Pontoon Party Barge made from Plastic Drums?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by cainram, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. cainram
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    cainram New Member

    I've got a steady supply of 55 gal drums made from thick plastic. The idea is to seal them up and use them as pontoons for a pontoon boat. I've looked on this forum and seen plenty of posts and comments regarding steel drums and the general consensus seems to be that they can be a problem because they eventually rust. These plastic drums won't suffer that fate. Does anyone have any advice?

  2. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    My advice would be to make sure you have plenty of metal drums on board as well. Preferably in plastic barrels with ice!

  3. cainram
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    cainram New Member


    That's the idea!
  4. keysdisease
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    keysdisease Senior Member

    Here in South Florida I see a lot of blue plactic drums used as "dock floats." As long as you don't expect too much from them I would think this would be very feasible.

    As for "seal them up," in a case like this, nothing can be sealed to keep out water, it will always get in somehow, so plan accordingly and have access so you can pump them out somehow.

    For putt putt speeds this could be a way cool way to float that keg and a few lawn chairs.

    :cool: Steve

  5. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    There are plenty of floating docks made of plastic drums. You can make a plywood deck and secure the drums under. If you close them tight, water won't get in. Drums can be sealed, that is why the liquid they carry inside doesn't spill.
  6. tinhorn
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    tinhorn Senior Member

    Permatex No. 2.
  7. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    For floating platforms they would fine, but propelling them, even at displacement speeds causes a whole new set of issues. The problem with these types of drums are attachment to each other and to a support structure, horrible hydrodynamic qualities, the need for a nose on each pontoon, leakage, etc.

    If your pontoon boat will see much use underway, then you should consider another pontoon material. On a typical pontoon boat, the cost of the pontoons is less then 20% of the total value of the boat. The stuff they are attached to or have attached to them, costs a lot more, such as engine(s), tank(s), steering, throttle and shift controls, helm station with the related gauges and equipment, crew seating, storage, decking, decking support structure, pontoon supports, etc. There's a lot more to a pontoon boat then the pontoons, so though you have some free or cheap potential pontoon stock, you still need the rest of the boat, making the cheap barrels, less attractive then at first blush.
  8. cainram
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    cainram New Member


    Thanks for the food for thought. As far as expense goes, I'm fully aware of what a person could spend tricking out a boat like this. I'm not doing it because "hey, I've got some barrels! I'll make a boat for free!" The barrels just lit the fire under my *** to do something I've wanted to do for a long time. As far as the hydrodynamics of it, I'm planning on using this as a raft for floating down the river or just paddling out into the lake. I'm not going to be motorizing it.

  9. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    Sure, they work fine for floats. Most stationary dock floats or boathouses I've seen don't physically attach them to the dock but have a frame that straddles them and rely on flotation to keep them there. Like say for each side of a pontoon type boat, you would have a frame of two 2x6"s parallel, maybe 18" apart, running for and aft, and the barrels would fit in there enough so they won't float away.

    Back when people did make powered pontoon boats from (steel) barrels, Usually they would have a frame like that and also a steel strap around the ends of each barrel to keep them in place.

    To figure out how many you need, figure out the cubic feet dimensions each barrel is and multiply it by 62. If each barrel was 10 cubic feet, each barrel would support 620 lbs fully submerged or 310 lbs half submerged. For the weight you have to add up everything- the barrels, the frame, the people, the stuff you bring along etc.
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