Boat In a Suitcase

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by slboatdesing, Sep 2, 2022.

  1. slboatdesing
    Joined: Aug 2022
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    Location: Maldives

    slboatdesing Senior Member

    With the cost of docking a boat high, over $500 per month, and with trailering such a messy practice, it would seem that porting the boat in the boot (or trunk) of a car is the best thing. I would never have imagined it, but there are some intrepid inventors who have come up with these things, there are even commercially available folding boats.

    Let's start with something from a web search:

    Instaboat Pirogue - Aluminum Folding Portable Boat

    Quickboat Folding Boat Can Assemble In Three Minutes

    Porta-Bote International

    If I ever own a boat, and I am determined to have one as soon as possible, it will have to be a folding one transportable by car or by van or by pickup. The commercially available boats are about $3,000 and the home built ones are somewhat complex. So lets come up with a design.

    The images show my preliminary design: aluminium tubes covered in canvas - just how this will be done is to be determined, in 3 removable 3 ft sections. The aluminium pontoon boat floor shows how this may be possible. The boat is 10ft long. The green item represents a canvas that will be transported folded up, but unfolded and put on the boat like a sock. The canvas will be waterproofed on its own, the frame will bear the loads of the engine, persons on board and battery. At present this is planned as three removable sections that can be stacked one on top of each other or nested with some adjustments. The last images shows the frames inside a box about 20 cubic metres in size, the boot volume of the new Ford Taurus.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 2, 2022
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  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Ummm, a slight correction - the link for the Taurus gives the boot volume as 20 cubic feet, not metres - that is a big difference!

    It sounds like a lot of hassle to assemble the boat shown in your drawing - I think it would be a lot easier to simply have an inflatable boat, and use an electric pump to inflate it (rather than a foot pump). And an inflatable boat has so many other advantages as well, such as built in buoyancy if you are swamped.

    If you had a station wagon rather than a saloon car, you could possibly put a 10' two part nesting dinghy in the back of the car - I have fitted my 8' 2 part dinghy in the back of my station wagon.
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  3. Kayakmarathon
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    Kayakmarathon Senior Member

    I designed and built a 17 foot fiberglass canoe that unbolted into 3 sections for air travel. The end sections nested into the midship, which was about 9 foot long.
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  4. slboatdesing
    Joined: Aug 2022
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    Location: Maldives

    slboatdesing Senior Member

    Yes the Taurus boot is 20 cubic feet not metres, which is a typo. The station wagon is a good option, good to know you can fit the boat into the car. Two sections is manageable.

    17ft canoe in three sections? 9 foot long part in an airplane? I have seen people flying with skateboards (not actually flying) so it is possible.

    There was a nested boats plans is one.

    Dinghies and Tenders - Spindrift Dinghy - B&B Yacht Designs

    As for suitcases, here are some baggage sizes.

    Standard Luggage Sizes? – A Guide To Typical Suitcase Dimensions & Average Measurements
  5. Dolfiman
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    Dolfiman Senior Member

  6. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    If you want a bizarre or hyper specialized boat, go for it. Wanting any kind of boat is a enough. But don't start with decring trailering boats as a messy practice... only to pitch a complex jig saw of an idea that fits in a car that hasn't been made in over 4 years.

    In the puff puff pass world of ideas just state "hey I'd like to make a Lego boat cause it sounds like a cool idea". We've all been there and can relate. I've trailered all manner of boats on all manner of substrate with everything from atvs to hatch backs on up to ag tractors since long before legal driving age. It's only messy to the uninitiated.

    Junctions add weight and potential leak points. Old schoole teacher family brought one out to the village when I was a kid. Cool idea and probably good for a very casual user. They eneded up with a spam can (basic riveted alloy boat that back in the day was the Same blue as spam) few months later. Somehow they ended up giving the Porta boat to us when they moved away. Wasted some good 5200 trying to fix seams on that thing.

    Portable and fits in a trunk..... hypalon inflatables will blow your mind if you give them a try. My old Achilles shouldn't be even lumped in with the new modern multi chambered things. Some are good enough they really only loose to rigid hulls in jagged rocky areas.

    If paddle power fits your fancy.... my custom alpaca raft showed up this summer while I was away. Pulled it out of its tiny little box this week and wowza, it's pretty cool. Keep in mind this is a raft that fits in a standard book bag and fits my size 14 shoes and 6 foot 4 inch frame... can't wait to try it out.

    Some solutions aren't yet unsolved...

    Even so, foldy trunk boat could be something. Sooner the better, once you build the first one you can do what almost all of us did. Start designing # 2 before # 1 was even fully done...

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  7. Barry
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    Barry Senior Member

    How did you fasten the sections together?
  8. rnlock
    Joined: Aug 2016
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    rnlock Senior Member

    Any reason we're not considering putting the boat on top? I once had two boats, one inside the other, on top of my Saturn SL (not a big car). One was a sailboat that could carry 4 adults without bogging down, the other a rowboat that could carry 3. At other times, I carried a 14 foot rowboat: Roar2 Plans PDF It was simple and light, so cartopping was no problem. If an engine is used, maybe that should ride in the car's trunk, unless it's very light. Engines are useful for bringing along the noise that I'm trying to get away from when boating.

    I inherited a boat that's too heavy for cartopping, but trailering is easy. with the boat behind the car, it hardly changed the gas mileage. The only serious drawbacks I see are:
    -you have to wait until the boat ramp is free
    -you can only launch in certain places, though if one is alert there are probably more than just the official locations. If one has a trailer with reasonably large tires, it may be possible to use it as a boat dolly to, say, get to the water on a beach
    -highway tolls may be interesting

    If you do go with something that folds or nests, I suggest you review a bunch of other designs before going too far with your ideas. You might pick up a few good tricks to use. I suppose such a boat is the only real option if you want to go someplace on an airplane and take your boat along. I've seen people assembling a folding kayak for 2. It seemed to be quite a bit of trouble, but it was a lot of boat for the size of the container. I think it was a Klepper.

    There used to be a company called Folbot. They made folding kayaks, mostly relatively wide. Also, at least one style of motorboat:
    Amazing 16' Vintage Folbot Folding Boat Kayak & Oars Charleston SC - 1960's WOW! | #218923708

    I'm not sure any of their plans are available, and I don't know what the cover was. I'm sure it was stronger than canvas. I think I had a sample many years ago. It seemed reasonably thick and quite tough.
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  9. portacruise
    Joined: Jun 2009
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    portacruise Senior Member

    If you do a search on pack in boats, you will find plenty of inflatable boat examples that easily fit completely inside a carry on suitcase, including the aforementioned alpaca.

    For many years, I have been using a self-customized electric powered version of a fly fisherman's float tube which weighs less than 30 lb. I use when traveling by airlines, and everything including a 3 oz battery inflator fits inside a carry on.

    Point being that it's not necessary to build one from scratch, various existing designs can the customized to fit your particular suitcase criteria.
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  10. mitchgrunes
    Joined: Jul 2020
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    mitchgrunes Senior Member

    I don't know what kind of boat you have in mind, but it is reasonable to assume that the added complexity in any such design comes at a cost in reliability, weight and performance, and in some cases it will take more time to get it ready. (BTW, docked boats that are kept in the water require a fair bit of maintenance too.)

    I looked somewhat into foldable and packable and inflatable kayaks.

    What all the ones I looked at had in common is that they required a fair bit of maintenance. In comparison, under normal circumstances, a polyethylene or fiberglass (or some other composite material) kayak requires none over a period of decades, though it helps to occasionally spray fiberglass and other composite boats with a UV protectant, if stored in the sun, and many people prefer to keep them indoors.

    Also, there is always some degree of weight and performance hit. Even in the cases that you bolt a kayak together out of 3 rigid pieces, and they fit snugly enough for good streamlining, there has to be some extra weight, because there have to be 4 bulkheads.

    There have been a few combo boat/cars, though they are very expensive, and it is almost certainly hard to find qualified mechanics to repair them.

    Also, if you have a gasoline powered engine, many would say gasoline isn't all that safe inside a car. Though electric motors and batteries could be reasonably safe inside a car. I suspect, though I could be wrong, that electric motors require less maintenance than gas motors - but I don't have the experience to be certain.

    OTOH, my whitewater kayak fits inside my car. I chose both partly by that criteria, but it is fairly normal to have a whitewater or surf kayak small enough to fit inside many cars and trucks. A Baidarka (a slim fast-full-waterline-length skin-on-frame sea kayak, possibly not stable enough for beginners) would fit inside some vans, at a diagonal (Typical length: about 14', with variations). So would some rec boats.

    And of course, as a prior poster noted, many boats and boards are roof rackable.

    Some rigid SUPs would fit easily in a car. Higher end inflatable SUPs seem to be quite common now, and would fit even more easily.

    A lot of sailboats sort of come apart. E.g., you take down the sail(s), and maybe the masts. Some of them can be car topped. I don't sail myself, but it is an option.

    While trailering is common, I'll warn you that it is a lot harder and somewhat less safe to drive something towing a trailer than a more normal vehicle. I did a little entry level kayak instructing for LL Bean, and had to tow a trailer full of kayaks. It was kind of a nuisance, and you have to be careful.

    So - you should think hard about what type of boat you want, and decide whether packability is all that important for your purposes. A relatively lightweight car top boat might be a pretty good starting point for getting into boating, with a lower price point and less maintenance time and cost. And depending on where you are going, you might be able to fit a single piece boat inside some vehicles.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2022
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  11. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I store my K79 inflatable kayak in a big old suit case. Near impossible to fit back into the supplied bag, plus the big suit case enables accessories like pump and patches etc to be in same grab and go unit. Working on adding backpack straps to the suitcase.
  12. slboatdesing
    Joined: Aug 2022
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    slboatdesing Senior Member

    Many comments, I reply...

    Never trailered anything, sorry. This is an option then. This means storing the boat at home, which is not an option.

    Junctions add weight, yes, but as for the leak points, my solution was to cover the underneath with a canvas just like
    the Foldbot.

    See below

    Reviewing. Great ideas here. The Reverso is brilliant, but since I have set a goal that the boat has to fit in a suitcase, I will proceed designing along those lines. Also, this has to be a DIY boat.

    The Folbot is very close to what I require. Here are some details copied from that site.

    Up for auction is a 16' Folding Folbot Boat
    I have personally disassembled and reassembled this boat. It took me approximately 2 hours, and that was with no previous knowledge of how to do so. I would estimate that I could have it back apart and together in an hour or so now that I understand it's design and layout. ...
    ...As the boat probably weighs 150-200 LBS

    Inflatable boats don't quite have the look I want. Maybe an inflatable speedboat?
  13. slboatdesing
    Joined: Aug 2022
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    Location: Maldives

    slboatdesing Senior Member

    This is the kind of boat I want:

    Current 2022 Turn Key Models | Minijet Inc.

    The question is where am I going to use it? The lake I had in mind has crocodiles in it: not the place to experiment with a new boat. So it will have to be the beach, which possibly I can find with the permissions from the authorities. The boat has to be set up within 1 hour and be light enough to carry or wheel to the beach. It need not be very fast to begin with, with an electric trolling style motor for a start, and modest 4-8 knot cruising speeds.

    Here is one of the beaches I had in mind: or maybe a lagoon. This is looking more and more out of reach, but just let me complete the design. Maybe a boat-in- parts can be transported and moored out at one of the resorts out there.

    Motor Boats On The Beach Of Unawatuna, Sri Lanka Editorial Image - Image of journey, ocean: 51535640

    The park nearby has a metal frame in the shape of a fish, and it gave me some ideas. (Image attached). The front section is about 10ft (3m) in length and strong enough as constructed. If the metal pieces could be cut into lengths of 70 cm (26 inches?) each, these can be assembled into a frame, and the pieces can be accommodated in a suitcase. Back to the 3D editor to plan.

    The 3D image now shows a single- seat boat. It looks pretty small for 10ft, with the figure filling half of it. The 9 iron square lengths should fit in the suitcase (shown in green behind and as a series of boxes on the left). Connecting them is another matter, for the moment let's fill the required volume.

    Attached Files:

  14. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    I am confused - your location says that you are in the Maldives, yet you want to use this boat on a lake with crocodiles - are you actually based in Sri Lanka?

    Your metal frame box boat (for want of a better description) looks to me like it will be very complicated to construct and take apart, it is going to have the hydrodynamics, stability and seakeeping of literally a box - and how are you going to arrange for reserve buoyancy to keep you afloat if you get swamped?

    If you are in Sri Lanka, could you not simply keep the boat (of a more conventional shape) on a mooring off the beach, as per the boats in the photo in the link?

  15. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Rumars Senior Member

    Please use the search function, we discussed this kind of boat before. In short, your design lacks stiffness and a way to tension the skin. Look at the commercial offerings to see how you can solve those problems.
    It's doable, but the suitcase will be a mighty one. Plan for approx. 40-50kg (88-110lbs).
    Crocodiles and soft skinned boats are not exactly a good match.
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