Posted by: oldsalt1942 | February 11, 2012

My Writing Available at Amazon.com

This is a shameless, unapologetic plug for my writing available at Amazon.com.

Newer posts appear below this.

A fictionalized account of the tragic fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus.http://www.amazon.com/Despair-ebook/dp/B004LLIXT4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328969137&sr=1-2

A short story about my single-handed passage from Key West to Isla Mujeres on a 26′ sailboat. http://www.amazon.com/Sailing-Alone-To-Isla-ebook/dp/B006531622/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328969137&sr=1-1

  I spent six months of full-time work editing/rewriting this century-old novel of piracy in the Caribbean so that it reads as if it were written in the 21st century. http://www.amazon.com/Pirate-Caribbees-ebook/dp/B0065RV8H6/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328969137&sr=1-3

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | September 28, 2014

Shanty Boat Inspiration

Anyone who has thought about building a shanty boat knows who Harlan Hubbard and his wife Anna are. If you don’t, well, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Hubbard.

His shanty boat books are legends and the stuff of dreams to nut jobs like myself.

http://www.amazon.com/Shantyboat-River-Life-Harlan-Hubbard/dp/0813113598/ref=la_B001HPQ6GO_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411849117&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Shantyboat-Journal-Harlan-Hubbard/dp/0813118689/ref=la_B001HPQ6GO_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411849234&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Shantyboat-Bayous-Harlan-Hubbard/dp/0813117178/ref=la_B001HPQ6GO_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411849269&sr=1-4

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | September 27, 2014

Segmented Construction

Back in June I wrote a post about the possibility of building a shanty boat hull in segments…http://houseboatshantyboatbuilders.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/watch-this-spot-for-future-developments/ And then, as I’m likely to do my mind flew off in other directions.

But in my never-ending search for ideas I ran across this interesting build.

http://2010dinohuntingbyboat.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html

What they’re building is WAY larger than what I’d attempt, or even need. But building it in sections is what interested me.

IMG_5472DSCN1487DSCN1499DSCN1536DSCN1585DSCN1726

Altogether an interesting read about construction of the craft and the dinosaur bone hunt itself.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | September 24, 2014

Getting Around

One of the first entries I posted on this blog was way back in April, 2009.

http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2009/04/29/the-boaters-car-of-pickup-truck/

None of that has really changed, of course, but thinking about living on a boat on the hook again has the whole dinghy situation churning around in my head. Sitting on the back porch of Dos Palmas Hotel in Bocas del Toro you look out at the Bocas Marina and the anchorage.

IMG_0600

Every one of those boats has an inflatable dinghy with as big a motor on it as it can possibly handle. After sailing to Panama at what was probably an average speed of around five miles an hour now that they’ve arrived they have to zip around as fast as they possibly can while the natives, descendents of those who lived here before Columbus arrived in 1502, have a more sedate manner of getting around.

IMG_0612

I’d be lying to you if I said I hadn’t loved my semi-rigid inflatable when I was on my nine-month tour of Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. I enjoyed zipping around in it, the wind ruffling my hair. But times and ideas change.

My first inclination for a dinghy would be one of my favorite designs ever…A Puddle Duck Racer. http://www.pdracer.com/ I’ve written about these so many times in the past that I won’t elaborate on just why they appeal to me.

Here are a few reasons why I think one would be an excellent dinghy.

  • No asshole is going to punch a hole in one like often happens with inflatables.
  • You can row one whereas rowing an inflatable can be a exercise in frustration, especially if you have to row into a headwind.
  • You can sail a PDR. Ive seen, on line, sailing kits for inflatables, but I’m not so sure how well they’d work.
  • You can even put an electric trolling motor or a very small gas outboard on one, too.
  • The thing is so ugly that theft wouldn’t be a worry. Why? Well, because it would most likely be the only PDR around and instantly recognizable as stolen if you weren’t in it.

And the downside of a PDR?

Unless you’re going to tow it everywhere, there’s really no place to easily stow it on board a 23-foot boat with a 6-1/2-foot beam since the PDR has a 4-foot beam. There’s nothing wrong with towing a dinghy. I towed mine for, literally, hundreds of miles without incident.

They’re fairly heavy. I’d be living at anchor in a place with a tidal range of around 19 feet. That means that sometimes when I’d want to get ashore I’d be afloat, but when I’d be ready to return home both boats would be high and dry, or there would be a lot of sand to drag the PDR over to get to enough water to get it to float again. An inflatable would be even worse.

So, what’s the solution? Is there one? I think so. It would be in the form of what is known as a one-sheet boat. That’s one that is made from a single sheet of plywood. Made from 1/4-inch ply one would weigh around 35 lbs. It, too, would be something that wouldn’t be too attractive to thieves, especially if you painted it some garish colors. Here are a couple of pictures to show you what people have concocted with just a single sheet of plywood.

timthumb.php

And this from the designer of the boat above: http://koti.kapsi.fi/hvartial/oss_sam/oss_sam.htm

simprigalter6

Here’s all you need to build one of those: http://www.simplicityboats.com/minisharpie.html

If you find those interesting just Google “One sheet boats” and in the images section there are hundreds to look at.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | September 16, 2014

Contemplation

Yeah, yeah, I haven’t posted anything for a while and I know you’re all wanting an update on the quest for my having a shanty boat.

Well, there are a couple of reasons I haven’t posted lately, the most compelling being, I just didn’t feel like it!

But I haven’t been idle. I’ve been deep in contemplation about how a boat should go together. For example, I think, for now, anyway, that I’d like it to have a bowed roof, sort of like a Vardo, or Gypsy wagon:

vardoIt’s attractive and fairly easy to do, and the little overhang on the edges would be good for rainwater collection of which I will write more about later on.

1366231350_a6f0063e3d_z

inner-2

Another thing I’ve been contemplating is doors and windows. Should I build simple bi-fold doors that secure with a hatch like this? (Note how the lip of the sliding hatch basically lock the doors shut.)

colorful narrowboat

Or should I go with something a bit more conventional, but still off-beat like in the two doors in this photo?

NantesErdreColorfulHouseboats_dianenaoned

Windows are another story. Down here at a little over eight degrees north of the equator, and at sea level, it never gets cold, so windows with glass panes aren’t really necessary. A lot of houses in Panama are built like these:

IMG_0658

IMG_0568window

There was a sliding window on a green boat, I’m sure, that I liked a lot. I must have downloaded it but I simply can’t find it now and have been searching online for the last hour before giving up. Sigh.

I’ll leave with a couple of inspirational paintings by Claude Monet of his studio shanty boat. monet-studio-boat

Monet 1

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | September 4, 2014

You MUST Watch This…

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with houseboats, shanty boats at all, but it is probably one of the most amazing things you will ever see in your entire life…

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | August 27, 2014

Inspiration

I’ve suggested this early on, but there are some great inspirational ideas for houseboats and shanty boats to be found in the tiny house movement. There are a few tiny houses that could probably be successfully mounted on a scow hull or a pontoon base, but generally the way builders have creatively made use of the space available is what I find great.

For the past couple of days I’ve been browsing through this site: http://tinyhouseswoon.com/

I found it through another fantastic blog: http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/

A word of advice…be careful when you click on either site because it’s easy to get lost for hours in them.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | August 26, 2014

Blue Whales and Me

I was talking to my good friend, Stefan, the other night on Skype. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He’s not at all supportive about me building a boat to live on down here. “Why don’t you come back up here and we’ll find you a sailboat you can live on,” he said. “They’ve changed the rules about living aboard at special anchorages, and people are doing it all over.”

Well, the only problem is that land dwellers have been battling people living at anchor in Florida for as long as I can remember, and I first lived in Florida back in 1961! It will never end. Here’s a recent (July 30, 2014) article about local politicians trying to come up with creative ways to prohibit people from enjoying life on the water without paying through the nose to do so for the privilege. As if owning a boat isn’t paying through the nose enough already. http://www.waterwayguide.com/waterway-updates/news/GEN/4103/Get-ready-for-new-anchoring-regulations-in-Florida

One of my favorite lines in the story is from Senator Christopher Smith of Broward County who supports outlawing anyone from anchoring closer than 100 yards of a land residence, and in fact contends that even THAT is too close, said: “There are boats sitting outside of people’s houses…boats within 100 yards, looking into people’s houses, discharging waste, doing all kinds of things in that city’s water.”

Boaters have long been hammered that they are polluting the pristine waters of the United States. In Fort Lauderdale this has been decried for years, especially around what are known as the Las Olas Isles where there are a lot of liveaboards, albeit at docks in the area. For the past few decades the area’s water has always had a high coliform bacteria count and it has been blamed on boaters pooping in their boats and releasing it into the wild. But there is incontrovertible evidence that the coliform count is high because of deteriorated sewage infrastructure of the land dwellings sitting on man-made “islands” that were created from dredged material nearly a century ago (1917).

Decades ago it was mandated that boats with toilet facilities install “holding tanks” or other devices that would keep brown floaters from being discharged into the water. “Pump out facilities” were built so that boats could pull up, pay a fee, and have their noxious effluvia whisked away. I know that around Fort Lauderdale there is at least one floating “honey wagon” that cruises around providing a similar service dock-side. Boat owners who wish to dump their stuff over the side CAN if they sail five or so miles offshore and do it there.

One thing Florida is famous for is its beaches and tourists flock to them from all over the world. But several times every year people are prohibited from swimming in the ocean in southeast Florida because pipes that pump coastal city’s waste offshore rupture spilling millions of gallons of untreated and semi-treated human waste into the water.

What I have always found foolish is trying to blame a handful of boaters for what is, like in the Las Olas Isles area, a land-based problem, but since there are more land-dwellers than live-aboard boaters the boaters become an easy target.

My response to this is to link myself with blue whales and dolphins (porpoise). The blue whale is the largest creature on the face of the earth and it lives in the ocean. It is so big that a young child could swim through its arteries…

blue whale heart

Now, it’s an incontrovertible fact that blue whales eat. And anything that eats, shits. And how huge do you think a single blue whale’s turd might be? I have no idea, either, but I can tell you this, almost without fear of contradiction, so far in my 72 years I have not pooped enough to equal a single blue whale’s turd! And there are thousands of blue whales around the world and each one of them is taking a daily dump in the ocean as are the tens of thousands of dolphins everywhere. And lets not forget about seals and walruses, either. They’re dumping their doo in the water constantly and then people get all bent out of shape because of my single, insignificant contribution? There’s something terribly wrong with that whole way of thinking as far as I’m concerned.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | August 23, 2014

Nailed It!

I’ve never been able to verbalize just what it is that I like about shanty boats. What it is that draws me to them, but rummaging around online for some ideas on a build I ran across this which sums it up pretty well: Someone who refers to himself as GBLK on Wooden Boat Forum said: “For me a Shanty represents raw honesty and is not pretentious. It says I am here to serve a function to offer shelter and a way of life. A Bayliner for example wouldn’t keep me awake at night or make me feel excited even if I could afford one.”

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | August 22, 2014

Rethinking the Cruising Grounds

This post was actually written before the one about pangas and narrowboats.

My original plan, when retiring to Panama, was to build a shanty boat and spend the rest of my days in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Well it didn’t happen as my regular readers know. But for four years the idea has lain semi-dormant in the back of my mind. But why Bocas, specifically. Well, in all of Panama there are really only three places that seem to be written about as cruising areas.

On the Pacific side there’s the Perlas Islands. These islands are generally stopped at by people either about to or have recently made a transit of the Canal.

Las Perlaslas-perlas-mapYou might recognize Contadora where the Shah of Iran spent time after being deposed.

Pearl-island-contadora-arial

On the Caribbean side there’s the San Blas Islands, known here in Panama as Guna Yala. It is a semi-autonomous region administered by the Kuna Indians and to visit them you have to get permission from the Chiefs and pay to visit and your stay is limited in length. It’s not a place where you’re welcome to stay forever.

guna yalaguna-yala-explorer-privateThe Kuna are the second smallest group of people in the world after the pygmies in Africa, and the women’s distinctive “molas” make them iconic figures of Panama.

images

But it’s Bocas that most cruisers gravitate to.

bocas

Miles and miles of sheltered water cruising with dozens of islands to tuck up to and anchor behind if you’re looking for some peace and quiet:

bocas-del-toro2

Or you can go into Bocas Town if you want to live it up a bit:

full-moon-pool-party-bocas-del-toro-1024x518

But making that ride back to the mainland after choosing not to buy the sailboat I realized I didn’t want to live in Bocas anyway. Too far away from too many things.

So, where does that leave me? Closer to home there’s Pedregal with it’s marina, Customs and Immigration offices and other Maritime offices.

pedregal

Pedregal is a 35¢ bus ride from downtown David. It’s not a very pretty place, and there is quite a bit of crime here, mostly drug related but it’s certainly not as tranquil as Boquerón. Back in 2009 (has it been that long ago?) when I was doing my exploratory visits to the country I went down to the marina to look around, and dismissed the place out of hand. (Please excuse the misspelling of the town’s name) http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2009/05/14/pedrigal-off-the-list/

So with Bocas off the list I went back to Google Earth and took another peek at Pedregal and saw this:

pedregal delta

Miles and miles of sheltered water in the delta and then to the east comes Boca Chica and Boca Brava.

boca chica

And there are lots of boats here which was a surprise to me…

boca chica boats

Lots of big game fishing goes on offshore from Boca Chica with world records being pulled out of the water. And there are plenty of islands to relax around.

Isla Palenque-Orgullo en Boca Chica-Panama-Real Estate

If anything does come of the boating bug this is probably where I’ll end up. Close to David.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | August 22, 2014

Crazy Boat Idea # ???

I don’t know what number it is. Over the years there have been so many crazy boat ideas I’ve lost track. There was the R.V. camper shell on pontoons back in the late 60s. I briefly toyed with converting an oil well jack-up service barge after seeing one out at Breton Island when I worked there. I don’t know how many scow hulls and pontoon hulls I bought plans for. I still have some of them in the back room here. As you know I recently went over to Bocas del Toro to look at possibly buying a Westerly Centaur fixer upper. It was too much fixer and not enough upper so that hit the trash bin of bad ideas. This one, whatever its number might be, just might work.

So what’s the new idea? Well, as my readers know I’ve thought about how much work is involved in producing a hull that would support my shanty boat idea. I thought about how difficult it would be to build a scow hull upside down and turn it over and toyed with the idea of building pontoons in modules. All pie in the sky stuff, that’s for sure.

I thought about trying to find an old hull and putting a house on it, hopefully better than this, but you get the idea:

boat

So where to go from here?

I looked at the boats on craigslist, panama and what few were offered were WAY out of my range. For instance:

four winns

“Quest Four Winns de 26 pies, 10 pies de ancho
Excelente condiciones, vivero, 2 fish box
Baño, servicio, lavamanos, camarote,
GPS Garmin a colore con fish finder y ecosonda,
Radio de comunicaciones i-com, wash down,
Twin Yamaha 250 hp 520 horas
Tanque de 200 galones 2 bombas de achique
Trailer de aluminio.

And they’re only asking $55,000.

Then I was looking at a site called “encuentra 24.” Their listings for “Yates and Veleros” (Power yachts and sailboats) had things like this 38 foot Donzi, a steal at only $95,000:

donzi

Or this 35′ sportfish for a mere $300,000.

fish

Things were looking bleak. Then, for some unknown reason I clicked on their section labeled “Botes, Jet Ski.” The LAST thing I ever wanted was a jet ski. I hate the damned things and I despise the people who have them. But in there I found this:

Ventas de lanchas nuevas (New Boat Sales) Pangas de pesca y turismo

Precio de Venta: $3,500.00.

For those of you who don’t know what a ‘Panga’ is, they’re ubiquitous working craft throughout Mexico, Central America and parts of Africa and Asia. They look like this:

bernal panga There was a price list: lanchas de 18×5.5×3 -2,300.00, lancha de 20×5.5×3- 2,700.00, lancha de 23×5.5×3-3,100.00, lancha de mas capacidad 23×6.5×5- 3,500.00, lancha de 25×6.5×5- 3,800.00, lancha de 28×6.5×5- 4,500.00, lancha de 30×6.5×5-7,500.00.

I’d done some rough number crunching when I was into the idea of building the scow and figured that just for the scow hull itself it would cost me roughly $2,300. And then, of course, I’d have to build the damned thing myself! So paying an extra grand to get a good fiberglass hull built by someone else didn’t seem to be such a bad idea.

Hmmmmm. And the ad said that he was located in David, though I suspected Pedregal was more likely.

I hadn’t given too much though to the panga hulls for a long time. I remember on my first visit to Bocas del Toro back in ’09 standing in the lee of a restaurant and looking at a panga that was all kitted out against the rain and thinking, “I could put a cabin on that and be comfortable.” The problem is, as you can see above, the things are NARROW! The beam of my Nancy Dawson was 7’10” but on reflection I lived for nearly six years in a very tiny space. The overall length on deck was 26′ but the cockpit behind the cabin was a good eight and a half or nine feet, cutting the interior living space down to about 18 feet, and remember, forward of the beam it narrowed down considerably towards the stem. In an earlier blog entry I’d figured out that I’d been living in about 52 square feet of floor space! And yet I was comfortable, never the less.

My plans for a scow or pontoon boat called for about 24X8 with a cabin of about 16X8 or 128 square feet. More than double what I had on Nancy Dawson. If you look at sites like Tiny House Blog and similar you’ll see a lot of these minimalist shelters running around the 100 to 125 square foot range. And costing $30 grand and more, too!

But you have to realize that we’re not just talking about square footage, here. We’re talking about VOLUME when considering living space…length, width and HEIGHT! To keep windage down I would have built the house to give about 6’6″ headroom, so the volume would be 832 cubic feet.

Now, using the same calculations on a panga with a 16′ cabin and 6’6″ headroom you come up with 676 cubic feet. One hundred fifty cubic feet less. Sigh.

How big a handicap is that six and a half foot beam? Depends on how you look at it, I guess. Over in England, Scotland and Wales, they have what are known as “Narrowboats.” These were originally designed as cargo carriers on the extensive canal system that preceded the railroads. These boats have a maximum beam of just seven feet! That’s so they can make their way through the locks on the canals.

I did a lot of rummaging around online in recent days about these boats. The government estimates there are some 25,000 people who live on narrow boats in the country and then there are the weekenders and vacationers on top of that. While most of the boats a quite long, 40 t0 70 feet, there are quite a few smaller boats as well, many of them just 23 feet:

colorful narrowboatsilver-sailsarni

This is the interior of a Springer 23. Quite cozy:

springer 23-2

Wednesday I called the panga builder’s phone number and talked to him, sort of. Talking to someone in a foreign language on the telephone is incredibly difficult. I hated cringed when I had to do it in France and it’s only slightly better here, but I did confirm my suspicion that Sr. Bernal’s operation was in Pedregal.

So, Thursday morning, inspired by what I’d seen on the internet regarding narrowboats I took the 60¢ bus ride to the bus terminal in David, walked three blocks and got on the bus to Pedregal which costs 35¢. I got off 25 minutes later when I saw what looked to be a boat construction site down a side street which would be near one of the rivers in the area. I asked the first person I met if they knew Sr. Bernal who built pangas. They said they didn’t know that name, but a couple of blocks away there was a house that had several pangas in the adjoining yard and perhaps that’s the place I wanted.

I found the place with no problem, and sure enough there were five pangas about the right size there. They were what one would expect of a small operation with so-so quality. They certainly weren’t faired out well. I mean they were rather on the “wavy” side and the gel coat was certainly not of standards we might expect in the States. Of course we’d be paying a lot more for a boat in the States too, so you have to take that into consideration. Pangas are built to two purposes, fishing and tourism. Those for the tourism trade are built with several rows of bench seating. The fishing pangas are an “open” plan. Both kinds have a small enclosed compartment in the bow and a couple of feet from the transom which is cut down a bit for the installation of an outboard there is another full-width partition thus creating an “engine area.” All of these boats were set up with seating.

Heavy salsa music blared out of the open door of the house next door but I finally got the attention of someone inside. They said this was not Sr. Bernal’s operation, but the location where the boats were built was only a couple of blocks away.

 The operation was at the edge of an overgrown and neglected baseball diamond. There were four young men working away at three hulls. The boss wasn’t there but I walked to his brother who didn’t know how much the boats sold for. When asked how long it took  for them to build a hull he said eight days. I gave him my phone number and asked him to have his brother call me so I could find out how much the boats cost. I still haven’t heard from him.
The place I REALLY wanted to go to was a mystery and I didn’t know to how to get there.  Walking down a side street from the first Taller (work shop) towards the main road where I figured I’d catch a cab I asked an old man standing in the shade of a tree if he knew Sr. Bernal who built boats. He didn’t, but a teenaged girl sitting on the front porch of the house we were in front of said she knew. The guy I needed was her cousin! His shop was a good ways away and it would be best to take a taxi, and she wrote down the directions on how to get there. Out at the main road I caught a cab and was at Bernal’s in about three minutes. Pedregal isn’t THAT big a place, after all, but walking in the heat would have been enervating.
Amado Bernal, is a young guy in his early 30s. He was rigging out a 25 footer with a 75 horse Yamaha outboard. The boat had decent gel coat and the interior was finished off well with at least a modicum of attention to craftsmanship. The gel coat inside and out was nicely done, the inside with what we called “spider webbing” which is fun stuff that my friend Stefan and I used to use when fixing up old boats.
Amado said the 23X6.5 hull, with flooring, would cost $3,500. Knock off $300 if I wanted to put in the flooring myself. And knock off another 10% if I paid him in cash. (That was MY idea). The cash thing is that I don’t have a bank account here in Panama. It’s very hard and complicated for a gringo to get an account so my SS checks are deposited in the U.S. and I withdraw cash from ATMs. Only problem there is I’m limited to $500/day. I could go buy a Panamanian bank check, I suppose, but I’ll take the time and the discount.
He wants 1/2 down to get going and it takes him four weeks ( as opposed to one like the other place said) to finish a boat out. The construction is done with hand-laid mat and roving, not chopper gun construction. They will deliver the boat here to Boqueron for $125 and I can finish it out here. I told him what I was planning to do, put up a cabin structure to live in and he thought it was a pretty cool idea. I like the guy and I’m going to start visiting the bank next week. I’ve already called MY bank and told them when I was going over to Bocas that I was planning on buying a boat, needed to make a bunch of withdrawals and that the fraud department shouldn’t put a hold on my account for what will certainly look like suspicious activity. They made note on my account so all is good.
So that’s where it stands right now. The picture of the panga with the blue sheer stripe is the boat he was working on. He’d already put up a nice canvas shelter over practically the whole thing and added a nice steering console. This one is 25′. All the hulls have the same beam, they just have a piece that they insert into the mold’s stern to make the different lengths.
I think the color schemes for the narrowboats of England are extremely cool and I would seriously consider doing something in a similar vein. But seeing this is Panama I might do something along the lines of the now-defunct “Diablos Rojos” that used to terrorize the streets of Panama City. They looked like this:
FB IMG_0100pbus_1
Now how cool would a narrowboat be looking something like that?
I know my landlord will be reading this, and I know he wants me to stay here until the house sells.  I can understand his apprehension as he reads this, but all I can say is that none of this is going to happen within the next month or so. In fact, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get things done before someone buys the place and I have to move before I’m ready. I can see this taking a minimum of six months and that’s if I got real lucky and everything went smoothly. And we know things never go smoothly.

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