Imagine yourself on a sunny afternoon with five of your favorite people sipping bubbly on a silent, solar-powered boat that’s like a relaxing floating café. Here’s how to make it a reality.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

THE BIZ: Lilypad, a solar-powered boat company

THE GOOD STUFF: With room for six, Lilypad lets you cruise waterways at a leisurely pace—and little to no boating experience is required thanks to a simple, single controller for both speed and direction. “It’s point-and-go operation,” says CEO Dana Lowell. “It allows for 360-degree directional input: forward, reverse, sideways and anything in between.”

Lilypad was specifically designed for users to enjoy a social, café-like experience. “We are slow speed and silent in operation,” Lowell explains. “Lilypad prioritizes quiet conversations and quality time with others. We are designed for smiles per hour, not miles per hour.”

THE MISSION: All Lilypads feature recyclable aluminum hulls, second-life refurbished battery packs and locally harvested black locust lumber decking (finding a new purpose for an invasive species). The boats are designed, engineered and manufactured in Michigan. “We pledge to operate Lilypad in a carbon-free manner and to never spill a drop of gas or oil into the waters where we operate,” Lowell says. “We are designed for the circular economy, and it is exhibited in our choice of business model, material selection, sourcing strategies and Michigan supply base.”

WHERE TO RENT: Elk Rapids Marina on Elk Lake (118 Bridge St., Elk Rapids) and in Traverse City (441 E. Front St.). Lilypad rentals are also available in Douglas and South Haven.

Photo by Lilypad Solar Boats

Photo(s) by Lilypad Solar Boats