Here are two peas in a pod… two brothers clearly born from the same parents. Harmonica and Dockbox, the brainchild of prolific cheap boat designer Jim Michalak.
There are probably more homebuilt “Harmonicas” than any other single shantyboat design. Dock box, as Michalak would be the first to admit, may be a bit too extreme for lots of folks, but I love it.
Now these are quick build shantyboats through and through.
Use ACX plywood.
Have something that is beginning to look like a boat in just a couple of weekends. In the case of Dockbox I think you could have a boat ready for paint in a weekend… if you pushed hard.
Beautiful boats? No, plain and simple. These are boats that all will KNOW you built… and most will guess it to be your first. You could doll them up considerably. You could have a ton of fun in either of these boats. You may get more bang for your buck from this pair than from any other boat. But these boats are built to be pragmatic, not showcases for your woodworking skills. Do a google of the Harmonica and you’ll see they’ve been built everywhere… and with lots of modifications, which I am sure the designer encourages, up to a point. Explore. Just do it.
Plans are available on Duckworksmagazine, where the designer says:
HARMONICA, MINISHANTY, 13′ X 5′, 400 POUNDS EMPTY
Harmonica is a tiny shanty boat that sleeps two in its cabin. There is a porch up front suitable for lounging and a small room in the stern for the kitchen and the water closet. I think it is arranged so that two people could wait out an all day soaker without feeling too pressed. For protected waters only. I’ve been asked more that once if Harmonica would be OK in the Ohio River, etc.. My answer is no. In calm weather you might get away with it but you always run the risk of huge wakes, especially from large motor yachts. The prototype Harmonica was built by Chris Crandall of Lawrence, Kansas.
This boat was originally called Fusebox. It was intended to be an electric boat for the wonderful little conservation lakes we have around here. But later I thought that the electric scheme was strained because few trolling motors could push this box on a windy day. And because I noticed that none of the local conservation lakes have electric plugs at the docks, so recharging the batteries there would not be possible. Putting a gallon of fuel on board is a lot easier than taking an 80 pound battery home. Chris used a 1 horse Tanaka and that was about the minimum required, pushing the boat at 2 or 3 mph. At the same time I would say that 5 hp would be a reasonable maximum. You don’t need much power or speed because you never can go more than a mile in any direction in the lakes I’m thinking of.
I also heard from John Applewhite, of Gainesville, Fl., who built the Harmonica shown in the photo at the top of the page. He had quite a bit of shantyboat experience and also some electric experience. He used a 3 hp Minnkota and two golf cart batteries, probably about 200 pounds of gear. John said this electric is used nearly all the time with great satisfaction but he also has a small gas outboard on the transom as a backup.
John also wrote, “…The entire family (two adults and two children) has spent the night on Steel Will. I put 1×2′s between the slats in the two forward bunks and created a single bunk that is five feet wide. We have found that the thick cushions sold to cover lawn furniture very adequate mattresses for boats.”
Harmonica soaks up four sheets of 3/8″ plywood and six sheets of 1/4″ plywood and uses simple glue and nail jigless construction.
DOCKBOX, NANOSHANTY, 8′ X 5.5′, 300 POUNDS EMPTY
Go ahead and laugh.
Sleeps two. 5 hp max. Very protected water only.
Nail and glue construction from two sheets of 1/4″ plywood and four sheets of 3/8″ plywood.
Bill McKeough built the prototype in Oklahoma but he narrowed the boat a foot so it would fit on his utility trailer (I would have done the same if I had the trailer already on hand) but he said the extra foot width would have been nice. I thought his finished boat was perfectly in tune with what the designer had in mind, right down to the mini tire fenders. Note that he added oarports, something not shown on the blueprints but not a bad idea.
He used it on a fishing trip and wrote:
“Hi Jim, I got out fishing; caught a mess of stripers. Did some speed runs with a GPS reading in Knots. Calm conitions, temp in low to mid 30′sF. 2.5 hp 2cycle engine. Top speed 5.3 kn; half speed 4.2 kn; slowest speed 2.2kn; I have to tow a bucket to slow down enough for trolling! When the wind picked up a little it was nice to be sheltered. Great little boat! Thanks,Bill”
Thank you, Bill!
Plans for Dockbox are $25.
I’ve done some work on a design of my own that gives the little dock box a bit more charm. No plans at this point, but I’d recommend buying dockbox plans and using this idea to make it your own.