The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














Entry #2


drawings - stats - boat - budget - explanation - bio




  • Length: 17 ft (Hull 16 ft, Motor mount 1 ft.)
  • Beam Max: 7ft 5”
  • Beam at waterline: 7 ft 3”
  • Height: 5 feet (hull bottom to roof top)
  • Draft: 10.3” leeboard up, 4’ leeboard down
  • Cabin dimensions: 12 ft X 7 ft, 4 ft 6 in. Deck to ceiling head room
  • Cabin slot width : 24”
  • Ballast: Up to 750lbs (fresh drinking water-90 gallons)
  • Displacement: 2750 lbs. (Maximum)(1650lbs with gear and supplies but no people or water)
  • Boat weight: 950 lbs.
  • Sail: Polytarp, Sprit or Lug rigged, 110 sq. ft.
  • Leeboard area: 4.8 sq. ft. (submerged)
  • Rudder area: 3 sq. ft. (submerged)
  • Mast Height: 12 ft. (above roof of cabin)
  • Motor capacity: Up to 40hp but 7-15hp recommended
  • Fuel capacity: (2) 6-10 gallon portable remote tanks, strapped on back of cabin for ventilation.


Jonbird is a flat-bottomed, slab sided camping boat designed for cruising on rivers, lakes and impoundments. It can accommodate 2 persons for a significant length of time. It may be powered by drift, sail, pole, or motor or any combination of the four. It is constructed of lumberyard wood to help keep the costs down. It uses Instant type construction with a chine log and with the chines, bottom and first foot of the hull glassed for abrasion resistance. Space between the floor and the inner hull bottom in the middle of the boat is sealed and used as a fresh water tank, with the water doubling as ballast. Accommodations include an enclosed head, a small galley opposite the head, a 2-person settee with a 2-seat couch opposite. By combining the couch and settee you get a queen sized bed across the width of the boat. The birdwatcher type cabin allows enjoyment of the open air, sun and stars as well as standing movement for the length of the cabin. For foul weather, the slot can be covered with a hard or soft-top. Shown flat, the roof can also be made sloped for improved headroom and better drainage. Cooking is done on a propane/multi-fuel camping stove and BBQ (if brought), personal ablutions with a porta-potti and hand pump sink in the head. The head could conceivably be sealed and used as a shower stall, ala some travel trailers, then pumped out. A portable tank placed on the roof to heat up in the sun would provide warm water. A hand pump sink is also provided in the galley area for dishes and cooking water. Electric power for the boat comes from 12-volt deep cycle batteries recharged by solar cells, and a supply of disposable batteries for flashlights, radio, TV, etc. Propane or multi-fuel lanterns can also be used. A small generator is not budgeted for but if you already have one, or can borrow one, it would be a nice addition. It would eat into fuel supplies so it would have to be used prudently though.

With a maximum overall displacement of 2750 lbs. the boat will draw 10.3 inches of water with the leeboard up (7.3” of hull +3” of skid depth). With a boat weight of 950 lbs., and assuming 350 lbs. of people, this allows up to 700 lbs. of supplies and gear and 750 lbs. of fresh water doubling as ballast. With its high sides and bird watcher cabin, the boat is almost impossible to swamp, even if turned on its side… and with water in the tank, the tendency to be pulled back to an even keel would be even greater. In event of a holing in the main cabin, above the water tank, foam sealed in plastic and stashed in various nooks and crannies will provide flotation to help keep the boat afloat until rescue arrives. All storage spaces are also watertight compartments, providing further flotation and compartmentalization in the event of a holing in one of the storage spaces.

In sail mode, Jonbird is powered with about 110-sq. ft. of sail. Draft with leeboard down will run about 4ft. A sprit or lug rig is indicated for ease of use, balance and shortness of mast and spars. The mast folds down onto the roof, via a tabernacle, and is secured there along with the spar(s). Leeboard and rudder are removable, for use with the motor. Motor capacity is up to 40 hp but 7 to 15 hp would be more practical for this trip. Weatherproof items can be stored on the roof or lashed to the sides of the cabin for storage. Three heavy-duty skids will allow the boat to be pulled up onto a regular flatbed tow truck for portaging around obstacles. Rollers are built into the skids to assist in this effort. A lift or two from sympathetic boat trailer owners would help reduce the Portaging costs. Calculating an average of 50 miles/day and adding in some portaging time, site seeing time and bad weather time the trip should take about 60 days or so, barring any major catastrophes. Although equipped with navigation lights, most, if not all, travel would be done during daylight hours, with the evening and night hours spent anchored, beached or tied up at a friendly dock.


Building and Trip supplies:

  • 1/2” plywood: 8 sheets: used for bottom, floor, bulkheads, buttblocks ($20/sheet = $160)
  • 3/8” plywood : 8 sheets: used for sides, roof, bulkheads, furniture, buttblocks ($16/sheet= $128)
  • 1/4” plywood: 2 sheets: used for cabinets, drawers etc ($10/sheet=$20)
  • 3/4” plywood: 2 sheets: used for front and rear transoms, rudder and leeboard , deck.( $30/sheet= $60)
  • 2X stock for mast, spars, push pole ($35)
  • 1X2” furring strips: 30x8’ strips: various framing (.99/ea= $30)
  • 1x3” furring strips: 25x8’ strips: keel skids.(1.59/ea=$40)
  • Plexiglas: for windows: 1/4” x 4’x4’x2. ($90)
  • Paint: Primer and topcoat ($70)
  • Glue, Epoxy and fiberglass cloth: ($175)
  • Foam for flotation ($50)
  • Carpet remnants (for outside deck and cabin deck) ($100)
  • Fasteners, sandpaper, application tools, misc.: ($50)
  • Metal for skid bottoms (Stainless or Aluminum) ($50)
  • Wheels for skids ($50)
  • Pump faucets (2) for sinks ($50)
  • Sinks, Stainless (2) ($100)
  • Stove, Air mattress, camping gear, Porta-Potti, cushions from home (for couch), lanterns, etc ($0)
  • Deep cycle batteries (2) ($100)
  • Solar Battery Chargers (2) (5 watt/ea.) ($160)
  • Light fixtures (12 volt) (4/$25 ea.) ($100)
  • Used 10hp motor and tank ($350)
  • Anchors (2) ($30)
  • Navigation lights ($50)
  • Bilge pump ($50)
  • Polytarp for sails (2)($75)
  • Fuel allotment ($600) ($1.90/gal @7.5 mpg for up to 2300 miles)(Average of prices + oil)
  • Portaging costs (Flat bed tow truck) ($540)(Maximum, depending on persuasive powers)
  • Food: $250/person/month X 2months =$1000 (Max. may be less)
  • Propane/kerosene/batteries/toothpaste/TP/chemicals for toilet/paper towels/laundry/misc. ($250)
  • Entertainment/Emergency fund ($400)(Variable)
  • Shipping charges ($36)(for catalog/internet orders)
  • Total: $4999.00 (All numbers were researched at the local lumberyard or through catalogs, the Internet or from personal experience).


All plywood with the exception of the ¼” is of BC grade pine or fir, the ¼” is Luaun. 1x and 2x stock is pine or fir mixed. Paint is standard porch paint or exterior house paint, primer is the usual stuff available. RV parts (lights, faucets and battery chargers) were quoted from JC Whitney. Motor is what I paid for a 10 yr. old motor with 100 hrs use (9.9 Johnson) + 5 gallon tank and 2 clamp on seats. Polytarp assumes making the sails yourself. Any freebies from friends or relatives would contribute to the cause. 12 V. Batteries include 1 new, 1 used/ re-conditioned. Foods, non-food consumables, fuel and entertainment/emergency form a pool of funds that is not fixed and can be allocated as needed. Finding an old, used travel trailer or fold down trailer and stripping it of useable parts may be cheaper than purchasing or making some of the interior stuff (table, cushions, sink, faucet(s), stove, lights, curtains etc). I once bought an old 13-ft Winnebego for $200 that would replace about $400 of purchases. Careful scavenging can also save some money on building supplies ie: plywood, lumber, cabinets, countertop, etc, from someone remodeling. Being able to borrow a motor would save a lot too. Propane tank (if needed) is from BBQ, or even the whole BBQ is brought from home, or 1lb disposable cylinders are used. Any savings in one spot would cover overages in another.


Steven Lewis: Age: 42.

I have been designing and building boats for over 6 years. To date I have built 12 boats and designed over 120. Of the 120, 30 to 40 have made it past my “2 month rule”. I reexamine the design after it sits for 2 months. If I still like it, I might develop it.