(a) The distance
is 2400 miles more or less; if more its just more sightseeing.
(b) Only a
fool or the truly desperate will run a boat down an unfamiliar
river at night.
flows downstream, but the wind doesn’t necessarily.
(d) No matter
how grand an adventure this is, there will come a time when
our intrepid couple will want nothing more than a hot shower,
a meal prepared by others and a real bed.
(e) An igloo
ultracold 50 icechest will keep ice for five days.
(f) The five
dams we have to traverse were built by the Corps of Engineers
and have public parks at the dam with a boat ramp. There will
be a launch area downstream with connecting roads.
The decision was quickly made
to use a hybrid gas/electric power system for propulsion. 2400
miles is over fourteen Ruta Maya races or nine Texas Water Safaris
back to back. A long way to paddle or row. Sails’ out,
see (c) above.
Think long, lean and light. Vagabond
started out as a blend of NW trapper canoe, sampan and Texas
(Water Safari) racing canoe. The basic concept is a boat that
will move quickly and very efficiently, requiring little in
the way of power. I couldn’t justify the effort to build
an elegantly formed stripper for what would probably be a one
shot boat and the design slowly evolved to its current form.
The second great liberation happened when I gave up trying to
provide a double berth for our intrepid couple and the boat
became more balanced and easily driven.
Deceptively simple, the hull
is a basic flat bottomed platform of ¾” T&G
plywood with sides of parallel cut 3/8” ply tied and taped,
pretty quick and dirty. But, when all is said and done Vagabond
can slide down the river at six to six and a half miles every
hour leaving the least of ripples behind as a wake, about an
eighth of an inch high according to Mitchlet.
The superstructure started out
as a Conestoga wagon style canopy and slowly evolved into the
parallel ridgepole scheme shown. The ridgepoles leave an open
slot making it easy to stand and walk back and forth while keeping
the standee centered in a relatively narrow boat. The ridgepoles
also form the backbone of a button-down adaptable covering able
to cope with a driving rain or opened up for more physical and
psychological space for an evening tied up along the bank of
the mighty Mississippi. In between the covering can be rolled
up out of the way or partially unfurled to provide some shade
for those glorious sunshiny days when this is a golden trip.
The hybrid gas-electric power
scheme was decided on early in the process primarily because
I liked it and thought I could make it work. A secondary consideration
was all that electricity would be handy when we drag ourselves
up on dry land.
Not having the research and development
budget of say Honda, we’ll just use some of their and
others off the shelf components and marvel at how well they
work together. Still water and gentle wind, the specified trolling
motor will loaf us along at six to six and a half miles an hour
at 25-30 amps. The six-volt golf cart batteries would run the
motor for 6-7 hours before needing a charge. I envision running
on battery power about 4 hours a day and running the homebrew
genset the other 4 hours providing amps for the trolling motor
and charging the batteries at the same time. Your mileage will
vary. Worst will probably be crossing the lakes in windy conditions.
There will be times when finding shelter is the best of all
possible choices. I’m not sure whether it would be best
to run the genset continuously half a day or in several shorter
sessions, but in either case it will take about a gallon of
gas a day. The ample battery capacity has the side benefit of
providing power for a fan on those still, muggy nights and anchor/navigation
lights when necessary.
Simple swing arm suspension evolved
right from the start, and then. An upgrade to the wheels/bearings
and it’s a built-in trailer. With a trailer coupler stuck
in the stern, a low power dolly, powered by a 2 speed 14volt
cordless drill will walk the boat right out of the water. The
dolly probably won’t be necessary if our intrepid couple
spend a little time online, they should find the three to five
volunteers that live near the dams that would be happy to lend
a trailer hitch.
I’d be embarrassed to tell
you how long I worked on schemes to drag the boat out of the
water bow first before I realized the boat could come out of
the water stern first, just reverse of the way it goes in to
begin this adventure.
50 mile days more or less
with resupply at roughly 5 day intervals, water, food, fuel
and ice. Early shoal water runs would probably be done with
a sweep off the stern to keep Vagabond straight, though the
trolling motor might do the job if the water’s deep enough.
The sweep could also serve as mast for a downwind sail for those
that just have to have a sail. Majority of time Vagabond will
be sliding down river with the current, one person at the helm
and the other in the forward stateroom lounging in a camp chair.
The first item is to provide
a twenty- percent contingency to cover taxes, shipping, fasteners,
Most of the items in the budget
are self-explanatory, but here are a few comments.
To keep cost down, as many components
as possible would come from general-purpose sources; in as large
a quantity as required.
The transport cost (super
shuttle) to Fort Benton and pickup in New Orleans is a
wild ass guess tempered by where our intrepid couple travels
from and depends on the help of family or friends. Fortunately,
there’s no trailer cost involved.
There is just a touch of welding
required on the swing arms, but I’ve unilaterally decided
there’s a mechanics/metal-working shop with sympathetic
instructors at our school teachers school.
The weights listed are
typically shipping weights where applicable
Milton "Skip" Johnson
Skip is an archetect who lives in Houston, TX. He has designed numerous boats including several for the Texas Water Safari. He has entered almost every contest Duckworks has held.