty tire sealer used in off road vehicle tires. Put a metal tire valve stem on them to compress them with air to hold the seal. Those tanks were used on many different aircraft, thus many different sizes. A pair of B-52 drop tanks would be big enough to make an ocean going craft, the rest is up to your imagination as to what you would use for your cabin and power systems. This is about recycling right? That is just another way to do it. Could use the forward section of an old cargo aircraft as your cabin, mounted to the wing mount hard points on the drop tanks. I am a former aircraft mechanic from the air force, I know that those tanks can float real easy and are very durable and strong.

DiceDog (author)2012-08-17

Amazing! So many great comments too! I think I read them all. I know the last post here was about a year ago. I hope your still out there. I have had a pontoon house boat thingy in my head for years. I imagine ABS pipe with a frame. You mention you are welder now. I was thinking a metal strut frame, thought too heavy perhaps. What about using sections of an aluminum ladder, coupled with metal strut, for strength and to build deck off of?
Hope your still about.

deceiver (author)DiceDog2012-08-17

I'm still here. All good ideas.. If I do it again. It will be with plastic 55 gallon drums. You can usually buy them from car washes. They get all their soap in them. Here's they're 5 bucks each. Those somehow encased in a welded up metal frame and It could be fairly light and work well.

mliu6 (author)deceiver2012-09-09

but if i intend to use the boat to sea, then the metal frame would be too easy to get rusted yes?

skaar (author)mliu62012-11-05

use a sacrificial zinc.

Ermahgerd (author)2012-09-15

Do you reckon this will work with pool noodles?

deceiver (author)Ermahgerd2012-09-15

Sure it would. They float and shouldn't get waterlogged. Why not?

braeham99 (author)2012-07-19

do you need a boating license for this? i doubt it... but do you?

deceiver (author)braeham992012-07-20

In Maine, any powered boat has to be licensed. Even electric so yes here it has to be licensed.

Chadifornia (author)2012-05-07

Love the idea. Im going to need to make one now.

ecarroll1 (author)2011-08-30

Here in SW VA we have a Coke plant and I can get 50 gal plastic drums that are fused together at top and bottom and only the lid which is a pain in the rear to get out is the only "leak" point. You have to buy 8 at a time and you get 8 for $40. 8 of those should float a "titanic" sized pontoon.

the doctor who (author)2011-07-26

have you built a new one yet

deceiver (author)the doctor who2011-07-26

Haven't built one yet. I'm remodeling the house. it's always in the back of my mind though. I live on a lake and I miss being able to glide over the water.

the doctor who (author)deceiver2011-07-27

i am working on building one for fishing can you give me some tips

fjpalacios1 (author)2009-02-10


deceiver (author)fjpalacios12009-02-11

That's great. When I do this again. And it may be soon. I'm going to eliminate the bottles and use sealed 6" pvc pipe. I think it will float well and be easier to manage.

robertg (author)deceiver2011-07-24

What thickness pipe - schedule 40 PVC pipe is a lot heavier than the PET plastic in soda bottles? [Sc. 40 PVC = 3.53 # / ft.] I am also concerned about the brittleness of PCV. I wonder if there is a better substitute? Have you considered foam wrapped in fiberglass or carbon fiber? I saw this done to make a sailboat pontoon in an old PopSci Magazine article. Or, could the soda bottles be connected together in a large monotube, wrapped in something like shrink wrap or fiberglass?

deceiver (author)robertg2011-07-24

I had considered cutting disks of foam out of 2" thick pink foam you see as building materials at big box stores. then stacking them into cardboard sauna tubes and fiberglassing the whole thing. But, the cost and work involved would be quite a bit.

As for the PVC pipe:
The PVC pipe (one 6"x10ft) would buoy about 100 lbs of wt. would be insterted underneath a pipe skeleton framework so they wouldn't really be support structures. Also, if you bundled about 5-6 of them with straps they'd be pretty strong.

bustedit (author)deceiver2009-05-27

fill the pipe w capped bottles, not much added weight, but xtra security if the PVC cracks

nachobobs (author)fjpalacios12009-06-02

I'm not sure how buoyant small boys are, but my guess might be to try using 6 teenage kids each side to start with. They might kick for a while but will eventually fall quiet and provide ample buoyancy for your boat.

love4pds (author)nachobobs2011-06-27

Just give them an area for food, drink and air then you have your motor too....LOL

pdub77 (author)nachobobs2009-06-22

very good, sir!

deceiver (author)pdub772009-06-23

Thank you.

pdub77 (author)deceiver2009-06-23

Your Instructable is good as well, but I was referring to nachobobs's comment. It was really funny. Sorry, deveiver. That carved dragon's head is freakin' sweet, though! What's that made of? Having spent most of my youth around boats I love how you made the port and starboard lights the eyes. Very cool.

deceiver (author)pdub772009-06-23

Ha, didn't catch that. The head is just a bunch of pine boards glued together. I carved it with a 4" grinder and some chisels. It took about 2-3 hrs to carve once I started it.

pdub77 (author)deceiver2009-06-23

Wow. I am duly impressed. You are a true artist. I've got skills in other areas, but not sure I could do that.

AtIas (author)nachobobs2009-06-17

Dark, but funny non the less.

UC FATHER TIME (author)nachobobs2009-06-11

You are a twisted individual . But i like the idea ,if it works you can get some supplies from my neiborhood we have an over abundance of noisy kids! LOL.

bnsfwarbonnet (author)2011-04-25

if those are two liter bottles, u guys drank 4800 liters of soda. wow

robertg (author)bnsfwarbonnet2011-07-24

Deceiver, where did you get all the bottles?

love4pds (author)2011-06-27


About This Instructable




Bio: Retired Jr. High teacher of 30 years. Always into lots of things. Now I seem to be into them more. Love woodworking, guitar, portrait painting ... More »
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