Huck Finn Canoe Update

MRE Boat at Oroville Spillway

I’ve now had the chance to test the Huck Finn Canoe several times, and I was definitely wrong about the stability. The boat is very stable. In fact, when I tried to tip over to see if I could re-enter from the water, I had a hard time getting it to tip. One has to roll to about 80 degrees before it goes over – I think this is because of the high, flat sides.

I was also concerned about being able to get back in the boat after a wet exit, especially because of the deck height. This turned out not to be a problem either. The boat was practically dry inside when I turned it upright, and I was able to jump back in on the first try with no difficulty.

I also checked the speed of the boat with my GPS. If I paddle pretty hard I can reach 4.6 kts. Paddling at a leisurely pace I can maintain 3.5 kts. This was in flat water with a light breeze. We haven’t had much wind lately so I do not know how the wind will affect performance.

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Huck Finn Canoe

MRE Boat Design

I’ve always wanted to do the Huck Finn thing and float down the Mississippi River. If I were smart I would fly to Minneapolis, buy a kayak, paddle to New Orleans, sell the kayak, and fly home. But let’s face it, I’m not that smart, so instead I ask myself what would Huck Finn do? Of course we know the answer – Huck would hang out on an island until a raft floated by, jump on, and be on his way. Since I live nowhere near the Mississippi River this will not work for me, and anyway it is doubtful that derelict rafts are still as plentiful on the Mississippi as they were in Huck’s day.

I like designing and building things, so I decided to try to design a boat that I could build in two days with indigenous materials sustainably sourced near the headwaters of the Mississippi (you know – Home Depot in Minneapolis) and a few hand tools. I failed miserably – it took me six days and $230 in materials to build the prototype – but it is actually a pretty nice boat. Continue reading

Assembly of the Basic Shelter Prototype

Here is a photo of the almost complete prototype.

Front view of the Basic Shelter

The building is 8′ x 15′. It has an 8′ ceiling. There are three large windows in front and two smaller windows in back. The exterior can be painted or left natural.

Interior Wall

The interior walls are pre-finished. For the prototype I used 1/8″ mahogany type plywood that came as packaging for sheet metal. It actually doesn’t look too bad. The metal strips are the clips used to assemble the building. Continue reading

My Solution – Basic Shelter Panel System

Wall Panel

My solution is to use two basic panels as the building blocks to assemble a building. The wall panel is 16″ wide, 2″ thick, and 8′ long. It is formed from 22 gage into a ‘c’ shaped panel. 1″ holes are pre-punched in the flange near the top and bottom of the panel to run electrical wiring if desired.

Assembled Wall Panel

The inside of the wall panel has a 3/8″ air space (thermal break), 1-1/2″ EPS foam insulation, and a pre-finished 1/8″ interior wall panel. There are also half panels (4′ long) and quarter panels (2′ long) that are used to create openings for windows. Continue reading

Design Brief for the Basic Shelter Panel System

The primary goal of the Basic Shelter Kit was to design the minimum number of components that could be used to build a variety of shelters for disaster relief operations. With this in mind I developed a list of attributes to design towards.

  1. Minimize the number of primary components. Ideally there should be three or fewer ‘building blocks’, and 10 or fewer auxiliary components.
  2. None of the components should weigh more than 30 lbs. One person should be able to carry and install all components.
  3. No components will be longer than 10′ or wider than 4′.
  4. The components for an entire building of approximately 120 square feet should fit in a standard sized pickup.
  5. The components for at least 12 buildings of approximately 120 square feet should fit in a standard 40′ container.
  6. The buildings must withstand 100 mph winds and moderate earthquakes.
  7. The roof must support 2′ of snow.
  8. The building must be watertight, insulated, and wind-tight.
  9. Few or no tools should be required to assemble a building, and no power tools should be required.
  10. One person should be able to assemble a building of 120 square feet in one day.
  11. There should be zero waste produced during the manufacturing and assembly of a building.
  12. All materials must be recyclable and should have a high content of recycled material.
  13. All components must be reusable. A building should disassemble quickly for shipping and  installation at a new location.
  14. The same basic components must be capable of being used to build structures of various sizes and configurations.
  15. All of the components for a 120 square foot building should cost less than $2,000 to manufacture.

Progress on Micro-cruising Sailing Kayak

As usual with boat work, my progress has been slow. I thought I would be getting close to finished by this time, but I’m not even close. I have continued to tweak the design. I have moved the paddling position back into the pilothouse – decided shifting weight from position to position would not be practical. Had to redesign the pilothouse to accommodate paddling. I’m also working on the sailing rig – still not happy with it.

I’ve added bulkheads to the hull, front and rear decks, and framed the front hatch where my bike goes. I have built the pilothouse shell, but it is hideously ugly. I’m going to try to improve it, but function has to take precedence. I have to be able to paddle comfortably, so I may end up with one butt ugly boat. See the photos after the jump. Continue reading

I Start My Boat

First, I build a mold.

Assembling the Boat Mold

Next, I join together my EPS sheets. My boat is 12 feet long, but my EPS sheets are 8 feet long. Therefore I butt my sheets together and bond them with expanding polyurethane foam.

EPS Sheets Butted Together for Bonding
Panels are Bonded
Joint after Trimming

I designed the hull in Hulls, a free program for designing hulls. I then transfered the hull and panel layouts into AutoCAD where I completed the more detailed design drawings. The panel layouts were plotted full sized, glued to 1/8″ masonite, and patterns were cut from the masonite. I traced the panels to the EPS sheets from the patterns.

Tracing the Hull Panels

I cut the hull panels using a sharp steak knife.

Cutting the Hull Panels

The side panels are attached to the mold and bonded with expanding foam.

Side Panels are Attached to the Mold

Thickened epoxy is applied to the top edges of the  side panels (which are actually the bottom edges since the hull is being built upside down) and the bottom panel is bonded to the side panels. The jugs of water are used to bend the bottom panel to shape. Drywall screws temporarily hold the bottom panel in place while the epoxy sets.

The Bottom Panel is Attached the the Mold

Once the epoxy sets I shape the hull with a Surform and sanding block. The bottom panel is trimmed flush with the side panels, and all edges are given a slight radius so the fiberglass will drape over the hull properly.

Shaping the Hull - Stern

The photo below shows how much rocker the hull has.

Shaping the Hull - Bow

I also added a bit of V to the bow and stern.

Stern V
Bow V

The hull is ready for fiberglass. I used 4 layers of 6 oz cloth on the bottom and 3 layers on the sides. Getting all of that cloth to drape properly over the hull took 2 days.

Fiberglass is Draped Over the Hull
It Took 2 Days to Get the Fiberglass To Drape Nicely Over the Hull

It took another day to wet out the cloth with epoxy.

Wetting Out the Cloth
Wetting Out the Cloth Took Almost a Full Day

Three hot coats were needed to fill out the weave and get a glossy finish for sanding. The hull was then flipped over and the mold was removed.

The Hull is Flipped and the Mold is Removed

Here I am pouring some expanding foam into the bow.

Pouring Expanding foam in the Bow

Now I am ready to fiberglass the inside of the hull.

Intro to the Basic Shelter Panel System

Bailey bridge over the Coppename River at Bitagron, Suriname. This example uses triple-wide, single-high panels, and ribands can be seen through the planking. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

My first job after graduation from college was at Bailey Bridges, Inc. in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Bailey Bridge is an ingenious modular prefabricated truss bridge system. With just three main standard components, bridges from 10′ to 270′ in length, with no intermediate supports, can be built. The components for a bridge about 100′ in length can be transported on two standard 40′ flatbed trailers. Two people with a forklift or backhoe can assemble the bridge in 2 – 3 days if they know what they are doing. The bridge can be assembled on one bank of a river, and by bolting extra panels to the back end to add weight, it can be pushed forward on rollers until the front end reaches the other bank. While I worked at Bailey Bridges, Inc. we shipped a bridge to Antarctica, and several to Central and South America – they can be used almost anywhere.

Every time there is some type of disaster (the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile being the most recent) I wonder why no one has developed a system of modular prefabricated building components, like the Bailey Bridge system, that can be assembled into small shelters. Indeed, in the years around World War II there were a number of modular prefabricated building systems developed, including quonset huts, White Castle porcelain steel buildings, porcelain steel service stations, and the infamous Lustron houses. The Lustron debacle and the image of prefabricated buildings as cheap ‘mobile homes’ seem to have done in the industry, with a few exceptions. Continue reading

The Sailing Rig

The mast will be two piece fiberglass, with each half 5’6″ long. This allows it to fit through the pilothouse hatch to be stowed inside. The mast is stepped on the deck and supported by a compression strut to the bow and a shroud to each side. One piece or both pieces of the  mast can be used depending on conditions. In the sketch above the front view shows both mast sections and the full sail, while the side view shows one mast section and the top sail.

The sail rolls around the boom for reefing. The sail is a gaff sail with a very light gaff – more like a batten. The portion of the sail above the gaff will be attached to the mast with sliding collars. The lower portion will not be attached to the mast, but the luff will be reinforced so it can be tensioned. This will allow the lower portion to be reefed around the boom or raised from inside the pilothouse as there will be no need to deal with collars, sail slugs or a bolt rope. The portion of the sail above the gaff will be the storm sail and will rarely be rolled onto the boom. When the top sail is rolled onto the boom, it will unclip from the sliding collars as it rolls onto the boom. It will need to be manually clipped back in to the sliding collars when it is raised. The top sail is about 7 square feet. The total sail area is 34 square feet. Continue reading