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Old 06-07-2017, 09:09   #1
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Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Back in 1989, I read an article in Mother Earth News about a person who built a houseboat, the Brandy Bar. (you can google it and article is still online) Now, 28 years later, divorced and an empty nester, I have been thinking about it again.

I am about 8 years from retiring and my first thought was to get a trailer and become a nomad for a few years, traveling around the country, but I have always been interested in travelling via inter-coastal rivers and lakes.

In my mind, I imagine something small, shallow draft houseboat (the Brandy Bar) or barge boat that I can cruise the Great Lakes, always within sight of land, travel the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee Rivers. Erie Canal, Mohawk, Hudson, Lake Champlain. Dropping anchor where I want, only porting for supplies and visiting for a short time. I am used to living small, have a 700 sq. ft house, but only use a couple rooms now since it is just myself.

Live in a northern climate, love the change in seasons, the cold winters, (lets you know you are still alive). I have no boating experience. I am looking to build something myself, start with weekend trips and plan on transitioning to full time in retirement. Thinking I would stay mostly up north, only traveling south before I am frozen in. I backpack, hike and camp, so used to roughing it, used to living primitive, so finding a marina and staying for a long period of time does not sound appealing.

What do you think? Love to hear all opinions.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:18   #2
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Building a boat is for someone who wants to build a boat, and then, maybe, as a nice coincidence, later on use the boat. If you're not that interested in building, and really just want a boat that you can USE, then you will be time and money ahead to just buy something. Perhaps something that needs a bit of cleaning up and minor work, but with a solid hull and decent engine(s).

Good luck.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:50   #3
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Welcome Csnlynn,

I like your idea. Try Googling "shanty boats" and "Great Loop Trip". I think that you will find a wealth of relevant information.

Have fun!!
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:16   #4
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Of course it is doable. Whether it is a good idea for you or not is the question. And it relates to another question, which is the quality of build and materials, intended level of seaworthiness, and projeccted lifespan. You can knock a shantyboat together out of plywood and 2x4s in a week. Or you can build something nice and take years. The slappe together one might only last a few months, or a year or two. Good construction and materials with sound design and it could outlast you.

You won't get the same results from a $3k budget as you would from a $300k budget.

Honestly, there are plenty of boats that can be had for just a few $k or even a few hundred, even free (beware, it has often been said that the free boat is the most expensive kind!) that you can use on inland waters with a reasonable degree of safety and economy. There are lots of old chriscrafts and similar boats up on blocks that the owners have given up all hope of ever getting rid of. Beware of inboard/outboards. IME, they end up costing a lot more. An ordinary diesel inboard is IMHO your best bet. Gasoline inboards require a level of discipline and diligence that most new boaters do not have. However a gasoline outboard can be good insurance and backup, assuming topside storage of gas, or a properly installed and vented fixed fuel tank. Dont buy an old beater without a good understanding of what it will take to get it afloat and mobile. Don't even think about it if there is no title. A lot of boats on blocks are there because nobody is stupid enough to come and take it with no title. Watch for soft decks. A small area you can fix easily enough. A large expanse of rotten deck core is going to cost twice as much to repair as the boat will EVER be worth. Watch for rotten bulkheads, ribs, and stringers. They are usually dealbreakers. Visit the boat during a heavy rainstorm and look for leaks overhead. Old boats get a lot of them, and fair weather is no time to evaluate the dryness of the cabin.

For inland only, if your budget allows, you might consider the much maligned McGregor 26, new. It is probably the cheapest new boat you can get that you can live aboard in any sort of reasonable manner. It motors easily with an outboard, and you can step the mast and sail it. They are quite roomy for a 26 foot sailboat. They are easily trailered and can go into very skinny water. NOT NOT NOT recommended for taking to sea, though many have, and live to tell about it. Oddly enough they seem to hold resale value fairly well.
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:27   #5
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Thanks for the tip on googling "Great Loop Trip". Just the info I was looking for.

I definitely want to build because I like building and can build the way I want it.
Also make it the size I want and insulate it properly for northern use also. Not really a Florida beach person and would want to spend as much time in the north as possible.
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:34   #6
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Why don't you purchase an old catamaran, put two new engines in it, and use it as a power boat for the purposed itinerary.

Having two engines and 700 square foot of deck space could do what you want to do. It would not even matter if it had a mast.

In Australia, I met a guy on a fifty foot sailing catamaran without a mast. He used it as a power yacht, and he was happy with his decision.
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Old 06-07-2017, 13:00   #7
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrowleyMonster View Post
Of course it is doable. Whether it is a good idea for you or not is the question. And it relates to another question, which is the quality of build and materials, intended level of seaworthiness, and projeccted lifespan. You can knock a shantyboat together out of plywood and 2x4s in a week. Or you can build something nice and take years. The slappe together one might only last a few months, or a year or two. Good construction and materials with sound design and it could outlast you.
"Shantyboat" is more of a lifestyle than a "method" of construction or an indicator of quality.

I have seen some home built Bruce Roberts designs that were complete crap and I have seen some beautifully built Shantyboats.

A number of Bolger designs are popular as well as the Triloboat line.

Whatever you decide to build, build it safe and build it the way you want it.

What is MOST important is that you pursue YOUR dream and don't let anyone else dictate.

If you get out on "the loop" before I do, please send pictures
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Old 06-07-2017, 15:08   #8
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

There was an article in small craft advisor about Dianne's Rose. A Small trailer able house boat that might meet your requirement's. There wsd Aldo s smillar craft built. And displayed at the Port Aransas wooden boat show two years ago named chubby I think.
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Old 07-07-2017, 07:28   #9
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

I had seen the Dianne Rose. The person who built this has quite a few videos on YouTube. This could be something I would be interested in, maybe a bit longer. I have been watching a lot of narrow boat videos from England, drawing inspiration from them also.
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Old 07-07-2017, 07:53   #10
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

I think what you want is 100% doable and a good plan. Not sure about the buy / build / convert options - these are all up to your skills and inclination. Building is very time consuming, leaves no time for sailing/travel.

You are right about the four seasons. We live in the tropics now and I miss only one thing - 12 inches of fresh white powder in the morning.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 07-07-2017, 10:30   #11
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Just a thought. Why not rent some kind of craft for a couple of weeks on one of the rivers you mention and see how it goes?

I can certainly see a life of brown-water cruising working, for the right person, at least for a while. I can also see a thousand ways it can fail. In fact, I probably HAVE seen a thousand "dream boats" sunk in the bayous, or left to rot on a remote shore or in the back of a marina yard.
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Old 07-07-2017, 10:47   #12
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post

You are right about the four seasons. We live in the tropics now and I miss only one thing - 12 inches of fresh white powder in the morning.

Cheers,
b.

I will happily trade places with you this winter so you can enjoy the snow.

I despise the stuff.
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Old 07-07-2017, 19:04   #13
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

I'll be the guy that jumps on the "are you kidding!?" bandwagon.
Building a boat is a form of self-crucifiction, and (many) articles I've read state that by the time the boat was built (and so much money lost) they had lost all interest in actually using it. Unless you (love) building, (and have done so professionally), you simply can't travel about the U.S. In a camper, and build the boat too: it is a full time job. Many here have suggested excellent alternatives...

Boatbuilding is simply a losing enterprise. I looked at an Alejuella recently, and the refit cost $100,000... what you're asking of yourself is expensive, extremely difficult, and unbelievably time-consuming: many build an entire shop to house the boat construction project in first.

Easy is much better:
I refit a Chrysler 22, swing keel bracket and all, and I would never do it again.

Bill
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Old 07-07-2017, 19:22   #14
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

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I'll be the guy that jumps on the "are you kidding!?" bandwagon.
Building a boat is a form of self-crucifiction, and (many) articles I've read state that by the time the boat was built (and so much money lost) they had lost all interest in actually using it. Unless you (love) building, (and have done so professionally), you simply can't travel about the U.S. In a camper, and build the boat too: it is a full time job. Many here have suggested excellent alternatives...

Boatbuilding is simply a losing enterprise. I looked at an Alejuella recently, and the refit cost $100,000... what you're asking of yourself is expensive, extremely difficult, and unbelievably time-consuming: many build an entire shop to house the boat construction project in first.

Easy is much better:
I refit a Chrysler 22, swing keel bracket and all, and I would never do it again.

Bill
I have never built a boat.

I have built a couple of houses and am currently working on my 3rd bus (to RV) conversion.

I can't tell you how many people told me "you are better off buying one already built!"

BULL COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!

I enjoy building and creating. I like having things built the way I want them.

I know a handful of people who have built beautiful (and a few not so beautiful) boats and went on to enjoy sailing them. It is not for everyone.

Yes, I have seen plenty of unfinished (house, boat, RV, etc) building projects that are on their 3rd or 4th owner and are not finished.

If you think you want to build for yourself then do your research. Talk to others who have built their own and if you still want to then GO FOR IT!
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Old 12-07-2017, 10:00   #15
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Re: Does this sound like a pipe dream?

Thanks for the supportive words mohave_steve, I think I am more cut from your cloth than others, though there are no wrong opinions here, just opinions.

Just to place my ideas in context, I have added a small addition to my current home and I hand dug the foundation. I have always had more time than money and have never found that doing something yourself was more expensive than paying someone to do it for you. I too like things my way. I would love to incorporate my great grandmother's pie safe into the kitchen layout. In my mind, it would be more of a floating gypsy wagon that a polished teak and mahogany ship.

I have built more things with hand tools than power. I think I was born a hundred years or so too soon...though I love my internet and all the modern medical advances.
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