Finding Your Sealegs

Maurice Bryham and David McKee Wright were already successful dot-com entrepreneurs when Bryham decided to create a boat that could drive from his house to the water. After several years and several different attempts the world’s first amphibious boat was born, and in 2004 McKee Wright and Bryham launched Sealegs.

Sealegs was specifically designed and developed to take all the hassle out of the boat launching and retrieval process.

The Sealegs system consists of motorized, retractable and steerable wheels which are fitted to specially designed boats to give users a fully integrated, turn-key package.

A Sealegs boat can be driven from a storage location, down a boat ramp or beach and into the water—all with the occupants staying in the boat and remaining completely dry. Once in the water, the Sealegs wheels are easily retracted into the "UP" position and are completely out of the water. The boat is then driven and used as normal. When approaching land, the Sealegs wheels are lowered into the "DOWN" position while still moving in the water.

A Sealegs craft can reach up to 65 miles per hour on water and 6 miles per hour on land. The company has collected several amphibious craft world records, including the fastest crossing of both the Cook Strait and English Channel, the amphibious boat speed record and several distance records.

Initially the idea was targeted at people like McKee Wright and Bryham who lived on the water’s edge and wanted to go boating without the hassle of trailers and tow vehicles.

The idea very quickly gained credibility and Sealegs proved itself not only to be a good idea but a durable, high performance amphibious boat. With this credibility came several product models and sales in excess of 600 units to more than 40 countries.

While the concept initially focused on recreational use, global rescue services aware of Sealegs started to demonstrate a need for an amphibious rescue boat, and soon the company was selling commercially to the likes of the Royal Thai Navy, Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department, Australian State Emergency Service and Italian National Fire Watch Corps.

McKee Wright says, “In a world ruled by technology, it surprises me there is no purposely built rescue craft for flood rescue during a natural disaster. Sealegs provides a technology solution to enable governments of the world to quickly and affordably respond to a crisis. Sealegs provides an alternative to costly helicopters which carry more people, provide total access to affected areas and does not require advanced training for use.”

In the 2011 floods in Brisbane, Australia, Sealegs were used to pluck stranded Queenslanders from their flooded homes. While traditional boats struggled to navigate their way over the uneven terrain of a flood zone, Sealegs were able to travel in a straight line, through deep water, onto sand banks, over rubble and up a sodden front lawn.

The Australian State Emergency Service reported that this vital difference enabled them to retrieve people four times as fast as if they had used a traditional boat.

Other agencies to have purchased the Sealegs craft include the New Zealand Coastguard, Malaysian commando units, Indian Water Police and the Anglesea Volunteer Fire Company No.1 in Wildwood, NJ. The fire company purchased and deployed a Sealegs 7.1m Amphibious Rescue RIB as part of its first responder fleet.

In August 2011, Sealegs opened its first international showroom, at the Hingham Shipyard Marinas in Boston, MA. This demonstration and service center has quickly established a demand for Sealegs in both the recreational and commercial markets of New England.

A spokesperson for Anglesea Volunteer Fire Co. says, “Our Sealegs Amphibious Rescue craft gives us the ability for much quicker response in areas that were previously considered inaccessible—the difference can save lives."

With a heavy focus on research and development, Sealegs, like many other New Zealand companies, is consistently at the forefront of developing innovative technologies. Sealegs’ technology holds seven trademarks, eight registered designs and a total of 17 patents registered throughout the world, two of which are in the United States.

“Maybe it’s because as a small nation we are geographically isolated from much of the world—but a huge number of New Zealand companies specialize in ground breaking search-and-rescue technology,” says Marta Mager, Americas regional director for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the country’s economic development agency.

Sealegs has sold over $50 million worth of products to 40 countries, with North America as the company's next significant growth market. McKee Wright adds, “It’s hard to believe in the 1970s people carried suitcases that did not have wheels integrated into their design for ease of use. I have no doubt the addition of wheels to a boat make the boat easier to use. Perhaps one day the idea of amphibious boating could be as successful as wheels on suitcases.”

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