July 12, 2007 Since the last time we caught up with the Kiwis behind Sealegs, the amphibious boat that can drive itself straight down into the water, worldwide sales have taken off. The eye-catching vehicle is a fully functional boat that drops "landing gear" much like a small plane to drive out of the water and overland at up to 6mph (10kph). Sealegs showcased their latest model in Australia recently at the Melbourne Boat Show - a 6.1 metre aluminium D-tube version that's essentially a ruggedized rigid inflatable - a bit heavier and around AUD$10K (US$8,600) more expensive than its predecessor, but it's a complete turnkey amphibious solution with extra armor for avid adventurers. A drive on trailer is now also available that adds high speed land transport to the equation.

With private sales all around the world and a growing number of emergency services departments taking on fleets of the Sealegs range, these amphibious vehicles are clearly just starting to move beyond the initial, out-there "James Bond" impression they tend to create and into the realm of a practical, problem-solving real-world vehicle.

While the D-tube Sealegs makes a respectable 60kmp (31mph) on the water thanks to its 90hp 2-stroke outboard motor, the hydraulic land gear struts and wheels are powered by a small 4-stroke Honda engine making about 16hp. It's enough for around 10kph, or a good jogging pace, on land, either forward or reverse. The all-terrain tyres are mounted on 9" rims and naturally the entire land running gear is designed to be submersible and salt-water resistant. Once the boat's floating, the wheels fold up to remain completely above water. Once on dry ground, the boat can be lowered onto its hull to let passengers step out.

With the land footprint of a large car, it's easily parked in a dry, secure garage - and the rugged land drive system is capable of landing and launching on some pretty inhospitable terrain, which makes it a brilliant boat to explore an archipelago with.

A large range of chassis and electrical options are available for the D-tube boat, including a fold-down bimini canopy, a bow sprit and windlass unit, and a drive-on road trailer for high-speed road transport (the boat alone is not suitable to be towed for any significant distance or at road speeds - there's no plans to make it road-registerable, either). There's also a lighter 6.1 metre RIB version aimed at waterskiing and sportier use.

While the leisure and exploration possibilities of a boat that can drive itself up onto a rocky shore are exciting in themselves, it's fantastic to see that private buyers and emergency services operators are responding so well to the sheer practicality of the Sealegs range. We're glad to see such another going places company from the land of ingenuity - New Zealand - achieving worldwide success. Pricing is around AUD$80,000 (US $69,000).

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