Houseboats and Shantyboats
How did I miss these when my boat craze was underway?
Whatever the reason, I've discovered them now. If you've got the money, and you want to, you can buy a houseboat with several decks and tons of bells and whistles and amenities, but here, as with so many other endeavors, there is a certain segment of the population for whom building your own is a big part of the dream.
A shantyboat is a small crude houseboat. There is a long history of people building and living in shantyboats, the obvious choice for itinerant workers, miners, dockworkers, and displaced agricultural workers. ~Wes Modes, http://peoplesriverhistory.us/project/the-shantyboat/
|From Shantyboat Living and Steamboats.com|
At Shantyboat Living, the image above is captioned:
A fisherman and his family aboard their tiny shanty boat on the Mississippi below the RR bridge at Louisiana, MO (first big town south of Hannibal).My observation is that today, shantyboats are recreational craft that harken back to the day when they were, um, extremely modest floating residences. The shantyboat Mr. Modes is building is a little too crude for my taste, although it's more authentic looking that anything I have in mind. I have been too influenced by (1) travel trailers and RVs and (2) teak and mahogany encrusted sailing yachts... Still, a certain amount of down-home river/bayou flavor appeals to me.
Post marked Oct 29th 1914 by the Louisiana, MO post office.
Hand written message on verso:
“Would have pictured the entire family – but the other six members were asleep in the spare room and I did not like to disturb them.”
(signed W. R. C.)
Right now, I am in the very early phase of learning about shantyboats. I know they are shallow draft vessels, suitable for protected waters only, and that they are subject to maritime navigation laws, not the laws of motor vehicles.
And, of course, before I can even think of building a shantyboat, I have a travel trailer to build or restore, if circumstances allow.
Nevertheless, a little advanced dreaming never hurts.
I have found several sets of plans for houseboats and shantyboats for backyard builders, some dating back decades to their appearance in Popular Mechanix style magazines of the day. At least one of the recent designs was the product of an Internet discussion group.
Boats had to meet certain criteria to make my list -- had to be trailerable, and had to be a box that sat atop the deck, not built down into the hull (which means, not much freeboard). In other words, they had to look like a shantyboat....
The Coolwater Houseboat (Modern Mechanix, date unknown)
Float-a-Home (Science and Mechanics, 1973)
Bayou Belle (publication unknown)
Cabin is built down in the hull, which is what I don't want. Otherwise, not a bad looking vessel.
More recent designs...
From Glen-L Marine:
The Huck Finn trailerable pontoon houseboats
The Aqua Casa
This is a real cute little houseboat built on a scow hull rather than pontoons. The cabin of the 16-footer looks just too small, so it would have to be the 20 footer, if I chose this design. I don't much care for the rooftop helm, and I think I would eliminate that. Photos of the interior at the link above.
The Lisa B. Good
Ah, here we go... THIS is it. She looks like she'd be sooo at home in the coastal waters of northwest Florida! More photos at this link:
The 9 foot long cabin is too small, but the plans advise how to increase the length -- and it wouldn't take much. My idea is for a 12 foot cabin. I would leave off the mast -- it's purely for appearance, anyway. Otherwise, there aren't many changes I would make except to add a convertible dinette to the cabin. As designed, the cabin doesn't show a helm, but the designer's notes say, "The best arrangement would be control and steering cables to a helm under the starboard forward window," which is where I would put the helm on my shantyboat. Other than the convertible dinette, I added a couple of lockers and shelf for a computer.
The best thing about the Lisa B.'s plans is that they're a free download.
I like the Lisa B.'s scow hull with very little freeboard and a six inch draft (my design is a little deeper but may change -- I'm still learning). Frankly, I'm not real picky what the little cabin would sit on, a scow hull or pontoons. The advantage of a scow hull is the space below for water tanks (but then, a third wooden pontoon in the middle added to a two-pontoon deck could serve the same purpose). You can also make several watertight compartments below, so if one gets holed, the others will keep the boat afloat.
Video of a couple of shantyboats built to Lisa B. Good plans ...(You might want to turn your audio down or off before viewing). Do Not Like the fake pilothouse, smokestacks and paddles on the Good Enuf, but the size of the cabin is just about right.
Since I'm still learning, I peruse boat design and building forums, look over shantyboat websites and blogs for information and ideas. I posted my very first drawings on one forum, and a boat designer told me, "...you have to make some decisions about what you want from this design, before actual pen to paper time is attempted. Budget, weight targets, speed targets, amount of underway time anticipated per year, sea state conditions you normally will expect, etc. What these decisions will do is refine the design, so you can approach how much hull volume you need, how this volume should be distributed, given it's static and underway needs and the practicality of the build. We call this an SOR (Statement Of Requirements)."
He also posted one of his designs along with these observations: "The first thing you'll notice is it looks like a boat, not a old crab peeler's shack on a barge," and he further described little houseboats as, "... a Winnebago or old fishing shack thing, parked on a barge looking contrivance."
That seemed a little overboard for a newbie, since I have no idea what weight targets, speed targets, etc., would be. So here's how I replied:
Okay, here's what I want. A little houseboat for weekend and sometimes vacation (weeklong) cruises several times a year, in sheltered waters of the upper Gulf Coast, anywhere in the area from New Orleans to Appalachicola. Trailer the boat from Pensacola to St. Joseph's Peninsula, or Choctawhatchee Bay, or St. Andrews Bay. Or leave Pensacola on the water and cruise Santa Rosa Sound, or the Intracoastal Waterway in South Alabama, along the Redneck Riviera.After that, he "warmed up" a little to houseboats, and even complimented my drawings!
I don't want to fish. I don't want to race. I want to travel along the coast and in the evening, anchor and fix something for supper and eat on the deck. Maybe now and then, dock at a waterfront restaurant for a seafood supper... Then, in the evening, hubs can watch TV and I can write.
I think my drawings convey what I want as far as accommodations -- a place to cook, a place to eat, two places to sleep, the helm, a head with a porta pot and a camping-bag shower (or a pump-sprayer shower), some lockers for stowage, and a computer desk. For the hubs, a television. A place under the cabin sole for freshwater and gray water tanks -- capacity? I dunno, fifteen or so gallons each?
Electricity generation for a compact refrigerator, a small household air conditioner, husband's TV and my computer. At certain times of the year, the AC would not be needed, but in summer down here, it's a must.
I want to learn about solar energy and deep cycle batteries, etc., to power these appliances. Perhaps also a small camping generator.
We have lived on the Florida coast since 1980. It's not Paradise, exactly, but close ... and we basically have never taken the time to enjoy it. Now that retirement is approaching, a boat suitable for an old fart and and old broad seems like a great way to enjoy our area. Not everyone gets to live where the water meets the land. We do, and we need to appreciate it more.
"Winnebago ...old fishing shack... old crab peeler's shack... on a barge." Well, at least you didn't call my little shantyboat a garbage scow. I get that you don't like boats that are a little boxy structure on a platform. I do like them. If I had wanted a pointy-bow boat, I wouldn't have asked about shantyboats. I'm asking because this is new to me, and it seemed like a good way to learn.
My design, as it exists now -- in the early stages of learning about shantyboat design, which is, thus, subject to change -- is shown below. (The 13-foot cabin was originally 12 feet, and I'm going to change it back to 12 feet, and jostle the dimensions of lockers, head, galley, etc... because a 12-foot cabin requires only 3 sheets of plywood per side. Thirteen feet would require another foot cut from a 4th sheet).
Although I would love to find some salvaged wall paneling shown in the interior views (known as "your uncle's basement" paneling from the 60s and 70s) I don't really hold out much hope for finding it. In that case, the interior walls will likely be paneled with doorskins painted with waterproofing prior to installing. Got to have pinch-pleated plaid curtains hung on brass rods with brass rings.
Will also check Habitat's ReStore for crank-out awning windows (new ones are a little pricey), because when cranked out, they open the full window space to the breeze.
Will try to keep electrical appliances to a minimum because the idea is to be teathered to shore power as little as possible. A refrigerator, air conditioner, microwave oven and television are the essentials. Will research whether a couple of solar panels on the roof will supply a small bank of deep cycle batteries enough to feed the needs of these appliances when not tethered to shore.
Freshwater tank and a small pump will supply water to the galley; but showers will be the camping bag or pump sprayer variety.
Although primarily a "weekender" boat, she will be designed with temporary live-aboard stretches of a couple of weeks, when hubs retires. I have in mind trailering the boat to places like the St. Joseph's peninsula in Florida, Mississippi Sound, and the Intracoastal Waterway nearly anywhere in driving distance.
Of course, whether this dream works out depends on a lot of things -- my health, and my husband's, and the staving off of the collapse of civilization for a decade or so... And, of course, the travel trailer takes priority, and must be built first.
But, all in all, not a bad prospect for retirement years...traveling around the South to Confederate events, visiting state parks, and boondocking here and there in a tiny travel trailer... and cruising the waters of the upper Gulf Coast in a cute little shantyboat....
First drawing attempts, Spirit of Dixie shantyboat for sheltered waters of the upper Gulf Coast....