Bamboo For Shanty Boat Building

Continuing on the search for building materials for a shanty boat build here in Boquerón, Panama. Five years or so ago I talked to Courtney Parks, owner of the Bocas Marina and a good friend of my friend the late, great Frank Hilson (everyone who knew Frank misses him). Back then Courtney was working on getting a boat yard up and running in Almirante on the mainland. Yard, travel lift, the whole nine yards and rare as hen’s teeth down here. Well, going through a ton of sites this last week it seems he’s actually done it and the yard opened a couple of years ago.

Courtney said then, that the plywood they sell here in Panama is garbage, and he usually had what he needed shipped down from the States. So, talk about expensive! Figure in the cost of shipping and then the import duties, sheeesh!

Today I went to one of the largest hardware outlets around, Franklin Jurado, over in Bugaba. They had a limited stock of plywood and while it was marked “Marinero,” I doubt that it really IS marine-grade ply. A 3/4″ sheet is listed at $26.05 and 1/2″ at $22.53. Cochez, the other big supplier in the area prices their stuff within a few cents of Jurado’s prices.

So, building a small, 18′ scow hull like the Atkins “Retreat” which I’ve lways rather liked, you can figure that the plywood for the scow hull is going to run around $450, not counting framing (2X4X8, untreated pine runs $4.84 each) plus fastenings, glass and resin for sheathing I’d make a very rough guess at about $1,250 for the hull. And remember, of really lousy plywood, too.

So this brings me back to wondering what using bamboo would cost, and what would it look like? Well, they seem to use it quite well in Thailand where these pictures were taken:

IMG_1491a IMG_1499a IMG_1507a IMG_1514a IMG_1523a

Now I have to track down a source for bamboo for pricing. Besides, I’m thinking of building the cabin with split bamboo because of its light weight.



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4 responses to “Bamboo For Shanty Boat Building

  1. John & Susan

    The bamboo gets our vote!

  2. Capt Dan

    What’s wrong with two aluminum pontoons? Last forever, keep your sorry ass out of the drink. Sell the Chinese motor scooter!

    Okay, where to begin…Last forever? In a couple of weeks I’ll be 72. I have emphysema and I carry around three stents in my heart. I take meds to keep my blood pressure in check. I don’t think “forever” is going to be that long a period of time for me.

    Basically there’s nothing wrong with aluminum pontoons if the boat is going to be in fresh water all the time. In salt water you’ve got a big problem because of electrolytic reaction to aluminum, salts and you CAN’T use ordinary copper-based bottom paint on aluminum. You need an expensive primer system followed by astronomically-priced bottom paint over that. I know. Jolie Aire, the boat I ran in France was aluminum so I’m fully cognizant of the problem.

    There’s no place you could buy aluminum pontoons here in Panama even if you wanted them. You’d have to have them custom made, so then you aren’t doing this project on the cheap.

    Also, and from the experience I had with the shanty boat I had in Louisiana, pontoons really, REALLY suck in anything other than flat-assed calm water. Small waves and wakes come right up over your platform.

    The most sensible thing is constructing a scow type hull. Though I am going to check out price and availability of bamboo for shits and grins.

  3. Capt Dan

    Richard, what’s wrong with just renting another joint in Panama if they ever manage to sell the house you’re living in? Why burden yourself with another possession to take care of. You’ve said you live on your SS and run a surplus every month. I share most of the same health problems as you. Prefer to be close to my Medicare bennies in the states.

    A valid question, Dan. I’ve been very lucky with my housing accomodations the last four years, overall. There was that one hiccup at the beginning of the year moving into the other house. We’ll ignore the fact that I was blatantly lied to about the REASON I needed to move out. The owner of the house said it was because she was extremely ill and needed to move back in, but this morning, as many other weekends since moving back into the original house, I see her son’s semi tractor parked in front of the house.

    Be that as it may, while people aren’t beating down the doors to look at this house and making offers (only one person since November) I do live under the cloud of having to move on 30 day notice. And I’m not so sure I’d be able to find a suitable and inexpensive place to live as I’ve fortunately had since moving to Panama. If I had to pay $300/month you have to realize that’s a 50% hike. And it’s not like finding a place to live in the States where the newspapers a loaded with listings. Out of curiosity I look at the bulletin boards at the supermarkets where rentals are advertised and I see that I’d be lucky to get that 50% hike and it would be more likely to be 100% more than I’m paying now.

    So, while building a shanty boat would be about how much two to three years of rental would cost where I am now, it would be MINE.

    You also have to look at my history. I lived on boats for decades: my own and others where I worked. It’s in my blood, thinned by Plavix though it is. If you have Google Earth then check out Bocas del Toro and see what a great area it is for poking around in.

    There are quite a few down sides to making the change from living on land to living on the water again. It isn’t all roses, and I know that. But I’ll be writing more about those things in the days to come. You’ll just have to wait for them.

  4. There are a lot of indigenous people who live in houses that aren’t much more than those boats in the photos. In this climate you don’t need much.
    A friend has a couple casitas in Cuesta Piedra that have rented for $125. She’s going to fix them up and maybe raise the rent a bit, but they should still be pretty inexpensive. But, for a water guy I can see the appeal of something like Bocas.

    I believe we’ve talked, on your blog, about some of the places the indigenous people live in here, and how people in the States would be appalled, wouldn’t think for a moment of living in something like these people do, and YET, they AREN’T homeless. They aren’t living under a bridge.They aren’t living in a box some rich person’s refrigerator came in. They have a HOME! They have a place to be when it’s pouring down rain, and it’s THEIRS!!! And I think we also agreed that they are better off for it than the homeless in the States.