Posted by: oldsalt1942 | March 2, 2015

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Posted by: oldsalt1942 | March 2, 2015

Harlan and Anna Hubbard Video

The artist, Harlan Hubbard, and his wife, Anna, could be considered the guru of modern shanty boating. He and Anna were married in 1943 and the next year they started to build their shanty boat in Brent, Kentucky eventually traveling down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, ending their journey in the Louisiana bayous in 1951. His book Shantyboat, and several others he wrote recounts the eight-year journey from Brent to New Orleans, are still available through His book Shantyboat in the Bayous, which was published in 1990, completes the story.

Harlan produced many woodcuts and drawings like this one showing the inside of their boat and their voyage.




Posted by: oldsalt1942 | March 1, 2015

Vintage Shanty Boat Article


Posted by: oldsalt1942 | February 28, 2015

Advantages of a Shanty Boat vs. Sail or Powerboat

I have a very dear friend in Florida who is always trying to convince me to give up the shanty boat idea. “Come up here,” he says, “and get a REAL boat. Then you can sail it back down to Panama if you want.”

Well, there are a lot of reasons I don’t want to do that. One, I don’t really want to go back to the States even to visit. People around here often ask me if I don’t miss my family and friends up north. Well, sure. But if I travel some place I want to go to somewhere I’ve never been before. I don’t need to go visit those people up there. I KNOW what it looks like where they live. They should come down HERE and take part in the adventure of a different country and culture.

But getting back to the theme of this post. One of the big disadvantages of powerboats and sailboats as live aboards is the DRAFT. My lovely Nancy Dawson which I lived on for nearly six years drew 4′ feet.


That meant that I needed to be in AT LEAST four and a half feet of water and also take into account the tidal range. For instance, over here around Boca Chica where I’d like to be, the tidal range is as much as 19 feet! Take a gander of these sport fishing boats at Boca Chica…(By the way, there are MANY world record catches off the shores in this area).


Jolie Aire-Golfe Juan

The boat I ran over in France, after we changed the old, short-weighted wing keel which made the boat dangerously unstable for a spade-type keel drew over TEN FEET!!!



Because of this great tidal range (it’s only about 3′ over in the Bocas del Toro area) if you’re in a sailboat with a keel or a power boat where the props and rudders hang below the level of the keel, you have to be anchored quite a way from the beach in order to stay afloat or pay an outrageous fee for a dock at a marina.

With a shanty boat you can choose from a couple of options. You could hang around, see where the low tide line is and anchor yourself just off it and walk ashore since your boat will only have a draft of a foot or so. Of course, six hours after you left it will be high tide and you’ll either have to wait for the tide to fall or swim out to your home. OR, if you’ve built your boat sturdy enough, you can go inshore as far as possible and “take the ground” as they say if you’ve found a nice protected spot where there isn’t much wave action to bounce you around as the tide drops.

In either case you’re going to want/need to have a dinghy. I wrote this several years ago…

My choice for a dinghy is the Puddle Duck Racer. I’ve written about it before on this blog.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | February 24, 2015

Nutty Idea # ???

Lately my idea of building a shanty “boat” has shifted to building a shanty “raft.” As a Canadian member of my Facebook group calls them, “Float Shacks.”  One of the main reasons for this recent focus is the building process would be a lot easier. I have also been thinking about how to keep the costs down and one way would be by using recyclable materials.

One of the very few things that disappoint me about Panama, and there are really only two, is that so many people treat this beautiful country as a trash can. Sometimes you can almost imagine dad telling the family, “Okay, everybody in the car. We’re going to drive around for a while and throw shit out the windows.” (The other thing I don’t like is the loud music all over the place. It doesn’t have to be GOOD music but it does have to be LOUD!) I got into it with a woman one time on the bus. When she finished drinking her soda she opened the window and tossed the empty out onto the Interamerican Highway. I admonished her in my horrible Spanish and a couple of nearby Panamanian riders backed me up. One of the most egregious things I’ve seen, and this is the absolute truth, one trash day the garbage truck was stopped outside my gate. One of the workers was drinking from a two liter bottle of water. When he polished it off, what do you think he did? Did he throw the empty into the truck? Of course not, the idiot threw it into the grass. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Anyway, I’m thinking about the possibility of using plastic bottles as flotation. I like the idea of 55-gal plastic drums, and I need to investigate that further. The only place I asked for pricing wanted $35/each for used barrels. In one plan good plan I saw online I’d need 14 of them which is $490! But I see a hardware company distribution yard when I take the bus into David (Dah VEED) and they always seem to have a lot of those drums. The reason it might not be able to get them cheaply here unlike in the States is that water service is often sporadic here and outages are a way of life, so many, many houses have these barrels as a reserve water supply.


And the framing required to make something like this is made out of 2X6 and 2X10 lumber and lag bolts and it’s HEAVY. Here’s an example of what I mean…



But as far as using bottles I saw this on my last trip over to Bocas del Toro in July… It wasn’t very big, but it’s all a matter of just working things out, right?

bocas bottles 2


There are LOTS of discarded bottles lying around down here. One thought that crossed my mind would be to approach the schools in the area and tell the kids that I’d pay them, say, 5 cents for each two liter bottle that was clean, no label and a cap. That doesn’t seem like much to gringos like us (I use the word “gringo” all the time and I use it to mean anyone here whose native language isn‘t Spanish.), but you have to realize what it is to the local people, especially the indigenous kids who live around here. The owner of the house I rent wants to have it painted and one guy that came to bid the job said he works for $15 A DAY!!! So picking up 300 bottles other people have thrown away would be a fortune to a bunch of young indian kids. But down here it’s what’s called “Summer” and school doesn’t start until March 2nd, so I need to wait a few weeks before I can make my pitch.

I could also get some free radio publicity. A nearby neighbor, and friend, is a reporter for one of the local radio stations. We’ve often talked about how awful the mind set of people is who throw trash around. I’d be willing to bet if I approached him with my idea of using discarded bottles I’d be able to get some free air-time. After all, when the town I live in, Boqueron, had their feast day celebration for their patron saint last October, they put out a small magazine and half of one page was devoted to the only gringo that lives in their pueblo…ME!

But this morning, over my morning cup of locally-grown coffee, I stumbled across THIS and I think this could be the deal. Milk crates filled with 2-liter bottles. As you can see in the video it’s sagging where the guy is sitting but that’s because the thing is held together with plastic wire ties. Certainly not designed for strength and durability. A couple of ways of overcoming that that instantly pop to mind would be to somehow through-bolt the crates together, or build a simple 2X4 frame around the top and bottom edges to keep it rigid. Another possibility might be to screw 1/4″ plywood with fiberglass sheathing to the outside, or perhaps just paint it. I’m not building a yacht here, and I’m nearly 73 years old with COPD and three stents in my arteries. How many years do I have to figure on being on the thing, anyway? There are 9 bottles per crate, so I need to go measure a crate and see how many I’ll need to put together something around 10’X24′ . I might have to double up on the crates to get enough clearance for the deck above water.

Where would I get the crates? You won’t find those along the side of the road. Not a problem. Chiriqui province is the bread basket of Panama, and on the short trip over to Bugaba, to the west of Boqueron, there are THREE dairies: Estrella, Nevada and La Chiricana. I’ll have to stop in and see if I can buy a bunch from them. I bet if I explain what I plan to do they’ll go along with it.

Anyway, this is the thing that’s got my willie tingling this morning.



Posted by: oldsalt1942 | February 18, 2015

Dream Material

I have said before that the “Tiny House” movement has some great ideas that could easily be adapted to shanty boats. Today while looking for something else, I stumbled on this site which is certainly grist for the mill and should keep some of you dreamers from falling asleep.

The site is: Go to the archive to find several years worth of thumbnails that are definitely inspirational. Some have already made it to the water.

How about this wonderful floating raft cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

Raft Cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.


Tell me this one isn’t cool as all get out…


I wouldn’t be surprised to find this way up in the Atchafalaya Basin somewhere…



Rustic river shack in Lychen, Germany.  Contributed by Jessica Prescott.

rustic german shack

Floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#1


Another floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#2

Enjoy your dreams…make them come true, though.


Posted by: oldsalt1942 | January 12, 2015

Cool Conversion

I found this video thanks to a post on Unfortunately there’s no audio accompaniment, but you’ll certainly get the idea of how this gentleman converted a ratty pontoon party boat into a nice, comfortable shanty boat. There are probably a lot of pontoon boats in horrible condition in or around where YOU live that you could pick up for a song and do something similar with them.


Posted by: oldsalt1942 | December 29, 2014

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | November 21, 2014

Dianne’s Rose

I recently received this comment from Roy Schreyer: “Would you be interested in a write up on DIANNE’S ROSE a “Tiny” Houseboat?” As it happens this is a boat I’ve admired as I’ve roamed through the cyber world looking at shanty boats to write about and possibly build and own, so naturally I wrote back in the affirmative. This is what I received…

DIANNE’S ROSE, Shanty/Camp/Houseboat

DIANNE’S ROSE is now complete and on her second season as our “Tiny Cabin” on the water.

My wife, Dianne Roselee, was the inspiration behind this design. I loved sailing our beach cruiser, Whisper, accessing the wilds. “Roughing it”! Dianne, not so much! She encouraged me to build her a more comfortable boat, nothing tippy please! I like my wife, so decided to oblige. The result has made quite an impression on others but most importantly Dianne likes it! She is less adventurous than I and in this boat I’m able to enjoy more time on the water in the wilds, with my wife. DIANNE’S ROSE has kept us dry in rain, cool under the hot sun, safe during storms and warm when the snow was on the river banks (we havve a mini wood stove to warm the cabin, driftwood being plentiful)!

This spring took forever to arrive and our first trip out on Georgian Bay (the Great Lakes) we helped break up the ice (see You Tube)! Thanks to this unique boat I’ve had my share of adventure and Dianne has been comfortable and safe even if I’ve pushed my luck!  I did just that last fall on an overnight trip on our local Nottawasaga River. Wanting to see the river’s upper reaches where there is a large swamp, we (the boat and I) were happily boating between trees and bumping over submerged logs. The scenery was breath taking, just imagine a Louisiana Swamp but colder. Squeezing past many “pinches” to get here, I was proud of my boat handling skills. For every such moment experience tells me I will soon be humbled! Dianne was concerned generally but at one of these pinches in particular. The main stream of the river was running strong from recent rains, she questioned if we would be able to navigate it on the return trip, with the current pushing fast from our stern. I’ll admit I did scrape a few more branches than I cared to and stressed Di more than I cared as well! On the up side, we found a beautiful nook to spend the night where we fished and enjoyed hot soup from our galley (Not even a bite!). We woke relaxed with mist on the water and enjoyed a simple breakfast of toasted egg sandwiches as the sun burned the mist away. Yesterday’s mistakes also faded. I enjoyed a fresh start.

On hot days we sit in the shade with windows and doors open, funneling cool breezes to our passengers. This is a social boat with room for eight (we’ve had as many as twelve). Some boaters have passed by asking if it’s hot inside unaware how wrong they are! Yet the cold has not been a problem either with the tiny portable wood stove I mentioned. It warms the cabin up, when outside is near freezing! This has doubled the length of our boating season. There was snow on the river banks on the last outing of last season and ice still in the bay on our first outing of this season!

DIANNE’S ROSE is 17’ X 8’ beam and needs only 6” to float, making her perfect for sneaking into shallow coves (swamps) and pulling up to isolated beaches.


The boat has a refined barge hull with the sides having a slight “V”, providing the extreme shallow draw and the accommodations for our comfort. We can easily find shelter from wind and waves as we did on another trip during a severe thunderstorm. Tucked well up a creek, thanks to our shallow draw,we enjoyed the sound of the heavy rain without a care! Others anchored in a reasonably sheltered bay that our creek fed were tossed about all night. We later found out this storm spawned a small tornado (no one hurt).

This hull shape has surprised many as being quite sea worthy, not limiting our adventures to just protected waters! The next morning we were the rare boat out in choppy waters (others may have been catching up on their sleep?)! Confidence in such conditions come from a high freeboard, a cabin that can be secured tightly, a strongly built hull with divided compartments and a boat with positive buoyancy. The size of the boat and the shape of the hull also help. Smaller boats bob between waves like a duck, never dealing with two waves at once. Not being overpowered we don’t run on top of waves, slamming as we go, but ride in the water as a displacement hull does! We use a 9.8 hp outboard, which keeps fuel costs low and propels us at 6 mph (3/4 throttle). I tested her in 3-4’ breaking waves (not my wife, just the boat), she performed well, light enough to rise over large waves but heavy enough to punch through smaller chop. There was lots of spray but not one wave broke on deck! Of course using good judgement is part of good seamanship, I intend to use her mostly on good weather days but I want confidence in case the weather turns!


Another unforeseen advantage is being able to launch off less than perfect sites, as is often the case in the wilder places we enjoy.  The interior has surpassed our expectations! On our first trip we experienced the biggest advantage of this design. It rained for most of the first day but we were completely comfortable inside, opening the rear windows for just the right air flow. It was surreal to enjoy what would normally be a miserable day on the water. Later that day we navigated down a long narrow channel (Lost Channel… really!), we slipped over submerged logs and rocks, settling into a wild lagoon for our first night on board. The bugs were horrible but with screens in place, we paid little attention to our pesky neighbors and enjoyed a dry retreat. Hardly claustrophobic, with large windows we have almost a full 360 degree view. A simple supper from our modest galley was soon ready.

The 8’ X 10’ cabin has areas that perform dual function and more! Two couches, 62” long, face each other and serves as lounge, driver’s seat, dinning and sleeping areas. We have bigger than a queen-sized bed when filler boards are in place! These boards transform into dining table, additional seats, storage shelves (under the deck) and into the steps in and out of the cabin.  There is a small bathroom with full standing headroom on the left rear side. This space is also our coat closet and a change room with the composting toilet (which does not smell) slid back under the rear deck.


The kitchenette is on the opposite side and doubles as our vanity. A propane camp stove sits on a 36 X 32” counter with a sink. The stove and cooler can be taken ashore for cookouts. A curtain hung across the aisle, the back of the boat now becomes a full bathroom. Toilet, sink and bathing, camp style of course, using a basin to stand in and a pitcher to wet and rinse. Hot water is provided from a pot or solar bag! The front, 4’ X 8’, and back 28” X 8’ porches add livability. We fish off the rear deck sitting on the fuel boxes as one sits at the end of a cottage dock. The front is our main entrance and swim platform with boarding ladder. It could accommodate a small tent arranged similar to “pop-up” tent trailers. This adds space to accommodate a small family!  I design DIANNE’S ROSE to be home built so kept construction straight forward but strong, combining “stitch and glue” and “frame” construction. Most panels are built on a bench, then assembled “egg carton” style. Other parts are simply butt joined, epoxied and screwed. The curved ply skin is dry fitted, marked, cut and then easily wrapped onto the framework. The roof appears difficult but is not with the templates provided. It is broken into three manageable sections and “T&G” planks follow the shape easily, creating a strong but light structure when fiberglass is added.



About 600hrs were needed to build DIANNE’S ROSE. I personally know there are many rewards along the way. The milestones come steadily encouraging you to push on! On occasion a boat party breaks out as curious friends drop in, some even help. As time passes regardless, building this Tiny Houseboat will give years of pleasure when complete! Some unforeseen uses at home when on its trailer (saving marina costs) are; it is my “man cave”, guest house, and a second bathroom. We launched on June 15th, 2013 and are continuing to get to know her better, but thus far we are very happy! The small size has been a large part of the fun!


Plans and Study Plans are available, inquire at Check my web site (work in progress) for other interesting projects and see You Tube for recent videos (type-  royschreyer).

Posted by: oldsalt1942 | October 14, 2014

Latest Inspiration

I know, I know, I keep coming up with different ideas for what might be a good shanty boat to build. Here’s today’s offering. It’s a stretched Chugger. Back in October of 2009 I featured the Chugger in one of my posts:



Bryan Lowe, who built the first Chugger (the red one above) has expanded the original eight by four foot boat to a 12 feet:


During the building of the Bonne Chance he took a ton of photos that would help anyone interested in building one of their own.

And he offers the plans, here:

In the pictures on this site you can see that the sides of the boat are cut out first and then molded over a couple of frames to get the boat into 3-D shape. Chines are installed, the boat is turned upside down and the bottom is put on. Then additional framing for strength are added later. He also has some sketches for a 16 foot by 6 foot version which I think could be stretched another four feet.  I think building in this fashion would also be easily adapted to building in sections and then bolting and epoxying everything together. Working with sections would make turning the sections over a lot easier than trying to manhandle a 20 foot boat.

I really like the skylight on this one. It would come in handy down here in Panama during the rainy season when you’d need to keep the side windows closed but you’d still get a lot of light below.


This builder, who calls himself “Bike and Boat” on Boat where I found thise shots came up with a nice “pop top” idea to add headroom after towing the Chugger to a launch site.



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