by Brian Lowe

A Proposal for a Future Design Contest

For the next contest here is what I would love to see. How about a minimum boat contest? But don't let that be missleading. I have an interest and have noticed it in others, in those tiny recording breaking boats. Maybe it is the Walter Mitty in me, but I want a boat like that. No... I don't intend to sail across the ocean in a boat that is 4 feet long... or even in a 40 foot boat... but I like the idea of what you could call a PICO sized boat in a local lake.. in ANY weather. Ocean going voyages on a small scale.

Yes, there are several plans available out there, and Selway-Fisher has a new one coming out, but all of them are designed with HUGE stores of food and water in mind. Too much sacrifice is made against comfort. Wouldn't it be a great challenge to head down the Columbia River in a boat under 8 feet? But you could stop for food and water every couple of days... so no need for massive provisions. But I want a totally enclosed boat. If the wake of a passing barge hits me I may go turtle for a minute, but I would pop right back up and keep on my way! ;-)

Walter Mitty Adventure Contest:

1. Must be 8 feet or less including ALL projections like rudder, self steering, outboard, boom, bowsprit and the like. Does not include any fabric or lines. Does include anything wood, metal, plastic, and so on.

2. Boat must be enclosed, but can include hatches and removable hard tops. (so long as their removal doesn't increase LWL.)

3. Provision must be made for a journey down a major river. This would include being totally legal. Lights, porta potty, rudders, and the like.

4. Allow for sleeping and sitting. Sleeping can be in seated position.

5. This is an adventure, so there is some danger, but it is a Walter Mitty adventure so danger must be minimized. Bonus points given for safety features.

6. Bonus points given as boat gets shorter in LWL, however, points taken away for safety and comfort concerns. Balance them out and you get maximum points.

7. Must have some sort of wind power, but also electric trolling motor for use in the locks on the river! There is plenty of wind and sun to repower the batteries.

8. Design must be suitable for a home builder, in both talents and budget.

9. Keep in mind you must be able to stop in cities on the way for food and water. Some cites have docks, others don't!

Story to help set the scene:

Bill has a good life. A wife, two kids, a family van, a dog, and a job. He has friends, but sometimes the challenges of family and work make it hard to get together, especially now that he has teenagers. In fact, some days it seems he is spending a little too much of his time in the service of others. Family. Church. WORK. Nothing wrong with service to others, but.... what about balance?

In his few moments between kids homework and fixing the upstairs toilet, he reads. Books of adventures. Books of boating. Books about fabulous challenging journeys across the seas. And sometimes he dreams. Oh for a moment alone. Oh for just one week alone. He doesn;'t want to run away. Life IS good and he loves his kids AND his wife! He also knows the time he has left with his kids is precious. Before he knows it they will be grown, gone, and busy. But one week each year. One week on an adventure.

He becomes Walter Mitty. He dreams of a journey down the Columbia, one week at a time. Each year picking up where he left off. Starting in Canada.. ending in Astoria at the mouth of the river. As he drifts to sleep each night he catches himself dreaming of camping on the small islands on the way or finding a small creek and sleeping in the boat... he dreams of the wildlife... of stopping in small cites along the way amd getting a burger at the local cafe. Or maybe just exploring his local lake for a week. Or that small river the next state over. He has heard that one is safe. Or maybe the Everglades?

But life is what you live... not your dreams. He starts hinting to his wife about a vacation.. without her. Without the kids. She understands. She knows. That knitting retreat last year was a life saver for her. When he talks of a river journey in a little boat... a PICO sized boat... she gets nervous. In the end, she approves. He is careful, and his rough design ideas SEEM well thought out. And the shore is never more than a few hundred feet away. And he'll have radios, and life vests. And he needs this trip... so she supports his dream.

But what should his boat look like? How will he make it safe? How small can the boat get? How will be balance size against comfort and safety?

He starts dreaming again, but this time of plans for his boat.