Shipping Container "Shantyboat"?

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by KenH, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. KenH
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands

    KenH New Member

    Hi Folks;

    Ken Hulme, out here on Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. I'm kicking around retirement liveaboard ideas. Call this one a "shantyboat" or "river cruising scow" or "pseudo-narrowboat" for shallow, sheltered freshwater. My idea is to start with a watertight, marine painted, standard 8x8x40 ft. shipping container. Cut away the ends, put new steel in where needed, frame in the cabin ends with plywood. Use cast concrete "joists" 12" high to lay a removeable floor on. Underfloor is for storing water, supplies, etc. You still have 6'+ headroom. The "decks" at either end get storage seats built in. Cut out and frame in windows where needed.

    Rough calculations show that the 8000 lb container will draft about 5" dead empty. With living stuff, people, supplies (including a couple of tons of fresh water, equipment, some ballast, etc. Getting down to a 12" draft isn't hard. English narrowboats typically draft 12-18".

    OK guys - pick apart my idea. The container as the basic hull is the given. I can get a container for under $2000 almost anywhere. As the boat sketched below, is it going to be stable, unstable? Do I need more draft (more ballast)? All sorts of interesting ideas for outfitting and equiping this floating cabin to share, but I would like some feedback first. What do you think? Is it totally wacko, or is it doable?

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. JPC
    Joined: Jun 2005
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    Location: Hong Kong

    JPC Junior Member

    Ken,

    Fun idea! -I think that "sheltered water" is critical to your design thought. My first reaction is that a container is basically a roughly-cut cylinder and has little reason to float on one side as opposed to another. Before launching, I would want to either (i) pour concrete onto my decided "down" side, or (ii) cut the "top half" off the thing.

    If you're essentially making a houseboat, I think you can pull it off without incurring significant costs. What do you want to do with the vessel?

    Interested to hear that you're in the Marshall Islands. I was looking at way-stations for the fast passage between San Francisco and Hong Kong, and that is obviously one of them. I got the impression that there are only about 12 of you there and that visitors are not particularly welcome. -can you improve my impression?

    Regards,
    JPC
     
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  3. KenH
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands

    KenH New Member

    JPC;

    Sheltered water was always my goal. I'd do this on the English canals except the euro vs dollar exchange makes it almost twice as expensive to live there as in the States, and I'm trying to cut costs!

    The "pick a side, any side" is why I will cast concrete floor joists, store a couple tons of potable water down under the floor, graywater, all that. If you know where to look, you can find all kinds of scrap steel for free, which can be cast into concrete down there. Removing those "upper bits" from the ends will help bring the CG down some, I would think. Certainly will reduce the "sail area" too. One thought was to use two 25ft containers, cut as in the sketch, and keep them pretty tightly tied together side-by-side like the working narrowboats do in England. That way you effectively have a 16 x 25 ft. "footprint" which would be much more stable. One hull is the bedroom/sitting room, the other is the kitchen/greatroom. When moving from place to place the two boats could be separtely powered; or one powered and one in tow.

    Regarding the Marshall's as a way-station. There are Marshallese living on most of the atolls. Majuro island/Atoll is the capitol. I understand the Marshallese government charges anchorage fees; how much I don't know but can find out. The USArmy rents Kwajalein Atoll as the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Site. Here in Kwajalein there are some 2500 Americans. Most of us are contract employees working for the company which supplies all sorts of services here. You should be able get permission to enter the atoll most of the time, unless there is some sort of mission in progress. I can cheeck with the Harbormaster's office, if you'd like. We have pass-through aircraft of all kinds and nationalities, why not boats? Dick Rutan's sexy new Proteus aircraft was here to today enroute to Australia. I know a couple who's contracts are up and who are sailing away in a month or so, headed west.
     
  4. JPC
    Joined: Jun 2005
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    Location: Hong Kong

    JPC Junior Member

    Gosh, Ken; are you the progenitor of the new cargo cult?!

    So long as you're not trying to voyage with the vessel, and you've addressed the issue of form stabilty or righting moment by either merging two containers or ballasting one, I don't see why your idea won't work. I think your issue will be in securing the watertight-ness and salt-water survivability of the submersed section. I wonder wheter an exterior coating of cement would address both the ballast and protection issues(?). Others on this site will have some good ideas to address that.

    Propulsion is a new issue - again: what are you thinking to do with the vessel (location and movement requirements)?

    Thanks for the better info on the Marshalls - perhaps it was the Midway atoll that had expressed the real "keep out" message. I was going to bring a boat over from SF to here (HK), but am now heading back to the boats instead. If I do make the trip for other reasons, I'll be interested to see your progress with the container. If do I come by and knock to say hello, I'll try to do it during waking hours: I expect there's quite a bit of resonance within the chamber(!).

    Best regards,
    JPC
     
  5. safewalrus
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Cornwall, England

    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    JPC, when you say 'sheltered waters' do you really mean 'shallow waters' - 5millimetre deep maximum!

    Ken this seems an awful complicated way to kill yourself! True containers do occasionally get washed of ships and float for days on end, normally with something like 5mm freeboard! This is not condusive to comfortable living! As for all the chopping up and rewelding etc. that you intend to do why bother! Getting a simple 'scow' shape made up seems easier or an old dumb barge might be better! Build your house on/in that! You can easily get a small vessel to tow it around on the odd occasion that you want to move!

    this system is already in use in certain areas of England and it works! Probably in use elsewhere too! You know it makes sense!
     
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  6. JPC
    Joined: Jun 2005
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    Location: Hong Kong

    JPC Junior Member

    Yes: if I were asked the question "I have $2k and I want something that floats..." I don't think that it would have even occurred to me to suggest a container!

    Rather, I was thinking of the question "I have a container and I want it to float...."
     

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  7. KenH
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands

    KenH New Member

    Oh No! my new Cargo Cult scam has been exposed! <grin>

    SafeWalrus - A full cargo container will only have 5mm freeboard. But an empty container will only sit 5" deep in the water.

    I've had other people say "why not just build or buy..." But if anyone can find a dumb barge or get a simple scow shape with an 8x40 footprint made up out of 4-6 mm steel for under $2K; show me where! I could make a hull out of plywood and 2x4s for that price, true. But a plyhull would have more maintenance and construction issues than a container. Containers come guaranteed water tight and are coated with a really superior marine paint. I would only have to paint the "added on" steel. Gotta remember I'm not worried about a saltwater habitat for my shantyboat.

    Interesting idea of using a thin coat of concrete as both ballast and exterior waterproofing. I think it might be good it you just didn't run into things and chip off chunks of concrete!

    LOTS of containers fall off ships between say HongKong and the US, and my deepwater sailor friends tell me that they are a serious navigation hazard because they sit so low when full.

    I do't know why people think it seems so much more dangerous to use a pre-made, pre-protectively painted watertight steel container, than to weld together sheets of steel and spend lots of time and effort painting it. Those containers are built to "Take a lickin' and keep on tickin". I think I'd rather trust a new or one-time use container than some old hulk that's been sitting around a mooring for years.

    Motive power - outboard on a stern bracket. Or maybe as a puller on a bow bracket. Don't need to go fast.

    Show me why a container won't work!
     
  8. safewalrus
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Cornwall, England

    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Now hold on Ken, I didn't say it wouldn't work! What I said was it seemed a complicated way to commit suicide (if not done properly!). To do it properly would be damned expensive and a complicated way to go about it (presuming you didn't already have a container!)! If you have a container, why not sell it second hand or rent it out and use the money to get something more like a boat!

    A skip springs to mind!

    Conversely if you are so minded and wish to be so bloody pendantic, a container is a good start! Build your nice comfortable house inside it! and mount it on your barge (if the barge sinks at the normal moorings that these things are kept at your container home will still be above the water, slanting a bit but still....
     
  9. george allard
    Joined: Jul 2005
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    Location: kentucky

    george allard Junior Member

    Could you take two 24" steel pipes and make pontoons on the sides of the container? It would seem to make it more stable.Mount them 12" or so, up from the bottom and ballist the container.
     
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  10. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    I mentioned in the shantyboat site that the stability of the thing seems like it wouldn't be good. I measured one being used for storage. I don't know if they are standard sized or not, but the one here is is 40'l x 8'w x 9'6" h. It would seem like you would have to put a lot of ballast in it to counteract the 9'6" height of what would be a pretty heavy (solid steel) superstructure. Aside from that, the one here has waffled steel sides and, from what I could tell, crosswise 6" I-beams every foot or so for the bottom which would not only have numerous nooks and crannys just right for corrosion but offer more resistance to moving than trying to haul Baby Huey in for his next rabies shot. The Corten "A" rust resistant steel and the zinc rich epoxy/ chlorinated rubber coating sound good ( I guess) if it can stand up to constant immersion, and $2000 is cheap (are you sure?), but in the end it will still be butt ugly. After you get done outfitting the container to make it a liveaboard craft you'll have a lot more than $2000 in it, so don't get hung up on the $2000 part as it may amount to $10,000 of problems down the road. And it will still be butt ugly. The Beautiful People will shun you. Sam
     
  11. safewalrus
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    Location: Cornwall, England

    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    What makes you think us ugly ones will go near -


    ugly - not stupid!
     
  12. MikeJohns
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    Location: Australia

    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Steel is cheap, sell the container buy some steel build a proper houseboat or even a flat bottomed scow with lots of form stability and forget the ballasted container. By the time you've finished there will be a re-salable valuable asset that cost little more than your container conversion.
     
  13. Pavel
    Joined: Jan 2005
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    Location: Ireland

    Pavel Junior Member

    diogenes

    Just a thought you might want to call your container ship a 'Diogenes' in honor of your great predecessor who lived in an ancient type container for a while. He also did not get discouraged by conformity of the society. Good luck.
     
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  14. tansails
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    tansails Junior Member

    Every conversion like this is a nightmare of unforseen problems, I'd really build from scratch, it would be quicker and in the end probably cheaper and certainly better suited.

    Michael
     

  15. Pavel
    Joined: Jan 2005
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    Location: Ireland

    Pavel Junior Member

    a little preach

    Boatbuilding for personal use is unfortunately one of the most energy wasteful deeds one can think of; here is KenH who is trying to live an alternative and nature-friendly life, salvaging one of the consumption symbols of our great and advanced society. I personally went to study a ship container right after his post and I think it can be a beginning of a new water-hippie culture, what was VW van in 60’s, can container-ship serve in our time. Yet, there are many short-sighted who would discourage KenH. Shall we people never learn?
     
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