The 20 ft River Explorer is really
just a giant John Boat with a simple house built on
top. It’s almost impossible to beat a good John
Boat for ease of construction and stable usage.
When my oldest Daughter was 13 years
old, I took her on a trip down the Mississippi River
on a 7 day float trip from Moline IL to St. Louis
where we live. We did the trip on a 16 ft Compac sailboat
with a 6 hp outboard.. We sailed and motored one lock
a day, spent the night, and then locked though in
the morning for our next day’s journey. A very
small boat, and a very long journey in 7 days. We
spent a lot of our time slogging into the October
wind making our next lock stop for the night. However,
we had a great and memorable adventure shared between
Dad and Daughter. Somehow things are just better when
you have unique experiences with your kids.
Then, when her son turned 13, I did
the trip again with him. This time we went from Keokuk
IA to St Louis for a shorter 7 day journey using a
23 ft Aquarius sailboat turned into a terminal trawler.
Without the rig, and with a 9.9 Honda and plenty of
shade. This boat was almost ideal for the adventure.
It has plenty of room inside, and has a very shallow
draft for anchoring out at night. In fact, we rarely
used the anchor. Instead, we dropped the steel center
board into the mud and held firm in shallow water
near shore. We fished for our supper and watched the
ospreys dive for theirs. We didn’t smoke cigars,
but we did tell “mans stories” as we fished
and cooked our supper. We farted with huge smiles.
No need to say we had a great and manly time.
My 12 year old grandson on the
Aquarius 23 trawler
The Compac with trailer and outboard
cost $1,500 used in 1980. The Aquarius cost me $1,200
for both the boat and trailer. I traded canvas work
for the 9.9 Honda. The bimini shade was made by me,
because I am in the boat canvas business.
My point to this story is; You really
don’t have to spend a lot of money to have unforgettable
experiences messing about on boats. All it takes is
a little imagination, and a healthy disregard for
what the In Crowd thinks.
That’s my thinking when I designed
the 20 ft River Explorer. I wanted a boat that can
be very material cost effective, and not labor intensive
in the construction. To meet this criteria, I designed
the boat using standard sheet size 1/8th inch aluminum
for the bottom, bow, and stern.. All these items are
readily available and can be bent up by any shop with
a brake. I chose aluminum for it’s obvious in
the water parameters. It won’t rot or rust,
and is easily fabricated using carbide blade wood
working tools. However, steel would work well also.
The main difference would be a slight weight change,
and protecting the steel from rust. With today’s
steel paint finishes, rust concerns are greatly reduced.
Click image above for larger
The hull sides can be either 20 ft
2x12 wood planks, or plywood planks laid up with ¼
plywood layers. I prefer the plywood layers over wood
planks for strength, and also stability.
The house can be anything you want.
I’m showing a traditional houseboat lay out
with a large front deck. You could go with a shanty,
or even an open lay out with a canvas roof structure
supported by PVC tubing. You could even go urban and
install a gen-set and air conditioning.
The estimated cost of material to build
the River Explorer as drawn is around $3k plus trailer
and motor. Motor size can be 25 hp to go slow, or
a 90-100 to go like stink Harold
About the designer: Harold
Duffield - age 67 - grew up on the Mississippi River
- was whats known as a "river rat". He
has been messing about and building boats for over
50 yrs. Now he is offering plans and kits for fishing
boats, shantys, house boats and even sailboats in
aluminum as well as finished boats. https://www.oneuglyboat.com/
Other articles by Harold Duffield: