Building a Massive Houseboat from scratch...

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Rowdy_Rebel, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Vancouver

    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    RR it seems you have the $$ lined up and so much planned and thought out.

    It won't cost a lot to have a naval architect/yacht designer look it over and make changes to your design and then you'll know how safe and good it is.
    Or buy something and redo it to your specs.

    Other than that...go with your dreams and disregard the naysayers
  2. motorbike
    Joined: Mar 2011
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    Location: Beam Reach

    motorbike Senior Member

    I dont think anyone is squashing a dream. But just because someone has one doesnt mean that years of evidence can be brushed aside. I am sure rowdy could build this boat for less than the thousands required, however the long-term success of such a venture would be questionable.

    The fact he is on an Internet forum asking advice for a very expensive and time-consuming project is in itself an admission of inexperience. A vast majority of people who use the Internet in this manner to help design and implement projects of this nature are often unsuccessful.

    It's all about the money
  3. Rowdy_Rebel
    Joined: Nov 2013
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    Location: Panhandle Florida

    Rowdy_Rebel Junior Member


    Thanks for all the feedback. I have a lot of people looking at this already, but I am a glutton for punishment. I am looking for more constructive criticism, but the guidelines for this project are straightforward. The key stipulation being that I must be a part of the construction from top to bottom, and it has to be built from scratch. Me and my backer are aware of the difficulties and costs here, but this is the agreement we have made. Please try to help me foresee problems I may have and give me tips to help achieve the goal I have outlined. I can't buy half a boat and remodel it. I have to build, so please try to think in that mindset. I appreciate your input.

    I googled it, and its definitely a reminder to work smart and pick up as much knowledge along the way as possible. I'm not putting it in the water until it is finished that's for sure. I have free storage on dry land until its completed. And a moving company that can haul it to the dry dock.

    1. Randy is a nice vessel, but I have stipulations from the funder of this project. I have to build, and the cost/benefit isn't really a factor in that regard.
    2. I want the thrill of driving this big honking son of a gun! I'm a boater not a floater!
    3. I could live without a fridge too, but the woman can't. Them women make things difficult don't they?
    4. I'm planning for a small welder on board as well. 220v plug on it. That will make repairs and such easy. I planned on a 6500kw generator just for that and larger boat equipment. Probably use a small Honda generator to supplement charging the battery bank. Right now I am just establishing the goals for each system and its components. Any suggestions? I have my goals listed in earlier posts.

    The purpose of the design is to be able to float in as little water as possible. I will be spending time in the river as well as in the bay. I plan on sticking to the river as much as possible. With the ballast system I can sink the boat down when I go into the bay and raise it up when I go into the river. I was told that if I install bow and stern thrusters maneuverability shouldn't be an issue. Maybe you have a different shape in mind, or something to consider? Please be detailed in the pros and cons of this hull shape versus another. I welcome constructive criticism. Please try to use structural terms though.

    I understand your economic concern. The man that has chosen to fund this project is a billionaire. It's not that the barge pbmaise found is too expensive, but it doesn't serve the purpose that was agreed upon. Me and my funder made a deal that I would build from scratch. I looked around at buying in the first place because of everyone saying how hard and expensive it would be to build. When I brought it to his attention he told me that the price isn't an issue. He wants me to build it for the documentary that I have been a part of for the past 4 years. And I knew someone would be critical of me bringing God into it, but I have to give credit where it is due. But comparing Raw Faith to this venture is a little bit of a stretch in considering the whole picture. I have the financial support, so I won't have to use roofing tar to hold things together. I will be in a professional setting during the fabrication process, surrounded by experienced welders. One of my company sponsors has given me access to a workshop, electricity, and fabrication equipment. At the workshop there is a man with 20 years experience in large vessels. The fiberglass cabin is already being constructed by a man who's been building fiberglass boats since the 70's. Transportation from fabrication shop to dry dock will only cost me for oversized load permits. I have a marina with a dry dock waiting on me to give them a month's heads up. And maintenance will be a breeze with the same marina offering to keep her clean for me. All this because God answered my prayer, not because of luck or raw faith. God is giving all the tools necessary to achieve this. Please don't be offended, I appreciate your input. I am interested to see if you can inform me more in detail of what its like on the water full-time? Maintenance? Navigation?
  4. Rowdy_Rebel
    Joined: Nov 2013
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    Location: Panhandle Florida

    Rowdy_Rebel Junior Member

    Thanks WestVanHan.

    I am not at all offended by everyone's concerns. I have been organizing this for about 4 months now and I have heard way worse to my face. Some of it helpful, some of it just plain aggravating. So the computer screen isn't that intimidating. Motorbike is right about the internet part as well, but this is not my first stop in the line of advice or criticism, its the last. Now that I have a good plan based on several professionals. I brought it here to let more people take a look. There is no telling what someone else can see; that I don't. The internet isn't where you necessarily find the best answers, as much as its where you will get good questions.

    Thanks for all the feedback, and feel free to give up some more.
  5. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    In 'building a massive houseboat from scratch', you've consulted every sort of professional except a naval architect... is that not allowed?
  6. motorbike
    Joined: Mar 2011
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    Location: Beam Reach

    motorbike Senior Member

    Rowdy, thanks for your reply. I am still not quite sure what your main aim is with this project. The doco, the build or the floating home. Lets assume its the floating home for a moment and let the build and doco follow on from that. I suggest getting clear on the budget. A homebuilder who embarks on a build often can spread the cost over many years, I dont think I know any builders who either mentally blocked out how much they spent or just didnt know! You want to get this done asap, so get a naval architect to go over your design to proof it for your mistakes and cost it out.

    As you can tell I do not believe in deities but there is a nice saying from our brothers in the desert. Trust in god but tie up your camel.
  7. MoePorter
    Joined: Nov 2012
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    Location: Oakland,CA

    MoePorter Junior Member

    Great project. I find the "disability build & use" situation inspiring & challenging. Your rough plan makes pretty good sense to me - you seem like a capable guy & really a large floating box is relatively straight forward. Your materials & building process ideas again are straight forward & reasonable certainly for a start.

    The flat spot in your wheel for me is your plan for moving & powering the thing. Older twin gas stern drives that would be used very intermittently? I can't think of a worst choice (if the drives were completely out of the water while moored - that would begin to make sense but still the available gearing & prop choices are terrible for moving a hull like that.) I don't have a clear idea how far, in what waters & how often you plan on moving this thing.
    You might consider a single diesel that would 1.power two (or three) hydraulic or electric drives for mobility. (They could live above water on lifts until needed.) 2.power a gen set for everything electrical. Diesel could power an Espar/Webasto for hydronics for house heat. I'd prefer propane for cooking particularly in warm climates. So a single tank for diesel & the propane tank/s can be small enough to wheelchair carry. A single engine room laid out for disabled access - I don't know how much wrenching you've done on boats but it's physically very demanding from an access standpoint - so a single diesel running hydraulics gets you away from low in the hull drives shafts so you can do filters & routine stuff from a chair. Don't use the stern drives if you can't get inverted & crawl & generally contort...OFTEN.
    Look, intelligently integrating the power systems into a vessel is much more difficult than your relatively simple hull and your choices at this stage raise multiple red flags about the overall viability of your project. It's good you have mechanic skills - but I suggest you focus on the systems you're proposing from a design standpoint - I think that's your weak spot. Good luck. Moe
    1 person likes this.
  8. motorbike
    Joined: Mar 2011
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    motorbike Senior Member

    Great idea, a diesel located in a way to get access to all the usual servicable parts. Have that run the genset and 4 hydraulic or electic motors in pods on the corners for ultimate manouverability. Plus you have a pto source for other requirements such as pumps for water ballast trim or refrigeration etc.

    Imagine yourself in different scenarios once the build is complete.

    Manouvering and docking by oneself
    Cleaning contaminated fuel
    Refueling and watering
    Waste disposal
    Sewerage disposal
    Fixing the head
    Servicing/repairing the vital electrical components
    Accident on board
    Fire on board
    Sinking (its does happen!)

    Good sailors always have a plan b for when things turn to custard, at this stage you can design to minimise many problems.
  9. brian eiland
    Joined: Jun 2002
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    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

    Didn't see an overall design posted for this vessel?

    Did you look thru some of the NUMEROUS postings on this forum about canal boats and houseboats??...lots of interesting discussions.

    If you are seeking shallow draft (needed in much of Fla and the keys), then I wonder why you don't consider a catamaran arrangement. Here is one for instances made out of some welded up sewer pipe in SS

    Here's a pretty nice monohull design

    House (superstructure) might be more easily fabricated using panels of PP honeycomb as I am suggesting here

    You need to take a 'new look' at systems on the boat for stand alone operation,....for instance simplify the galley rather than following traditional old designs.

    ....just some ideas, and do some searching on these forums.
  10. brian eiland
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    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

  11. Sundevil
    Joined: Jan 2012
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    Location: Ohio, USA

    Sundevil Junior Member

    It sounds like a big project, but if you break it down and have a solid plan it can work. There are plenty of boats out there.

    Come up with a plan for where you want to travel, the ability to get to shore easily, and the weather/waves possible.

    Have you looked for commercially available boats that are wheelchair accessible to borrow some design ideas? Have you been on many boats to see what works and what doesn't?
  12. Froudian Slip
    Joined: Dec 2013
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    Location: Outer banks

    Froudian Slip Junior Member

    ***, grass, or gas, nobody rides for free. Billionaires don't become billionaires by bankrolling ideas like this without a return on their investment. What's in it for said benefactor? Something's fishy here. I don't believe your story but I stand to be corrected when the documentary premiers at Sundance. And don't give me this my prayers were answered bs. I'm not buying what you are selling. More likely that you are delusional and think Jesus is going to pick up the tab.
  13. peterAustralia
    Joined: Mar 2006
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    Location: Melbourne Australia

    peterAustralia Senior Member

    do your own thing if you want,,, your business. Your initial designs did not look right to me, why the 45 degree chine on the side,,,, it just reduces stability, and for what?

    Do your own thing,,, strongly suggest read this book, I have read it and can thoroughly recommend it, "Handmade Houseboats" by Russell Conder, it can be bought second hand on for $49, definately worth the money.
  14. pbmaise
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Location: Cebu the Philippines

    pbmaise Senior Member

    I noted your comment about making the boat liveable for your wife.

    That isn't the real problem. A woman can adapt to nearly any functioning boat.

    However, for several years, the boat is going to be a project that consumes you and your time.

    Make your marriage is strong, make sure you discuss how this is going to strain your relationship.


    Regarding suggestions on power, use etc.


    Eliminating as many things as possible makes life easier. You don't have to pull a complete Larry Pardee, however, things like welders, 220 volt systems, watermakers, and bow thrusters, all become expensive to initially buy and maintain.

    One tip I have is looking seriously about how much area you can collect rainwater, and how much you can store. If you can eliminate a watermaker, and the intense energy use associated with it all the better.

    Regarding your wife's request about a fridge.. A boat, especially a metal boat can be extremely hot. is she also asking for an AC unit?

    Remember you will likely not be connected to that vast limitless utility grid. Who is going to haul and pay for all the fuel you have to burn to keep these things running 24/7?

    I know a lot of people will pounce on me for advocating this, however, I am a big fan of the VW Marine turbo diesel engine. It is light, quiet, and alas $$$. Perhaps you can convert an engine from a crashed Tourag?

    I further like alternators on the drive engine. One engine with a large alternator eliminates the separate generator you spoke of. A good small diesel engine can idle generating your power and then drive the boat when you need to. That more than pays for the extra cost of a good engine.

  15. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    One of the certain answers to your prayers is that you have the wisdom to commission a professional naval architect or old time builders. This forum is heavily populated by very experienced and educated NAs, hydrodynamicists, Aerodynamicists and long term builders who have good track records. This forum has a good many newbies who mix amicably with the pros. This forum is NOT the minion of the weekend cruiser type who thinks he knows more than he actually does.

    All that said: I commend you for laying out your considerable statement of requirements. That is much better than most. Do yourself and your benefactor a huge favor. Commission a pro. There are many of them here on this forum and to their credit they do not use the forum as a commercial excercise. To name a few......Daquiri, Tansl, Eric Sponberg, Ad Hoc, Par, and several more who are demonstratedly competant. Your intelligence, organizational skills, or mechanical ability is not in question. With all that there is no sense in shooting yourself in the foot. Get some counsel from an acknowledged pro.
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