The Sebastian Marie Riverboat

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by rfleet1066, Oct 28, 2022.

  1. rfleet1066
    Joined: Feb 2012
    Posts: 173
    Likes: 35, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 46
    Location: New Kent, VA USA

    rfleet1066 rfleet1066

    This vessel grew up on this site. Look for the thread, 'Riverboat Progress' IMG_7267[1].JPEG This is a short story from my book, now in progress............

    The Sebastian Marie

    It all started when I was about ten years old and read about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn drifting down the Mississippi River on a raft with a tent on it. For years I dreamed about doing that.

    About twenty three years ago I started plotting to do so. Eleven years ago I woke up one morning and said, “We start today”.

    I was recovering from a crippling fall that crushed my feet, broke my back and popped a hole in my head. (Go ahead and say it……That explains a lot.)

    A bright young fellow, fresh out of high school, had been my driver and assistant while recovering. Neither Eli nor I had any idea what was to come.

    I didn’t know the first thing about boats, or as it turned out, ships, but I knew what I wanted to do.

    My first drawing was done with a number two pencil, sharpened on the concrete and sketched on a napkin. Is that called NAPCAD?

    I met with a gifted metal fabricator, Alan Blake and described to him the pontoons I wanted. They would be sixty five feet long, five feet in diameter with bulkheads and hatches every ten feet. His guys rolled the plate and welded them up, inside and out, pressure tested and beautiful.

    The day they came on a truck, a man from up the road walked down, and as I was flagging traffic, he said, “That’s one crazy son of a ***** up that hill”, pointing up my driveway. “You won’t believe the noise that comes from that place.” Further he added, “Rock and roll, machine gun fire, chain saws, you name it.”

    I designed bridge beams to connect the pontoons and went about connecting them. Adding deck stringers and planking, it started looking like a boat. I had no idea that this was a small part of a beginning.

    As work progressed, I added a third pontoon in the middle, thinking it might make the difference between a boat and a submarine. A tri-toon as it were, or perhaps a Loony Toon……….you decide.

    The boat needed a name. My beautiful and talented Wife, Terriann, (now deceased) has a mother that is kind, brilliant, funny, talented, loving and creative. As of this writing she is ninety seven years old, sharp as a tack and just a very sweet human. Her name is Marie Sebastian. I told her that the boat would be named ‘The Sebastian Marie’. She pointed out that the name was backwards. I told her that for a boat, the name rolled off the tongue better. She said “I would still be honored.” To be clear, she deserves to be honored.

    It was my intent to build a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of riverboats. She would be ninety seven feet, stem to stern when finished. All deck, with an offset pilot house like an aircraft carrier with a landing ramp forward. As a ferry, she will carry seven cars. As a work boat, anything goes. Fitted with an Airstream camper and a tent forward with a commercial kitchen and lounge, she makes a fine river cruiser.

    It took seven years to build this vessel. We worked in blazing sun and heat, and sub-freezing temperatures in the snow. You see, once something like this is started, one cannot back up. Well, we didn’t, anyway. I knew that if I stopped, even briefly, the project would stop. Again, we didn’t.

    Now, I have admitted to being heavily armed with ignorance regarding boat building. I found a great website, ‘’ with a forum. Other boat and ship builders post pictures of projects, ask questions, answer them, etc. There’s a wealth of knowledge there. From novice builders to accomplished naval architects, all levels of experience are represented. I got good advice from Belgium, Australia, The Netherlands, Miami, even some Damn Yankees had good advice. (imagine that!)

    This boat was built in the woods at my place in New Kent County, Va. But the river is miles away, so I designed it to disassemble for shipping. Buggies were built to transport hull sections to the place of launching. A gentleman, John Britt, who has become a dear friend, offered his place where I could reassemble and launch the vessel. This is twelve miles from my compound where she was built.

    I called the local sheriff and asked for help. The sections are huge with the bridge beams welded to the sides. He graciously obliged and sent some very kind and helpful Deputies to assist, and control traffic. I will quickly add that this County and particularly the Sherriff’s Department has, for years been nothing but helpful and in some cases tolerant of my activities.

    The day came to move the first hull. The Deputies wanted to do it at the crack of dawn for reasons of traffic volume. The move was so seamless, that upon our arrival at the destination, I asked, “What just happened?”

    The second and third hull moves were equally trouble-free. Then the wheel house, engine module, and landing ramp were moved.

    A local towing company, ‘Bob Alley Towing’, was hired to provide crane services to assemble her. They sent “Black Beauty”, a sixty ton wrecker with a rotating boom that easily lifted the pieces for assembly. I say easily, but the operators were experts that made it relatively easy.

    She took about a week to reassemble and reconnect the electrics, hydraulics, and such.

    Did I mention my ignorance? I didn’t know anything about launching boats, either.

    Oh, wait……let’s get this out of the way. The difference between a boat and a ship? A ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship. She carries a boat,( a dinghy), so technically she is a ship and a good ship at that. I still call her a boat, partly out of modesty.

    Back to launching…………We built cradles using telephone poles with carpet laminated and soaked with dishwashing detergent, strapped into place under the hulls. This was placed on transverse poles to be used as rollers to move her down the hill into the water. It worked like a charm. The poles, intentionally longer than the hulls protruded forward. As she rolled down the hill these poles stuck in the mud at water’s edge. Then the straps were cut loose and John Britt pushed her into the water, with a huge excavator, sliding nicely on that carpet saturated with detergent.

    First order of business was to open all the hatches to check for leaks. Eli advised that there were none.

    This is the first and only vessel of this kind ever built. (Perhaps for good reason) So, nobody could show me how to drive the damn thing. She has no keel or rudder, so steering is by thrust vector from the long-tail drive. She also has forward and aft side thrusters.

    Maneuvering is remarkably nimble, to my great relief. We docked at John’s place, got her ship-shape for the Christening the next day. John’s little girl, Mackenzie did the honors. Eli had his band on deck for the festivities.

    The following day, we moved her upriver to home port, at Waterloo. The Adams Family had graciously built us a pier with water and electricity prior to her arrival. She is docked there as I write this.

    Want some specifications?

    97’ overall length

    She weighs 57 tons

    24’ wide

    30” draft

    She is powered by a 75 horsepower John Deere turbo-diesel, employing a long-tail drive, (google that), with a bronze four blade prop, 24” in diameter

    760 gallons of fuel capacity

    300 gallons fresh water capacity

    A keel cooled 14 KW generator is down below providing electric power. A critical grade silencer makes it quiet as a mouse.

    She travels at six miles per hour at 3/4 throttle burning about 2.8 gallons an hour

    She has the latest Garmin electronics, including RADAR, SONAR, moving map display and an autopilot that knows ever curve in any river we have ever been on. I can leave my pier and choose a destination hours away, never touching the steering wheel.

    The vessel is currently fitted with an Airstream 28’ Flying Cloud, a 12 foot dinghy and a Honda 750 Nighthawk motorcycle. A modular command post tent is affixed forward with a commercial style kitchen and a dining lounge. A 200 gallon hot tub is affixed to the deck forward of the wheelhouse.

    We do not collect, process or discharge black water. She has a diesel burning toilet. Simply do what has to be done, push the yellow or brown button, whichever is appropriate, and an auger takes waste back to a burn chamber. Lit up to 850 degrees, all waste is reduced to what resembles cigarette ash. This is vacuumed out every few months.

    As of this writing, we have traveled over 6500 river miles with many adventures. I will write about those, too, but not today.
    clmanges and bajansailor like this.
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 3,610
    Likes: 1,571, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    BlueBell likes this.
  3. rfleet1066
    Joined: Feb 2012
    Posts: 173
    Likes: 35, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 46
    Location: New Kent, VA USA

    rfleet1066 rfleet1066

    I really didn't keep track. It took seven years. I would estimate about 400K without counting my labor cost.
    BlueBell and bajansailor like this.

  4. rfleet1066
    Joined: Feb 2012
    Posts: 173
    Likes: 35, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 46
    Location: New Kent, VA USA

    rfleet1066 rfleet1066

    If nothing else, this vessel is the model of cumulative effort. I am but an ant building an anthill, one little crumb at a time. The Sebastian Marie took 15 years of serious dreaming , then 7 years of hard labor in extreme conditions at times. For a working man there is no other way to own a million dollar vessel.
    bajansailor likes this.
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