New guy looking to build a boat specifically for camping

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by Swamp_Yankee, May 5, 2020.

  1. Swamp_Yankee
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Hunterdon County, NJ

    Swamp_Yankee New Member

    Hello everyone. I realize that this may seem at first to be an odd premise under which to build a boat, but please indulge me. There is a camping spot here in NJ that is arguably the absolute best true wilderness spot in the state by virtue of its location and access. Round Valley Reservoir:

    Department of Environmental Protection https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/round.html

    The reservoir serves as the drinking water supply for a large part of eastern NJ and as such, even though it is 2000+ acres it is 9.9HP restricted and recreational swimming is confined only to a small area. Most of the boating activity is kayaking, paddleboards, small sailboats and fisherman in 16-20’ aluminum boats. As a result it’s a very calm lake-no worries about getting rammed by a jet-ski or a 200HP bass boat. On the far side of the lake (2.5 miles as the crow flies) from the parking area there are primitive campsites right on the shoreline:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Unlike most other state park campsites in New Jersey which are pretty much “drive up” there are only two ways to access the Round Valley campsites. Either a six to nine mile hike (the campsites are spread across 3 miles of shoreline) or by taking a boat straight across. Once you are on the other side of the reservoir at the campsites it’s a whole different world. To the north and west are 400-500’ high ridges that have nothing but county parkland on the opposite side of them. It is quiet and feels about as close to the end of the earth as you can get in the most densely populated state in the nation. There are also about 80 sites altogether and especially if you go during the week in the summer you can often camp out of sight of anyone else. It’s pure paradise. My wife and I used to camp there quite a bit and have done it both ways-by hiking in and canoeing. Back then it was easy as it was just us. Fast forward to today-we have three children; eight, five and one. Needless to say, camping is much more complicated and requires much more stuff than it used to, plus it will be a long time before all three kids are up for a six mile hike on flat ground much less rocky terrain, elevation changes, etc…

    For this reason I would like to build a very simple, purpose built “camping barge” whose sole purpose will be to safely ferry the five of us and all needed supplies across the reservoir for a night or two of camping at a time. As a bonus, it could serve as a swimming/fishing platform, which is technically not permitted, but in my experience the park staff only checks the sites once during the evening and they don’t generally bother campers taking a dip. I don’t relish the idea of trying to cram all of us plus gear into an 18 or 20 foot aluminum boat, plus I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a motor either so a planing hull is out of the question. A displacement hull that would comfortably putter along at 6 or 7 mph would be fine. I’ve often thought about trying to find an old sailing cat, building a flat platform between the two hulls and putting a 8HP tiller on it, but I’m guessing I would need at least a 20 footer in order to handle the weight of a family of five plus motor and gear. There is also the idea of finding a derelict aluminum pontoon boat, stripping it down, and fitting it with a 9.9. I just feel like by design those boats are extremely heavy and hard to push through the water as it is without a serious power handicap. I’m open to any and all suggestions and looking forward to some back and forth on this.
     
  2. ondarvr
    Joined: Dec 2005
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    Location: Monroe WA

    ondarvr Senior Member

    We have the same type of camping here

    The best boat is a cheap old used pontoon boat in the 18' to 24' range.

    The 9.9 will get you to the other shore easily while sipping fuel.

    For a camping family they are easily the best bang for the buck

    22' and 24's are better
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2020
    bajansailor likes this.
  3. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    I agree. You can find pontoons that have upholstery and furniture that is completely rotted for cheap. Set a tent on the deck and you're ready to camp.
     
  4. Swamp_Yankee
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Hunterdon County, NJ

    Swamp_Yankee New Member

    If I was to go this route I think I'd be inclined to strip it down to not much more than a platform with a railing around the outer edge and a 9.9 on a tiller. Nobody runs pontoons on Round Valley now due to the HP restriction. The pontoons that I do run across are set up for the two or three unrestricted lakes up here, the Delaware River or the bay-triple digit HP, consoles, hydraulics, etc... All crap that I don't need, and that would take up room and add weight. They're not cheap either as a lot of times most of the value is in the outboard. I may literally need to go hunting for a 'toon that is completely dead and rotting away in someone's field or behind a garage. All I see on Craigslist are boats in the $8,000-$10,000 range at the low end.
     
  5. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    I agree with Ondarv and Gonzo - a pontoon boat would be ideal for what you have in mind.
    Buying one of these second hand would be so much easier than trying to build a camping barge from scratch.

    Here is a link to a basic search for pontoon boats in NJ - you can modify the search to suit your requirements.
    Pontoon boats for sale in New Jersey - Boat Trader https://www.boattrader.com/boats/type-power/class-power-pontoon/state-nj/length-20,24/price-0,10000/year-,2010/
    I just put in less than US$ 10k, older than 2010, length 20 - 24' to start with.

    Edit - just saw your post above - yes, your best bet is probably to try to find a basic pontoon hull that needs work. A 9.9 hp high thrust type of engine will get you over to the other side ok, and you can potter along, doing some fishing on the way perhaps?
     
  6. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Buy a big inflatable, put a 9.9 on it, go camping.
     
  7. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

  8. Dejay
    Joined: Mar 2018
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    Location: Europe

    Dejay Senior Newbie

    Buying is definitely better. Depending on transport an inflatable dinghy would probably be best. But in case you do want to build...

    Something like a longer flat bottom canoe with flat sides that are a little bit flared outwards and that has a transom would seem to be ideal for this. Easy to build out of plywood.
    Is there a name for the type of such a boat? Square stern canoe? Flat-bottom skiff?
    Hmm apparently it is called a flat-bottom skiff. Something like this. The 14ft version seems to have amply passenger capacity haha:

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Swamp_Yankee
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Hunterdon County, NJ

    Swamp_Yankee New Member

    Missed that one somehow-thanks for the lead! Just to continue the conversation about building further however, what about building two simple floating "boxes" out of plywood-no curves, etc...like this:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    24' long "pontoons" spaced 8' apart. Would a 9.9 push something like this just as well as two aluminum logs?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2020
  10. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Yes, 9.9 would move it with no problem.
     
  11. Dejay
    Joined: Mar 2018
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    Location: Europe

    Dejay Senior Newbie

    Yes but the shape and building style from this video would be easier and better.
     
  12. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    A flat bottom would make it better for shallow water and easier to build.
     
  13. Swamp_Yankee
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Hunterdon County, NJ

    Swamp_Yankee New Member

    Very interesting-is there a video of it underway? I had always assumed that rocker would be necessary in the front and rear but this shape, though much more elegant than what I proposed, would not be difficult to build.
     
  14. Dejay
    Joined: Mar 2018
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    Dejay Senior Newbie

    You could add rocker to that style too, simply cut the plywood differently and bend the bottom part. But, and correct me if I'm wrong, rocker is only needed to increase maneuverability. And for boats with transom I guess.
     

  15. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You can build a flat bottom pontoon boat in a weekend if it doesn't have a bunch of fancy add-ons. Rocker is not necessary for a small lake and short distance at low speeds.
     
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