Category Archives: Puddle Duck Goose

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


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 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:,   And this: 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 ( 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… 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.





Filed under 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

Hiking in the Chiriquí Highlands

Not all who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Nestled over a mile high in the highlands of Chiriquí Province, Panama, in the shadow of the country’s highest mountain, the dormant volcano Barú, is the boutique hotel and working coffee plantation Finca Lérida.

So, what are you going to do when you get there? There’s no swimming pool, no “rec” room with pool tables and video game consoles. Not a zip line in sight. Well, first of all, you can simply enjoy the tranquility of the lushly landscaped grounds as you wander from your room to the restaurant or coffee shop.

There are flowers everywhere:

And there are quiet little nooks where you can sit and reflect on how lucky you are to have found this place:

But to really capture the place you need to put on your hiking boots and go exploring.

The finca covers 150 hectares (370 acres) of which 43 hectares (106 acres) are devoted to coffee production. But that’s not all there is up there. It borders Amistad National Park, the largest nature reserve in Central America, with nearly one million acres of tropical forest jointly administered by Panama and Costa Rica. The first impression visitors to the finca have is the sense of the immensity of undefiled nature.

Winding through the finca and into the National Park are 10 kilometers (6 miles) of well-maintained hiking trails. Six miles may not seem like a lot to some people, but when you consider that much of the terrain here is more on a vertical plane than the horizontal your legs are probably going to tell you there are are lot more than ten.

There’s a wonderful, painted map of what’s in store for your adventure:

Though the artist did have a bit of a problem grasping a simple concept:

Coffee Tour

If you’re someone, like me, who enjoys a good cup of coffee in the morning you need to sign up for the coffee tour. It’s a four-hour hike through the Finca led either by Eddy or Cesar, both of whom speak English and will explain the process from plant to cup.

That says 5,577 feet above sea level.

You’ll learn that growing coffee is a labor-intensive proposition, especially when harvest time rolls around. It can’t be done by machines since the berries don’t all ripen at the same time. You have to wait until they turn bright red before the “cherries” are ready to be picked. As skillful  as the indigenous pickers are, sometimes one gets away.

The four-hour tour ends at the Beneficio where the coffee begins its transformation from the raw state to the finished cup of perfect nectar. You’ll learn that each “cherry” contains two seeds which we commonly know as the “bean.” and the process starts with equipment designed and patented by the finca’s original owner, Toleff Boche Monniche. Dusty proof of the man’s genius hangs on the wall where the original patent and the drawings submitted to the U.S. Patent Office can be seen.

In the “cupping” room you’ll sample the coffee from three different processes.

(Photo by: Victor Bloomfield)

Panama’s For The Birds

According to Wikipedia there are 927 species of birds Panama, more than 500 of them can be found in the Chiriqui highlands, including the magnificent Quetzal:

While bird books will tell you that the Harpy Eagle, the largest and most powerful raptor in the Americas is Panama’s “national” bird (unfortunately not found in Chiriqui) don’t believe a word of it. Unofficially the national bird is the common chicken which are found everywhere and it’s a rare morning when you won’t hear a rooster crowing within ear-shot of wherever you happen to wake up.

Finca Lérida loves its birds. Once you stop gawking at the magnificent grounds of the finca you can’t miss the fact that there are dozens of birdhouses scattered around the hotel grounds:

The birding trails go deep into La Amistad International Park and is a tour that will be savored long after you return home.

It’s not necessary to take one of the more organized tours the finca offers. Some might just want to stroll through this latter-day Eden. Eddy and Cesar are always available to guide you along the well-maintained trails. . .

(Photo courtesy of: Omar Upegui R.)

. . . leading you to this magnificent waterfall:

(Photo courtesy of: Omar Upegui R.)

You can choose the guided tours or simply explore on your own. If you prefer to strike out by yourself you will be provided with a trail map and given access to them for $10.70.

The Finca is open to the public and it’s not necessary to be booked into the hotel to enjoy the splendor of the Chiriquí highlands. But there is a big advantage to having a room at the hotel. After wearing yourself out on the trails you can go back to your room and decompress on one of these:


Filed under New Orleans, Puddle Duck Goose, Uncategorized

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, the Goose recently formed one, too: 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:

Plans can be downloaded from Duckworks here: A good story with lots of photos on the building of a Goose.

Comments Off on Puddle Duck Goose

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