Posted by: oldsalt1942 | June 11, 2009

Shantyboat Building Bright Idea

I recently started pricing out the cost of lumber to build my shantyboat in Panama. It’s pretty damned expensive for dimensional lumber like the 2X6s and 2X4s needed. Twice as much as it would cost here in the States, and none of the places I contacted even stock plywood. Then the solution came to me. Build the boat here and ship it down to Panama. I don’t mean ship the finished boat, but sort of do a pre-fab.

It’s sort of not seeing the forest because of the trees, and there are several advantages to doing most of the work here.

1) Make the frames for the hull here. I have access to tools right here…Radial arm saw, circular saws, drill motors, routers. I wouldn’t have that in Panama.

2) My friend, Stephen, who I’ve worked with for over 20 years, has an account with Lewis Marine Services, so I’ll be able to buy epoxy resin and cloth as wholesale prices and the epoxy and cloth will be as expensive as the cost of the hull lumber. West System epoxy retails at $574.15 for 5 gallons and I’ll need five gallons minimum. Much better getting it at half price or better.

3) Ring nails are available here. In a lot of ways these are better than screws. Since the plywood will be put on down in Panama I think that ring nails make more sense than screws. I’ll be hiring local labor to help me assemble the parts down there, and any idiot who can wield a hammer can drive a nail where as there’s always the chances of stripped screwheads is a given, I’m sure.

4) Other items I will need, electric panels, solar panels, inverter and miscellaneous gear can also be purchased at wholesale prices.

5) Packed all into a container I will be able to bring along other personal items I would like to have with me. Since I’m allowed to import $10,000 of personal goods with my Pensionado Visa I think I can make a case that the stuff is personal gear and not subject to import duties. We’ll see. After all, I have a great lawyer in Panama who will go to bat for me.



  1. Richard;

    Ouch! THAT expensive for lumber? Wow. The big deciding factor to build here vs there comes down to how much will it cost to ship the pre-fab boat as part of your other shipment. Got any cost estimates for that yet? I would imagine a 20 ft Container would be the way to go.

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