Pilgrimage/Boondocking Boat

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Penitent, Feb 24, 2020.

  1. Penitent
    Joined: Feb 2020
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    Penitent Junior Member

    Hello everyone. My goal is to build or buy a small boat that can be trailered by human power, bicycling or walking, that will enable off grid independent living in the boonies for months at a time between resupplies.

    My purpose is religious. The desert fathers, early monastics, and other monks, pilgrims and penitents separate from the world to more authentically live Christ’s call to seek Christian perfection through the evangelical counsels. Because of this, I do not have one particular type of boating in mind. I will simply do, “Whatever works best to enable the religious purpose.” I am new to boating, so a big part of my question is what type of boat/boating that even is.

    Please forgive me if my newness causes me to misuse any terminology or unknowingly break community etiquette. I have read a lot of boating basics, but I’m still very new.

    My idea is to use a boat the shape of an upside down car carrier, possibly about that size or somewhat bigger. It’s also the same shape as a gear pulk (sled.) I don’t know the boating name for that shape of boat. I think something that small is called a dinghy, but I’m under the impression dinghies have multiple shapes.

    Backpacking simply does not haul enough gear for months long independent living, except perhaps in the case of a top expert in bushcraft undergoing a survival challenge, which is not my case.

    A truck, van, or liveaboard boat, on the other hand, fairly easily allows months at a time independent living. (Easy by minimalist standards. And I’m a minimalist.) Fairly normal people do it. Not just Survivorman.

    My goal is to split the difference between those two extremes. I have no problem using a truck, van, or liveaboard in the end, but I do not want the method to REQUIRE it. That would be too fragile. It could mean someone quits because we don’t have money to fix the just died vehicle.

    So I am only allowing myself what is minimal and could obviously be fairly easily replaced soon enough even if suddenly gone.

    Boats can haul hundreds of pounds. So do bicycle and walking powered trailers. If those hundreds of pounds are very well chosen (which I know how to do), that is enough for months.

    So my idea is to let the boat BE the trailer. If you read about self sustained expeditions across Greenland, the Atacama desert, etc, they use a pulk or walking trailer with the shape I am describing, so there is significant precedent that such a thing works. Soldiers use it in arctic environments as well.

    And I think the existence of dingy cruising/sailing/gunkholing and such serve as precedent that the boating side works.

    So my rough idea is can’t I just get a boat like that, and then I am freely able to live months between resupply on land or water? And freely switch between the two, both in terms of shelter and travel? I would not want to be LIMITED to water, as this set up will be too small to liveaboard/cruise. It would be more like canoe camping. I’m not sure if gunkholing means sleeping on the boat. I mean gunkholing if gunkholing means you camp ashore not live on the hook.

    I assume that row/scull/punt/sail would be the most effective means of propulsion. I have no problem using motors. I’m not doing any sort of race or challenge, so I have no rule against it. It just seems that a motor that needs gas and can break down does not best fit months long independent living. So my thought is to somehow buy/build/get a dinghy in this shape, put oarlocks on it (or should I paddle not row?), I have a couple oars, the oars can be used for row scull or punt, and for sailing I use an oar as the mast to save weight.

    I don’t know what dimensions would be big enough for it to be a boat that holds and doesn’t tip, yet is small enough to be a human powered trailer. It seems the smallest dinghies have that sweet spot though. Can’t I just lash some poles across the deck from port to starboard, hanging off both sides, that serve as gear holding space outside the boat, and also serve to stabilize it like outriggers? A guy named Cartopboater on YouTube does this. His boat is bigger, but it seems to me the same idea would work and kill two birds with one stone: Storage space moves outside the boat so there’s room for me, plus the little boat becomes far more stable, hopefully stable enough to stand and scull or punt.

    Or maybe that idea is wrong in a hundred ways since I’m so new. In that case I at least hope I gave everyone a good laugh. :) And I’m certainly open to ideas totally different from what I just described. I’m also open to any pointers to what to read about boating in general. I’m particularly interested in anything that doesn’t cover just sailing, just pontoons, just any one, but covers ALL of it at a general level so I have a better sense where each part fits.

    My thought is I need to learn about dinghies, rowing, sailing, cruising, gunkholing, and boat building/repair. I’ve read a few books on sailing and cruising so far, not so much at the technical level, but at the level of what it’s like. I don’t know what other terms I should dig into.

    As food for thought, someone suggested I just haul a small canoe and that’s my trailer. Someone else thought I should get a packraft. They know as little as I do though.


    Thank you for any and all feedback and God bless.
     
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  2. kapnD
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    kapnD Senior Member

    You’re overthinking this, brother!
    What would Jesus do?
    Even though he was reputed to be an excellent carpenter, he chose to simply walk on the water...
    Emulate the Man, have Faith!
    Also get some video, so we can share your joy!
     
  3. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Welcome to the Forum Penitent.
    For a start, it would be a useful exercise if you could make a list of everything that you will need to take with you for possibly months at a time away from a source of supplies.
    Estimate the weight of all these supplies, and then add in your weight and the weight of your personal bits and bobs - you will find that it all adds up frighteningly fast.
    I guess that you will be boating on fresh water, hence you don't need to factor in a lot of water carrying capacity?
    This total weight will be your required cargo capacity, which will help to determine the minimum size of craft that you can use.
    You will get the most 'bang for your buck' from a rectangular box shaped hull - but it will not be much fun to row, paddle or sail.
    Everything with boats is a compromise - there is no 'ideal' boat, even for what you are planning on embarking on - everybody will have different ideas as to what the most suitable type of boat should be.
     
  4. Mr Efficiency
    Joined: Oct 2010
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    A small, inflatable one-man life raft seems the answer. Deflate to travel across land. Don't be too hard on yourself, the great mystics didn't recommend self-flagellation or hair-shirts.
     
  5. clmanges
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    clmanges Senior Member

    You're on the internet. Dig in.

    Being a little more specific, if I had those same goals in mind I'd be thinking of a kayak, or probably better, a canoe, for the carrying capacity and lightweight portability. Couple this with some kind of trailer, and pull it with a bicycle (this has been done; look it up). Weigh everything and get the lightest gear you can find (without it being flimsy), since you'd be using your muscles to move it all. Then you'd need to figure out how to load the bike onto the boat, and I see that as implying a folding bike with small wheels--same for the trailer. That would get you completely free of dependence on a motor vehicle.

    Consider that you may have to haul or push all that stuff up steep hills or over rough terrain, and it's not just mass but also the large unwieldy shape of the load.

    I could be wrong, but I'm skeptical that you'd be able to carry enough food to go very many days without resupplying, certainly not months. If you have a specific route in mind, though, you might be able to arrange package drops at points along the way if need be.
     
  6. Penitent
    Joined: Feb 2020
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    Penitent Junior Member

    Thanks for your replies.

    Clmanges: I’m skeptical too. :) I’ve certainly done various things training for what I described, but I won’t know what level is realistic until I do it.

    But if you look at “Sailing the Farm” on page 200, you can see a very specific list of food for one YEAR that is well under three hundred pounds and includes everything except some fresh fruit for minerals.
    The author is a man who has used this specific system at length at sea.

    “Possum Living,” “Subsistence: A Guide for the Modern Hunter Gatherer,” and bushcraft books produce similar results.

    I could sum up the philosophy/method as something like: A watermelon weighs a lot but a seed doesn’t. Similarly for a rabbit vs snare, a fish vs hooks and fishing line, endless small game vs an air rifle and a thousand pellets. And I can’t carry a hut, but I can carry tarps, rope, knife, hatchet, saw, shovel, and make a hut. And so on. Farming requires land and months. Sprouting only requires days and a bag of water.

    Page 200 of Sailing the Farm was the only place I was able to quickly find an exact list with a specific weight. Such lists exist for the other parts as well. I just can’t find the others at the moment.

    My initial post was probably unclear on this: I will be using significant bushcraft and sailing the farm type methods. Otherwise this would indeed be completely unrealistic. The knife only type survival challenges are incredibly difficult for even short lengths of time, even for true experts. That’s more for show, or an emergency where there’s no choice. And supplies alone run down fast. But if you read about people who combine the two, bushcraft AND supplies, that’s when fairly normal people sustainably live unsupported for months on end, with just a few hundred pounds. Roughly speaking, you don’t take just a knife, but every bit of what you do take is chosen WITH a just a knife mentality.

    With that said, I believe 300 pounds will let me live two months. It would take far too long and be off forum topic to give the exact details of how I expect to do that, but hopefully I’ve stated enough that it’s credible that I have researched this at length and have a specific, realistic plan.

    No plan survives first contact with reality, but I’ve read enough trip reports, and done various things myself, to be confident that even if I’m wrong, the error will be something like, “Oh. It only lasts a month.” And then I would just accept that I resupply every month. Or three weeks. Basically I just need enough independence to support the purpose.

    BanjaSailor:

    Per the bushcraft explanation, I believe the haul capacity I would need is: 300 for gear aside from bike, 200 for me, 100 for bike plus trailer plus bike related gear. The 300 is based on very specific lists whose weight I’m intentionally OVER estimating by a healthy margin.

    So in that sense I believe a 600 pound haul capacity would be enough. However I assume it’s best to have a safety margin. So perhaps 700 or 800?


    KapnD: Amen! I do in fact want and plan to do a traditional pilgrimage. The planning for that is VERY simple: Take nothing but a bottle of water. Start walking. Trust in God. But the religious orders I’m modeling do that more as a one time months long experience. For the rest of the time they have some sustainable, even if austere, practical way to live.

    All, on boat set up suggestions: Thank you.
     
  7. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You can get used aluminum jon boats, for cheap or free, that fit well on the top of a van. Where in the USA are you?
     
  8. clmanges
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    clmanges Senior Member

    A point I failed to touch on before--
    There've been attempts to combine boats with land vehicles, but I can't recall ever hearing of one that did either job very well. Just for amusement, though, there's this:

    Autocanoe- 2005 - Lane Motor Museum https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/collection/floating/item/autocanoe-2005

    Also, at ~800 pounds all up, you're beyond the load capacity of any kayak I've heard of and into the realm of large canoes or medium-sized rowboats. And a rowboat is going to be a lot wider and thus may be problematic riding on the shoulders of roads. Towing it is likely to be too slow to stay safely stable on a bicycle, so you might instead look at trikes; there are many foldable options, but they all weigh about twice as much as a bike. Also, braking on downhills could get scary. This is starting to make an inflatable boat look like a better option, or one of these:

    Porta Bote | The Revolutionary Folding Boat https://www.porta-bote.com/
    Their largest model is 14 ft long, weighs 108+ lb and has a 807 lb capacity rating. Roomy; you could probably sleep in it, but you'd want some kind of tarp with a support frame.Very stable, too. Actually, I think it might be pretty close to what you need, but trailering a thing that long is another consideration.

    It's good you're thinking of supplementing your diet by hunting and foraging, but of course it's just supplemental.
     
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  9. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    @Penitent you don't mention where exactly you plan to wander around, if inland rivers and canals or coastal. You also are not clear if you want to sleep on the boat or ashore, or if you will portage a lot. This is important because of weight and configuration. You have to understand that you won't be dragging a fully loaded 1000lbs boat ashore alone. Nevertheless what you want is pretty normal in the expedition world and is available rigid or folding. Examples:

    Angus Expedition Expedition Rowboat https://angusrowboats.com/pages/expedition-rowboat Light, bicycle towable (stored onboard, full size folding MTB) , proven (buy the book).
    Angus (Sailing) RowCruiser Sailing RowCruiser https://angusrowboats.com/pages/sailing-rowcruiser Dedicated closed sleeping cabin, can take the required 800lbs, proven (R2AK).
    Traditional folding kayaks, like Klepper or Long Haul Long Haul Folding Kayaks - Adventure Awaits - Shop Now! https://longhaulfoldingkayaks.com A category to themselfs, can be packed away and shipped by conventional methods.

    There are also other designs out there, the Everglades and Ultimate Challange regularly see new things.

    You need to be more specific with what is important for you so that we can look for a design prioritizing those things.
     
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  10. Penitent
    Joined: Feb 2020
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    Penitent Junior Member

    Thank you everyone! This information is fantastic. This thread is exactly the sort of information I hoped it would be.

    I’ll reply by Wednesday afternoon regarding the specifics (location, sleep on boat or not, inland or coastal, etc) that I haven’t stated. I have to think before replying since the information you all have provided means certain things I thought weren’t realistic, might be. For instance I assumed sleeping on the boat/coastal cruising required a boat too big to human powered tow. I now see that’s not true. I took it as a given that I would be restricted to inland waterways and camping ashore. I have to rethink in light of the existence of things like the Portabote and Angus boats.

    Thanks again! And God bless.
     
  11. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    You need to be pretty specific in your requirements, so you can make a good compromise. State first what your ideal is then we adjust from there. A fully loaded rowcruiser is not really for towing with a bicycle without flat asphalt roads. Coastal cruising is absolutely possible with camping ashore every night. Food and foraging are also a topic, your 300lbs for 2 months is way to high, that's 5lbs of food a day without any foraging. For foraging you need specific info related to your opertional area, knowing what's edible in the canadian woods does not help much in the Everglades.
    Equipment also depends on opertional conditions, for example manual watermaker, fresh water filtration, stove type, etc.

    P.S. forget the portabote, it's not suited for what you want.
     
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  12. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I think you should get into a small boat and see what happens. I am pragmatic and don't count in prayers. However, if you do, maybe it will help you. Stability in small boats is very dependent on the skill of the person. The center of gravity will be high if you stand up to pole or paddle. In short, my opinion is that this is mostly a pipe dream. Go boating for a couple of days, and the harsh facts of reality will probably change your mind.
     
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  13. clmanges
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    clmanges Senior Member

    Just curious; could you state your reasons for saying this?
    @Penitent, I agree with Gonzo. If you haven't yet, do find a way to try rowing and paddling both, and get in as much time at each as you can, so you'll get an idea of what long distances do to you. Figure out how much distance you'll need to cover a water leg of your journey and try to do that much in one session (half outbound and the other half back). Wear gloves, like fingerless cycling gloves.

    Also, add a PFD to your equipment list.
     
  14. clmanges
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    clmanges Senior Member

    @Penitant, a great resource for good paddling info is:
    paddling.com

    They're not strong on rowing, sailing, or motoring, but they cover the breadth and depth of paddle sports. Lots of instructional articles and videos, boat and equipment reviews.
     

  15. Penitent
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    Penitent Junior Member

    Thank you. Ok, hopefully in this post I will address the important issues.

    Overarching goal/requirements:

    Practical, sustainable long term living, even if austere. (Austerity isn’t a bad thing for religious life.)

    Once started, a budget of hopefully 800 a month. Less if possible. (I can earn well online. The budget is so I can work very little and devote most time to the religious purpose.) I have routinely seen credible budgets in this range from boondockers living it, so I believe this is possible. (And I’m pretty frugal. Even in normal living I’m not much above 1k a month.)

    Separation from the world to the extent possible. There is no red line on this. The more separate I am able to be, the better. If I can go months without resupply and be so remote I see no one that whole time, fantastic. If it turns out that goal is just not realistic, and even HAVING that as a goal makes it a pipe dream, then I would modify the goal. So maybe I just live by a creek five miles from a store that has groceries and such and accepts Amazon deliveries for the rest. And I go hike or bike to resupply each week. I certainly know THAT is possible. I’ve done similar.

    The problem with that is it puts you so near a city that you are “stealth camping.” Many don’t see you as homeless, if they realize you are clean, well spoken, actually have income and can easily afford rent, and are doing this for a purpose. But if you have a large pack where others wouldn’t, many people are weary. This is even if you are perfectly clean and would look totally normal without the pack. You can’t just go about your day for ANY purpose, religious or otherwise. The stealth in stealth camping is ever present.

    “Boondocking” and “dispersed camping” on the other hand, are officially allowed in many places. There’s no hiding. You openly do it. But these areas are too remote for a frequent supply run.

    So I want to have religious separation, and act openly, not have to consider “stealth.” And nature itself is prayerful. I would not want to live in an abandoned industrial area, for instance. It might be secluded, but it’s not a prayerful seclusion.

    I want to do this in a way that does not require any huge 10k expense upfront or if something breaks. This is because this lifestyle requires working little enough to enable the religious purpose. There is a difference between frugal and cheap. I have no problem spending 2k on a boat that lasts two decades, requires modest upkeep, and if it goes down it’s just 2k. It has to be, “Worst case, if this broke, we work more a couple months and then back as we were.” So for instance the aluminum Jon boat idea was very appealing just because it’s cheap.

    I am not tied to any location whatsoever. I am currently in the Midwest, but I would travel to wherever is best for what I described, including overseas, if that’s what works. And I mean travel there by normal means, planes trains and automobiles, and then start there. So if something would only work in very flat terrain... then I’ll go where it’s flat. If Alaska would be perfect... then I’ll move to Alaska.

    Inland vs coastal, sleep ashore or on the boat ...

    It’s very hard for me to say, because I would do any one of these things if that’s what enables the religious separation, and I don’t know enough about boating to know what that is.

    My background is more on the endurance/adventure/expedition/camping end. I’m not a record setter or Olympian, but it’s fair to say that if a pretty good but not stellar adventure race or camping type can do something (as opposed to only the best), then I’ll successfully train for it too.

    Through this experience I know the major limitation to living without resupply is haul capacity. That one thing is everything. And boats and trailers can haul hundreds of pounds. Moreover when you do things primitive, you will FEEL why water used to be society’s highway. If you live more how the trappers did, you’ll feel the same need they did. You keep finding another reason: “Ok I just need a boat.” I wish I could cross that water. I wish I could sleep on that flat water not this 45 degree angle sharp stick infested mud. Boy it sure would be easier to haul this stuff with a boat than on my back. And so on.

    So that is how I came to this. I felt a need for a trailer anyway, a boat anyway, and my idea was trailering a boat. I’m not stating my reasons to defend them as correct, but almost the opposite, so that any underlying errors in my thinking are exposed and I no longer use false starting assumptions. For all I know the solution is, “Look just drop the human towed idea. That’s what’s ruining everything. If you’re willing to do things this primitive then you can easily live on the hook in a 2k boat, in a prayerful nature area, an easy bike away from a store you use twice a week, and there’s no stealth required. You just openly live on the hook and no one cares.”

    I hope that answered the question rather than seeming like I’m being difficult or almost dodging it. If I gave an answer like, “I need a boat for full time coastal cruising the southern USA that’s under 26 feet with haul capacity at least blank,” then I would just be making it up. I would have no idea if that’s what I actually need, or even the right boating type.

    Do I just do dinghy cruising and drop the human towed completely? Are the land and water best seen as two separate realms and I’m artificially trying to combine them? Maybe I have a dinghy that’s basically my house, and if I leave that, I just leave it there, so my on land business then “come back home?”

    My level of boating experience is: I have used canoes and kayaks with a normal amount of gear. I’m comfortable in them, have a good sense how they handle in normal loads (I’ve never expedition loaded one), and my general endurance ability and stubbornness lets me go further by physical means than most people would probably care to do, including days on end.

    Other boating experience is just here and there over the years ... a guy invites me on his power boat, I rent a jet ski, row or pedal boat at the camp I stayed at, and so on. So I certainly have no serious boating experience, but I do have basic boating experience at that level here and there over the years with the various normal types of boats. I’ve at least been on any normal thing once or twice to have a very basic sense of it, but no detailed knowledge.

    On the living/shelter end ... I’m quite the opposite of fancy. I like to jokingly call tent campers prima donnas for needing more than a tarp and bivy sack. I often don’t bother with a ground pad. I have slept well in the rain with a one dollar poncho, three dollar tarp, and I forget what was on my legs. Probably a trash bag. I don’t even own a tent, which is probably not normal for someone who spends weeks at a time camping. So a boat most others wouldn’t sleep on, I might. If there’s room for me to lie down, and I can keep out rain and wave/swell water ... what more do you need?
     
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