Is there a book about boat building standards, classifications, rules and regulations?

Discussion in 'Education' started by JamesG, Aug 3, 2020.

  1. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    Wow that was really rude. If we are going to communicate it’s not going to be by calling each other names. Perhaps you’ve lost someone or had some scary experiences on the water, so I can’t fault you for how you may feel. Safety is a big concern to me as well. That’s why in addition to making sure the platform is safe I’m probably not going to allow drinking because that’s just asking for trouble.
    BlueBell likes this.
  2. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    I agree that I will need to do stability calculations. Not only do I plan on doing my own stability calculations, I plan on doing my own stability tests. The question I was asking is if a stability test is required by the USCG or state for recreational vessels because that makes a difference in how the island is designed. It doesn’t mean it will be safer, in fact if the authorities do not require a stability test then the platform will actually be safer in the long run because I can build the tall version that’s able to handle bigger waves and once there are enough modules it will be just as stable. To increase the stability in the beginning when there are only a few modules I’ll have to add more ballast water so the platform is lower in the water and limit the number of people that can be on it. My general point is that I’ll make sure it’s safe. It’s obviously not in anybody’s best interest if this is unsafe. Perhaps your point was not that you don’t think I can ensure that it’s safe, but rather various authorities may step in and require it to be built to standards because they may argue that it’s a commercial vessel?

    I would argue that it’s starting off as a 100% recreational vessel and no commercial activity is taking place.

    It is not advertising anything because there are no signs, billboards or massive flags for that purpose. I looked into the laws regarding advertising on the water in the area that I plan on using it and that is not allowed without a permit. I will be using the platform for fun, designing clothing, living on it, having friends on it (not open to the public, more of a permission/invite situation), motoring to different surf spots and shooting photos and videos to promote the clothing, lifestyle and message.

    If someone were to say it’s commercial they might argue the following:
    1. That I need a permit for taking photos and videos since the clothing is for commercial use even though it’s not being sold on the platform (it will be sold online). I’ll look into this, but I highly doubt that a permit will be required.
    2. That it’s open to the public. That’s not true because it’s a private and recreational vessel and I don’t want it to be open to the public. Only friends and those who ask permission may be allowed to be on board.
    3. That it’s large and different looking. Perhaps this is more of a perception than an actual argument. If anybody would like to expand on this or bring up any other arguments why it’s commercial I would love to hear them, not because I enjoy debating, but because it’s helpful for me to learn.

    After the clothing makes money and I have some money in the bank I can start getting setup to use the platform for commercial activities. I’ll probably want the help of professionals at that time because there will be various permits and safety requirements to follow.

    Thanks again for your thoughts, I hope we are understanding each other ok.
  3. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Rumars Senior Member

    If you are using the vessel this way and don't get any consideration then it is a recreational boat. A creative lawyer might even get you tax reduction because it is your office or something, but that is not the coastguards business. The only thing you need to clear is how the modules are considered, if one boat or several. If one boat you might be stuck with a specific configuration since otherwise you change the boats dimensions and your papers don't match anymore, if they are several and move together you could be designated a combination unit, integrated or articulated tug and barge, and I never heard of such recreational assemblies (wich does not mean they can not exist, just that I don't know of such a thing). Call the coasties and ask.
    JamesG likes this.
  4. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    James, here are just a few random thoughts - I have not read through the whole thread again prior to this scribble, so apologies if some have already been covered.

    Re the catamaran hull shape, like a 'U' (or a 'C' on it's side) in your sketches - you will need to design the bridgedeck structure very carefully because there can be large bending moments involved here. I am just wondering why the hulls have to be this shape?

    I think you need to start off again and describe your detailed Statement of Requirements (SOR).
    If the main purpose of the boat is to "have fun, designing clothing, living on it, having friends on it (not open to the public, more of a permission/invite situation), motoring to different surf spots and shooting photos and videos to promote the clothing, lifestyle and message", then you don't need fancy 'seaworthy' hull shapes to achieve this.
    You will get the most 'bang for your buck' with simple rectangular box shaped pontoons - you can rake the bow in deference to reducing the resistance a bit.
    If you want to move the boat, employ some form of motor boat to act a a tug - there is no point in having your pontoons self propelled.
    And don't even think about trying to drive a beast like this on any open sea passage! If you want to move it to another locality, tow it, or ship it.
    Be aware though that you cannot just ship your modules to another country and 'set up shop' again - you will have to first satisfy all the relevant regulations, obtain work permits, and probably pay a lot of import duties / VAT on the modules (and these duties could be on assessed values, rather than eg your contruction costs).
    If you pitched up here in Barbados with your modules and tried to make money from them, the authorities would jump on you pretty quickly.

    I am intrigued by these 'dogbone' connectors - they appear to me to be ideal devices for severing fingers when trying to connect pontoons together. Might be achieveable on land, but in water, unless absolutely flat calm millpond conditions, forget it.
    Also bear in mind that you are trying to create a rigid hull structure when joining the modules together - hence the longitudinal and transverse forces will increase dramatically when you start joining modules together.
    It would be much easier if the modules are allowed to articulate - but that will create an unpleasant motion for people on board, and again you run a risk of people damaging themselves by getting fingers or toes caught between the modules (or between the deck panels that they are on).
    Have a look at the Dockblock floating jetties -
    Dock Blocks | Modular Floating Docks & Boat Lifts
    Every block is free to articulate slightly, so that in waves it 'oscillates', reducing the loads on the jetty enormously. There is one here (working as a floating jetty for a beachfront restaurant), and I have seen it cope admirably with pretty rough conditions.
    JamesG likes this.
  5. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    Great thoughts! I originally wanted to make the platform so it can flex over waves so that it could never be destroyed, but I realized as you pointed out that the ride would be more uncomfortable for people on board. After considering some hybrid between flexible and rigid I decided just to have a completely rigid platform so that it can be as comfortable as possible. The goal is to make it as stable as possible so it feels like you are standing on land. I realize this approach will create more stress on the structure, so I’ll be add extra bracing that’s not currently shown in my drawings.

    My inspiration/current way of thinking comes from oil rigs and wave piercing hulls:

    The wave piercing hull version would be easier to make, but more prone to breaking if waves smack into it broadside.

    I think the ideal design would be to have multiple structures that resemble floating oil rigs tied together because when anchored it can handle omni directional waves. If they have adjustable ballast then I can raise and lower it. I can raise it up high so the lower pontoons are the only thing touching the water which creates efficient travel through the water since it’s more streamlined. While anchored and especially if storms come, the lower pontoons could be filled with water so that the columns are partially submerged and wave energy can pass through instead of making it rock and cause extra stress. With either of the hull types the general idea is to reduce the water plane area to reduce stress and rocking. I’m hoping that I can build this out of inexpensive materials for the initial version which would probably be plywood, fiberglass and epoxy. I’m also hoping that even though it’s rigid it will be able to flex slightly if needed simply because the span of the platform is so long, but ultimately I’m relying on it to easily partially submerge so it doesn’t break. If the wave height exceeds the platform height then it would most definitely get destroyed. Ideally the platform would be extremely tall to account for this, but realistically I can’t build it that tall from the beginning because it makes it a much bigger project. I’m hoping it can withstand wave heights of about 10 feet because that’s about how tall it is.

    I love the idea of keeping it simple and making it durable as you’re suggesting, but whenever I go back to trying to make it simple I start feeling seasick just thinking about it. It seems like it would be so uncomfortable to be constantly rocking back-and-forth and heaving up and down especially while working on clothing. I’m really hoping I can design it to be extremely stable. Hopefully I can avoid using ballast water to keep it simple. You’re probably right about those dog bones being difficult. I was thinking maybe they could be pointy to make it easier for them to get started. I could also start by side tying with ropes, so things are decently lined up. You would hammer the dog bone in and then probably add a metal cap so it doesn’t work itself out. Later, it could be hammered out with a slide hammer. If you have any better ways of joining them please let me know. Originally I was thinking I would have to join them while scuba diving underwater, so I was happy to think of this dogbone version. Also you mentioned something about the size of each module. The size of each module is basically the maximum size it can be on a trailer. I’d like to load each module into the water from boat ramps, so each module would hopefully be preassembled and loaded into the water quickly. I’d like to do little to no assembly while at the boat ramp to avoid causing a big scene. I’d like to make the process as efficient as possible overall.

    The tall version of a module which is about 11 feet high and 8 feet wide would be unstable loading it into the water at a boat ramp, so I’m thinking I’ll have to add temporary flotation to the sides (rain barrels) and/or add ballast water to the lower hulls. I’m looking forward to building some scale models to see what works, but in the meantime i’m open to hearing more ideas.

    That seems a little ridiculous about countries charging import fees for bringing a boat into their country, but i’m not surprised. Just another thing for me to research. I’m definitely aware that if I have any commercial activity with this boat in any country that I will have to be set up with all the authorities.

    It’s definitely not a bad idea to build a modular dock like you’re suggesting. I’ll definitely think about it. I think I also shied away from that because I realized that once it’s in the water it needs to stay in the water because there will be so much stuff on the deck like tiki huts, bathrooms, solar set up, etc. etc. It would be very labor-intensive to disassemble the whole thing, put it on trucks and transport it. I suppose the modular dock version could stay in the water and be transported on the water as well, but it’s just not as stable for humans to be comfortable on. Definitely more resilient to storms and easier to build though. It would be nice to have a hybrid version that can be completely stiff until wave heights exceed a certain amount. Maybe that’s kind of possible like this, but ideally something more initially rigid than rubber blocks like in my drawing.


    Maybe I can add a mechanism in addition to the rubber blocks that makes the structure rigid until a certain breakaway force is exceeded, then it defaults to the rubber block and automatically resets to the rigid mechanism when the wave height/stress decreases. I bet I can figure out the mechanism. I recall there being a long collapsed spring they could do that.

    I’ll definitely weigh the pros and cons of a modular dock system versus what i’ve been proposing. Thanks for sharing your ideas!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  6. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    You seem to be flip-flopping about with your SOR, which does not help matters at all.

    But this, is telling:-
    As that is centring in on a SWATH or a SWATH of sorts semi-submersible, like a typical Oil Rig.
  7. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    James, your modules certainly do appear to be very SWATH 'esque in shape, and re how you want to be able to ballast them down to suit -
    Small-waterplane-area twin hull - Wikipedia

    Note that the oil rig shown in your photo above still has transverse members connecting the 'bottoms' of the hulls, as well as the platform at the top - these transvere members increase resistance when it is being towed, but they do make for a much more efficient structure strength wise.

    I don't think that you have laid out a detailed Statement of Requirements (SOR) yet as to what exactly you want your vessel / combination of modules to do / achieve - can you give us a recap please?
    It might be best to not be too ambitious initially, and start off 'small' to see if the concept works - eg with a single barge (rather than an inverted U shaped cat) that can be 'parked' in shallow water off a beach - preferably in a water depth not much more than wading. You certainly cannot expect people to swim 300 yards out to it - even 50 yards is a long way (that is almost the length of an Olympic size swimming pool).

    If the concept works, then build a bigger barge. I am very dubious about having a system where many modules are linked together, while having 'passengers' on board at the same time - if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, and you want to keep everything as simple as possible.
  8. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    JamesG Junior Member

    Hi guys,

    My SOR:
    -Stable platform
    -Streamlined for traveling (not as important as stability though)
    -Able to hold enough weight for multiple people to be on board (variable load) and static loads like tiki huts, bathroom, solar panels, potable water tank (maybe that‘s in the water since it’s so heavy.), potted plants, and other things typical for living off the grid.
    -Modular so it can grow over time
    -Can handle wind and waves found in the SoCal area.
    -Inexpensive to build.
    -Simple design (ideally no ballast water, no engines on any of the modules, just one vessel pulling platform, etc)
    -Doesn’t need to be built to standards to keep costs low
    -Trailerable using my diesel Ford E-350 van.
    -Able to load into the ocean using public boat ramps.
    -People can be on it during the day and overnight while anchored.
    -People can be on it while it’s moving
    - The platform is stable enough to anchor almost anywhere not just at anchorages.
    - It’s built out of materials that could make it possible to use it for commercial use one day. Ie. fiberglass, plywood and epoxy hull rather than plastic rain barrels and wood beams. Probably not likely to qualify as a massive commercial vessel retroactively, but can probably at least have 6 pack captains license with recreational vessel. This entire point about commercial activity is not that important. I’m just saying it would be nice.
    -I can use it to design my clothing
    -I can use it to shoot photos and videos in relation to my clothing and my overall mission of creating paradise
    -It can travel internationally
    - I can insure it. (Not a major concern, but it probably should be. I’m just saying it would be nice.)
    - Registration costs are low. (might make a big difference if each module has to be registered versus the whole thing. I’m not sure if a recreational vessel needs to be reregistered each year, how much that is or how that works.)

    I’m not necessarily flip-flopping on my ideas, I was mostly just humoring the idea of building it as a standard modular barge rather than the version that I’ve been presenting to you guys (oil rig style) because it would be easier. Stability and the ability to handle rough seas is super important to me. I don’t want this thing to be rocking back-and-forth, heaving up and down or anything as much as possible. It needs to be super comfortable for living on it. I think even if a standard modular barge design was used, no matter how tall the free board, it would still be subject to movement from waves, even if totally rigid. For this reason I think it’s important to stick with my original design even though it will probably be more expensive and challenging to build and operate.

    By the way, I emailed the US Coast Guard today about using my original design (oil rig style) as a recreational vessel and asked questions about if each module needs to pass a stability test, if each module can be registered as a recreational vessel, etc. I’ll let you know what they say.

    My sketches as stated before are not complete. Yes I realize that other structural members should be added to make the oil rig style of module stronger. I’m hoping I can keep it streamlined though, so any members added between the pontoons should probably slice through the water. I figured I would work on those details later.

    I definitely think it’s important to start off small and simple, that’s why I would like to do scaled prototypes. However, one of the main requirements is for this to be modular so it can grow over time. Also, I don’t think it’s realistic to bring the platform too close to the shore or in shallow water because I don’t want to risk damaging the platform and in many areas in the Pacific ocean in socal it’s illegal to bring a vessel closer than 200 yards to the shore. The options for people to get to it would be swimming, paddling out on surfboards, stand up paddle boards or taking a dinghy from shore if that’s legal, or taking a dinghy from a dock in a marina. If people aren’t comfortable swimming in the ocean, under waves, going past the breakers etc. they shouldn’t bother trying to swim out. This is no big deal for surfers or people comfortable in the ocean though. It would be nice to have a way for myself and other regulars to get to the platform from the shore without getting wet. Motorized vessels are often times not allowed within 200 feet of the shore as I stated, but I’ve noticed some people getting away with motorized surfboards. Also stand up paddle boards seem to be allowed most of the time even if it’s not legal. Staying dry would be nice, but super difficult to figure out. I’ve thought of clear hamster balls that float on the water, a floating bridge that can be extended from the platform, zip line, flying, etc. Difficult challenge! Realistically it seems like using a stand up paddleboard, perhaps even an inflatable stand up paddleboard would be ideal. Or maybe a standup paddleboard with a GPS trolling motor that’s programmed to dock to the platform. Perhaps it’s remote control. If you guys have any ideas please let me know. I think this is also low priority because I will probably just take a stand up paddleboard with a waterproof backpack back-and-forth most of the time. Or have a jetski on a dingy dock if that’s allowed and then haul ***, but that’s such a long distance in most cases, so it’s most likely quicker to take a stand up paddleboard directly from shore to the platform.

    Anyway, I’m still primarily focused on the legality of the modules and platform, using public boat ramps, how it’s registered/documented, anchor laws, traveling internationally, insurance, local laws, etc so I’d rather focus on that stuff and then focus on the designing and testing of scaled prototypes.
    bajansailor likes this.
  9. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Location: Virginia

    JamesG Junior Member

    Quick update! Someone from the USCG just called me in response to the email I sent about this project.

    He said that if a module does not have “propulsion or control” then it doesn’t qualify as a vessel. He said it could be a hazard to navigation especially if no one is on board, that I can’t leave it in the water since it’s not a vessel and mentioned that it would have to be marked on charts even if occupied, but as we talked about it more it didn’t sound very bad at all (almost a 180). He said it wouldn’t be a hazard to navigation if I have anchor lights at night and a day shape during the day while at anchor just like a vessel. It couldn’t look abandoned or it could be treated as a derelict vessel/trash. He said I need to stay out of federal waters. I should have asked more about that. Do you think he meant waters outside of navy bases because traveling in federal waters should be totally fine right? He didn’t know if I would have problems traveling internationally with a non-vessel because he doesn’t know how foreign governments will respond.

    Recreational vessel-
    He said if I were to add an outboard to a module then a module would qualify as a recreational vessel and there are no stability tests, but there is a flotation requirement of having five times the capacity of the vessel worth of flotation. He said more info can be found by looking at the boat building handbook at He said that it’s true that to be documented with the US Coast Guard a boat needs to be at least five gross tons, which is about the size of a 25 foot boat. He said every 100ft.³ of displacement equals 1 gross ton. He said more info can be found at NVDC (.org?). He said the local authorities will likely not have a problem with me loading a module into the water at a public boat ramp as long as I don’t tie up the boat ramp and cause a bottleneck. I should have asked him the same question regarding the boat ramp if a module is a non-vessel.

    Common problems-
    He said local governments may have a problem with the sight of a platform in their waters regardless of if it’s a vessel or non-vessel. He said it’s good if it’s a vessel because it can be insured and law enforcement pays more attention and is more likely to help because they know how to treat it. (On the other hand they would probably have to help anyways since that’s their job right?) In general my thought is that if it’s a recreational vessel various laws will know how to treat it, which could simplify things. He said that if each module is registered as a recreational vessel then it has the downside of me having to pay multiple registrations and it will be treated as multiple recreational vessels tied together, but if I get into a collision the whole thing will be treated as one vessel.

    Now that you have this information from the USCG what do you think the best path forward is?
  10. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    No he did not mean around navy bases. He was talking about jurisdiction. Waterways in the US are divided into Federal jurisdiction and state jurisdiction and some are both. (in legalese it is called joint jurisdiction.) Federal waters includes all tidal waters (salt water, the ocean) out to 3 miles for everything, 12 miles for some things, and 200 miles for an economic zone. It also includes all waterway that can be continuously navigated from the sea, such as rivers, bays, sounds, and so on. Also any waters capable of interstate commerce. For instance Lake Tahoe, Lake Mead, Lake Powell, So in California, state waters are basically streams and lakes, reservoirs, etc. For instance I think Lake Shasta is sole state jurisdiction, Depends on who built the dam. If the state built it , it is. If the Feds built it (Army Corps of Engineers) its Federal. But, and this is a big BUT, the state has joint jurisdiction over those same waters as the Federal government. This means you have to comply with both the Federal and State laws on those waters. Clear Lake is definitely sole state jurisdiction. Most states claim jurisdiction out to three miles off the coast. So just about anywhere you plan to use this you will probably have to meet both Federal and state laws, unless you find a lake or waterway that is sole state jurisdiction.

  11. JamesG
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    JamesG Junior Member

    Thanks for the info. I was aware of some of the things that you are talking about, but now I know the federal and state can share the same jurisdiction in some cases.

    I find it strange that the USCG guy said that a non-vessel is not allowed in federal waters while also telling me that if I use an anchor light and day shape then I’ll be OK. I emailed him to get more information about that. I’ll let you know what I find out.
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