By Tom Beck - McDonough, Georgia - USA

In 2003 Duckworks sponsored its annual design contest, the goal of which was to design an “economy river cruiser” that could go from Fort Benton, Montana, to New Orleans, Louisiana, carry yourself and your longsuffering wife, and do it within 90 days and at a cost of under $5000. I didn’t even place…but I couldn’t get the basic idea out of my head. One day my longsuffering wife said, “Why don’t you build a boat we can actually all get in at once?”

Was that a hint? Tacit permission, perhaps?


The bottom coated with epoxy

click images to enlarge

Flipping the hull

First of all, this is not the Conestoga found in my plans. The basic idea is there, but with a number of changes. First of all, the beam is four feet, not five feet, and sleep-aboard capability was eliminated. Using a width the same as that of a sheet of plywood made the design much simpler. Also, I went with a more conventional powerplant. It moves along nicely with either my Minnkota 40lb. thrust tolling motor, or my 5HP Briggs and Stratton outboard. There should be room, however, if I ever want to try the gasoline-electric drive I proposed in the contest. In place of the foot well I placed in the sleeping cabin, I put a locker.

Lateral framing and gussets

Aft seat and motor well

I kept the self-draining forward deck and motor well. It was framed with lumberyard boards, with the sides and bulkheads made from ¼ inch plywood, and the bottom made from 3/8’s. This resulted in a flimsy bottom, but the solution was fortuitous; longitudinal runners on the bottom, along with 2x2 framing on the inside gave me the rigidity I needed, and the bright-finished douglas fir runners look beautiful.

Forward seat and deck

Mast hole and step

I also kept the mast steps… just because. So far, they have been used to hoist a Jolly Roger on a 12th birthday cruise with my son and some of his friends. Perhaps, later, a canopy so we can cruise in redneck elegance.

Roll-out day

Boat on Ramp at Devils Fork State Park - Lake Jocassee

If I were building it again, I would have made the waterline length longer at the stern, and I would have definitely gone with external chines. Using ¾ ply for the seats and decking would have added some weight, but would have made the build simpler.

Son Jonathan on the Ocmulgee

The Jolly Roger flying

Duckworks Boat Builders Supply was great – my epoxy, hatches, hardware, and lights all came from there.

A portrait of the boat

A portrait of the author

Conestoga has been a great family boat. We have taken her on Lake Jocassee in South Carolina, High Falls Lake closer to our home in McDonough, Georgia, and my personal favorite, on the Ocmulgee River near Macon Georgia. There are no dams between there and the mouth of the Altamaha on the Georgia coast.

Looks inviting.