Amateur Boat Building

How Small is too Small?
by Jim Betts

The search for a practical (easy to build and cheap) boat goes on. And on and on. The DO IT NOW! (Aug/Sept issue) got a lot of comments from members, mostly negative. "Too small" etc. Yes, there is a point where small can be taken to the extreme.

So here is BURRO (small working animal). It is 12 ft. (3.657m) LOA and offers standing headroom, four-foot galley, head, cockpit and a fair turn of speed with 25 HP, or just putt-putt around with less. The 25 should give speed to 35 mph.

The main "feature" is the cabin form. It is much like an airport control tower in that it has reverse slant all around. So the hull is 6'-6", but the cabin top is 8'-6". So it is still trailerable, at least in the U.S.

Make Space Where There is None

The main thrust here is to make a small boat seem spacious. In house architecture they talk about "view lines." If your eye goes only to a wall, that's not much view. If there are large windows so you see well beyond the walls, that is expanded view line. As you see BURRO has large windows all around - 360 degrees. Even if your eye focuses on the window, you are still inside a boat that is more or less 8'-6" wide, not the 6'-6" beam of the hull.

The windows lean out at the top for several additional reasons:

1) They do not collect seagull droppings;

2) They reduce glare;

3) They do not collect as much rain as vertical windows.

On the downside, they pose some problem when docking and locking. You want to stay away from tall pilings and, when in a lock, secure the boat bow-to. While the drawing shows a berth for one, you can expand the berth to a modest double if you simply eliminate the locker on the starboard side and make the galley smaller. Or you may move the cabin aft to the transom and put the motor on a bracket. Depending on your personal wants, you may design the cabin to suit your needs. Do not feel bound by this preliminary design.

There is always a way to get what you want and get rid of what you don't want or need. If you do not want the cabin sides to lean out, make them plumb. If you want more cockpit, move the cabin back and make the galley smaller and eliminate the hanging locker. If you do not want flashing speed, use a smaller motor. If you are not keen about a plywood boat, cobble it up of real lumber or aluminum, steel or fiberglass. NO ONE SAYS YOU MUST FOLLOW SOMEONE ELSE'S RULES! (One potential builder already sees a railing around the cabin top so he can stand up there and shoot pictures. Just be sure you stand in the middle and in calm waters.)

As for BURRO doing any work, you could have a small crane on the bow, or scuba dive or whatever.

Anyone want to play with this? Send your ideas.
Jim Betts