Custom built for a specific purpose

Published online: Apr 02, 2013 Feature Matthew Dobrski
Viewed 471 time(s)

The inspiration for this project was driven by my father's philosophy: explore and enjoy, but leave no footprint behind. He was an avid boater and mountain hiker, almost fanatical nature lover and craftsman, who taught me all the tricks involved in wooden boatbuilding. I'm now 63 and planning to retire in two years from my work as a designer for a refrigeration company and I wanted to build a boat.


The idea was to build some sort of floating RV equivalent with just enough luxury for two people. This would allow for extended summer expeditions to beautiful lakes in British Columbia.


The boat has no gray water tank or bathroom and I wanted to use solar power as much as possible for propulsion and any other electric devices. My previous experience with boatbuilding and boating, although significant, was limited to wooden canoes, sail boats and motor-driven replacement boats.


Wood-as the main material for above-the-deck structures-was chosen for its beauty and closer to Mother Nature appearance, which is directly opposite of fiberglass construction. The design-created entirely in CAD software-is based on two 30-inch diameter aluminum pontoons that were custom made to my specifications by U-Fab Boats in Ontario. Two gas tanks with a 74-gallon capacity combined were welded behind the tubes. The deck size is 22 by 8 feet; maximum replacement is 91 cubic feet. The cabin is constructed with inch and a half thick dense Styrofoam panels, sandwiched by quarter-inch ribbon mahogany plywood on cedar frame, half-inch Baltic plywood roof and Lexan windows.


The captain chairs on the front are recycled from old office furniture, the bench on the back was made in Thailand as garden furniture and the steering wheel was made by me with blood and tears when the router bit ran through my fingers.


The entire project took four years in stages to complete and the boat was officially launched last year in Sicamous BC on Shuswap Lake. Everything-excluding the tubes from U-Fab-were build by me in Edmonton, under a tarpaulin shed in my backyard since my woodworking shop in my old garage with its broken floor looks like an arctic ice field.


Main propelling power is delivered by a 60hp Mercury BigFoot engine allowing for a maximum 13 miles per hour, though rarely executed. Most of the time the boat moves slowly along the shore, penetrating every accessible bay, gap or stream mouth. That's where the electric propelling should shine, but don't. The design involves an intricate swiveling and tilting mechanism located on front beneath the deck and is controlled remotely from above.

Unfortunately this is the one and only aspect of my project which fails to deliver due to stubborn malfunctioning of the electric motors. The motors refuse to consistently work, diagnosed with water leaking inside pylon. But other than that the boat is performing charmingly in every aspect of design, every weather condition, providing really enjoyable time on lakes. Last year I enjoyed one of the most beautiful vacations on Upper Arrow Lake in BC, cruising along the shores for four weeks.


The boat is equipped with two hydraulic steering stations, two comfortable beds and spacious storage compartments in the cabin, kitchenette and propane refrigeration on the back. Plus I get 560W of power delivered by solar panels, which is more than enough to run a pair of electric motors at full throttle for hours without draining the 200Ah battery. The home port is in Edmonton, though there's not a lot of a boatable water here to choose from. Therefore the boat is trailered some 500 miles to central regions of British Columbia, famous for spectacular lakes right next to snow-topped Canadian Rockies.


The most troubling part of this project is the storage options. The boat needs to be well protected during harsh Canadian winters, but since a standard garage will not provide enough headroom, the problem can be solved by erecting a beam-less metal building. Unfortunately this kind of industrial structure does not comply well with residential area regulations and my battle with city development department seems to go endlessly. But that's another story.

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