Building a "houseboat"

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by Bruce 01, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    Hi, and thanks for a very informative website! I'm pushing 58, expect to retire by 65, and would like to build a "boat" meantime. More on that in a moment.

    I've been a toolmaker all my life, self-employed for the last 23 years, and my shop is in my backyard. I know carpentry, basic plumbing and wiring, and have access to TIG and MIG welders. What I do NOT have is any boat-building experience. And my boating experience itself is limited to a small jet boat I bought 6 years ago. I never thought I would like boating that much, but the older I get the more I like it, and the less I tend to ride my relatively dangerous motorcycle, which I've been doing since I was 19.

    I've been Googling around for some time now, checking out books, forums, whatever I can find, and this seems to be the best place to ask questions.

    What I want to build is a simple, inexpensive, quasi "houseboat" from a used pontoon boat, which has yet to be aquired. Not really a houseboat, but just something for, say, two couples to spend overnight on. An enclosed cabin, a small room with chemical toilet, some sort of auxilliary power for lighting, radio, etc., a simple gravity feed faucet and sink for hand washing, etc. I do not want to build an ugly, amateurish-looking wooden shanty on floats.

    I live in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, south of Rochester, and the boat will have to be trailerable. I may or may not leave it in the water for the summer, depending on a lot of things. The Barge Canal is only 20-30 miles away from me, and the ultimate goal is to travel on that for some weeks during the summer after I retire. That would likely just be me and my girlfriend, and the canal being dotted with towns, we would probably rent a room and eat at diners a lot, so it's not like we would be stuck on the boat for days on end.

    The canal is an international waterway, so aside from construction tips and ideas, I need some good advice on what I can and cannot do as far as altering an existing boat, weight limits, other requirements, etc.

    Any and all advice is welcomed, and thanks in advance.
     
  2. rasorinc
    Joined: Nov 2007
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    Location: OREGON

    rasorinc Senior Member

    houseboat build

    Go to Glen L boat designs. They have 2-3 houseboat plans that can be towed. The forum there is mostly wood boat builders although we have steel and aluninum + fiberglass also. Everyone is very helpful and wants every newcomer to succeed. You will feel right at home and your skills and knowledge will be welcome. I was just looking over the houseboat plans for the dinette sizes--you will find one you like and most can be made longer. they also have trailer plans you can weld or bolt up.

    I welcome you in advance, Stan Rasor (rasorinc)
     
  3. the1much
    Joined: Jul 2007
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    Location: maine

    the1much hippie dreams

    i dont know how much work you WANT to do,,,,but i've seen vinyl walls and so on, for "party barges" (pontoon) and they looked really cool and FAST,,you can have walls all around ya,,and rooms for each couple,,,and they have shower add ons,,,then in morning,,unzip everything and ya ready to cruise,,,,thats just 1 fast and simple option ;)
     
  4. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    Attached Files:

  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Pontoons aren't the best way to get a fairly good size houseboat. They seem initially an easy way to provide floatation, but there are other issues to consider, such as the mechanicals all have to be on or above the weather decks, usual sharing living spaces.

    [​IMG]

    This may be bigger then you desire (50' LOD, 16' beam), but is one of my designs. I have smaller houseboats as well, including a number that can be trailered back to the house and parked, saving storage fees. My houseboat designs represent more of a ship like attitude then floating Winnebago, which unfortunately many seem to appear.

    Drop me an email (click on my name) if interested in Belle or one of my other houseboat designs.
     
  6. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    Thanks for the reply, Stan.

    I looked that site over and it is way more complicated than what I want to do. I maybe should have made this point in my original post, but I have been making a living with my hands for 40 years, and believe me I get no real thrill out of it anymore, and in my spare time I usually do something other than create things with my hands.

    The only reason I want to build this thing is because I don't have the money to spend to just go out and buy it. And I'm not sure there even is anything out there like I want: not really a houseboat, just an enclosed party boat, no more than 20 or so feet long, with a few creature comforts to spend a few days on. Probably the most important thing is the ability to sleep out of the weather.

    I basically just want to build a simple floating cabin, using a purchased pontoon boat for a base. I don't need plans, just ideas as how this pertains to a boat, things to watch out for, and information about what I can or cannot alter so I am legal as far as the Coast Guard requires.
     
  7. the1much
    Joined: Jul 2007
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    Location: maine

    the1much hippie dreams

    hahahaha,,,SamSam,,,that looks more like a "houseraft" hehe,,,,and i was Thinking of yours Par ;) ,,but Dam,,them things are biggones hehe,,i want 2 ,,i promise if you make me 1 i'll buy the other in a few years are so,,or so,, hehe ;)
     
  8. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    LOL, I have to agree that boat is a bit ugly, BUT, after looking at the interior, it is exactly what I'm looking for -- maybe even a bit TOO fancy. But I would make some attempt to make the outside more appealing. But all in all, functionality is my main concern.
     
  9. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    Nice looking boat! But way too big, too much work, and too expensive for what I want.
     
  10. tinhorn
    Joined: Jan 2008
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    Location: Massachusetts South Shore.

    tinhorn Senior Member

    Search out "project boats" on eBay. I've seen a few dandies in the past few months. My own design is not nearly as fancy as PAR's:
     

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  11. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    A smaller houseboat (33' LOD, 9' beam) with a similar theme as Belle. This is "Floom" and a narrower version is available, for trailering without special permit.
     

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  12. lazeyjack

    lazeyjack Guest

    bruce , your user cp , does not allow emails or PM,s if you revise those preferences I can send you a houseboat which, at this stage I do not want made public
     
  13. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    I have a dream to one day explore the American canal system. In fact, I am constantly working with a design, one that can sail or motor or even pole at times. Narrowness (8 1/2 ft), shoal draft (2 ft), and a structure that will drop to 5 1/2 ft above the waterline are the limitations.
    The basis is a St Pierre dory with a lot of cockpit and a small cabin. The idea is one is going to be spending time on deck most of the time, so most of the accomodations are a large tent with roll-up sides.
    This boat could take side trips onto lakes or even go a ways offshore and sail (if modestly).
    A canal boat should be versatile, I think. Otherwise venturing out onto bigger water could be chancy. Canals also happen to have low bridges (in the old days on the Erie, the lowest-paying customers rode on top of the roof. It was not uncommon for an unwary passenger to be injured or even killed because they didn't duck in time.
    To get under bridges, the sailing rig has to be struck.
    The dory isn't everyone's cup of tea. While it is incredibly seaworthy, even a 28 footer will respond to ones movement about the boat by heeling due to its narrow bottom. It is exactly this quality that allows the dory to shrug off big rollers at sea, where its narrow bottom isn't as prone to being tripped as a flat and wide bottom might. That, lightness, and high ends are reasons that particular dory type is probably the most trusted simple boat ever designed (or maybe evolved).
    The pontoon concept puts bouyancy way out to each side, and so it's assumed the platform is practically uncapsizable. In reality, however, the design is severely comprimised anywhere except in relatively calm water.
    For one thing, tippiness from human movement is far different from instability when water conditions act on a hull.
    Add to this the fact that pontoon boats carry their weight high up, and you can see why they would be real death traps if one were caught out in a squall (this can happen anywhere---- imagine adding a 6 ft box to the basic pontoon boat platform. Scary!
    At least consider a boat-shaped hull, one that would allow your feet to be below the waterline, with a roof no more than 5 ft off the water, and with much of the accomodations having no headroom if not necessary---- berths, storage, eating area.
    Get the weight down low. Make a snug and safe water camper, not a clumsy and unsafe box on tubes.

    Alan
     
  14. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    Jack, I turned email on, but I cannot find any info about PMing. This format is used by nearly all forums now and they're nothing new to me, but usually the PM options are under "Messaging and Notification" but I don't see anything at all about it there or anywhere else under the user CP.

    ??
     

  15. Bruce 01
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Honeoye, NY

    Bruce 01 The Old Dummy

    Alan, thanks for your thoughts, they are good ones.

    My original idea a few years ago was to buy the smallest cuddy cabin I could get, around 20 feet. But they all come with big motors and I am not interested in going 30-40 mph, with all the gas-sucking to boot (canal limit is 10 mph). And there really is no "living" space on a small cuddy anyway.

    I want something simple, cheap (everything used except probably the motor), cheap to run, easy to maintain (no wood hulls) and I can't spend years making it.

    The only big water around here is Lake Ontario, and I have no interest in going there.
     
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