Building the B.B. “Doc” Bemer – Day One

I once built a recumbent bicycle using parts of old bikes and a pile of metal tubes.   I studied, I dreamed, I learned to braze through classes, then dove in, ordered a set of plans, and spent a few weeks on my build.   My mother, upon seeing the odd looking recumbent asked… why this sort of bike?  I went on for somet time on some long winded explanation of the merits of recumbents… comfort… speed… and all that, but once I was done my wife said something to the effect of… “he built it because it is weird”.


She’s right, up to a point.   It’s not just that it’s weird, it’s that it is a new adventure.   How many hours have I ridden bikes?  Countless.  How many hours had a ridden a recumbent at that point?  Zero.   It’s the thrill of the new.. the entire process of exploring, reading, building, and trying something I’ve never done before.

It’s why I’ve owned a Model T, flew powered parachutes, driven three wheel cars, and… so it is with boats.

I’ve built a few of them now, and when I am not building boats, I am thinking about it.   Now, 12 years since my first and last BIG boat build, I’ve set out on another build, this time of my own design.  And.. it will be different.

But let’s back up a bit.


My Escargot by Phil Thiel is a very good boat.   I’ve gone out scores of times, mostly on the sloughs north of Everett and east of Seattle.   I’ve done the boat shows.   I’ve been on the side rivers off the mighty Columbia.   It’s been good to, and for, me.   But… My wife never liked the berth, which is under the forward deck and doesn’t really work with her claustrophobia.   She also wants standing headroom.

And.. I really and Most importantly…   just want to build a new boat.

I struggled for a long time trying to find a shantyboat that would work on the local rivers and sloughs… and on Puget Sound… and could be towed by a large car, my Chevy Malibu Maxx.   After countless hours of reading, dreaming and drawing?  Not possible, as the ideal shallow water boat would be a really bad rough water boat, and vice versa.    Besides, I get a bit nervous towing my Escargot behind my Chevy, so won’t build anything appreciably bigger… wouldn’t be prudent.

Sailboat?   I thought on it.


Large powerboat?


Been there, spent too much, got out of that and promised to never do that again!  Too much moorage, insurance, fuel, up-keep, single-handing challenges and more.

And I am a shantyboat guy.  I like sloughs and quiet waters.


That’s what I love, so, that’s what I will build.

Will this boat, my own design, work?   Yes.   Will it work well?   I don’t know yet.   Every boat I’ve built has been called stupid by somebody… and they have all “worked”.  They met my needs.    I’ve spent dozens and dozens of nights sleeping out on sloughs and rivers… and they’ve worked.

So… I am just going to go for it.

shanty punt flat bottom shorter individual frames copy

I’ve built a 3 meter trimaran, and it worked.    I started a Phil Bolger sneakeasy but didn’t stick to the plans and got discouraged.   I built a Micro Shantyboat, and it was fine, though I built it with the thought of giving it away after I used it a few times, as it was more mental exercise than anything else and I have more dreams than space to store them.

And.. well… I started a Micro 8, then a Micro 10.  I don’t want to talk about those other than to say, “What was I thinking?!”   😉

Will this one be added to the three I finished, or the three I didn’t?


Building the Doc Bemer:

I’ve looked, and I’ve only seen two boats like this.   Different, yes.. but I also think functional.   Narrow for ease of trailering.   Folding front and rear decks for the same reason.   I may even make the walls fold down inside the hull with the roof resting on top for even better trailering with a car.

It is inspired by:

The boat used by a certain B.B. Bemer in about 1910 or so in Mississippi.  From this simple little boat he fixed corns on your feet, took photos, and sold cookies.  If the corn was too bad, they said he’d remove it.. and I think they meant the TOE not the corn!   It was a different time.

And the photography boat of H.W. Taunt in England. 

My Sketchup design:

basic design view

I’ve made a few changes since this shot.   For example, I raked the bow, will be adding a sliding roof hatch to ease access, and may give the roof a crown…. or not.

Results of Day One Build:

bemer bow angle

bemer bow side view early

bemer bow frame one

I’m starting with the bow section, and may make it so it folds up or is removable in order to ease trailering.



  • 8 clamps:$29.96
  • 2 sawhorses:  $43.96


  • Glue $10.97
  • 2 sheets 11/32 AC Fir Plywood  $56.94!!
  • 1 sheet 15/32 AC Fir Plywood  $32.47!!
  • 7 pieces of 1x2x8 premium furring  $7.50
  • 3 pieces of 2x3x96 Multi-purpose wood  $$6.69
  • 7 pieces of 1x3x8 premium furring  $14.84

Total: $232.65

minus reusable:  $73.92

Materials Cost:  $158.73.   With this I have built, so far: 

  • 4 feet of center keel, the backbone down the center of the bow.
  • 3 frames for bow…cut but not trimmed out.
  • Work table to build frames.

Total time of building?  About 4 hours, including some interruptions.

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