Hey, I've got all of Dynamite Payson's books. Chuck sends me study plans every now and then. Of course, when I order 'em, that is. I've got shelves and boxes full of boatbuilding how to books. Duckworks' plans section is on my computer's favorite's bar. Right next to Sailing Texas, the local Craigslist Boatporn page, and the Fiberglassics Classics page. There's more. Lots more. But, you get the idea. I've seriously toyed with building just about everything that could come out of an amateur's woodshop. Ferro to ferrous. Slack bilge to hard chine. Glossy to clunky. And so forth.
But. But, I've got an admission to make. Maybe you do too? Maybe not.
You see. Starting with offsets and lofting and patterns and fairing battens is just so, well, so tedious. And, in many ways, pretty darn unnecessary. A little history lesson might be in order.
Back when the girls in the Glen-L catalog were not yet grandmothers. Back when a kid could build a canoe or kayak or small sailboat from plans ordered with a small coupon clipped from the back pages of Boys' Life. Back when Popular Mechanics' monthly offering almost always featured a build-in-your-backyard hydroplane article side by side with stories on the latest advances in flying automobiles. Back then, when Eisenhower was still president, and Nixon wasn't yet a crook. Sure, he looked like one. Back then, there was a revolution going on.
Darn near every burg and metropolis across this big land had guys building boats for commercial sale. Out of frozen snot. Well, actually a catalyzed polymerization of styrene, xylene, and a few other 'lenes, known colloquially as polyester resin. I think most of those boats were stolen from each other, through a process known as "splashing a boat." Anyhow, in the late '50s and all through the '60's these boats proliferated. Some had fins like a '57 Dodge. Some had windshields and cabin tops borrowed from '59 chevys and '63 caddys. And on, and on. How do I know this stuff?
I collected and agonized over the brochures, clipped magazine pictures, and especially studied (memorized, actually) the annual Buyers' Guides. Sure, if I'd put that kind of effort into memorizing my times tables, I coulda' been a math genius like my friend Sam. But, you pays your dime and you takes your ride.
What's all this got to do with Instant Boats? A whole bunch, that's what.
I doubt a day goes by without several ads on the Boatporn channel offering "Boat trailer for sale. Free boat." And, as often as not, the "free boat" in question is a refugee from the Grand Epoch. When "family runabouts," and "cabin cruisers" could be bought in pastel pink and aquamarine and even the most hideous shades of avocado (to match the refrigerator or shag carpet at home, perhaps?) Some of these boats have worked their way through three or four generations. Sure, the Genuine Naugahide has turned to dust. The transom, cockpit sole, stringers, even deck stiffeners have morphed into fossilized plywood. But, doggone it. In most cases, the hull still resembles its younger self. They're out there in just about any shape and size you might desire. As close to an instant boat, as you're about to find. All ya' gotta do is some "minor excavation" and build a superstructure. Maybe add a planked deck. Even a teak 'n holly sole. Whatever. But the hardest part of the boatbuilding act is already done for you. And, usually, for free.
What could be better?
Anyhow, that's pretty much how Shenanigan came to join my fleet. I had this idea that I wanted to build a tug boat. Actually, as long as we're being more or less honest here, what I wanted was to HAVE a tug boat. No, I couldn't afford to go out and buy one either new or used. Sure, I've got stacks and stacks of study plans for construction in steel, aluminum, ferrocement, plywood, realwood, even prepreg panels. But, I've already admitted to being a coward when it comes to lofting and arcana like that. So, I went looking for a hull to build my tuglet on top of. Brilliant, right?
The picture was not the best quality. The ad simply said "boat for sale." But, those misspent youthful hours gleaning every line and statistic on just about every known manufacturer told me I was looking at a 1957 Glasspar Lido hull. A little 13-and-a-half-foot job that was often pictured with at least four people and a 35 horse motor and maybe even a dog aboard. Sure, everybody in those pictures were sitting down. Funny how that half-century old ad copy is still fresh in my memory, when more recent events like kids' birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even my current phone number seem to slip right through the cracks.
Maybe you know somebody like that.
Anyhow, I negotiated a satisfactory price. Free, if I brought my own trailer. Brought the poor little rotten-floored waif home, and spent a few days and sheets of plywood re-stiffening the hull. The superstructure sort of built itself. With heavy borrowings from Benford, Hankinson, Monk, et., al.
But. But, somehow, it had gotten to early August and the resulting tugboat had yet to do any actually tugging. In fact, the whole thing might have simply been forgotten for other projects; were it not for a bit of good natured ribbing from The Lucas-current raining Bard of Bradenton and Tikihut guru-known far and wide as the Lucas Boatworks and Happy Hour Club. Anyhow, when he saw a picture of one of my recent inventions, a stretched trailer that was supposed to carry both the tug and its putative tow at the same time; Dave deemed the whole enterprise impractical and quite useless. Game on.
Kim Apel and I have been "planning" a camp cruising trip for several years now. I had either my peripatetic pocket cruiser, Lady Bug, or another recent conversion rescued from the Sawzall a couple winters ago, in mind for this trip. But, now it was important to show Mr. Tikihut that I knew what I was about.
So, Shenanigan, and her current consort, Kokobot got the nod for this important mission. Pretty much untested, I hasten to admit. This duo constitutes what I've decided to call the Swiss Army knife of boating. They can do just about all the normal boatjobs. Just, none of them particularly well. Pretty much like that Phillips screwdriver and removable toothpick on the SAK.
In this case, we had a motor boat with a roof on it masquerading as a tugboat. Her "public" does regularly turn out at launch ramps and other places, like liquor store parking lots, to grant the Spontaneous Cute Boat Award. But, the towing bonafides were still largely in doubt. This motor boat with a roof was also expected to provide a berth flat and haul all sorts of heavy and bulky and essentially unseamanlike camping necessaries.
The other hull was a converted-by-eye clone of a clone of a 12' Livingston. I've yet to make it to the Kokopelli. But, I figure this to be just about the best kokoboat I've yet thought up. Stable, for sure. Burdensome. Quick under power. And, I once upon a time actually sailed a 10 foot Livingston for about an hour in light air about 40 years ago. So, converting my catamaran to a beach cruiser seemed like a piece of cake just waiting to happen. Now, you're sure you know somebody like that.
Camping trip day arrived pretty early, after picking Kim up at our local airport, real darn late the night before. We headed off to one of the most pristine puddles in the conterminous forty-eight. Priest Lake, Idaho.
Launch went pretty well. Except for the minor irritant of the trailer FLOATING when unburdened of boats. I guess I used more red fir than steel in that stretching deal. A bit awkward in a sidewind. I took Kokobot in tow
(with the third or fourth iteration of a towing bit) and off we went for the first night's bivouac on one of the lake's 7 islands.
Second irritation. A catamaran doesn't follow at all well, left to her own devices. A quick stop to mount and lash the rudder made a decided change in Kokobot's demeanor under tow.
Over the ensuing days we attempted to find out if she was really going to be a sailboat. But, true to form for inland NW summer conditions; the wind didn't actually blow until we had unrigged and stowed and headed back to the launching ramp. Of course, then the wind piped up into the 20's and settled in with a bit of a mean sea making up on the starboard bow. At least I got to test Shenanigan's tugness. And, I will say this. She's really too small, and too light, and certainly too unstable, and quite low of freeboard to really pull anything of consequence.
But, doggone it. She is CUTE. Everybody says so.
Anyhow, I have this 17 foot hull out in the shop. It's about all stripped of everything made of wood or metal-like engines, floors, wiring, plumbing. In other words, she's ready to get "built." I just can't decide if this is the planned shanty to follow either the existing or some future tugboat. Maybe, the whole tug and barge thing should be treated like just another summer romance (we all remember those, now don't we?) and I should move on to building a pocket power cruiser outa' that 17 foot hull. Sure, I did try to imagine Shenanigan and the hull that will necessarily be named Curmudgeon (for the guy who gave me the hull, and the headache for that matter) on that poor pulled-like-taffey trailer. Not likely. Not completely out of the question. But, not likely.
So, I guess you'll have to keep tuned to see what comes out my shop next spring. Nobody knows yet. Not even me.
I sent off my riff on Shenanigan's first real voyage at about 0200. It's now about 0530. I've apparently awakened with major guilt pangs. I just sent off a story where the hero dies, and the townfolk don't even stop to bury him before they go on about their business. Stoppppppp... We can't just leave him lying in the dust outside the saloon. There has to be a better ending to this story.
The fact of the matter, is that it isn't the boat's fault. I did it. I made the coachroof a teensey bit too high, and a bit too heavy. It isn't the boat's fault. She was supposed to have the exotic Lucas Drive propulsion system. I traded a veteran sailboat kicker motor over Craigslist for a 10 hp Briggs last winter that was supposed to marry up with a homegrown saildrive unit. There are two suitable outboards hanging next to my engine repair bench that were acquired to provide a lower unit for this invention. I bought a kick-up rudder from a guy who salvages Hobie cats last winter to mount aft of the stillborn Lucas Drive business to give the boat better maneuverability. Oh, yeah, and the stern bustle and vestigial sponsons that I had in mind way back in the beginning of this project, just turned out to be a good idea. Nothing really wrong with that discovery. Not the boat's fault.
It's not the boat's fault. I made the cabin a bit too long, and now the stand-up space is a bit too short. I can fix all that. And, I probably will.
Hey. I ran that boat about 30 miles. Slept, and cooked, aboard. Towed another hull of similar weight, and increased drag-quite successfully. We shipped no water, and only a little spray through the not-yet-installed windows. We made adequate progress to windward when burdened, and planed off at about 10 knots without the tow. Granted, another muse has taken hold of the imaginative process, and has literally grabbed the building cradle for the upcoming Building Season. But that happens around here all the time.
Instead of a voyage, I'll just call our trip to Priest Lake an extended sea trial. There's a few more things to mess with, that's all. Happens all the time, around here. Yeah. That's more like it. See? Somebody went and got the ol' doc outa' bed and he's already patching up our hero. Everything's gonna' be OK.