Category Archives: homemade boats

Watch This Spot For Future Developments

I haven’t been sleeping well since the shanty boat bug bit me again. I’ll go to bed and then wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning as 72 year old men are wont to do, but then when I lay down again my mind keeps churning about all the possibilities of  this venture that I can’t get back to sleep. So a half hour, forty-five minutes later I’m up again and roaming around on the computer.

Here’s one of the hurdles I have to overcome…

Where I Am

As you can see by the yellow stick pin where I am and where the boat should be are quite far apart. Not only that, running right smack between those two pins is the continental divide. A mountain chain thousands of feet high!

I have a complete set of plans for a shanty boat called the Brandy Bar

brandy-bar

It’s 25 feet long and 10 feet wide. That would make it too wide to put on a trailer and truck over the hills to Almirante where it could be launched. The construction is pretty straight forward. It’s like building a house because everything is right angles and no complex compound curves. It would be pretty simple to simply modify the plans and scale the beam down to 8 feet so it would be trailerable.

Another problem is cost. Even scrimping on things like interior design and not counting such essentials as navigation lights, anchors with their chain and rode, regular lighting, cooking facilities, etc., etc., the bare hull would cost around $4K!

Then we get into construction problems themselves. 1) The best source for marine plywood is over there in Bocas del Toro. I live here in Boquerón. For those of you not familiar with boat building, real marine plywood is expensive stuff. Without getting into a big dissertation about how plywood is made I’ll just say there’s “Marine Ply,’ ‘AB’, ‘BC’ and stuff called ‘CDX.’ The letters all refer to the condition of the outermost ply, and the X means ‘exterior.’ All need to have exterior grade glues so the plies won’t delaminate.  The supplier I know of charges $99.95 for a 3/4″ sheet of the stuff. Tack on Panama’s 7% tax and each sheet come in at $106.95. There are approximately 18 sheets needed to build a Brandy Bar or $1,925.00 worth of plywood! He also carries CDX which costs $54.95 for a 3/4” sheet. That would cut the plywood costs to $1,058.33.

Now all that doesn’t include the framing lumber. There are 21 frames that need to be built with 2X6 inch, pressure treated lumber. Each of the frames requires 14′ of the stuff. An 8′, pressure treated 2X6 costs $14.12 (tax included). Each frame is 3′ high, so the lumber for the framing comes in at about $77.00 whether you’re building with top rated marine ply of CDX.

I was also directed, yesterday, to a place that’s supposed to sell plywood in David. What I’ve seen so far has been disappointing, but I’ll check out the new place in the next few days.

And that’s just what the lumber costs. Add in epoxy resins which are far from cheap and which I haven’t even tried to price out though I did find out about a place in David that sells it, fiberglass mat for protecting the hull against ship worms down here (Columbus abandoned two of his boats here in Panama in 1502 because of ship worms). And so on and so on with expenses.

Another problem arises in the building process. You have to build the damned hull upside down on a kind of large jig to hold the framing in place while you’re putting on the plywood sheeting and glassing it all together.

upside downSo, when it’s all sheeted and the fiberglassing is done you have to do this…

flipping itYou have to turn it over so you can build the cabin. And the flippin’ thing is HEAVY right now. (The last two photos courtesy [though they don’t know it yet] of http://littleshantyboat.blogspot.com/ which is one of the best blogs I’ve read anywhere about the actual building process of a shanty boat. If you’re interested in building one you need to bookmark this site.)

So, the other night I was talking to my surfing friend, David, who lives in Costa Rica but who is thinking about resettling, too, in Bocas, when an idea hit me. . .

From time immemorial boats and ships have been built as a single unit. The keel was laid down, frames were attached to that and planking was added to the frames to complete the hull. Instead of building my 25′ long by 8′ wide hull as a single unit, why couldn’t I build, say, units that were 8’X8′ which would be a lot lighter in weight and them, with epoxy, through-bolt those units together? Sort of like putting Legos® together.  Why not, indeed? I mean they build HUGE ships and aircraft carriers that way, now, don’t they?

If they can build something as big as an aircraft carrier in sections and, essentially, bolt the pieces together why couldn’t I do the same thing with something so simple as a shanty boat?

So, naturally, this set me off in other sleepless wanderings around the internet. I found a TON of stuff. From Viet Nam there was this: http://www.hapby.v-nam.net/builds/projects.php,   And this: http://shantyboatliving.com/2012/collaborative-modular-project-post-1/ Plus a bunch more, but you get the idea.

Four Puddle Duck Racers bolted together would make a 16’X8′ hull. Six of them and you’ve got a 24X8. Four of them with a deck covering the top of each one, and joined with spanning  members floored over and you’ve got yourself the pontoons and platform for a pretty large floating home.

And here, too, you don’t have to build it all at once. You can build something large enough (or small enough) to give you a place to live in while you construct further modules. My uncle Dick and his wife Helen lived in the basement of their house in Cincinnati, Ohio while they were building the big house. My secret heros, Jim Kimball and Jay Viola (not to mention their wives who worked just as hard as they did, though in the States) built a fabulous Eco Resort, Tranquilo Bay (http://www.tranquilobay.com/) on the island of Bastimentos  in Bocas del Toro, Panama, piece by piece, and they lived in a TENT on a rickety dock when they started the venture. You really SHOULD read this story, it’s absolutely inspiring about what guts and determination can accomplish…http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080501/paradise-the-hard-way.html I had the good fortune to spend a couple of hours with Jim Kimball a few years ago when I was making my first exploratory trips to Panama and it would be hard to find a nicer person  willing to sit down with a total stranger for a couple of hours and discuss the stranger’s crackpot ideas of building a shanty boat.

So, there you have it. I’m sure there will be many more sleepless nights ahead because of this nonsense. My birthday is only a couple of weeks away. I think this year I’m going to gift myself with some power tools. I’ll show you when I get them.

 

 

 

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Filed under adventure, boats, Boqueron Panama, Floating Homes, homemade boats, Houseboat, Living Abroad, Living in Panama, Living off the grid, Living Small, Minimalist Cruising, PDR Racer, Puddle Duck Goose, Puddle Duck Racer, Retirement, Retirement Abroad, sailboats, Shanty boat, Shantyboat Living, Small Houses, Small Sailboats

Everyone Has A Dream – You Need To Live Yours NOW!

Everyone has a dream. Some want to sail around the world. Others might want to pack up and live off the land in some wilderness area. Back to the earth. Buy an RV and see the USA. Who knows? But everyone has a dream yet most of them are never fulfilled. Why? Well Sterling Hayden pretty much nailed it in his book Wanderer when he wrote:

“‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it,’ [so many people say]. What (they) can’t afford is not to go.  They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’  And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it our lives are gone.

“What does a man need–really need?  A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in–and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.  That’s all–in the material sense. And we know it.  But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

“The years thunder by.  The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience.  Before we know it the tomb is sealed.”

Before you go any further with this post stop and reread that quote again and thing about how it applies to you and those around you. That quote had such an impact on me it changed my entire life. The power of words can do that to a person.

When I read that quote I wrote it down in my journal and in one form or another I’ve carried it around with me for the past forty one years. It was in 1971. I was working as the assistant public relations director of the largest non-profit hospital in the second most populace county in the State of Florida at the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my job. I did. Sorta. But the whole time I was doing it, and being impaled on my own free lance writing magazine articles, I was reading all the boating magazines and dreaming about being on a boat and sailing off to distant shores. And it hit me that 1) I was never going to have enough money to buy the boat I wanted to accomplish that dream. 2) I wasn’t willing to do what it took to make the kind of money it would take to accomplish that dream and 3) If you ARE willing to do what it takes to make that kind of money then you don’t have the time to be out sailing around in the first place until you’re probably too old to do it.

Everyone’s dream in their teens and early twenties or thirties has a young person pulling it off. Not someone who’s carrying around three stents in their arteries, taking pills twice a day to keep their blood pressure in check and whose fingers are gnarled from arthritis.

At about the same time as I read Wanderer I also read Viking’s Wake by Richard MacCullagh that contained a life-changing quote:

“And the bright horizon calls!  Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory.  When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands.  For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.”

I scaled my dreams way down from flashy boats that graced the pages of the yachting publications way down to one where I’d get a set of pontoons, perch a pickup camper insert on it and take off on the Intracoastal Waterway and perhaps do what is known as “The Great Loop” a water route that circles the eastern half of the United States.  But the reality of the situation was that I didn’t even have enough money to accomplish that. So when my wife and I parted company in the Great $16.25 Divorce (https://oldsalt1942.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/) I quit my job, got a job as a deckhand on a dinner cruise boat which led me to obtaining a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton license and living out many of my dreams including doing the “Great Loop” in 1974/75, a dozen trips up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, living on the French Riviera and the Costa del Sol for three years and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on other people’s boats and getting paid to do it, too. I eventually bought my own small sailboat and did a single-handed trip (another dream) from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back.

Recently I found some YouTube videos by someone who calls himself “Skipperfound.”He’s a guy who’s living his dreams. He sort of adapted my pontoon and camper shell idea with plans for taking the boat from Ludington, Michigan down to the Florida Keys. He has over 124 YouTube videos of this trip and other adventures: the conversion of a bus (he sold the boat in Panama City, Florida) and his travels in it, and building a tiny house. This video shows the early stages of the construction of the boat.

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/rLQUV8bWHkA?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Naturally when someone is doing something as offbeat as Skipperfound it attracts attention. Sometimes people doing the out of the ordinary get interviewed by newspapers along the way. Here he is explaining his reasons for doing what he does. I don’t know if he ever read Sterling Hayden of Richard MacCullagh or not, but he’s sure taken their advise to heart.

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/o2Dh8ntaDt4?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Finally thereis a quote from John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany:

“If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

 

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Filed under adventure, boats, cruising, homemade boats, Houseboat, Shanty boat, Shantyboat Living, Small boat cruising

Alvin Straight Goes To Sea (Maybe?)

Did any of you see the wonderful movie “The Straight Story” starring Richard Farnsworth? Directed by director David Lynch who did such oddball productions as “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” presented the touching and straight-forward account of how Alvin Straight who, hearing about his estranged brother suffering a stroke decides to visit him and make amends. But Alvin’s legs and eyes are too impaired for him to receive a driving license, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty year-old John Deere Lawn tractor and sets off on the 240-mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.

Well, John Hinton, of Washington state decided to take HIS lawnmower to sea.

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xio9wl<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xio9wl_inventor-creates-unique-amphibious-vehicle_news&#8221; target=”_blank”>Inventor creates unique amphibious vehicle</a> <i>por <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/itnquirky&#8221; target=”_blank”>itnquirky</a></i>

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Filed under adventure, boats, homemade boats, Uncategorized

We Didn’t Build Bird Houses In Our Shop Classes

Back when I was in high school we were required to take what today would probably be termed “life skill” classes. The girls took “Home Ec.” classes where they learned cooking and sewing. Some of the girls also took secretarial classes where they learned typing and shorthand.

Boys never took those courses though they should have been required to take typing because there was a lot of that to be done when they went away to college. No, instead we took “shop” classes where we were supposed to learn how to use tools and how to build things.

I suppose in most schools young boys learned how to build bird houses.

And if they were really skilled and adventurous they might have tried to tackle something like this…

But we who went to Orleans High School, later to become Nauset Regional High School in my senior year, weren’t content to build bird houses. Instead, we built THIS

The Sea Explorer Ship Nauset, a 42-foot ketch.

The seed of the idea was germinated in 1954 when the Sea Scouts rowed two boats from Orleans to Nantucket.  It was documented by Life Magazine in their May 17th issue:

http://books.google.com/books?id=IVMEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA159&dq=sea+scouts&hl=en&ei=k7PGTeGcPMry0gHkrIn2Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=sea%20scouts&f=false

Supposedly when interviewed about their exploit one of the crew members said the next time they came to Nantucket they wanted to sail there.

Thanks to my brother Jeff for sending me to this story in an old issue of Boy’s Life Magazine from July 1961. The story starts on Page 15 and is continued on Page 46.

http://books.google.com/books?id=nliVPS8HNxwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=boys+life+1961&hl=en&ei=MaXGTZDYDYnh0QHMpP2iCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Not only did I help build the boat but I was, of course, at the launching and on the maiden voyage. But that wasn’t the last I saw of the valiant SES Nauset. In the fall of 1987 while taking the Christiana, a 47-foot Grebe motor yacht from Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I would wrap up the restoration job I’d undertaken on her, I was wending my way through the Waccamaw cypress swamp on the Intracoastal Waterway  north of Charleston, SC, when I came upon a sailboat headed in the same direction. Her masts were on deck and she was being pushed along by an outboard motor attached to its transom on a bracket. As I drew up astern I saw the name board that read, SES Nauset. I pulled up alongside and throttled back to keep pace with the old lady and said to the young man at the tiller, “You might not believe this, but I helped build your boat.”

She was long past her prime and you could practically smell the rot in her as cruised side by side in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful spots on the whole ICW for ten minutes or so. The young man had big plans of restoring her and going off on grand adventures. But he was simply another of the tens of thousands of dreamers who are living proof that nearly everyone has a dream that won’t pan out. I wished him well, nevertheless and continued on my way. That’s the last I ever saw or heard of the boat again.

The Sea Explorer group is still thriving and has been integrated with the girl’s group known as Mariners back when I was a kid, but you wouldn’t expect any less from kids whose town is only 4-1/2 miles of sand between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay.

http://www.seascoutship72.org/index.htm

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Filed under boats, Classic Boats, homemade boats, sailboats, sailing

Puddle Duck Goose

As my regular readers know I love the Puddle Duck Racer. It’s an ugly but easily built boat that can get you out on the water for a couple of hundred bucks and a couple of weekends worth of work. The web site proclaims: “The PDRacer is a one designe racing sailboat that is basically a plywood box with a curved bottom, and is the easiest boat in the world to build. Free plans, free club. The rules are aimed at keeping the lower 10″ of all hulls the same, but the rest is up to the builder. A simple hull can be made from 3 sheets of plywood, Titebond II glue and latex house paint. If you work hard for two weekends you can go sailing on the 3rd weekend.”

I doubt there is a group of sailors anywhere in the world that have more fun than the owners of these boats. Many have made some remarkable voyages in the Texas 200 the last couple of years and no matter what kind of boats the other participants of the 200 are sailing it seems everyone pulls for the little guys.

Back on October 22 I wrote about a “cruising” version of the boat and suggested that I thought the PDR Goose would be more suitable for a minimalist, easily built inexpensive boat. I did not, however, explain what the Goose was.

The PDR Goose is a stretched-out 12′ version of the PDR and it’s fast building its own following. The Racer has a Yahoo site for its devotees,http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pdracer the Goose recently formed one, too: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pdgoose/ Unlike the PDRacer, the Goosers (oooooo, that tickles) do not want  the boat to become a racing class. They’ll leave that to the one-design class PDRacer. Hey, the boats are cheap and there’s no reason you couldn’t have one of each. The advantage of the larger Goose is that you can more comfortably take along additional crew on your adventures.

This morning in one of my favorite boating blog sites, Duckworks, there was a post in the next-to-last article giving a link to several YouTube videos of a completed Goose under sail. While  the Duck is rather clunky having a length to beam ratio of only 2:1 at 4’X8′ but the elongated Goose is 3:1 at 4’X12′. Not only does it look good it seems to sail great as seen here.

And it will get up and plane:

To see more videos of this nice craft underway click this link:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pdgoose&aq=f

Plans can be downloaded from Duckworks here: http://www.duckworksbbs.com/plans/storer/pgr/index.htm. A good story with lots of photos on the building of a Goose.


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Filed under adventure, homemade boats, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, PDGoose, Puddle Duck Goose, Puddle Duck Racer, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Small Sailboats

Minimalist PDR Cruiser

Any regular reader of this blog knows I have a real soft spot in my heart for the Puddle Duck Racer.  Naturally it was only a matter of time before someone expanded on the concept and turned one into a minimalist cruising reality. Probably the first to do it was Jason Nabors, who built the Tenacious Turtle which he entered in the epic Texas 200. Not really a race but more of a “cruise” up through the semi-protected waters along the Texas coast.

A bit crude in its execution and jarring to the eyes of anyone who loves classic boat lines as I do, I still thought it was one of the neatest things I’d ever seen.

Of course the Aussies couldn’t leave the simple PDR well enough alone and came up with the OZ PDR which is a bit flashier than the original. Now,Perttu Korhonen, in collaboration with Michael Storer who came up with the OZ design, has come up with the Ocean Explorer. No offense, Jim, but this one really has a chance of taking off.

Plans for building this wonderful little boat are available at Duckworks for $40 US. The set which is downloadable in PDF form from the above link consist of around 95 pages of drawings, photos and text which should provide you snow-bound dreamers with plenty to ponder this winter and hopefully kick-start you to build one yourself. You can get more photos here: www.woodworkforums.com/f169/ultimate-cruising-pdr-120306/

Personally I think I’d want to use these plans as an inspiration for modifying the  PDR Goose, the expanded 12′ version of the original 8-footer. It would allow you more room for supplies and, possibly, a companion.

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Filed under boats, cruising, homemade boats, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Puddle Duck Racer, sailboats, sailing

A Good Time Had By All

I found this on the Duckworth site this morning in a post by Paul Cook of Las Cruces, NM.

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Filed under boats, homemade boats, PDR Racer