Flippin’ Boat

Hangin’ Out, Conceptually, with the Popular Mechanics Guys

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OK, right off the top, here, I’m going to admit that this design study was instigated originally after looking at an article on the Jim Michalak design, the Harmonica. The more I studied the photos in the story, the more it flashed on me that this boat would look very similar to a typical pickup truck, cab-over camper if it were flipped upside down.

Then, in one of those absolutely weird, Popular Mechanics, moments we all get after too many years in the garage twiddling with stuff, it hit me. The Harmonica design of Jim’s could actually serve as a jumping-off point to draw-up a really utilitarian camper/boat that a retiree could use all over the country while he lived in the camper as his home on wheels. I’m kinda poking my finger in the eye of the guys at Pop Mechanics because all my life they constantly ran all these wild and crazy inventions that really stirred my imagination in a big way. The Flippin’ Boat is right up their alley.

Camper-Boat-bow

I’m not so sure the little woman in this retiree’s life would actually go for having a 1960’s inspired, Tomorrowland boat on their camper. Nor was I convinced that there wouldn’t be hell to pay for even suggesting the potential over Mac and Cheese with weenies. But, the idea looked kinda fun to me anyway, so I started fooling with a few possible lines for the boat that I hoped would conquer Route 66 one day.

The first thing would be to settle on a hull shape that would work well in a lot of conditions and could carry the load of a superstructure that would emerge from the camper box that goes in the bed of a truck. I wanted a cab-over design so that the hull could be fairly long when compared to the height of the camper form.

I settled on the moderate vee hull without a spray chine to keep things simple to build. I like the way moderate vee handle in a lot of widely varied conditions without pounding when things get rough. The moderate depth of the vee means that this boat can be taken into reasonably shallow water without problems. That will make it easier to anchor, take stuff ashore while wading and they are pretty easy to build. The form also presents a surprisingly good aerodynamic shape to the wind at highway speeds.

Keep in mind that this boat has to work upside down and right side up, or it becomes a fairly stupid exercise in a real hurry. A crappy looking boat would never appeal to the guys at Popular Mechanics, even if it did work decently.

Truck-and-Camper

I wanted windows so the cabin area would be airy inside. This is a pretty boxy shape, so it can’t look like a shed that has been plunked down on the hull.

What about the utility of the design? You can see that the Flippin’ Boat has a nice front porch area so that you can fish, or sit in the afternoon’s fading sunlight with a cold one in hand or set-up BBQ. There’s another porch on the stern end of the hull for fuel and engine business, as well as a space for letting your flatulent uncle have a little privacy.

The main cabin is fashioned to follow the form as provided by the bed of the truck. In this case, it works out that there is a wonderful, stacked sensation, of a multi-level house with lots of big bright windows to let in the light and the wonderful views of the lake or river on which the boat might be anchored.

Camp-Boat-on-Truck-front

I gave all the boxy corners a radius turn to soften the look of the cabin once launched. There isn’t a whole lot you can do to a basically boxy form that fits in the bed of a pickup for stability. This change made a world of difference and really improved the overall looks of the design.

One of the big concerns for me was how to make furniture for the camper that would also work for the boat. Lots of stuff is sort of no-brainer like the boat flips and the bed becomes… the couch/bed when you put the cushion on the other side of the same structure. But what about tables and cabinets and stuff like that? I don’t now too many folks who would want their dish cabinet turned upside down and find it sitting near the floor of their boat.

I designed all the simple, wall mounted fixtures so that they were on swivels. As the camper is turned over to become a boat, the fixtures rotate around to their normal, right side up position and none of the interior contents are disturbed. Of course, this means that the placement has to make sense for both scenarios, but it turns out to be not such a big problem once I took a look at how it needed to work.

Camper-Boat-side

One other little item that deserves mention. There is a raised, cockpit-style coaming ring around the front porch area. This serves two purposes. As a camper, this coaming provides a more aerodynamic seal against the cab roof. I know it matters only a little in the grand scheme of things with such a big hulking structure sitting up there over the truck, but I like that the idea was addressed in the design. Second, in boat mode, the ring helps to deflect spray away from the front door of the house and the front porch, aiding in overall comfort while underway.

So, the big question is, “How do you get this Bad Dude flipped over and in the water?” That’s sort of important isn’t it? While I was goofing around trying to get my brain wrapped around the practical uses of pulleys, cables whiz-bang gadgets, etc. I stumbled upon a Swiss designed lift system that is being manufactured in Iowa by Stellar Industries that will lift fairly heavy items right out of a truck bed and deposit them on the ground in their intact, right-side-up orientation. They even show the retrieval of a jetski from a launching ramp as an example of the usefulness of their device. You can checkout their website here:http://www.xtralift.com/

When I saw that product, it dawned on me that I could then just roll the camper over with a couple of big curved wheel shapes mounted to the back end of the camper and inserted into preformed pockets to hold them fast. The hydraulic system already in the truck bed for the lift system would now serve a second duty. I’d only have to install a telescoping ram to lift the bow of the boat and at some point, gravity would do the rest, putting the boat on its hull in the water.

untitledAfter a week on the water, retrieval of the boat to camper status is accomplished by means of a cable taken off a back bumper winch. The transom rotation wheels are installed once again. A Gin Pole is mounted to the top of the cabin and the cable goes up and over the Gin Pole to the bow. Reel in the cable and the bow lifts as if you were stepping a mast on a sailboat. Once near vertical, the telescoping ram re-attaches and the boat is gently returned to earth, resting on the lifting mechanism as a camper.

Of course there are all sorts of little maneuvers to make sure you don’t screw something up, such as removal of the Gin Pole before sitting the boat back in its lifting cradle; stuff like that which is too much written material for this article, but you get the idea.

The outboard is stored in the camper when not on the boat and the fuel is stashed under the camper in the cavity near the wheel wells in the truck bed. Sure, there’s lot’s of detail stuff to be worked out, but this is not a manufacturing description. It’s only a design study to examine feasibility.

Right now, the whole thing looks more than feasible to me and could progress to the next stage with a financing partner who had a bent for stuff like this. I’ve got the boat part of it covered and I’m pretty happy with the way the boat balances in the water, the stability of the hull form and its overall usefulness in a wide range of water conditions. No, it’s not meant to get up on a plane with the small outboard that will be easily moved around by the owner, but it will provide miles of comfortable cruising and get terrific fuel mileage as a payback for not being the fastest boat on the water.

Camp-Boat-on-Truck

This boat was designed to fit on any extracab/clubcab equipped, full-sized pickup with a long box. The truck should have a pretty decent engine due to seriously increased wind resistance and the battery and technical add-ons that one would suspect for a full-tilt trailering package. Stuff like tranny coolers, bigger brakes, ¾ ton minimum load capacity axle, oil coolers, bigger radiator, etc.

Yeah, the idea is a bit on the gimmicky side of things. But, so what. I’ve enjoyed the process of working out all the dual application issues (and there are a lot of them) as well as coming up with a nice aesthetically pleasing design that could actually work in the real world if someone cared to build it.

One final note: The name Flippin’ Boat should be pretty obvious as to how that came about. There is, however, one extra little sidebar piece of information to add a bit more to the business of the name selection. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. A lot of folks in this community find it offensive to swear, so most of the conventional swear words that one would hear occasionally have been supplanted with euphemistic, non-swear words. Hell has become Heck and you probably guess what the equivalent for Flippin’ would be. I’m not of the predominant faith, but this is just my way of tipping the cap to the local culture in a fun manner. No offense intended to anyone.

Chris Ostlind
Lunada Design
Chris@Wedgesail.com

 

Blackwater 16

Thin Water Tunnel Hull design

Black Water bow low w

Recently, I put up an informative article on two, economy Jonboats; Swamper and Swamp King: http://lunadadesign.net/swamper-and-swamp-king/ Those boats were drawn to address a very simple and practical approach to a thin water, all-purpose utility skiff and there has been a very nice response from readers seeking plans.

Taking the Jonboat concept further, I got an email from a boating enthusiast asking if I had ever designed a tunnel hull boat along the lines of the Swamper. He indicated that he had seen a boat something like that which had been designed for very thin water work. The boat in question was a full 20’ in length and he felt that the size would be just too much for one guy to either pole around or man- handle in any kind of windy situation. So, he was asking if I had one like that about 16’ long.

It turned out that I did not, but weirdly enough, I had been tossing an idea around very much like his request for some time. He was kind enough to direct me to the www.bateau.com website where I could take a look at the fine design work of Jacques Mertens and his XF20. http://bateau.com/proddetail.php?prod=XF20#.VdpaH_lViko

To be completely candid, I felt that the XF20 was quite a nice boat in every respect except that I had a customer who was asking about one for his needs, which needed to be 4 feet shorter. I had already designed a full-tilt, 18’ vee hulled flats machine for fast runs across open, choppy bays and thin water poling sessions called The Flatsmonster.

 

Flatsmaster18 Aft Obl w

So, I took many of the ideas I had in the Flatsmonster design and the Swamper series and combined them with the really nice elements of the XF20 to create the Blackwater 16.
Because of this choice of bottom shapes, this boat will be a lot more fun if you try to take it across a choppy body of water at speed. The forward vee shape of the hull will allow for faster speeds in open water as it will help to cut through the waves rather than bounce over them. As a swamper’s poling machine, it will excel in the narrow backwaters and thin mangrove estuaries where some really prize fish hang out, well out of reach of conventional fishing boats.

 

This is a pocket tunnel hulled boat with a wide stance that can support two fishermen and all their gear in very, very thin water. The hull has defined, 8 degree vee sections up front to help break some of the light chop one might find on backwater sessions in the late afternoon. The run aft from amidships is very nearly flat to allow the boat to plane easily with a very small outboard.

Black Water bow obl above w

If you want to take this boat into the Bayou and hunt for a pig, you’ll find that the hull can carry a very sizeable load with ease. I can really see this design as perfect for a duck hunter. Just rig a short mast in the center of the hull and hang a camo net over the gunnels and you have room to spare underneath for your cooler, your gun selection and the battery powered TV with earphones.

I’m not going to go into the technical description of the pocket tunnel, as there is a wonderful paragraph on the functional aspects on the Bateau site. Needless to say, the tunnel allows the engine to be raised up higher than normal giving additional clearance in the water for the prop to run in shallow water.

Black Water below w

This means you can go further into the creeks in your boat while using the engine. That translates to being able to stay out longer and come home later because of the additional speed over a poled boat in really shallow water. I figure nearly four additional inches of water depth before you’ll have to shut it down and paddle compared to a conventional Jonboat.

I suggest that you don’t exceed 30 hp for an outboard on this boat so that you can maximize the potential of the thin water capability. It’ll run surprisingly good with a 10-20-hp engine and in thin water and tight quarters, a lot of power would just go to waste, anyway. There’s a tendency to install too big an outboard on most recreational boats. I’m hoping that most folks recognize that a lighter, more efficient engine is actually better all around for 90% of all the boating work you will need to do.

Black Water structure w

Construction of the boat is in stitch and glue style with 3/8” hull bottom panels, deck, seat and fishing surfaces and ¼” plywood everywhere else save the transom. There is a lightweight framework truss in the hull beneath the deck to give the boat longitudinal strength. The suggested bench seats and forward fishing platform also serve as flotation chambers to keep the boat afloat in case it is swamped. The builders of this boat have the potential to build the interior out anyway they would like beyond the supplied bench seat design, but the more they add, the heavier the boat gets and that starts to take away the thin water capability of the design.

As shown in the illustrations, there is a midships frame and a continuous surface deck. Under the deck are two, full length stringers. These additions provide for a near bullet-proof hull with an added benefit. If the hull skin were to be holed from an unseen underwater obstacle, the flooding would be confined to the area of the damage as the compartments under the deck are sealed from one another to provide flotation integrity. Yes, the boat is a little heavier, but the payoff is in the enhanced safety, and hull rigidity if you decide to take it up to faster planing speeds.

Black Water aft obl wThis is an easy boat to build and it will provide hundreds of hours of enjoyment for the owner, especially after he customizes the interior to suit his favorite applications and fits-out the boat with all the trick goodies for his recreational passion.I suggest that the boat be built with epoxy taped seams inside at all joints with a full layer of epoxy glass on the outside of the hull. Prudent builders will add a layer (or two) of extra glass at all the sharper, hard corners to protect them from the inevitable banging a boat of this type will receive during use.

Plans will be available in the next month from Duckworks and will run USD$75. They include full-sized paper templates and detailed instructions regarding any of the stuff that is not straight forward, simple. There is also a suggested layout map for nesting the panels efficiently. The templates allow you to simply scarf together the ends of the full sheets of plywood, layout the templates, trace a line around the edges and start cutting the hull panels. No lofting required and quite a bit of time saved plotting points and bending sticks.

Chris Ostlind
Lunada Design
Chris@Wedgesail.com

Swamper and Swamp King

A Superior Weapon for the Outdoorsman


Swamper King & Swamper

One day I was driving around the industrial area near my boat shop and happened to pass the local power boat center. Sitting out front of the store were two, rather homely looking aluminum skiffs that are typically used around Utah to hunt ducks and geese and perform general boating duties for outdoorsmen.

I had never really taken a good look at the type before as I had more pressing matters in front of me trying to finish the build on a sailboat. For some reason, I pulled over to just get an idea as to how these metal boats went together and to understand the shapes that went into the hull. Most folks refer to the form as a Jonboat, although I’ve also seen it as Johnsboat and Flat-Bottomed Skiff, by various other sources.

Jim Michalak’s version of this simple skiff has been a real hit with homebuilders and there’s a bunch of good reasons why that’s so. They’re easy to build, provide hours of trouble free operation with the simplest of outboards and can do just about anything you could ask for a utility boat.

I went home that night and dialed-up the design software and started fooling around with a few ideas as to how I would design one of these boats for my portfolio. The result is that I came up with two versions that are very much alike except that one is a bit longer than the other for added carrying capacity is.

Swamper

Swamper 15 bow obl wThis boat is designed to take advantage of the physical properties of the standard, 4×8’ sheet of plywood and make the most of the sheet goods while still imparting a bit of style and form enhancement to the hull shape.

Rather than design a straight, flat-bottomed hull, I chose to give the Swamper a very slight Vee shape for the underwater parts. This gives a somewhat better ride through choppy conditions such as those you would find on any small lake when the wind comes up. If you’ve ever ridden in a flat bottom hull while pushing through small waves and experienced the slamming effect that comes with a flat surface as it hits the oncoming wave, you already know what I mean by this.

The overall length of the boat is 15’5” and the overall beam is just a shade over 55”. The height is 22” along the sides with the gunnel rising from that height in a soft curve, yielding a bow that is only 28.5” above the floor of the boat.

The main components come out of seven total sheets of plywood. The two bottom panels are from 3/8” material and the rest of the boat is from ¼” stock with the exception of the transom which is built from two layers of 3/8” ply. The boat is epoxy filleted and taped on the inside and completely covered in epoxy glass on the outside surfaces. The build style is simple, stitch and glue with one butt joint connection to be made to get the full-length hull panels.

There is a full-length stringer at gunnel level and it is covered with a four-inch wide cap rail completely around the boat with the exception of the transom mounting location for the engine.

Swamper 15 aft obl wBuilt-in flotation chambers are installed throughout the hull, starting with a big standing platform in the bow that is suitable for fishing. The forward seat can be enclosed with watertight bulkheads as is the far aft seat platform. Two enclosed flotation boxes sit on either side of the engine splashwell. You can swamp this boat and it will not sink.

The flotation chambers can be easily adapted to provide on-board storage if the builder installs watertight hatches or inspection ports.

I feel that the optimal, outboard engine size for this boat would be in the 15-20HP range. It will work just fine with a smaller engine, though, as the boat is quite light. I’m sure somebody will hang something bigger than this, but I’m not recommending it.

Swamper 15 above w

The Swamper is perfect for fishing; hunting work related tasks on the water and just plain old fooling around. It can go into some pretty thin water with its draft of just under 7” at 650 pounds of displacement and can easily be setup with oars and a removable center seat for human powered applications.

If you live out in the country and have a good relationship with the local Sheriff, the Swamper will fit snugly between the wheel wells of the standard American pickup. With the tailgate down, you’ll have five feet of boat hanging out, but it is doable. Again, I’m not recommending the practice; just letting you know it can be done… if you’re so inclined.

Normal transport would be with a lightweight trailer, which would allow you to keep the outboard on the boat for short distances. A 15 Hp outboard doesn’t weight too much, but I prefer to see them removed from the transom for transport over long distances.


Swamp KingSwamper-Swamp King Comparison w

This boat is very much like the Swamper with virtually the same lines. The biggest differences are the length at 18’, the ability of the boat to carry more weight and the addition of an extra, installed seat with its enclosed flotation volume. With an extra layer of ¼” plywood on the transom, this boat can easily handle a 30-40 HP motor.

The costs to build the Swamp King are slightly greater due to the added plywood for the increased length and some additional trim, structural material as well as extra epoxy and glass.

Swamper-Swamp King Comp Bow w

Even though these are simple boats, they are capable of providing years of wonderful service to the owner/builder with only very minor maintenance. If you have a teenage son or daughter who likes to enjoy outdoor activities with you, this boat would make for a terrific joint project over the winter. Either the Swamper or the Swamp King would make an excellent first boat to hand down when one of them gets old enough to have a boat of their own.

 

Largo… An SUV for the Water

Fuel Efficient Power Boating For a New Economy

Largo Sunroof Beam 5x7I’ve been getting a significant number of inquiries for the power version of my Gato Especial sailing cat. I let it slip out, some time back, that there would be an engine driven version coming along, but time got away from me and so, the project sat idling on the design table.

I’m kind of drawn to cars and boats that can solve a host of utility needs, as well as provide a comfortable, transportation experience. I’m about to sell my venerable Toyota Landcruiser and get myself into something that makes a lot more sense when it comes to utility and fuel efficiency. As a result, I began to think of a motorized version of the Gato platform as a Crossover/SUV type of vehicle with a big interior volume aft of the helm station and truly fuel-efficient engines to complete the picture.

The new boat would have a stand-up position for the driver with a sliding, deck-mounted seat that would allow the skipper to sit while steering. There would be a huge deck surface behind the helm for all sorts of seating and/or gear carrying options. The new boat would have a tailgate/liftgate setup for ease of loading. The new design would have a big storage space forward of the helm for the odds and ends that always end-up on a boat. Power for the initial design would be from a pair of four stroke outboard engines for redundancy, as well as beneficial weight distribution.

Largo HT Gates Open aft obl 5x7

On a personal level, I am attracted to design concepts that deliver a responsible set of solutions for this new economic reality in which we all live. I like the term, Crossover, which is openly lifted from the automotive industry, as it touches on the realities we will all face in the coming years. We are headed to a time in which our vehicles will need to do more than just give us a sedan in which to cruise around, or a truck to do our dirty jobs.

In the world of cars, the Crossover approach has created vehicles that live in the niche right between the heavier, clunkier, SUV’s and the typical, everyday passenger car. Similarly, with this new design, I was looking to take the slot right between the generously proportioned sport cruisers you see at marinas all over the world and something like a cleanly drawn work boat. I wanted some of the people driven touches of scale and fit/finish, while being able to morph from one working task to another as a truly useful, all-around watercraft.

The result would be my take on what a boat should look like which is much more fuel-efficient and less expensive to build and transport. It would provide a very high degree of utility and, of course, it would need to be wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing package.

Largo HT above 5x7

The aesthetic, design component is pretty much a subjective thing, but the fuel-efficient aspects are a design process that combines easily driven lightweight hulls, drive systems with high economy for delivered horsepower and a significantly reduced aero drag signature allowing the boat to just slip through the air.

I’m of the opinion that I have reached all the basic design criteria with this new design, The Largo.

Yeah, sure there’s a distinct connection to the Bond films, Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, with the bad guys both being named Largo. Beyond that, Largo is also a direct take on the ’48 Film Noir thriller with Bogey, Bacall and Edward G. Robinson. It is also, the well-known island in the Florida Keys where boating adventures await in every direction and one of my favorite adventure boating events, The Watertribe Everglades Challenge maintains its finish line.

Largo Specifications

LOA 21′
BOA (trailer legal) 8′ 6″
Height 6′ 5″
Displacement 2000 lbs.

Suggested engine package is Twin 9.9 hp four stroke outboards. It may not seem like it from the renderings, but plenty of interior volume has been worked into the design to allow full movement of the engines from side to side

The aft cabin space of the trimmed-down version will have the potential for a huge, manual, slide-back sunroof for a full open-air effect in the main cabin volume, as well as large side openings for breeze and visibility. The side openings can be fitted with removable, semi-structural soft windows for better streamlining and also for inclement weather.

Largo Conv aft 5x7Way back at the aft end, the boat has a floor level, drop-down tailgate, as well as a glassed, liftgate. I see this as a utility benefit when the boat is beached, bow out, in a marina slip. The tailgate will allow easy loading of gear and anything else that might be shoved in the back of this boat while it is still on the trailer. It will also give a chance to sit on the tailgate and hang out. The entire hardtop can also be removed for a full-on waterborne convertible. Or, if you like, a pick-up truck for the waterfront that can haul a whole bunch of oddly shaped objects, should you have a need for that kind of utility with friends while enjoying a sandwich or cold beverage.

The suggested engine package is based on need. If the owner wants to cruise with high efficiency and still be able to bang out 11-12 knots when he likes, then a pair of Yamaha Hi-Thrust 9.9 hp engines will do the trick. The engine setup can be equipped with remote starting, steering and power engine tilt. They both have pretty healthy alternators to keep any onboard electrics going, so lighting, navigation and radio systems can be easily powered-up.

Largo HT bow obl 5x7

Cutting edge enthusiasts will ditch the outboards and equip the boat with a bank of batteries under the deck in each hull and a pair of powerful electric motors that drive a set of matched, counter-rotating props. As an alternative to the twin outboards, this boat, so equipped, will silently cruise with a pretty decent range and be able to go to full power instantly whenever the owner wants the buzz of the electric drive potential.

The hulls of the Largo are exactly the same as those of the Gato Especial sailing cat. They are 10-1 in Length to Beam ratio at the waterline and will be very easily driven while still providing a respectable displacement payload. The is a spray chine on the inside and outside of each hull to direct wave action away from the boat while underway, as well as reduce drag on the hull. At cruising speed, a small amount of hull lift is also a side benefit of the spray chines.

The aft end of the hull bottoms is relieved with a slot to allow engine placement forward of the typical transom mounting and to allow the power tilt capability to raise the props well clear of the hull bottom for beaching and trailer loading/unloading. Moving the engines forward adjusts the balance point of the boat forward and helps with handling and pitching moments. It also puts the engines inside of sound deadening boxes, so the overall noise level is reduced while underway. Cruise the harbor on a warm summer evening with soft music playing on the surround sound system and you can really hear the soft music.

Bridgedeck clearance between the hulls is a generous 17″, so wave slap under the main deck will be kept to a minimum. This raises the overall comfort level of the boat, which is especially nice on a longer trip.

Largo Conv. loaded aft 5x7The large deck space inside the boat will make for a spacious camping environment, gear hauling space, or just about anything else you can think of doing with a boat that is this versatile. The tailgate opens to a generous 49″ width, allowing the owner to load full sheets of plywood right through the back of the boat without leaning them up on edge.

The hull volumes below the main deck can also be used for the storage of fuel, batteries, water tanks, anchor, rode, etc. It’s always a good thing to keep the heaviest items on a boat as low as possible to enhance stability and improve ride. The space in front of the main forward bulkhead can be accessed via a large hatch. This is an excellent location for lighter weight storage needs such a sleeping bags, tents, clothing, etc.

A good friend asked if the boat could be equipped with a drop-down front ramp and a walk through windscreen so that the Largo could be driven right up onto the beach to unload through the bow. The answer is Yes… certainly can accommodate that feature with a few changes to the forward structure.

Clearly, the Largo is a boat with a generous latitude of use potential, it draws design cues from a pretty diverse group of sources and sets a new standard for home built power boats with a decided edge towards fuel economy and responsible boating.

Chris Ostlind
Lunada Design