Tag Archives: Houseboats

Resist The Urge

I don’t know if it’s a universal trait or not, but people in the United States have long believed that “Bigger is Better.” “Size Matters.” I want to scream, “No it isn’t!” and “No it doesn’t!”

On the other side of the coin you have dumbest phrase of ALL TIME in “Less is More.”  I can’t tell you how much this makes my back teeth ache. NO IT’S NOT!!! MORE is MORE! Less, by its very definition isn’t as much so it CAN’T be more! Now less can sometimes be BETTER than more but Less is NEVER more.

One of the most often asked boating questions is “What size boat do I need to go cruising?” Well, if you pay attention to the boating and cruising magazines whose life blood is the advertising income they receive from boat manufacturers and equipment manufacturers. Your life is in imminent danger the moment you leave the dock in anything less than 45 or fifty feet of fiberglass tricked out with every electronic device known to mankind. I remember once someone describing another person’s boat saying it was fantastic because it had the “most expensive” navigation gear available. Naysayer that I am I said that NO, most “expensive” is NOT  a synonym for “best.” Those same boating mags totally ignore the fact that Robert Manry n 1965 sailed from Falmouth, Mass. to Falmouth, Cornwall, England in Tinkerbelle a tiny 13.5-foot (4.1 m) sailboat.

220px-Tinkerbelle_by_Robert_Manry

Or that 16 year old Robin Lee Graham sailed his 24′ Dove around the world alone

Dove

or that Tania Aebi did a solo circumnavigation in a 26′ sailboat when she was 18.

maidenvoyagecover

Between 1955 and 1959 John Guzzwell sailed solo around the world in a boat that wasn’t quite 21 feet long.

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The answer to the question “What size boat do I need to go cruising?” was best summed up, I think by Don Casey and Lew Hackler in their book Sensible Cruising: The Thoreau Approach when they said, “The one you have.”

http://www.amazon.com/Sensible-Cruising-The-Thoreau-Approach/dp/0071580255

I absolutely LOVE this book and the advice in it is gold…

And “cruising” DOESN’T have to entail great ocean crossings. Taking your boat and going to a little cove you’ve never been to before is going cruising.

L. Francis Herreshoff, who knew a thing or three about boats had this to say about cruising . . . “Cruising should be entirely for pleasure, and when it ceases to be so it no longer makes sense. Of course those who want to beat out what little brains they have in a night thrash to windward should have a strong, stiff racing machine, a very expensive contraption, one which sacrifices the best qualities of a cruiser. But the little yacht that can snuggle alongside some river bank for the night and let its crew have their supper in peace while listening to the night calls of the whippoorwill will keep its crew much more contented. They will be particularly happy and contented when the evening rain patters on the deck and the coal-burning stove becomes the center of attraction. Then if you can lie back in a comfortable place to read, or spend the evening in pleasant contemplation of the next day’s run, well, then you can say “This is really cruising.”

And here’s a truism most people aren’t aware of: “Boats are used in inverse proportion to their size!” That is, the smaller the boat and the easier it is to use then the more it WILL BE USED.

So, what got me started on this rant in the first place? Well, I’ve once again been bitten by  the “I need to have a shanty boat bug!” And I’ve been pouring over old articles I’ve saved and scouring the internet for new inspiration. And last night I saw this neat thing. It’s LaMar Alexander’s 8×12 Stealth-boat Tiny House Design.

lamar-alexanders-stealthboat-8x12-tiny-house-design-001

The VERY FIRST THING that crossed my mind was, “with just three more sheets of plywood you could extend it to 8X20 feet and have a lot more room!” I mean that was my instant reaction, and it’s really not wrong, I don’t believe, if you’re making something that you intend to live on.

 http://tinyhousetalk.com/lamar-alexanders-8×12-stealth-boat-tiny-house-design/#m2rqK975Cd4K6q2A.99

An eight by twelve foot shanty like this would be a great weekender or fine for a short vacation, but I really believe if you’re going to spend much time on it you need to make it AT LEAST 16-feet long but I wouldn’t go over 20 because of cost, weight, time to build, etc.

Just be wary of where you brain leads you. It’s going to automatically make you want to go bigger.

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Yummmm

When I was in the eighth grade I won a drawing for which the prize was a pair of tickets to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. I invited my pal Harold Bennet to share the day with me. My mother drove us over to Hyannis to get the train up to Boston and gave me written instructions on how to get to Fenway from South Station. As we were getting on the train, which had a dining car, she told me, “Don’t order the Salisbury Steak. It’s nothing more than fancied-up hamburger.”

I don’t remember what we ordered, but I do remember that our seats were right behind home plate and that the Sox dropped a double-header to the Orioles. But later on in life I DID have the Salisbury Steak somewhere, and it WAS fancied-up hamburger, and I actually LIKED IT.

It never became one of my regular menu items. In fact, I can’t remember ever making it until last night. Down here in Panama beef is grass-raised and the meat, while tastier, I think, than feed lot beef, is  tougher than what we’re used to in the States. A LOT tougher. So, I use ground beef  most of the time in lieu of the tougher cuts here that require lots and lots of braising time to make it soft enough to chew. I make a mean spaghetti sauce and a pretty good meat loaf, hamburger stroganoff and, of course, just plain hamburger patties. Yesterday, for some unknown reason, I thought of Salisbury Steaks so I went online and there were hundreds of recipes to choose from. Most required mushrooms in the gravy and while I often have mushrooms either in the fridge or several cans of them, I had none last night. Then there was a recipe with an onion gravy. I had onions. So I made that recipe and it was DELICIOUS. I will definitely be cooking this again. The recipe says “four servings” but it’s SO GOOD that while there are four patties you’re only going to feed two people with it (or one person and a great left-over meal the next day).

http://www.tasteofsouthern.com/salisbury-steak-recipe/

Actually I won TWO drawings when I was in the eight grade, and I’ll let you in on this one because the statute of limitations have long expired:

In the winter when I plodded along on my paper route, cursing my ancestors who thought living in New England was a great place to be rather than in some sunny clime where coconut palms prevailed, I had a couple of places I’d stop in along the way to warm up. The first was Fuller’s Package Store, about a third of the way through the route. Of course I couldn’t partake of most of their stock, but they understood the need for me to thaw out.

The second place I used to stop to warm up was on the homeward leg of my route, Snow’s Hardware store in the center of town (Orleans, Mass., out on the elbow of Cape Cod and in the winter time no matter which the direction the wind is blowing from it’s coming off the water making it raw and bone-penetratingly cold). That year every single one of the Christmas presents I gave had been lovingly shop lifted from my thawing out visits to Snows. More than that, every time I’d go into Snow’s, that is daily since the Cape Cod Standard-Times (as it was then called) was a daily afternoon paper, I’d fill out an entry form for their Christmas drawing and drop it in the slotted box on my way out the door.

On the day before Christmas Eve I got a call from Snow’s saying I’d WON third prize in the drawing…a Handy Hannah electric knife sharpener! Oh, the irony.

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Learning Curve

I’ve decided that I should build a pontoon-type boat, doing it in four-foot segments (possibly eight-foot if I can be sure to divide that in half with a leak-proof bulkhead. These segments would be built here at the house in Boquerón and then trucked down to the marina in Pedregal where they’d be bolted and epoxied together. I have a LOT of experience with thickened epoxy as a bonding agent and I KNOW that the wood around the epoxied joint will give way before the joint will.

The pontoons will be 2-feet wide by 2-feet high, and between 24 and 28 feet long. Probably the latter. The beam of the boat will be 10-feet, with the house being 8-feet wide allowing for a nice roof overhang, or whatever that’s called in carpentry terms.

I decided on the pontoons because of the amount of flotation they offer. Here are the numbers I’ve come up with…

Each pontoon segment will be 2’X2’X4’ = 16 cubic feet

One cubic foot = 7.5 gallons (7.48)

One gallon of water weighs = 8.3453 pounds. One cubic foot = 7.48052 gallons. The weight of one cubic foot of water is 7.48052 gallons times 8.3453 pounds, which equals 62.42 pounds of water per cubic foot. OR, it would take 62.42 lbs. to completely sink a cubic foot container.

SO, 62.42 lbs X 16 cubic feet = 998.72 lbs. displacement for each 4’ pontoon. Minus the weight of the materials each pontoon will support, roughly, 900 lbs.

The sections in the bow would be made like the bow of a barge or scow, sloped up from the bottom to move through the water with less resistance. Figure that each one of those will be roughly half the volume of the regular one for a 28’ long structure overall, or roughly 11,700 lbs. flotation. Whatever kind of house structure I build on top of the pontoon segments plus all the junk that I’d bring aboard certainly isn’t going to amount to five and a half TONS!

If you look as building a raft-type structure using 55-gallon drums the figures look like this:

Now, a 55 gallon drum measures 35” X 24”. A 55 gallon drum will displace 459 lbs.

Because of the odd measurement of 35” you’d need 10 drums to make up each pontoon of a similar size to the plywood pontoons. Now you’re mucking around with non-standard size lumber or going for 10 barrels a side. The cheapest 55-gallon plastic barrels I’ve found around here cost $30/each (can’t find a source for used barrels like in the States because if they are available they’re snapped up instantly by people who use them for water storage.). That’s $600 for flotation. And how much flotation? Potentially 9,180 lbs., before deducting the weight of the materials needed to contain them. So more than a ton less flotation than the plywood pontoons.

I tried drawing these pontoon segments out on paper, but it wasn’t very successful, everything in 2-D. So I downloaded the free SketchUp design program and found out there’s a HUGE, STEEP learning curve and the frustration level was almost more than I could bear.

So, one Sunday morning last month I went into David (Dah VEED) to the store where I knew I could get 2′ X 2′ X 4′ styrofoam drop ceiling tiles, 1/2″ thick which is EXACTLY what like a pontoon segment would be like. (I’ve since decided that the bottoms of each segment should be 3/4″ thick instead of 1/2″. Using a hot-glue gun to assemble the pieces (Elmer’s School Glue took too long to dry and needed constant pressure to stick together, and contact cement INSTANTLY melts styrofoam) this is what I came up with.

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Not only did this help me to visualize the building process, I found out that certain things had to be inset from an edge to accommodate other pieces.

If there’s one character trait I possess it’s that I’m STUBBORN! I became bound and determined that I was going to learn how to use the SketchUp program at least well enough so that I could document here, and possibly later in e-book form, how to build this boat. So I watched, over and over again, various YouTube tutorials on how the program works. I had to constantly trying something, discarding it, repeat, repeat, repeat. But I persevered and, while the measurements are a bit off at least I was finally able to get something resembling a 3-D rendition of a pontoon segment…

Segment 1Segment 3

Those end pieces that stick up above the pontoons are where the 2 X 6 cross beams will attach the pontoons to form a catamaran structure. End to end each 4′ section will have a one-inch-thick attachment point. Bolted and epoxied they should be strong enough to be able to move the boat without a problem. So, diddling around some more with SketchUp, and getting better at it all the time though still having to try something, discard it and do it over again, I came up with these ideas.

28-foot pontoon 2

This is what a pontoon would look like. That square thing in the bow would be a hatch so I could use those segments to store anchor line and fenders.

Here they are with the cross braces and decking…

28-foot pontoon with cross braces28-foot pontoon with decking

So that’s what I’ve come up with so far…

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Cool Stuff

If I ever became crippled or infirm, THIS is what I want for my walker…

walker

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Harlan and Anna Hubbard Video

The artist, Harlan Hubbard, and his wife, Anna, could be considered the guru of modern shanty boating. He and Anna were married in 1943 and the next year they started to build their shanty boat in Brent, Kentucky eventually traveling down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, ending their journey in the Louisiana bayous in 1951. His book Shantyboat, and several others he wrote recounts the eight-year journey from Brent to New Orleans, are still available through Amazon.com. His book Shantyboat in the Bayous, which was published in 1990, completes the story.

Harlan produced many woodcuts and drawings like this one showing the inside of their boat and their voyage.

Wonder-Shantyboat-YouTube

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Advantages of a Shanty Boat vs. Sail or Powerboat

I have a very dear friend in Florida who is always trying to convince me to give up the shanty boat idea. “Come up here,” he says, “and get a REAL boat. Then you can sail it back down to Panama if you want.”

Well, there are a lot of reasons I don’t want to do that. One, I don’t really want to go back to the States even to visit. People around here often ask me if I don’t miss my family and friends up north. Well, sure. But if I travel some place I want to go to somewhere I’ve never been before. I don’t need to go visit those people up there. I KNOW what it looks like where they live. They should come down HERE and take part in the adventure of a different country and culture.

But getting back to the theme of this post. One of the big disadvantages of powerboats and sailboats as live aboards is the DRAFT. My lovely Nancy Dawson which I lived on for nearly six years drew 4′ feet.

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That meant that I needed to be in AT LEAST four and a half feet of water and also take into account the tidal range. For instance, over here around Boca Chica where I’d like to be, the tidal range is as much as 19 feet! Take a gander of these sport fishing boats at Boca Chica…(By the way, there are MANY world record catches off the shores in this area).

 

Jolie Aire-Golfe Juan

The boat I ran over in France, after we changed the old, short-weighted wing keel which made the boat dangerously unstable for a spade-type keel drew over TEN FEET!!!

 

DSC08468-sport-fish-weight-station

Because of this great tidal range (it’s only about 3′ over in the Bocas del Toro area) if you’re in a sailboat with a keel or a power boat where the props and rudders hang below the level of the keel, you have to be anchored quite a way from the beach in order to stay afloat or pay an outrageous fee for a dock at a marina.

With a shanty boat you can choose from a couple of options. You could hang around, see where the low tide line is and anchor yourself just off it and walk ashore since your boat will only have a draft of a foot or so. Of course, six hours after you left it will be high tide and you’ll either have to wait for the tide to fall or swim out to your home. OR, if you’ve built your boat sturdy enough, you can go inshore as far as possible and “take the ground” as they say if you’ve found a nice protected spot where there isn’t much wave action to bounce you around as the tide drops.

In either case you’re going to want/need to have a dinghy. I wrote this several years ago…https://onemoregoodadventure.com/2009/04/29/the-boaters-car-of-pickup-truck/

My choice for a dinghy is the Puddle Duck Racer. I’ve written about it before on this blog. http://pdracer.com

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Still Learning My Way Around…

I’ve live around David (DahVEED) Panama for nearly six years and I’m STILL trying to figure my way around here. Not having a car I naturally depend on the buses (very good) and the taxis (ubiquitous) to get around. When someone else is always doing the driving, and you’re always going on the same route you don’t pay much attention to where you are.

Yesterday I wanted to go check out a Home Depot-type place in David called Cochez which was advertising some styrofoam-type 2’X4’X5/8″ drop ceiling tiles at a cheap price that might be used as flotation for the shanty boat barge I’d like to build, and then do some shopping at the Romero market in San Mateo. The yellow stick pin (left center) marks the beginning of red line in the pic where the bus turns off the Inter American Hwy. to go into town and shows where I go shopping at Romero. It also shows the Cochez store (upper center). I had to take a taxi from the stand at Las Brisa to Cochez ($1.25).

RED LINE

 

The guy at Cochez said they were practically out of the tiles and he didn’t know if they were planning to get more in, and if they DID, they certainly wouldn’t be that cheap the next time. He told me that THEY actually ordered the tiles from a place called PREMIUM CENTER, and that I should try there.

So I went out into the heat of the day and flagged down a taxi to take me to Premium Center.

PREMIUM CENTER

It couldn’t have been very far away because it was also just a buck and a quarter fare. I saw the stuff they had and found out that the amount that I’d need to float a good-sized pontoon boat would cost me less than $400.

At this point, though, I’m thoroughly lost. I don’t have a clue where I am, but my hips are aching like crazy so I decide to postpone shopping until today (Friday) and I flag down another cab to take me to the local KFC (sometimes, when you’re living in foreign country you get these strange gustatory cravings that can’t be explained or ignored). Besides, it was near an area I knew and could reorient myself geographically.

While the sheets that Premium Center had in stock could be adapted to what I want to do there are naturally a lot of questions that you remember to ask when you’re sitting on the bus on the way back home. So I decided to go back to Premium Center and ask more questions. But before I went I looked on line to see where they were located in relation to Romero so I could do my shopping before the weekend. Guess what???

5 blocks

They’re a lousy FIVE AND A HALF BLOCKS APART!!!

Live and learn.

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Nutty Idea # ???

Lately my idea of building a shanty “boat” has shifted to building a shanty “raft.” As a Canadian member of my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/427634977405622/ calls them, “Float Shacks.”  One of the main reasons for this recent focus is the building process would be a lot easier. I have also been thinking about how to keep the costs down and one way would be by using recyclable materials.

One of the very few things that disappoint me about Panama, and there are really only two, is that so many people treat this beautiful country as a trash can. Sometimes you can almost imagine dad telling the family, “Okay, everybody in the car. We’re going to drive around for a while and throw shit out the windows.” (The other thing I don’t like is the loud music all over the place. It doesn’t have to be GOOD music but it does have to be LOUD!) I got into it with a woman one time on the bus. When she finished drinking her soda she opened the window and tossed the empty out onto the Interamerican Highway. I admonished her in my horrible Spanish and a couple of nearby Panamanian riders backed me up. One of the most egregious things I’ve seen, and this is the absolute truth, one trash day the garbage truck was stopped outside my gate. One of the workers was drinking from a two liter bottle of water. When he polished it off, what do you think he did? Did he throw the empty into the truck? Of course not, the idiot threw it into the grass. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Anyway, I’m thinking about the possibility of using plastic bottles as flotation. I like the idea of 55-gal plastic drums, and I need to investigate that further. The only place I asked for pricing wanted $35/each for used barrels. In one plan good plan I saw online I’d need 14 of them which is $490! But I see a hardware company distribution yard when I take the bus into David (Dah VEED) and they always seem to have a lot of those drums. The reason it might not be able to get them cheaply here unlike in the States is that water service is often sporadic here and outages are a way of life, so many, many houses have these barrels as a reserve water supply.

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And the framing required to make something like this is made out of 2X6 and 2X10 lumber and lag bolts and it’s HEAVY. Here’s an example of what I mean…

gaps

 

But as far as using bottles I saw this on my last trip over to Bocas del Toro in July… It wasn’t very big, but it’s all a matter of just working things out, right?

bocas bottles 2

 

There are LOTS of discarded bottles lying around down here. One thought that crossed my mind would be to approach the schools in the area and tell the kids that I’d pay them, say, 5 cents for each two liter bottle that was clean, no label and a cap. That doesn’t seem like much to gringos like us (I use the word “gringo” all the time and I use it to mean anyone here whose native language isn‘t Spanish.), but you have to realize what it is to the local people, especially the indigenous kids who live around here. The owner of the house I rent wants to have it painted and one guy that came to bid the job said he works for $15 A DAY!!! So picking up 300 bottles other people have thrown away would be a fortune to a bunch of young indian kids. But down here it’s what’s called “Summer” and school doesn’t start until March 2nd, so I need to wait a few weeks before I can make my pitch.

I could also get some free radio publicity. A nearby neighbor, and friend, is a reporter for one of the local radio stations. We’ve often talked about how awful the mind set of people is who throw trash around. I’d be willing to bet if I approached him with my idea of using discarded bottles I’d be able to get some free air-time. After all, when the town I live in, Boqueron, had their feast day celebration for their patron saint last October, they put out a small magazine and half of one page was devoted to the only gringo that lives in their pueblo…ME!

But this morning, over my morning cup of locally-grown coffee, I stumbled across THIS and I think this could be the deal. Milk crates filled with 2-liter bottles. As you can see in the video it’s sagging where the guy is sitting but that’s because the thing is held together with plastic wire ties. Certainly not designed for strength and durability. A couple of ways of overcoming that that instantly pop to mind would be to somehow through-bolt the crates together, or build a simple 2X4 frame around the top and bottom edges to keep it rigid. Another possibility might be to screw 1/4″ plywood with fiberglass sheathing to the outside, or perhaps just paint it. I’m not building a yacht here, and I’m nearly 73 years old with COPD and three stents in my arteries. How many years do I have to figure on being on the thing, anyway? There are 9 bottles per crate, so I need to go measure a crate and see how many I’ll need to put together something around 10’X24′ . I might have to double up on the crates to get enough clearance for the deck above water.

Where would I get the crates? You won’t find those along the side of the road. Not a problem. Chiriqui province is the bread basket of Panama, and on the short trip over to Bugaba, to the west of Boqueron, there are THREE dairies: Estrella, Nevada and La Chiricana. I’ll have to stop in and see if I can buy a bunch from them. I bet if I explain what I plan to do they’ll go along with it.

Anyway, this is the thing that’s got my willie tingling this morning.

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Dream Material

I have said before that the “Tiny House” movement has some great ideas that could easily be adapted to shanty boats. Today while looking for something else, I stumbled on this site which is certainly grist for the mill and should keep some of you dreamers from falling asleep.

The site is: http://cabinporn.com Go to the archive to find several years worth of thumbnails that are definitely inspirational. Some have already made it to the water.

How about this wonderful floating raft cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

Raft Cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

 

Tell me this one isn’t cool as all get out…

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I wouldn’t be surprised to find this way up in the Atchafalaya Basin somewhere…

 

Atchafalaya

Rustic river shack in Lychen, Germany.  Contributed by Jessica Prescott.

rustic german shack

Floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#1

 

Another floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#2

Enjoy your dreams…make them come true, though.

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Shanty Boat

Readers from my other blog: http://houseboatshantyboatbuilders.wordpress.com have been successful in building their own Shanty Boat out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their blog: http://floatingempire.blogspot.com details their philosophy behind the build and the actual construction process itself. Give it a read.

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