Building the Pride of Buffalo – Day Two

Day 2 – June 18th

I did not race back to the job site.  I was even sorer today.  Made it to Home Depot by 12:30 and purchased six more ten foot 2 x 4s and had them cut twelve eight foot 2 x 4s into 4-footers.  There was a point when I was loading the lumber, approx. 200 lbs. or so that I came face to face with the scope of the build.  How could I pull this off?  What would I do come winter?  All of these doubtful thoughts were like old tapes in my head that keep all of us from following through on that unfamiliar, successful execution we all long for. 
When we were children, we dared to do anything and then faced the consequences, whether positive or negative.  We did not analyze, we just executed. We did not assess, compare and doubt.  We just did it, whatever it was!  I was trying to listen to that childlike side that “allows” us to do anything we wish.
Anyway, I loaded up the car with $65.00 in lumber and headed down the road at 45 MPH.  I got to the marina at 1:30 or so and it was still “safe”.  There was no sign of people, only a few workers lost in the mundane of their assignments.   I decided to cozy up to an old used sailboat and pretend I had just bought it and if anyone asked, I’d say I was building a scaffold to support the bottom painting I was planning. 
I changed my methodology for the day.  I focused on the systematic assembly of the three remaining decks, ignoring the attachment of any buoyancy boxes, unless I had energy left.  The learning curve was terrific.  Yesterday it took me all day to get up the courage, purchase the parts for the first deck subassembly and execute.   Today, I was like a machine.
I also discovered that by fastening all four foot long cross members to one ten foot rail at a time, I could move much quicker, with much more accuracy, ease and repeatability.  I’d mark all the eight locations where nails were to be driven in, and one-by-one, fasten each member.  It took minutes.  I’d stop to reflect and even grinned at my learning.  I purposefully took in the view and sounds and smell of Cheerios cooking at the mill across the river.
The first deck was laid up against the boat hull, in the cradle right next to my car.  About a half an hour later, the second deck was done and in three hours I finished all decks.   I tied them up to each other and leaned them there at a slight angle.  If it rained, it would not matter, they were under the hull.
I stopped by the storage unit to gather the remaining 18 plastic tubs I would fasten to the three decks in the morning.  Tomorrow I will face the task of fastening the four decks into one 10’ x 16’ unit.  I hope it works.   I still have not determined whether to use carriage bolts, some sort of u-shaped bracketry or both, to go along with 16’ beams on each side of the hull, to align all four components into a flat plane.
I don’t know how responsive the floating parts will be, while I try to wrangle them together, but something tells me, water makes a fine surface to hold your work. I hope it remains quiet.
I have yet to determine the perfect deck surface material.   I have considered ¼” luan plywood, strapping, scrap wood and other scenarios.  I also plan on adding one 2 x 2 x 8-footer to the two gaps between the center and outboard makeshift pontoons as the floor wold be pretty soft over that gap without something there.
I gained new energy from the results of day 1.  There seems to be a momentum now and no turning back.  I determined the hull identification number (HIN) today: MRW 00001 0613.  The boat does not require registration in New York State as long as my only means to move it will be oars or paddles (I actually plan on poles as well, since most of my travel will be in shoal waters, protected from the bigger waves of Lake Erie and the Niagara River.
Now everything it totally sore, but after a huge plate of Chinese food and a small stroll with Tati, I look forward to Day 3.  Hopefully all will go well and I’ll find a quiet place to tie up the deck so we can begin assembly of the “geodesic house.”
A Geodesic 101
My geodesic journey had many inputs, but the most prominent is my search for tiny living spaces, which led to a wonderful geodesic (dome shaped) greenhouse in Connecticut, where the designer, builder and web site owner did the most comprehensive instructional set of videos  I have ever seen. I will apologize up-front here, as I could never give you the best explanation of the design, innovation or spiritual aspects of the geodesic domain, per se, but any discussion on the subject must acknowledge the founding role that R Buckminster Fuller played in its origin, development, execution and further, contemporary growth and expansion.
What I like best about geodesic design components is its efficiency, effectiveness, simple elegance and how much fun it evokes, personally.  The more you learn and ponder about the strength and charm of the triangle and the variety of two and three dimensional (some argue as many as six dimensions) the more you want to learn, try, play with, embrace, design, build, execute, accomplish and achieve outcomes.
Best of all, these geodesic shapes, solutions, objects and methodologies are quick to learn and deploy, offer space and capability, functionality in ways that align with today’s sustainable goals and strategies.  Long before the rest of the world realized that we were not living in a world of unlimited resources, people like R Buckminster Fuller was examining how to make living and working spaces, communities and worlds where our human needs could be met for the lowest cost, in an optimal manner and pleasing to the eye.
For more than fifty years Bucky, as he was known among friends, represented, arguably the greatest contribution to our society (which was squandered, perhaps as much as any gift the Universe could offer, to this day).  With geodesics you can achieve simple pleasures like new kinds of playground equipment and toys or you can solve big issues like the need for an affordable, easy shelter for any individual, family, town or organization who needs one.
Bucky invented words like synergy and dimaxion, which represent the positive constructive forces that come with communication and collaboration, not typical among us capitalists.
Finally, I do not require formal training to learn, assess, examine, investigate, try-out, design, develop or execute Bucky objects. 
NOTE: any of us can build a shelter that would likely meet our needs for heat and shelter for less than a day’s wages, that can be assembled in minutes or hours and would look unique, to meet your personal taste, criteria, needs and likes if it was not for government, regulations, laws and fees.
When I examined the range of boats to live aboard, from power to sail, wood to fiberglass, classic to contemporary, I could find no better option than a geodesic dome-shaped abode, atop a simple deck and pontoon combination, made from items I could buy at a grocery super store and or hardware and/or do-it-yourself retailer. 
Like the Popular Mechanics magazines of the 1940s and 1950s, one can really build a vacation home, on land or water for an amount equivalent to a couple weeks’ pay?
The hardest part of executing this solution is finding a place where you won’t be regulated out of feasibility.  Is there still access to “the land” to “the water” to those places we have polluted so bad they may never come back again, but you still can’t go “over there”?
I suggest you align your project with a non-profit or community or government organization whose mission includes.  I hope to find nearby organizations related to the environment, sustainability, energy, quality of life, economic development or history or heritage and do exactly that.  If they want to revamp that waterfront park you already enjoy, let parking your houseboat right alongside it a way to promote the program!
Back to geodesics:
When you examine the categorization of domes and such, there are simple progressive options.  There are domes with as few as two five sided pentagons, on opposite sides of an approximate globe, connected by only a few other members, we could call spokes (the hubs being the other main component). 
You can get a little more complex with something called a two-frequency shape that approximates half of a sphere (that looks like a dome) with a combination of five connected six-sided hexagons with a “crown” or “cupola” made of another five-sided shape.  This is the design I settled on for the geodesic houseboat as it was “geodesic enough” while offering minimal challenge in the way of number of parts, types of parts and ease of assembly.  The houseboat “splits the dome in half” and adds a “tunnel” like a conventional tubular greenhouse to stretch a spherical shape into one that looks more like a caterpillar.
A dome can be made more and more complex, by approximating the spherical shape with more and more triangular planes, to the point where you could end up with hundreds of spokes and hubs to build you dome.  Examine Epcot Center at Wald Disney, for example. 
The more pieces you use, the smaller each component becomes and the stronger and stronger it gets, but it gets heavier with further decomposition, so in the application of a boat, the simple two-frequency choice is best.  It’s cheap, quick, light and looks good.  A side wall, much like that found in a yurt, provides the extra vertical component to achieve an internal height of eight feet ad an external height to nine feet to fit under canal bridges, where there is no one to lift them up for you.
In my region, Western New York, the slogan “Quicker, lighter, cheaper” was coined to represent a strategy of employing lots of little things to attract people back to our waterfront, the western terminus of the Erie canal, a symbol, like these domes, of innovation, sustainability and fun!
I hope my geodesic houseboat is an attraction as well as a personal solution that represents what the quicker, lighter, faster mantra is all about.
I knew I needed at least 160 sq. ft. for my 6’2” frame to feel comfortable in.   I examined narrow boats like those that are popular in the UK, but I just could not get sued to life in an eight foot wide tunnel.  Ten foot seemed to be my minimum width and that left the length to consider.   I found that only by going out and standing on other pontoon style floats, barges, canal boats and the like that sixteen feet was the minimal length.  We discussed height already.  My space-related needs were confirmed through research into many types of living spaces from 19th Century canal boats to modern survival deployment units that are used to save victims of disaster and soldiers in harsh environments.
Ask yourself how much space you need to live.
One website I found to be the best at all things geodesic is called   I invite you to check it out and begin your own geodesic journey.  Watch out!  I can be very addictive.  (

Originally posted 2013-06-19 09:43:48.

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