Monthly Archives: April 2009

Blogging

I have a lot of stuff to get done today since I’m leaving for Panama on Monday morning so I’m just going to hit you with a couple of silly thoughts about blogging:

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“ Blogging is like masturbating into a mirror while you videotape yourself so you can watch it later while you masturbate. ”
— Lewis Black


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How Swine Flu Spreads

how-swine-flu-spreads

From Bits&Pieces

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The Boater’s Car or Pickup Truck

When you’re a boater living on the hook (at anchor to you landlubbers) as opposed to living in a marina, you need a way to get around. As far as anyone knows there’s only one documented instance of a person walking on water, and you can’t swim from shore with a load of groceries. Therefor a dinghy is absolutely essential. It is your car/or pickup truck.

In choosing a dinghy for your needs there are several questions that need to be addressed.

What size should it be? This depends on how many people you are going to transport and how much gear you will be hauling from shore to the boat and back.

How fast do you want to go? There are three ways to go. You can row it, sail it or put an outboard on the back.

Where are you going to keep it? Are you going to keep it on deck? The cabin top? In a locker? On davits or are you going to tow it? Towing, though, has problems. If you’re going to make offshore passages it needs to come aboard. When you tow, spray inevitably gets inside the dinghy which adds weight and towing will measurably slow you down. A gallon of sea water weighs in at 8.556 lbs and each gallon that sprays into the dinghy means you’re dragging along more weight. And if you don’t keep an eye on the dingy and the tow rope you’re liable to lose it.

Basically you have two choices when choosing a dinghy. It will either be hard or an inflatable. Each, of course, has its pros and cons.

Hard dinghies are usually heavier than inflatables and are able to withstand more abuse and they aren’t prone to being punctured. They are generally easier to row, tow or sail than an inflatable. There are also many more choices (models, styles) available than a blow up boat. On the downside hard dinghy usually has a smaller carrying capacity than a similarly-sized inflatable. Hard dinghies are generally less stable than an inflatable and harder to climb into if you’re in the water. Stowage is also more problematic with a hard dinghy since they need to be hauled aboard and lashed down or suspended on davits off the transom. The problem of stowing of a hard dinghy can be eased somewhat by building or buying a “nesting” dinghy.

Inflatable dinghies are usually made of some kind of reinforced fabric, Hypalon is the most durable and therefore expensive, while others may be made with varying qualities of PVC. Inflatables are essentially tubes with varying flooring options; either soft or rigid. They generally have a larger hauling capacity than a  hard dinghy and are more stable and easier to get into from the water. With the exception of the semi-rigid inflatables they are generally lighter than a hard dinghy and therefore  easier to store aboard, often in a locker or the lazarette. Having your dinghy aboard the boat reduces the chance of theft but you certainly wouldn’t want to deflate one on a daily basis to stow it in a locker.

You can run an inflatable into a dock or the side of your boat without doing damage to much more than your dignity if people are around to see you do it. That is, unless there’s a nail sticking out of the wood on the dock where you hit. Then you’ve discovered the biggest shortcoming of the inflatable. They can, and do, get punctured and they depend on air to keep them afloat. The better built boats (read more expensive, here) are built with multiple chambers so that puncturing one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to sink. Whatever choice of fabric that is used in the construction of an inflatable it is subject to degradation from the sun’s UV rays meaning more care is needed than with a hard dinghy.

While most inflatables perform better under power than a hard dinghy, they don’t usually tow as easily and rowing one, while not impossible, is somewhat akin to taking your car the grocery store by leaving the motor off, having the driver’s side door open and pushing it along with your left foot as if it was a scooter.

Variations of Inflatable Dinghies

Soft Bottom: These are the basic inflatable and  the least expensive. They are often likely to have only a single tube and if you hole it you’re sunk. But they’re light and easy to bring aboard. The bottom is usually a simple single layer of fabric. It’s very difficult to stand up in one of these boats. In general they will only accept the smallest of outboard motors and probably won’t plane.

Slat Floor Soft Bottom: A step up, but in my opinion a baby step. These dinghies have wood, plastic or metal slats built into the soft bottom and are rolled up with the dinghy after it’s been deflated. It is a bit more stable than a regular soft bottom dinghy but still difficult to stand up in one of them.

Removable Rigid Floorboard: These inflatables, as the name implies, has separate floorboards usually wood or aluminum. These floorboards are inserted over the fabric floor and held in place by the tubes when they are inflated. These are much better performers than either of the two previously mentioned tenders, but they require more time to make ready for use because you have to assemble the floor. When I was running Jolie Aire over in Europe we purchased a high–quality one of these and it performed well with a 25 hp outboard. It got up on a plane in an instant and was an enjoyable boat overall.

Rigid Bottom Inflatables: Generally referred to as RIBs or Hard Bottoms. This type of boat has an inflatable tube collar around a fiberglass deep-vee hull. These are the best performers of the inflatable boats. They are more stable than the other inflatables but are also harder to stow than the three previous inflatables and in this respect have the same stowage drawbacks of a hard dinghy. They come in a dizzying array of sizes from eight feet to this 38.5′ long inflatable with a cabin:

rigid-inflatable-boat-with-cabin-in-board-173669

This is also an “RIB”

When I bought my Nancy Dawson she came with a 10′ RIB and a Suzuki eight horsepower outboard which served double duty as the power for the mother ship as well. I loved that dinghy and had a lot of fun with it. It towed well and I towed it for well over a thousand miles altogether. But it was a bear to stow on my little sailboat. You can read about what I had to do through in my post about sailing to Isla Mujeres.

Hard Dinghies

You can go to the many web sites by boat designers and be overwhelmed by the choices available to you. Some are beautiful and some are really, really ugly. They can be found made of wood, aluminum and fiberglass and a variety of sizes. The hard dinghy generally is easy to row, many can be sailed and most will accept some kind of outboard. From my own experience I think that the least desirable of these dinghies is a pram less than 10 feet long. That being said I leave it up to the reader to decide.

I have been intrigued for years by what is known as a “nesting” dingy. There are several versions of this kind of boat. It comes in two sections one of which “nests” inside the other and thereby taking up a smaller footprint onboard.

This is called a “Seaweed” and is presented here to show what is meant by “nesting.” It was home built by someone with good wood working skills and is in no way an endorsement of this design over any other. The article that is accessed through the link below will show you the entire building process and is well worth the read if you’re interested in how much work went into this boat. The author, Ray Henry, says it took him 171 actual working hours to create this beautifullyboat and cost approximately $900 for materials, rigging and harware but I don’t know when this was built.

http://seaweed.thebilge.com/spindrift

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Emergency Room Sticker Shock

Lee Zeltzer, who has the blog http://www.boqueteguide.com/:

wrote about a fire creeping up on his home the other day. Though they got through unscathed it wasn’t without incident:

“I ended up with something blowing into my eye and was blinded but decided to sleep and see if it was just an irritation that would be cleared by the morning; it wasn’t. Our Monday started with a trip to the Hospital Chiriqui Emergency room. The doctor there extracted what appeared to be a hair from my eye and gave me prescriptions for eye drops.

“When I was presented the ER bill I was a bit shocked. It has been a long time since a visit to an emergency room so I expected sticker shock. I received what I expected, shock. The bill was $5.15, a hospital aspirin costs more than that in the US.”

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Officially a Resident of Panama

Just a couple of  hours ago I got an email from my lawyer in Panama telling me that my Pensionado Visa has been approved and I am now a legal resident of the Republic of Panama. I will be going down there next week to get my ID.

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Houseboat/Shantyboat Updated

I’ve been doing a lot of  thinking about what a design to use  for my prospective houseboat/shantyboat. I’ve been disappointed in the number of suitable designs available for one reason or another, and the selection isn’t very large. Years ago I had purchased the plans for GlenL’s Mark Twain 32 for several hundred dollars.

mark-twain-32-profile

mark-twain-32-floor-plan

I don’t remember exactly how much the plans cost since it was  nearly 30 years ago. At that time I was really enamoured on the pontoon idea and the plans had full-sized drawings for the framing. But the plans are long gone and these days I’m leaning much more towards the barge hull designs.

Whether barge or pontoon building the houseboat/shantyboat has several advantages over more conventional boat designs in power or sail. Houseboat/shantyboats are much simpler to build. A barge is basically a box and the pontoon boat is basically two narrow boxes, and material costs are almost identical. There are no complicated compound curves to deal with in the process of building these designs. The “house” is bult like a regular shoreside structure so constructing one of these can fairly easily be done by almost anyone who got out of their high school shop classes with all fingers intact.

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river-walker-sheathed

Think you could put that together? That’s basically how a barge hull is built.

In my previous post I said I rather liked the Bolger design.

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I joined the Yahoo Group Bolger Boats and found that someone in Canada had actually built one

bolger-houseboat-at-a-dock

I think it certainly falls into the shanty boat category. But I’m not sure I care for the overall look. But the “house” can be built in so many different ways depending on one’s imagination and creativity. The pictured one is just one way of doing it. Never the less this design is a weak “maybe.”

I also said I liked the Evening Song

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and I still do like the look. The drawback to this design is that it’s not self propelled.

I like the looks of George Buehler’s 25′ River Walker. There’s a nice web site on this, and other Buehler designs at:

http://georgebuehler.com/River%20Walker.html

The pictures of the barge hull above come from his site as do the following pictures that show a completed River Walker:

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river-walker-interior-1

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I think this is a very attractive boat and well executed. A big step up from a shanty boat.

I also am drawn to Beuhler’s Rufus:

rufus-profile

This is 33′ long with an 11′ beam. What intrigues me about this is the SAIL!

Back into the more “shanty boat” theme is the Atkin & Co. design Nautilus;

nautilus-1

This is a 32′ design with an 18′ beam. For complete information on this go to their site:

http://www.boat-links.com/Atkinco/Misc/Nautilus.html

Plans for this boat are $75.00

The leader for possible build at this time is the Brandy Belle:

brandy-bar

She’s 25′ with a 10′ beam and self-propelled.

There’s an excellent article in Mother Earth News’s site:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/1989-05-01/Build-A-Houseboat.aspx

Warning: The story is excellent and you can purchase the plans in PDF format for $20. The article is five pages long and there’s an extremely irritating pop up that appears every time you access the page. I wrote to Mother Earth News’s support team and there’s nothing you can do about it. But it’s worth closing it out just to read through the story once.

I am most likely going to go with the 25′ length for several reasons, the pocket book being the motivating factor. While The Rufus and Nautilus are only7 and 8 feet longer and a couple of feet wider, it takes a lot more lumber, plywood, fiberglass, epoxy and paint to build them adding greatly to the construction costs. Though the size difference seems small the increase in costs are exponential. There would also be a heavier hit to the pocket to buy the larger outboard that would be necessary to power the boat and a lot more gas as well.

Now, as I said, what really interests me about Rufus is the sail! I am going to investigate the possibility of adding one to the boat I build, and the Brandy Belle seems the most likely candidate for doing this. Don’t scoff at this idea. There is a long history of sailing barges and scows (the difference between a barge and a scow is little more than semantics). If you’re interested Google Thames Sailing Barges or San Francisco Hay Scows. There is even a class of racing boats known as scows and they are very fast.

The sail would be an auxiliary power source and used primarily with the wind abaft the beam. Motor sailing has a lot going for it: it can increase speed and it saves fuel.When I was bringing the 85′ Jolie Aire across the Atlantic we motor sailed quite a bit. We ran the engine to keep the battery bank charged up and while we always had the sails up if the engine was off and our speed dropped to seven knots we would hit the starter button. We sailed from Grand Canary Island to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 13 days, six and a half hours at an average speed of just over 10 knots which is a very acceptable speed.

The addition of a sailing rig would necessitate the design and installation of a rudder for steering rather than relying on the outboard power for steerage. Having the outboard offset from the centerline really doesn’t effect how the boat operates as long as it’s not too far off the center. My Nancy Dawson had windvane self-steering gear on the centerline of the transom so the outboard bracket was on the port side out of necessity. One advantage I found with this arrangement was that when I had to make a really tight turn putting the tiller hard over and turning the outboard in the direction of the turn she’d turn in almost her own length and turn fast.

I’m sure that auxiliary sail power would greatly save on fuel consumption when there was enough wind in the right direction.

In a future post I mean to address dinghies and the addition of a mast will mean I’ll be able to lift one out of the water and carry it on the cabin top rather than towing it behind. I towed my dinghy behind Nancy for hundreds of miles and never had a problem, but it does have a drawback on speed due to the drag. Additionally when you’re anchored out a dinghy stored on the cabin top is pretty hard to steal in the middle of the night.

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The Benefits of Living a Healthy Lifestyle

When I was staying at the funky Dim’s Hostel in Pedesi Panama recently (and if you’re ever down there I can’t recommend it enough for its ambiance and the friendliness of the staff) I spent a pleasant afternoon chatting with  a Panamanian lady who had lived in the States for many years. She lives a very healthy life style eating lots of fruits and veggies. I don’t know whether or not she’s strictly vegetarian or not but I half-jokingly told her that while I did enjoy good fresh fruits and veggies like you get in Panama I also really enjoy a thick slab of dead cow leaving a bit of blood on my plate. And I do.

There’s a couple of sayings I love:

You can’t take life too seriously because nobody’s getting out alive…

Stop smoking, exercise, eat right, DIE ANYWAY. If eating an occasional slab of bleeding dead cow means I’m going to kick off a few years earlier than if  ate twigs and bark I’ll settle for the cow…

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It’s a Small World

Everyone, it seems, has a story ending with the words “it’s a small world.”

My roommate, Kevin, ran into someone recently he’d never met before at the Bahia Cabana bar who is best friends with one of his cousins…”it’s a small world.”

I have three small world stories I’d like to pass on.

Story #1

When I was growing up in Orleans out on the elbow of Cape Cod one of the highlights of the summer for us kids was the arrival of the carnival. With it’s bright lights, scary rides and cotton candy it was a three day bacchanal of delight.

I was about 10 the year my dad and I were walking down the midway on the opening night of the carnival when he stopped short and cocked his head and listened to something that caught his ear above the din.

“That sounds like Johnnie LaGasse” he said and we set out to track down the voice like bloodhounds on the scent of a convict escaped from the chain gang. And sure enough, at one of the games the barker we had heard had been bunkmates with my dad on the ship they sailed in together in the Pacific during WWII.

Johnnie wasn’t just running the game, he and his brothers owned the carnival! The great thing for me was that he had a son my age and for the next four years when the carnival set up at the baseball field at the high school I got all the free rides any kid could want.

The game was great, too, though I wasn’t allowed to play it. There was a large square table, probably 10′X10′ on which dozens of Lucky Strike packs had been glued. People would toss nickles, dimes and quarters trying to get them to land completely in the red circle of the pack. There had to be red showing all around the coin in order to win. A nickle got you a pack of cigarettes, a dime got you two and a quarter got you five packs. The secret to winning was that the coin had to come straight down onto the red circle and not at the slightest angle, and to put the winning edge in the house’s favor, the board was lovingly waxed every day. It was, as the farmers in Missouri would say, slicker than snot on a door knob.

Story #2

This one is about how the sequence in which you do something eventually leads up to that small world moment.

One Sunday when I was living  in New Orleans, which was a LOT more fun than the Orleans I grew up in,  I needed to go down to the flea market in the French Quarter to repay a loan to a friend of mine who had a stall down there on the weekends. I had been inhaling some fine mind-altering herb prior to making the decision to go. I hopped on my motor cycle and headed out but after a couple of blocks I decided that riding in my condition wasn’t the smartest move in the world so I took the bike back home. All of which took some time. I rode the St. Charles street car down to Canal Street, instead.

I paid my friend, Roy, the money I owed him and we chatted for a bit. As I started to head back home I ran into a lady friend who enticed me into taking a walk down towards the levee to partake of some of Jamaica’s finest agricultural export. So we took a stroll, sat on the levee watching the shipping passing up and down the river for a while and I headed for home once more.

Well, by now I’d worked up an appetite, as you might imagine, so I had to stop off for a roast beef po’boy sandwich dripping with gravy before I could get on the streetcar.

Normally what I would do was to head up Carondelet Street to the stop at Gravier two blocks before the Canal Street stop. The Canal Street stop is always a bit of a zoo since the street car ride up St. Charles is a big tourist attraction and the closest stop to the French Quarter. The car would fill to capacity in no time. So, by getting on at Gravier I would already be aboard when the herd got off at Canal emptying the varnished wooden seats and I would be assured of getting a seat by a window for my ride home.

Carondelet makes a slight turn to the right as it approaches Canal Street, so you can’t see the stop from the corner. As I was halfway up the block I see that the street car has already gone past my intended stop and since they only ran every half hour on Sundays the only thing for me to do was to go down Common Street and catch the train after it had loaded and started heading uptown on St. Charles.

So, I was standing on the corner of St. Charles and Gravier checking out the others waiting for the street car. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…that’s a good looking girl standing there. Shiny black hair, nice legs, too. Then she looks up at me and says, “Richard?”

“Yes,” I reply cautiously.

“You don’t remember me, do you? My name’s Marie. I used to cut your hair when you lived in Chicago.”

Now, that wouldn’t have happened if anything that preceeded the meeting had been changed.

It’s a small world.

Story #3 (My Best Small World Story)

When I was down in Fronteras, Guatemala,  a small, one-road bump in the road on the way from nowhere in particular to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, the Nirvana Express Bar used to sponsor cruising sailboat races every other Sunday as an excuse to have a party afterwards which would boost their coffers. I didn’t participate in the races but always participated in the parties afterwards.

One Sunday Eugenio, a young Guatemalan who owned Hacienda Tijax, below,tijax a small eco-resort and marina on the river, won the race. As I entered the bar Eugenio came over to me with a cold Gallo in hand. “Come here,” he said, “I want you to meet my girlfriend.”

We went over to the bar where a blond and a brunette sat with their backs to us.

“Libby, Libby,” Eugenio said, “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.

The girls turned around to face us and the blond smiled broadly and said, “Hello, Richard. What are you doing here?”

Libby, sitting there in this run-down, third-world bar in the middle of nowhere had been the regular baby-sitter for one of my best friends in Antibes, France, when I lived over there.

It truly is a small world!

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Living Off The Grid

“Living off the grid” is a phrase heard more and more often.What is the “grid?” I assume, off the top of my mostly empty head, that the “grid” refers to electricity, phone, water, sewage, cable services for television and internet connections. Those things that provide what most of us have come to accept as necessities for our ordinary daily life.

People live off the “grid” (and that’s the last time I’m going to put it in quotation marks) for different reasons. Some do so for political and social reasons. Some do it in an effort to lower their monthly utility bills and others do it because they simply don’t have access to the grid at all because of their location.

I think when I move to Panama and build a shanty boat I’ll be living off the grid for the latter reason. I’ve done it before and came close one other time.

I spent nine months completely off the grid when I took my trip to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala aboard my Nancy Dawson back in 1992. Once I left Fort Lauderdale, and until the day after I returned, I was never connected to shore power electricity. I didn’t have solar panels or a wind-powered generator as so many cruising boats do these days. And I didn’t have a huge battery bank, either. Simply two ordinary car batteries were my sole source of electricity.

My electric usage was tiny, really. My VHF radio while underway and in the mornings on the Rio Dulce to listen to the morning cruiser net. I had a single-sideband receiver and would listen to the BBC World Service in the evenings. I listened to the Presidential debates between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton from Voice of America. In Belize I listened to Radio Belize “Bringing you news from Belize and around the WOOOORRRRLLLDDD!” I had a boom box that I used sparingly because it gobbled up the amps pretty good, but there were nights when I’d be anchored off some tiny island on the edge of the reef in Belize where I’d crank up the volume and lay out under the stars in a hammock strung between the mast and the fore stay. I didn’t have a television and it was years prior to my owning a computer. I didn’t have a refrigerator or freezer, either, two items that are a real drain on battery power. I had a couple of small lamps on the boat. Most evenings I’d have one on to read by for a while.

One thing that really guzzled amp hours were my running lights. And I have to admit that because they would practically drain my battery bank overnight I broke international law by running dark, like a smuggler, most of the time. If I saw a ship’s lights I would turn my running lights on until any possibility of an encounter passed and then I’d run dark again. Once I’d made the passage from KeyWest to Isla Mujeres it was all day sailing with the exception of five nights; two headed southwards from Cozumel to Belize City and three nights back from the Rio Dulce to Isla Mujeres.

Most boats, power and sail, that didn’t have solar panels, and they were still pretty rare back in ’92, did have engines with alternators. They’d keep their battery banks charged by running the engine for an hour or two every day or so. Since Nancy didn’t have an inboard engine the way I kept my small battery bank charged was with a 1.5 KW Generac generator and a car battery charger. Damn, but that thing was noisy.The only way I could cope with it was to fill the tank half way, start it up, plug in the battery charger to the 110 volt outlet, hop in my dinghy and take off somewhere for a couple of hours. When I’d return to the boat the gas had run out and my batteries would be sufficiently charged to last me for the coming two or three days.

Essentially I learned to live in harmony with nature as trite as that sounds. You get up with the sun and go to bed when it gets dark, with the exception of those couple of hours reading before going to sleep.

When I lived on my shanty boat in Louisiana back in ’84 to ’86 I came close to living off the grid. I didn’t have a telephone hookup at the marina. I probably could have arranged it, but I never did. I did have an apartment-sized refrigerator that I’d been given that came off of a 53 foot sport fishing boat that was being completely refurbished at the boat yard where I was working. The owner gutted the interior of the boat and was installing all new appliances and said I was welcome to the fridge if I could haul it away.

The marina didn’t provide electricity in its rental. Each slip had to have an account and meter with the power company. The minimum charge to be hooked up to the grid at that time was $7.00 a month. And that’s usually what I paid. In the two years I lived on the boat I think my biggest hit was around $12.00 the first winter and that was because I used an electric space heater until I bought my “Mr. Sun.” That was a neat device that attached to a standard 20 pound propane bottle and would keep my cabin warm enough to sit around with little more than a tee shirt even on those wretched nights when we’d be hit with a norther and an ice storm. When I was sleeping on those freezing nights it was beneath an electric blanket.

One day I went to the electric company offices to pay my $7.00 monthly bill. I stood in line behind people who were paying $5, 6 and $700, not to pay off the monthly bill but paying just enough to keep their service from being shut off!

When I got up to the counter I jokingly said to the teller, “Gosh, with what the people ahead of me have been paying I’m almost embarassed to give this to you.”

The lady looked at the bill clearly marked “Minimum Payment” and said, “Well you don’t live there.”

“Yes,” I told her, “I do. The only difference is that when I’m not actually home the only thing drawing electricity is my refrigerator. And when I’m home you can add the television or the stereo and at night one light.”

One morning a couple of weeks later I was lying on my couch watching the Phil Donahough Show (I had been laid off at the yard) and I heard a vehicle coming down the shell road that ran along the docks. I heard two doors open and shut. I was curious as to who might be out there and when I looked out the window I was surprised to see it was the power company. Two guys were there testing my meter to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with. The cashier at the power company office couldn’t believe that anyone could exist on the minimum payment each month and pimped me out. Of course there was nothing wrong with the meter at all. I just didn’t use much juice.

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Tiny Houses

When I was working as a writer years ago, or as I call it being impalled on my own free lance, I loved going to the library to do research for an article. I would get lost in the card catalog. In looking for books and magazine articles something in the search would trigger something in another direction from the path I was supposed to be on. As a lot of you know surfing the internet is a lot like that, too. You’re reading something and hit a link and off you fly into cyberspace to a totally new world. Somewhere, though, there is a tenuous connection to where you started.

(An aside: People often ask me why I don’t write articles anymore. Well, there’s this blog and I can write about anything that strikes my fancy and the only editor I have to satisfy is myself. The truth of the matter is that when I was working as a writer back in the 60s and 70s the pay for a well written article wasn’t very much. A lot of time it wasn’t worth the effort and,unless you were lucky or talented enough to get into the major publications, your efforts often paid just above minimum wage. The horrible truth is that 40 years after I was getting paid for putting words on paper the pay is almost exactly the same today as it was then. If it wasn’t worth doing then for a pittance then it certainly isn’t worth doing today.)

Having been bitten, once again, with the “I want to live on a houseboat” bug I’ve been zooming around the internet looking for houseboat and shanty boat plans. Sadly there aren’t that many out there and most of the ones I have found aren’t really what I would want to have. Oh, there are one or two but they’d only work with some modification. But what I have found extremely interesting is that there is a whole movement out there of people who build and live in what are called “Tiny Houses.”

There are many reasons they do it. Some are heavily into the “Green” movement and are seeking to reduce their “footprint” on the earth. Others, consciously or not, take up the Thoreau dictum of “Simplify, simplify.”  And as I wrote in a previous post, how much room do you really need, anyway?

One of the nice things about being unemployed, or as I like to say, “retired” is that I have the free time to delve into these blogs and web sites. An interesting one is: http://smalllivingjournal.com/. Small Living Journal. Here they gave a good categorization of living small. Actually the categories were delineated by a web site called Apartment Therapy and goes like this:

  • TEENY-TINY 300 Square Feet and under
  • TINY 600 Square Feet and under (but over 300 Square Feet)
  • LITTLE 900 Square Feet and under (but over 600 Square Feet)
  • SMALL 1,200 Square Feet and under (but over 900 Square Feet)

Here are a couple of youtube vids of teeny-tiny homes

Many of these houses are built on trailer bases and I think it would be easy enough to put them onto a floating platform as well.

One thing that I find disappointing is how much some of the finished tiny houses cost. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com) gives an estimate for building several of it’s homes, all on wheels, and they range from $36,997.00 for the 65 square feet X-S finished house to $49,997.00 for the Fencl finished house. They give build it yourself costs of between $16,100.00 to $23,000.00 for the same models. I’m sorry, but I don’t find those prices “tiny.” They estimate finished costs of $100 to $200 per square foot which is roughly what it costs to build an regular home.

Now there are ways of reducing the estimated costs given. If you didn’t put the house on a trailer you could knock of anywhere from $2,000.0 to $3,800.00. And, of course, how you want to finish off the house would vary considerably depending on how extravagant you want to get.

I like the looks of the looks of the Lusby model with a build it yourself estimated price of $21,250.00. So let’s see how much that would cost me to build a similar design the way I’d want it finished out. And you have to take into consideration that I’d want it to sort of blend in with the existing architecture of the area.

Somewhere between this:

bocas-del-toro-panama

and this:

bocas-house-nice

Most probably something like this:

bocas-houseboat1

The main difference between what I would build and the picture above is what it would be floating on. I’d go either with pontoons or a barge and I’d have an outboard motor so it would be self propelled.

The Lusby model has nice stainless steel counter tops estimated at $800.00. Mine would be formica over plywood saving about $750.00. The Lusby has beautiful knotty pine interior siding estimated at $900.00. I’d save $900.00 right off the bat since there wouldn’t be any interior siding. Remember, I lived in a shack on pontoons for several years, and since there’s no interior siding there wouldn’t be the estimated $550.00 worth of insulation. No heater, either, so knock off another grand. That $550.00 shower?  Mine would be a five gallon bucket of water on the roof with a sink sprayer attached, so knock off another $545.00. I wouldn’t be paying the estimated $1,500.00 sales tax, either. The $3,800.00 for the trailer would be for the flotation, either barge or pontoon. Wait a minute….that grand for the heater, it would have to go for the outboard, instead. All things considered, though, I could probably put it together for less than half of the cost they project, and maybe even less.

But the whole concept of Tiny Houses is intriguing. Googling “Tiny House Plans” brings up nearly FIVE MILLION HITS.

A couple of interesting ones are:

http://www.townandcountryplans.com/

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house/tiny-house-plans/

http://www.bcmountainhomes.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2&zenid=220425befba61abd4a8dae509f5dbe37

http://www.cusatocottages.com/selectaplan.php

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