How to Build a Motorized Kayak

You guys wanted updates on my various projects, so here you go! A look at my man cave garage, the rooftop solar project, and that motorized kayak (or KyHack) I mentioned in an earlier show.

Return of the DJI Phantom Quadcopter

The gimbal I hacked onto the DJI Phantom actually burnt out the brain of the copter, so be warned – that can happen. DJI graciously fixed it for me. I’ve also added guards for the rotors and set up a Pelican case for transporting it around.

The KyHack Project – Hacking a Motor Onto a Kayak

I told you on an earlier show about my project to make a powered kayak. Here’s a look at how I’m doing the hack and mounting an electric motor on a stock kayak from Costco.

Minn Kota Endura C2 30 Trolling Motor

It’s all about the motor, so that’s where we’ll begin. I’m using a Minn Kota Endura C2 30 Trolling Motor which mounts with a clamp.

Improvising a Mount

Since the kayak was never intending for a motor, I had to do some improvising. I mounted a couple of fishing pole holders (like this or this) and then fit them with PVC pipe from the hardware store and attached a 2 x 8 board.

Battery Power on the Water

I wanted a way to get electricity to the motor, but since we’re using this on water, I wanted to keep it safe. I used a deep cycle trolling motor battery housed in a battery box, and connected to a MinnKota MKR-18 12V plug & receptacle using 10-gauge silicone wire and insulated terminals. And you definitely want a circuit breaker to keep things safe. For tools, you’ll need a wire stripper, and I used a 1 ⅛ drill bit from this set for the hole for the plug and receptacle. Then I did some additions in the bow to hold the battery in place.

Finishing Off the Garage Interior

I’m going for a lot of shelving to organize all the tools in my garage. We’ve finished off the walls and ceilings to the quality you’d find in a house interior. And in one corner, there’s the work area, with my shop tools and welding gear. One unusual feature for a garage is the preparation for a flat screen TV and sound bar. A ton of lighting was a must so that I’d be able to work as easily in the night as the day. The attic also is a completely finished space, with shelving for storage. And of course the industrial-grade hatch that allows easy access to the solar array on the roof.

Rooftop Solar Array

One interesting point about the solar array is that it’s a ballasted system – it’s not bolted to the roof, it’s held on with weight. The total array is 39 panels that generate almost 10,000 watts of power. The whole array is on 3 big breaker boxes. The panels produce DC current and to get it to AC, we run it through a big inverter in the garage.


  1. Curtis says

    Hey John,

    Whats the “ballpark” cost on the entire PV setup?
    What’s your estimate on the ROI (return on investment)?
    (How many years to get it paid off?)
    (oops… What Ross asked that…)

    I assume that you have a short window of actual usage since your not charging a battery bank for off peak times. How much more would it have cost you for a battery setup?

    I’m 150 miles west of you and we have plenty of hot air to spin a windmill.
    Is that an option for you as well or does the city frown on that?

    Are there any “Net Metering” options to sell excess back to the grid?

    Love the show..!

    • Profile photo of John P. says

      Hey Curtis,

      • Cost is about $30k – rebates and incentives = ~ $11,500. ROI will be about a decade, but the system is warrantied for 25 years (except the inverter which is like 10 years.)
      • A battery bank would have been about $10k, and would only last like 5 years before having to replace them. So that is a losing battle all the way. It is only recommended for off-grid setups.
      • Where we are wind isn’t a good option. We could do it, but its just not going to produce well in our residential neighborhood with tons of huge oak trees.
      • We signed up with Green Mountain energy and we sell them excess capacity in the day, and get credits we can use at night.

      I’m going to do a whole show on the system very soon and tell you guys everything I can about it. Stay tuned!

      John P.

  2. Ross & 75 says


    I love the in-depth shows about your hobbies/passions. Keep them long – I feel like I learn so much.

    I would like to see some stats regarding how much energy you are producing/cost savings/return on investment.

    Three Questions:
    1. You have some additional space on your roof. Can you add more panels if you wanted to?
    2. Do you have to periodically clean your panels?
    3. What about possible hail damage to the panels?

    Keep up the great work.