Excerpted from Messing Around In Boats

Enough OPBs
by Mississippi Bob Brown

(click here for more information about MAIB)

I am a boat owner and have been for years, in the last 30 years I have owned around 70 boats of varying types. So why does a boat owner like me choose to ride on Other Peoples Boats? I rather like being the skipper, but in recent years I have made several delivery trips for different skippers and rather enjoyed that also. Why do I mess about on OPBs you may well ask?

Most of my boats are very small and rather slow, it's hard to go very far in any of them. Yet I have made some serious trips in my canoes, some over 200 miles, but I am finding my canoes rather slow and limiting as to how far I want to go in a given time. When I'm a crewman for someone on a large cruising boat we really go somewhere, like 1000 miles at a time.

There are times that I think I'd like to own a large cruising boat, either sail or powered, but I get back to reality quickly. I have worked at several boatyards over the years and see very well what it costs to own a large boat. I could buy a large boat if I really felt that I wanted one that badly. I could mortgage the house or cash in my 401 k. But I have never yet owned a boat that cost so much that it hurt my family's budget, and I don't intend to start now.

I've begun again to ask myself what I would really like to have in a boat, a question I've been asking myself over the years, but the answer changes over time. I don't want to be caught paying slip fees for any boat that I own, so it must go home on a trailer. I own a nearly new Ford Ranger truck that has a hitch on both ends. This truck has a vanity plate that reads "Boater." This will be the tow vehicle until the year 2010, so the boat and trailer shouldn't weigh more than a half ton. I'm happy with my Ranger and don't need to start buying fuel for a larger truck or an SUV.

I have been cruising around below hull speed long enough. I want a boat that can escape its own waves. I'm not a speed demon, but 15mph would surely be nice. I want a boat that I can sleep in. I want a boat that I can sleep and cook in at a highway rest stop when I'm halfway between home and some far off destination. A friend of mine went thousands of miles on the highway sleeping in a Bolger Micro. I'm planning to do the same.

When I'm on a canoe trip I am always planning my trips around having places to make camp. Let me be perfectly clear, I'm not a camper. I love to go places in my boats and sometimes this means sleeping on the riverbank in a tent. I would rather sleep in a bed, but a bunk will do just fine.

I have been thinking about building a cruiser for a long time. I have designed dozens of them in my head, some even made it onto paper. Most had sailing rigs, but the more I thought about it the more I knew that I needed to start thinking about an engine.

Okay, if I am going to have an engine, why have all the junk needed to make the boat sail? I thought about it and realized that it was going to be a lot simpler to design a motor boat.

As a canoe designer I hope that I can use some of my experience building a light-weight motor boat that can be driven with a small engine. A couple years ago I made a half model of a small weekender. I looked at this model from time to time thinking that it was really close to what I wanted. The half model represented a 16' John boat with a low cabin. Recently I decided to make a full model as a stitch-and-glue boat. The more I worked with this model, the more I thought that it was too chunky.

I started over with an 18' version. This looked much better. I built the model one-sixth scale. This size works out that I could use some 1-1/2-mil plywood so the scantlings will be nearly the same as on the real boat. The model looks good to me. That's another thing, I wanted a boat that looks good. Like the bumper sticker says, "life is to short to own an ugly boat." I am including a photo of the finished model. You can make up your own mined about the looks. The model at one-sixth scale seems to fit Ken and his friend quite well. I'll bet that Barbie and Ken are one-sixth scale.

I have been doing some math and come up with 16 sheets of 1/4" plywood at 25 Ibs. each and probably five gallons of resin at 10 Ibs./gallon, plus an equal weight of glass. The boat is getting heavy fast. By the time I hang a small outboard on this boat that could add another 100 pounds I'm beginning to wonder if it will float? My plan is for a flat bottom for the last two-thirds of the boat with multiple skegs to help it run straight. I am hoping that I can get this boat up on a plane with a 15hp motor.

I would like to start this boat in the spring as soon as it's warm enough to work in my unheated garage. This boat will not fit in my canoe shop so my new Ranger will have to sit outside until the boat is on the trailer and covered. I am interested if any of the readers have any experience with a boat similar to what I've described. I would like to hear opinions on this project.

Mississippi Bob Brown, 12936 Galaxie
Ave., Apple Valley, MN 55124