Radio Controlled Model Boats
Radio controlled model boats are a popular alternative to radio controlled aircraft and radio controlled cars and trucks. Compared with aircraft they are much easier to operate, for obvious reasons, with no landings to potentially wreck the model at the end of each session. Compared with radio controlled cars and trucks, the faster racing boats can be raced but many enthusiasts enjoy building scale model ships and sailing boats where there is no intention to race – just the pleasure of operating a radio controlled model boat. Here's a brief overview of what's available.
Radio Controlled Racing Boats
Radio controlled racing boats are popular for the same reason as fast rc radio controlled cars – the thrill of high speed and racing against other enthusiasts. These boats are available for the hobby store in ready-to-run (RTR), almost-ready-to-run (ARTR) and kit forms. So either way, if you want the satisfaction of building a kit, that's possible, or prefer to just open the box and head off to the nearest lake, the choice is yours.
In terms of radio gear, the simplest radio controlled racing boats have just two channels, one for motor or engine throttle and one for direction. This is conventionally controlled by the rudder, but other methods are used. As with all radio control hobbies, it can get more complicated with radio control channels dedicated to fuel/air mixture on glow-plug engines, or adjustable propeller characteristics. The full range of engines and motors is used on racing boats, including two and four stroke internal combustion (ic) engines, steam and the inevitable electric motor. The electric motor gives greatest control because it can be run at a full range of speeds, can be started and stopped remotely and can be run in either direction to give forward and reverse motion.
Radio controlled racing boats can be bought fairly cheaply at the “toy end” of the range but if you're looking for a high speed racing model with a water cooled ic engine then expect to pay hundreds of dollars or pounds for a sophisticated enthusiasts model boat.
Radio Controlled Sail Boats
If the excitement and stress of racing boats is not your idea of a relaxing hobby then you may want to consider the elegance, charm and relative peace of radio controlled sail boats. It's challenging because just like the full size boat, the only source of power is the wind – unless a small electric motor is fitted for emergency use to retrieve a becalmed model. Only two channels are used for the most basic radio controlled sail boats; one for trimming the sails and the other for the rudder, but as always, enthusiastic boat owners can add more channels if needed.
Sail boats are available which are accurate scale models of successful full size racing sail boats, but you can also buy basic models that are little more than toys, but will still get you started in this hobby. As with most radio controlled models, there is the choice of building from a kit, or choosing to buy a ready-to-sail (RTS) boat if you want to enjoy sailing but kit-building is not for you.
Just because radio controlled sail boats aren't powered as such, it doesn't mean that they can't be raced. Clubs organise competitions for sail boats which are just as exciting as power boat racing but all the action is slightly slower. In fact, because power isn't available at the push of a button, racing a sail boat can be quite technically challenging compared with model power boat racing.
Radio Controlled Model Ships
The purist model maker who has the model making skills to carefully build a kit, will often build a radio controlled model ship. This will be an exact replica of a full size ship or boat, complete down to the finest detail. The range of models is huge, including tug boats, police boats, fishing boats, tankers, aircraft carriers, ice breakers and power boats.
For many of the owners of radio controlled model ships and boats, the satisfaction is in building the kit and aiming to produce the best possible model of the real thing. This can take many, many hours of painstaking work so even if the model is powered, it may spend more time on its stand in the owner's home then it does at the local lake. That said, there are ready-to-run scale model ships and boats in the hobby stores which require very little preparation before launching them at the local lake.