Some people dream of sailing, boating or fishing in a nearby river, lake, pond or off the coast in the ocean where they live. Yet this Great Recession (Great Depression 2) has killed many dreams for many people. One of these dreams that may seem dead is the dream of owning a boat or even renting one for an occasional outing to enjoy the water. Well there is hope. Read on as the writer of this article shares how one can build their own boat for fishing or whatever they desire for less than $200!
That’s right, there is a way to have a boat for less than $200. That is if one is willing to invest a little sweat equity in the vessel.
To begin with let’s look at a simple design that the writer has discovered that was in common use at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. The design is one that was used by fishermen, yachtsmen, racers, sailors, rum runners, gun runners and even the Coast Guard. The design is called the sharpie. The sharpie is basically a flat bottomed boat with a sharp front to it. This sharp front is what gave the design its name. However, this design is one that is extremely easy to build and is very cost effective.
The sharpie is so cost effective that at the time they were commonly in use, they cost on average $20 each to build in the early 1900’s. In today’s dollars, one can be built using modern techniques that are approved in most areas for under $200. This involves using a little ingenuity and thinking outside of the traditional box.
To begin with one will need to get good quality wood to work with. Now most people in boat building will say that marine grade plywood or full plank wood is the only kind to use. Well that’s a lot of hogwash! One can find great boat building wood at the local lumberyard like Lowe’s or Home Depot. The kind of wood one would want to use that is very cost effective is exterior grade plywood. This stuff is great for boat building and can usually be had depending on the thickness for between $15 and $30 a sheet. Also one doesn’t need that many sheets to build a small sharpie. If building a boat under 15 feet in total length, one may only have to spend $100 on plywood for the hull. This brings us to the next thing that’s needed in the $200 boat.
The next thing needed is good framing wood. For framing wood one can use standard 2×4 stick and 1×2 stick lumber. This wood costs between $1.25 and $2.75 a stick for an 8 foot length, depending on where you buy it. For this one might spend $30 total. So that brings the budget to $130 so far for this project. Well the project is not quite yet done.
The next thing needed is something to cover the wood with to protect it from the elements. To do this one can use plastic window screening. This can be had at the hardware store for usually about $1.50 per foot and one should not need more than about 20 feet of this. This adds about $30 to the project. This brings the total now to about $160. Well almost all of the materials are together but there are still a few more.
Next one will need paint to cover the wood with and to paint the window screening to the wood with. The paint to use is Latex Exterior Grade Paint. The most cost effective way to get this is to buy mistaken tinted paint at the hardware store. They sell this for about $15 for a 5 gallon bucket of the stuff. This is more than enough to cover the boat with. Now just one more thing is needed before starting the building of this project.
After getting the wood, window screening, and paint one needs to have screws for putting the boat together with. The best screws to use are Exterior Grade Decking Screws like people use for putting together house decks. These cost on average about $7 a box and are easily driven by a hand drill and hold up well in marine conditions. The writer of this article has used them for over 10 years on his own boat. On average one should only need 1 or 2 boxes of these. Well this now wraps up our materials needed for the project and the total is about $190 or so and this should include taxes in most areas too. So now it’s on to the process for the project.
To begin the project one needs a good flat area that they can build a box area the size of the boat they are wanting to build. To build this box one should attach four 2×4’s in a box where the long sides are the length of the boat and the ends are as wide as the widest part of the boat will be. Usually one wants to keep the width no more than 1/3rd of the length of the boat for stability reasons. Next one will place 2×4’s the width of the widest part of the boat about every 2 feet from the front of the box where the from of the boat will be to the back of the box. This completes the first thing needed to do to build this boat.
The next step is a little more involved as it is what will hold the boat together. The next step is to build a frame placing one board vertical where the bow or front of the boat will be and then making trapezoidal shaped frames at a distance of about 2 feet apart from the front to the back of the boat. The trapezoidal shaped frames should be the same height for the first half of the boat, but should be only about 1/3rd of the width at the first 2 foot length station. As one continues down the boat they should increase the width of the trapezoidal frames by about ½ of the previous frame until they reach the halfway point of the boat’s length. When reaching the halfway point one should have their widest frame which should be no wider than 1/3rd of the total length of the boat. The next thing is that one will now step their frames down in size from the halfway point to the stern or rear of the boat. The frames at this point should retain their trapezoidal shape and should mirror the width of the frames from the halfway point to the front of the boat but should decrease gradually in height. The average drop should be about 1 ½ to 2 inches in height for every 2 feet going from the halfway point to the stern. This will put a nice gradual curve in the boat at the back that is needed for stability. After this one will need to make what’s called a keel-son and this is a long 2×4 section that runs the length of the boat from bow to stern that each of the frames attaches to. Along the sides one will need to use 1×2’s and bend then to attach to each frame in order to build a strong framework for the plywood to attach to. Once the frame is built the project can proceed.
Following the frame building, the plywood can be added to the boat frame. One will need to cut this to the shape of the frame and make sure that the bottom of the boat is as flat as possible but the back of the boat should slightly curve until it reaches the stern or farthest back part of the boat’s length. This gets the project to a point where it is almost finished.
After attaching the plywood, one should drape the window screening over the entire boat and then use the Exterior Grade Latex Paint to paint the boat. This will attach the window screening to the boat and protect the exterior from the elements. Now that this is done flip the boat over and remove the box that the boat was built on. One can now add seats and use the remainder of the paint to paint the boat’s inside as they see fit to do. This practically completes the boat. Now all one needs to do is add a propulsion system of some sorts whether motor or sail and the cost should come in just under $200.
What a great way to realize a dream that the Great Recession may have made one think they couldn’t have. With a little sweat equity and a little time one’s dream can be realized. Also it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and one will probably end up with a boat better made than most modern fiberglass ones are. So good luck and have a great time out on the water.
Boatbuilding by Howard I. Chappelle
The Sharpie Book by Reule Parker