Welcome to Chris Johnson's Lost Pages.Just messing about in boats...

Storebought boats


I'm a big Boston Whaler fan, and currently own three Whalers: an 8' Squall, a 13' Fisherman, and a 20' Revenge. This is the Revenge. The Whalers all live on the Wicomico River in Maryland. I also own Rocky, a 19 foot West Wight Potter that lives on Lopez Lake in California.

Homebuilt boat #1: Swamp scow (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Swamp Thing

This was my first boatbuilding attempt. I designed it myself (can you tell?) based on the swamp scows featured in the "Pogo" cartoons by Walt Kelly back in the 50's. The boat actually worked quite well for what it was. It was very stable with its wide flat bottom and slab sides, and only drew about 2" of water with two adults aboard. It rowed satisfactorally and moved right along with a trolling motor pushing it. It was just way too heavy for one person to handle out of the water. I may try building one using stitch and glue techniques someday. It cost about $50 to build and took me a weekend.

Kelly always gave his boats two names: one for each side, and a slogan on each end. I think it was named "Chief Justice Earl" on the other side. It has been permanently retired from sea duty and is serving as a sandbox. Children seem to like the idea of playing on a boat, and some actually recognize it as one.

The picture doesn't quite do it justice but there aren't any of it in the water. Sorry.

Update, 2010: I had to clean up the yard, and the Seattle P-I had to go -- I finally cut it up to scrap and got it hauled to the dump. The kids had outgrown the sandbox, anyway. RIP.

Homebuild boat #2: PK78 widebody pram (the Tot Yot)

Tot YotThe PK78 is the first boat I built that really worked right. It is about 8' long with over 4' beam, and can carry two adults or one adult and a couple of kids. It can be fitted with a sailing rig. It is very sturdy and should be fairly safe in choppy water if the operator is careful.

Cost: I didn't keep careful track, but I guess it cost around $600 when all was said and done. But I wasted some materials.

Time to build: Around three months of spare time, which I don't have a lot of. Maybe 100 hours total.

An experienced builder could build it for less, and much faster. I made the fillets too large and kept oversanding and having to recoat, etc., which wasted a lot of time and money. Here are a few pictures of the work in process and the finished product in the water for the first time:

Click image to enlarge.

Tot Yot Tot YotTot Yot  Tot YotTot Yot

Update, 2009: The Tot Yot was useful for a few years, then sat for a couple of years, then I finally scrapped it. I needed the yard space and no one seemed interested in adopting it. RIP.

Homebuilt boat #3: Cheap Canoe (the Pi-rogue)

Cheap CanoeThis is a much simpler boat and went together much faster. At 14' long, it is a one-person (or maybe one adult and one small child) boat. It has a flat bottom and flared sides. Not really a canoe, more like a pirogue. Suitable for protected waters, and especially good in shallow water as it only draws a few inches. This is a really nice boat for one person who just likes to sneak around in the wetlands and doesn't want to bother with a motor and trailer and all that. It can be rowed or paddled and can move surprisingly fast if you feel like working hard. Skims along pretty good when you are loafing, too.

Cost: Around $200. The plans are free. The epoxy and glass costs about $150, and it only uses two sheets of 1/4" plywood and some scrap lumber.

Time to build: Under 40 hours.

I believe that it could be built in a few days for as little as $70 if the builder wasn't fussy about appearance and used really cheap materials (and didn't need it to last too long).

Cheap Canoe Cheap CanoeCheap Canoe Cheap CanoeCheap Canoe 

Homebuilt boat #4: Nice Canoe (the Pi-rogue II)

Nice Canoe This is a slightly larger version of the CC; 16 feet long. It requires a little more plywood and the plans aren't free, but it is a more useable boat and no harder to build.

Cost: About $250.

Time to build: Under 40 hours.

The above three designs are by Mertens-Goossens; plans are available at Boat Plans Online.

Homebuilt boat #5: Dockbox (the Joke)

DockboxThe Dockbox design is by Jim Michalak. Jim introduces his description of the Dockbox: "Go ahead and laugh." It is probably the world's smallest shantyboat and as such, is a bit funny-looking, but it is a much better boat than you would think. It potentially sleeps two (if they aren't ovcr 6' tall) and is only eight feet long with a five foot beam. Its flat bottom keeps it stable. It moves right along with a small gas outboard, but Joke uses an old electric trolling motor. I don't like the idea of gas aboard such a small craft with an enclosed cabin, and I'm not in any hurry. Two old solar panels on the roof will just turn the motor over at drifting speed. A jumpstart battery is aboard to achieve more thrilling speeds (maybe 3 knots).

Dockbox The reality is that Joke rarely sees water. I actually built it on a whim, as a playhouse for my two daughters, 5 and 10 years old. I have had it over at the local lake a couple of times, and can say that it is a lot of fun for kids. It mostly lives on the Potter trailer in our backyard.

Joke varies from the stock Dockbox design slightly. I didn't like the standard Michalak slot top for our application, so I closed in the cabin roof.  Instead of the slot top, Joke has a roof hatch and washboard door in the cabin rear bulkhead and hinged doors in the front. I haven't regretted the extra work one bit: during the last torrential rains, the cabin stayed totally dry -- not one drop of water anywhere. No mildew, no condensation, nothing. The kids and I can still easily get in and out at both ends, so I can't see any real downside to this modification except for weight and expense. I also deleted the front railing, just for appearance sake, and added a sturdy samson post at the bow.

Cost: A dockbox could probably be built for as little as $200, if the builder used minimal epoxy and bought no additional fittings, but it is a good example of smaller not necessarily being cheaper. I opted to epoxy coat everything inside and out, and also added plexiglas windows and some foam insulation/floatation. These and other refinements would probably drive the total cost up near $1000 for someone who had to buy everything retail. Luckily, I had quite a bit of leftover boatbuilding materials on hand. Even at that I guess I have $500 or so in it.

Time to build: About 80 hours; again, it could be built much faster with less epoxy work.

Plans are available direct from Jim, or through Duckworks.

Thanks for stopping by.  This page was last updated April 30, 2010. Please see Legal Notices. Comments? Email