Small, stable, modular boat for photography

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by CallMeGeorge, May 28, 2022.

  1. CallMeGeorge
    Joined: May 2022
    Posts: 20
    Likes: 5, Points: 3
    Location: Ohio

    CallMeGeorge Junior Member

    I would like to have a boat suitable for wildlife photography on reservoirs and creeks.

    Features:
    1. Draft less than six inches; four inches preferred.
    2. Carry one person and gear; 250 lbs.
    3. Mount an electric motor and battery; 75 lbs.
    4. Flat deck so I can lay prone while working the camera.
    5. Some means of securing a ground tripod (or pedestal of some sort) to the deck for use while shooting. Also need to attach a sealed container for the camera and lens, for storage.
    6. Very stable.
    7. Fit in my Mazda 3 hatchback. (Or weigh less than 50 lbs and be sturdy enough to ride on a roof rack.)

    I would buy such a boat if I could find it. Not finding one, I'm considering building it.

    I'm thinking pontoon, because I can make four of them as separate modules to fit in the car, and when they are attached to the deck have a wide stance. Four of them 54" long, 15" tall, and 8" high will (subject to verification) carry the 325 lb design load with a 2x safety factor and four inches draft.

    Conceptually, I'm thinking HDPE sheet could be bent into a shallow U, some stiffeners welded in, then the assembly welded to a cap sheet. (The two leading pontoons would come to a point to cut a path into the water.) I am doubtful that I can learn to weld 3/16th HDPE sheet reliably, though I suppose practice may solve that problem.

    I've seen some wooden catamaran designs on this forum which could be adapted to my purpose. I have some questions about stiffeners and construction methods.

    First, though, I'm wondering about the fiberglass skin that, as I understand it, is applied to the outer surface of the wood. According to the Gibbs and Cox manual (referenced in another thread on this forum), the only thing a fiberglass coat does is hide the rot from the operator's sight.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on this, and any advice or comments on the project in general.
     
    portacruise likes this.
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 3,653
    Likes: 1,596, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Barry, Flotation and fallguy like this.
  3. clmanges
    Joined: Jul 2008
    Posts: 583
    Likes: 147, Points: 43, Legacy Rep: 32
    Location: Ohio

    clmanges Senior Member

    Sounds to me like a sneakboat would be right up your alley (or creek). Here's a random example:
    Final Attack Boat / Pit Blind - Explore Beavertail https://www.explorebeavertail.com/product/final-attack/

    This one exceeds your target boat weight, but there are ways to compensate for that if you have the money; a popular but pricey version is this:
    Thule Hullavator Pro | Thule | United States https://www.thule.com/en-us/winter-and-water-sports-carriers/kayak-roof-racks/thule-hullavator-pro-_-1685448
    Check the specs carefully before you buy; your chosen hull may be too wide to use on one of these.
    Also, you could make a system of ramps and if needed, pulleys to do the same thing dirt cheap.

    I think you could meet your target weight with a very simple plywood scow hull, fully decked and sealed, all flat panels. The draft would be very shallow.

    I can't fathom why you'd want to lie prone on the boat to do photography; that seams like a lot of discomfort and would limit the positions and angles you'd have to aim the camera. I think a recumbent position would be far better.

    As to the tripod, you could pretty easily fab up a swingaway cantilever arm with a camera mount on the end of it. That might obstruct the use of a paddle, though, which you should definitely have aboard in case of motor failure.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Barry likes this.
  4. Skyak
    Joined: Jul 2012
    Posts: 1,461
    Likes: 146, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 152
    Location: United States

    Skyak Senior Member

    The hardest criteria on your list is certainly number 7. That's where your options go from hundreds to zero.
    None of your criteria address mobility on the water. I presume you will need to travel from where you launch to where nature is photogenic.
    #6 is undefined and unlimited. Small and light is inversely proportional to stable. Being stable while you flop from reclining to prone on such a small boat is hard to imagine. Doing it with heavy fragile cameras is a worry.
    I presume your photography is digital -could a separate viewfinder screen solve these conflicts? My vision is that the photographer stays in the reclined position and remotely operates the camera on a steady rig boom. There are lots of advantages to this added complexity -handling and setup is all reclined so dropped parts fall in your lap not the water. The camera is free to be higher (not many creatures visible from water surface). Controlling position stays in one place with no weight shift.

    To answer your specific questions, HDPE sheet can be worked and welded, but it is heavy and lacks rigidity so few people make such small boats from it.
    "Stich and glue" marine plywood is the material of choice for most small craft designers and NO epoxy fiberglass adds protection and strength (the rot comment was likely from someone glassing over an old traditional wood boat).
    Drop stich SUP might be useful, and there are also folding boats out of polypropylene and lighter ones out of corrugated PP. My solution would be a folding craft from multiple corrugated PP hulls with a remote control camera on a boom.
    If you want to follow your pontoon plan check out Expandacraft | Modular Boats and Outriggers
     
    bajansailor likes this.
  5. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
    Posts: 1,478
    Likes: 434, Points: 83
    Location: Colorado

    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Have you looked into a fisherman's floating chair.

    Satisfies requirement 7 but not many of the others.
     
    portacruise likes this.
  6. portacruise
    Joined: Jun 2009
    Posts: 1,488
    Likes: 181, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 218
    Location: USA

    portacruise Senior Member

    1. Draft less than six inches; four inches preferred.

    PC. Power propulsion will be difficult if low draft is for in shallow water use because of weeds and prop strikes, but an air prop can be used instead. Unless you will be using a push pole or your feet to move along in shallow water?
    2. Carry one person and gear; 250 lbs.
    3. Mount an electric motor and battery; 75 lbs.

    PC. Considerably lighter Weight power Systems can be used depending on your range, speed, and stealth requirements.
    4. Flat deck so I can lay prone while working the camera.

    PC. OK, If you have successfully used prone position before, but may be more difficult in a boat situation where you might need to swing around while prone to different angles, instead of slowly spinning the boat?
    5. Some means of securing a ground tripod (or pedestal of some sort) to the deck for use while shooting. Also need to attach a sealed container for the camera and lens, for storage.
    6. Very stable.
    7. Fit in my Mazda 3 hatchback. (Or weigh less than 50 lbs and be sturdy enough to ride on a roof rack.)

    A fisherman's sit in "V" float tube or pontoon ( 25# max wt.)with built-in tackle pockets might be adapted to just about all of the SOR. Except for the prone requirement, but some camouflage netting could be draped over the pedestal instead and conceal a seated passenger underneath, if stealth is the goal.
     
  7. mitchgrunes
    Joined: Jul 2020
    Posts: 298
    Likes: 94, Points: 28
    Location: Maryland

    mitchgrunes Senior Member

    What do you mean by a "creek"? "Creek" often means very steep, full of fast rapids, with big waves. No way any boat, let alone one wide enough to have a shallow draft, will be a stable platform for photography, in rapids and waves. Wind can also create waves, in any water. In fact, any boat that is stable on flatwater, rocks in waves - unless you use active stabilization to stabilize the boat, which is probably out of your price, weight and size ranges.

    Mechanically stabilized cameras for movie work are very expensive. But even if the platform shakes, the camera stays still. If you plan to have a long telephoto lens, I'm not sure they are good enough. But might be worth looking into. I expect you know there are less expensive cameras with simpler anti-shake capabilities; are any of them good enough? Also, it isn't perfect, but I think programs like Photoshop can try to remove motion blurring, after the shot is taken.

    If you need shallow draft because you are going to take the shot from shallow water, could you stand in the reservoir or creek, for better stability? You could take a more maneuverable craft to get there, if you have to go through deep water first.

    There are off-the-shelf flying drones for photography, and some are fairly quiet. Would any of them do?
     
    portacruise likes this.
  8. portacruise
    Joined: Jun 2009
    Posts: 1,488
    Likes: 181, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 218
    Location: USA

    portacruise Senior Member

    Here's an example ,



    From MG,

    "If you need shallow draft because you are going to take the shot from shallow water, could you stand in the reservoir or creek, for better stability?"

    Creeks around here are pretty stable, most with wind protective high banks, unless there is rain Upstream which produces a flash flood wave, but that may not be true everywhere... A float tube lets you Shuffle using the bottom to maneuver and stand up quietly, slowly, or quickly and with great stealth, if required. I've gotten to within 3 or 4 ft to get a picture of skittish wildlife.

    "There are off-the-shelf flying drones for photography, and some are fairly quiet. Would any of them do?"

    Yep, also quieter RC boats that might work?
     
    mitchgrunes likes this.
  9. ziper1221
    Joined: May 2018
    Posts: 44
    Likes: 6, Points: 8
    Location: florida

    ziper1221 Junior Member

    Just get a trailer hitch and trailer.
     
  10. mitchgrunes
    Joined: Jul 2020
    Posts: 298
    Likes: 94, Points: 28
    Location: Maryland

    mitchgrunes Senior Member

    Those floating chairs look rather practical for the purpose. But I assume they can't move very fast. Hard to get out to a distant island, and I don't know if you could fight a current or wind. I guess you should be pretty close to shore if there is only one air chamber.

    Actually, kayaks (and decked canoes) can be very quiet too, moving slowly on flatwater. After all, they were typically hunting craft in the arctic. People often paddled quietly right up to a sea mammal, and speared it. Having a streamlined efficient shape reduces noise. (So does a "Greenland paddle".) If you know what you are doing, you can use your knees to keep the deck very stable. That is often considered part of good efficient paddling, because rocking wastes energy. But it takes a fair bit of practice to learn that. I don't know if the o.p. is a sufficiently experienced paddler for that. Also, sleek craft are easy to tip, and dunk your gear. "Fishing kayaks" are a more stable compromise.

    If you want to photograph fish (presumably with a polarized filter to reduce glare), you need to be able to get a fairly vertical angle, so you can see below the surface. I'm not sure what that means in terms of boat design. A camera on a boom might work, but you still need to be able to find the fish by eye.

    If you have a slow boat, you may want to think twice before approaching any dangerous animal, like a bear or moose, and you should stay away from alligators and crocodiles, regardless, if they live in your area. In some regions, watch out for poisonous snakes as well as disease bearing ticks (wear a hat for the latter) that drop out of trees. And mind all the usual boating safety issues about wearing a life vest, and dressing warmly enough for both the air and water.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2022
  11. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
    Posts: 3,387
    Likes: 534, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 1279
    Location: Lakeland Fl USA

    messabout Senior Member

    I suspect that a Barnegatt Bay type, sneakboat might fulfill most of the SOR. not the one about loading into the Mazda. Chances are that the Mazda has a maximum interior width allowance of about 44 inches more or less, mostly less. A carefully constructed sneakbox could be made nearly as light as the OP wishes it to be. Not too much glass and almost no bells and whistles could get a 12 footer into the 60 to 75 pound range. Those boats are often sculled while the occupant is lying down. That is one of the sneaky features that would probably apply to nature photography as well. These little boats are well proven over the course of a hundred years or so.
     
  12. CallMeGeorge
    Joined: May 2022
    Posts: 20
    Likes: 5, Points: 3
    Location: Ohio

    CallMeGeorge Junior Member

    I'm not a fan of inflatables for use in shallow water; too many sticks and what-not.
    (My vinyl boots were punctured by a stick on the third walk through swampy water.)
     
  13. CallMeGeorge
    Joined: May 2022
    Posts: 20
    Likes: 5, Points: 3
    Location: Ohio

    CallMeGeorge Junior Member

    I saw one of these a couple of months ago; that's what got me started on my search for a small yet stable platform for photography.
    It's not totally out of the question, but...
    Attaching anything to a plastic boat with air gap construction is problematic.
    I can't lie flat.
    It's cramped.

    I would have ~$1500 in the roof rack plus the assist device.
    Again, not totally out of the question, but...

    If I run out of modular options I'll come back to this one.

    I wouldn't shoot from the prone position all the time, but the view from that position is much better in some cases.
    P5020402.jpg


    The lens is a heavy prime, so the mount needs to be very stiff. A cantilevered swing arm would be very heavy if stiff enough. In that case, the side of the boat (plastic or plywood) would vibrate too much.
     
  14. CallMeGeorge
    Joined: May 2022
    Posts: 20
    Likes: 5, Points: 3
    Location: Ohio

    CallMeGeorge Junior Member

    George:
    I believe it is possible, though perhaps not the best option in the final analysis.
    For example, Pond King makes a one-man boat that sits on 14" pontoons. I could make that work if I use a 38" wide deck, instead of 48". But the draft will be deeper than I like, and the flat faces of the pontoons will have a lot of drag.

    Skyak:
    None of your criteria address mobility on the water. I presume you will need to travel from where you launch to where nature is photogenic.
    George:
    That's what the motor is for, and why I want to have some level of efficiency in the hull/pontoons.

    Skyak:
    #6 is undefined and unlimited. Small and light is inversely proportional to stable.
    George:
    I would think that a set of pontoons spaced 48" (outside measure) would be stable enough for a small lake. If not I would have the freedom to go wider with little weight penalty.

    Skyak:
    To answer your specific questions, HDPE sheet can be worked and welded, but it is heavy and lacks rigidity so few people make such small boats from it.
    George:
    I have noted that the density advantage is offset by the lack of stiffness. The immunity from rot is attractive, as is the integral sealing (if the welds are done right).

    Skyak:
    "Stich and glue" marine plywood is the material of choice for most small craft designers and NO epoxy fiberglass adds protection and strength (the rot comment was likely from someone glassing over an old traditional wood boat).
    George:
    Actually, the design manual was talking about new designs.
    My concern is that the glass will be abraded by contact with the sandy or rocky bottom in shallow water, or that the seals at seams will be broken by flexure.
    Perhaps the abrasion concern can be addressed with Kevlar material instead of plain glass.
    What steps can be taken to prevent separation of what are essentially glued joints in a flexible structure?

    Skyak:
    Drop stich SUP might be useful, and there are also folding boats out of polypropylene and lighter ones out of corrugated PP. My solution would be a folding craft from multiple corrugated PP hulls with a remote control camera on a boom.
    George:
    I'll look into these options. (I have seen one folding PP hull; it does not take a motor.)

    Skyak:
    If you want to follow your pontoon plan check out Expandacraft | Modular Boats and Outriggers
    George:
    I visited that site at your suggestion. I look into it further.
     

  15. CallMeGeorge
    Joined: May 2022
    Posts: 20
    Likes: 5, Points: 3
    Location: Ohio

    CallMeGeorge Junior Member

    I googled bay boat, with and without Barnegat, but did not find any one-man boats, or any that could be sculled lying down. Do you have a brand name, or a link to an example?
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.