The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














Take Apart Fishing Pram
by Tom and George Fulk
excerpted from "Messing About In Boats"

My brother George had a nice new truck with a 6' bed, but the 6' pram he had seemed too unstable for serious fly fishing. There is always a temptation to stand to cast when fly fishing since it's easier to get more distance, and you can also cast more readily in all directions. In a way it's a self defeating situation though since, if you remain seated to cast, you don't need to cast far. Standing just makes you more visible to the fish and, if standing, you MUST cast farther. The 6' pram seemed too small on some of the cold water and large lakes along the Alaskan highway. We mulled over how lo get a one quart boat into a one pint truck.

The answer was obvious and I drew up a plan for a 9' boat made of two parts, a 3' bow section and a 6' stem section. The two part boat turned out to have an unanticipated advantage. The two sections are each light enough lo handle easily, but a one piece 9' boat would have been too heavy for easy handling, especially if car topping.

George has had plenty of experience in boatbuilding and made a few changes from the plan to ease construction. He will tell you about this.

Construction: Tom supplied helpful construction tips. This boat is very easy to build. I began by ripping a 4'x8' sheet of 1/4" ocoume plywood lo make two 2' wide sheets. I scarfed a 2'x2' piece to the end of each, using the Payson method, to make material 2'x10' for two sides.

Next I laid out the sides following offsets from Tom's plans, and used a batten to get a nice curve to the bottom close to the layout lines. Having cut out one side, I clamped it to the other and used it as a pattern for the second side.

I built the bulkheads and transoms about 2" too tall, laid them on the sides at the places indicated in the plans, then marked off the bevels for the bottom and top. I cut the bevels on a table saw. Next I notched out places in the cross members for the chine logs, screwed and glued chine logs to the inner faces of the sides, then attached sides to transoms and bulkheads. The two bulkheads are installed about 3' aft from the bow and only 1/4" apart from each other. Temporary spacers were used to maintain the 1/4" spacing between bulkheads and the two bulkheads were installed as one assembly. I added gunwales, laminating two pieces to make finished wales 1-1/2" x 2".

I placed a full sheet of plywood on the lower edge of the sides, clamped it "in place, marked off the size, and cut it out for the bottom. I scarfed a second piece to the first to form the completed bottom, which can just barely be taken from one sheet of plywood. Next I added the deck to the bow and knees to the stem. The knees reinforce the side and transom connection and need to be fitted and fastened well. I taped the chines with fiberglass set in epoxy. At this point the boat looked almost finished, but the fun part was about to begin.

I turned the boat over and drilled four holes through both bulkheads for the bolts. Then I took a hand saw and cut the boat in two, sliding the saw between the two bulkheads. That was the first time I cut a boat in half. Suddenly it took up a lot less space in the workshop.

Next I added the seat and oarlocks. To strengthen the holes for the bolts which hold the two parts of the boat together, I added small stainless steel plates around the holes to both sides of the aft section and lo the forward side of the forward section. The 1/4" carriage bolts are permanently glued into the forward section. I used small brass wood screws, countersunk into the plate, and glue to hold those plates in place. They prevent the bolts from enlarging the holes when taking the boat apart repeatedly. Tom suggested reinforcing the holes by gluing copper tubes into the holes. That would have worked, too, I am sure. I buttered up the inside of the holes with epoxy to prevent water from soaking into the end grain. The holes need to be 1/16" larger than the bolts. The bolts are above the water line so there is no worry about leaks.

I placed three 3/4" x 1" cedar runners along the bottom and covered each with a flat aluminum strip. They do a lot to strengthen and protect the bottom from wear. It would be best to laminate the runners for the forward section from 3/8" thick stock so they would bend more easily and conform to the curvature of the bottom. I painted the boat with a one part epoxy paint, Brightside by Interlux. It took three quarts, including undercoat.

Following Tom's advice, I built 7-1/2' oars for this boat. They were easy to build, inexpensive, and work well. The blades are 1/4" ocoume plywood covered with fiberglass, set in a slot in the looms. The looms are laminated from a clear 2"x6" ripped lengthwise. They are finished round about 2" in diameter at their inboard ends, tapering down to almost nothing at the blade end.

Sea Trials: I took this boat on a two week camping trip around Lake Superior, using it almost every day. I think the boat offers a practical solution to the person who wants to carry a 9' boat inside a 6' pickup bed. That said, it would be better to have a 8' single piece boat in a 8' pickup bed. It takes five minutes to put the boat together and another five to take it apart again, so I lose 10 minutes of fishing.

I was a bit skeptical about how easy it would be for one person to load this boat into a pickup. Once I got a system, I found it was really quite easy. To load the boat, I take it apart and set the forward end of the larger section on the tailgate. The larger piece weighs a little less than 60 lbs., but I am lifting only one end at a time. With one end on the tailgate and the other on the ground, I place the smaller section of the boat into the larger. The smaller weighs 27 lbs. Now I lift the whole thing up and slide it in.

Once the boat is together and on the lake, it is a wonderful fishing platform. It moves along nicely with the big 7.5' oars. These oars have long, narrow blades (36"x4"J, and once I get the boat moving I can keep it moving with little effort. To give the oars a little more clearance over my knees, I added 3/4" thick oak pads to the gunwales and mounted the oar locks on them. The boat is stable. I can stand up to cast, move to the side to net my fish and to either end to lift the anchors. It is a safe boat. I have a styrofoam block under the seat and 1-1/2" thick foam panels along the sides. The flotation is covered with fiberglass cloth and tied firmly in place. The styrofoam has the volume to displace 85 lbs. of water.

This boat is designed to be for one person but I found that, with a few modifications, I can take a passenger. I built a small box seat that conforms to the bottom of the forward section with a notch to fit over the lower frame of the bow transom. I added 1-1/2" thick pads to the gunwales of the smaller section where the sides meet the bulkhead. The pads strengthen that joint and provide an elevated mounting for a second set of oar locks. The boat is nicely balanced with the passenger setting in the stem and me rowing in the bow. My wife and I made a circuit of four lakes in Canada, pulling the boat on a two-wheeled dolly over the portages.

I suppose I could put a small 2hp motor on this boat, but I am content to row it. The gently slap, slap of the waves hitting the bottom as I row upwind would become a terrific pounding if under power.

A Final Note: Flotation in smalt boats used mostly in cold water is essential. It should be securely and well placed. Hypothermia is always an issue in trout fishing since water temperatures are seldom over 55" and frequently in the 40s. It's best, I think, to have a boat which will float level, into which you can slither if the worst happens. Boats like this will seldom overturn even though they may fill. The most common accident is falling overboard. Getting your body out of the water even a little enhances your Survival chances. Having offered this bit of sermonizing, let me add that my favorite trout fishing boat has no flotation.