Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Well the time has come to finally begin work on something I have planned for many years but have simply not had time to start until now: the construction of a wooden boat. I have always loved boating but rarely had the means or the opportunity to do so. Being military I was always on the move and never really got around to getting a boat. Once I got married I was busy with kids and sports and everything else that goes along with having a family. After I retired I started work in Charlotte NC and live only a couple miles from the local lake (Lake Wylie, SC), and less than and hour from several others. Still no boat for me. Time was not on my side, and so I dreamt about it hoping that one day I might be able to build one.

Now don't get me wrong, buying a used boat would be far easier than building one, but I have never been one for easy. I love projects and have a significant project list going right now. Adding a boat to this list seems like a crazy idea, but I thought about it long and hard. Not adding it means I'll never get started and the dream will never happen.  Now I can't neglect the projects I have to complete that are already on the list, and honestly most of them are not that large, but necessary. Things like painting the house trim, converting an old butler's pantry into a real pantry, staining the pool deck, etc. Things that have to get done as part of an ongoing routine maintenance program. These things take priority, but there will always remain the thing I want to do and not the things I have to do. Putting it on the list forces me to make the time I need to work on the boat, keeps me active and gives me an outlet from the stresses of daily work, and who doesn't need that. In essence it is a way for me to maintain my sanity while giving us something to look forward to in the future.

Now that I have decided to build one, the thoughts turned to what type of boat. If you ask my daughter what type of boat is best, she'll want something that she can tube behind. Ask my wife and she'll want something that we can sleep on overnight. If you ask me, I want relaxation. Something more suited to enjoying the journey from point A to point B and spending time with my family. That premise led me to research a lot of options. Eventually I settled on the Redwing series of boats from Chesapeake Marine designer Karl Stambaugh. The Redwings are displacement boats that run in the 5-10 knot range on low HP outboards. I eventually settled on the Redwing 21 Pilothouse plan, but lengthened another two feet to 23' per his options in the plans. 21' might have been enough boat, but the additional two feet gives a lot more room in the boat, which in a small boat like this is important.

Overall this boat offers a lot to a small family as designed. It has a V-berth for 2 people at the bow, a minimal galley and head (porta pottie), cabin house to get out of the weather, and an open cockpit at the rear to enjoy the fresh air. While this is a great start, it doesn't exactly suit what I am after exactly, but it does offer a lot of flexibility in the fit out of the interior to meet my expectations. Thus, I do intend on making a few changes to better serve our needs.

The original version has the pilot house extending only to the rear of the enclosed cabin. I wanted something the extended over the rear cockpit as well to afford more sun protection for those in the rear of the boat. Extending this cabin top roof over the aft cockpit also offers the options to fully enclose the boat in canvas when the boat is used overnight. Doing so allows me to fit out an additional berth at the rear of the boat that can sleep an additional person(s). I am weighing options right now as how to best accomplish this. I can do this berth much like an RV, acting as a settee with a table during day use, with the table being lowered down and covered with cushions for sleeping. Using this option I am limited to guests less than 6'-0" tall . This option only works with side seating with a table in the center. While it offers a lot of flexibility, it also takes up the most space and leaves very little extra room. Optionally, I have considered crosswise seating at the rear of the cockpit. I can fit 3 people across while underway with a small table in front of them, and at night I can remove the table, hinge the seat up, and place cushions on the floor of the boat as a berth. I am leaning towards this option since it offers me the most space during non-sleeping times. A couple camp chairs can be placed on the opposite side of the table so 4 persons can eat in comfort. In a small boat, dual use of space is a big deal. In essence you get a lot more boat in the same length.

The small galley just after of the V-berth will be removed and the helm and passenger chairs moved forward to compensate for that space. The galley and head will move to aft of the pilothouse seats, and the head will become a combination head/shower. The enclosed pilothouse will end at this point, becoming an open cockpit covered by the extended roofline. This cockpit will be just over 6' long and will offer the option of being enclosed in canvas during inclement weather or overnighting. Cooking will be via a small propane boat stove, and food storage will be via (2) small yeti coolers placed under the galley and helm seats. I'm still working that part out in my head.

Power will be a Honda 25HP or similar outboard mounted in an enclosed well at the rear. This setup ought make 6-8 knots in a quiet and fuel efficient manner. I do intend to add a swim platform at the rear, more for re-boarding the boat than anything. A small RV style AC unit may be mounted to allow for comfortable sleeping while being used in hotter weather. If I add this I will also add a small portable Honda generator that can be stowed away when not in use. Having an outboard well gives a lot of stowage space on either side of the motor. The bottom will have a box keel to help with seakeeping abilities, and will afford a place to keep battery weight down low. It will also give me a place to store fresh/gray water. The head will be a composting type toilet

Overall I think the idea is sound. Being a CAD guy by trade, I am using my skills to draw up the proposed changes and make sure they work. So far so good. A couple more evenings work and I should have something to show everyone. I am a firm believer that no boat is perfect for everyone, but by building one we get something that is awfully close for minimal cost.