Sailboat into Shantyboat, Part Two

Guest Post:  Rod Edens.  See part one.

As you recall, in the first installment, I talked about the things that led up to the idea of building a simple, inexpensive, Shanty Trawler.  And, I listed the reasons I thought starting with an old 21 foot sailboat made a lot of sense to me.


Well, now I’ve moved beyond design and have begun construction.  When I thought about “where to begin”, I knew I wanted to do the construction in the sequence that would make my work as easy as possible.  I ran through several sequences in my mind before settling on the sequence listed here.

1. The little enclosure (doghouse) above the old hatch cover

2. The new wooden rub rails

3. The sides of the “false” cabin, including the porthole windows

4. The joists to support the new deck

5. The portion of the new deck in front of the “doghouse”

6. The front wall of the canopy area, including the windshield

7. The side walls of the forward canopy area

8. The rest of the new deck

9. The new gunnel boards on top of the cockpit sides and motor mount

10. The canopy top

11. The raised grate floor in the cockpit area

12. The new hatch cover and cabin door

13. The hull paint job (could be done anytime the weather is good)

14. The interior upgrade


With the sequence of work decided, I began on the first item, building and installing the “doghouse” that sits on top of the old cabin.  This enclosure hides the old sliding hatch cover and the mast mounting plate.  It is 44 inches long, 42 inches wide and 12 inches high.  The roof has a slight bow in it to shed rain water.  Rain water from the roof will drain to the original sailboat top then run off the sides of the boat.

For the doghouse, as well as the new cabin sides and canopy enclosure walls, I’ve chosen to use 3/8 inch exterior plywood with an old fashioned bead board pattern.  The doghouse is fastened to the existing wood strips that guided the sliding hatch cover.  Those wooden strips were already thru bolted to the top of the sailboat.  They provide an excellent anchor point for the doghouse.


Next, I replaced the original rubber rub rail with 1 x 2 inch pressure treated boards.  These boards will also support the bottom edge of the false cabin sides.  Replacing the rubber rail with a wooden one also adds to the look I want to achieve.  The rubber rub rail on these kinds of boats is held in place by an extruded aluminum strip, which is thru bolted to the hull.  I left the aluminum strip in place.  I drilled small pilot holes in the aluminum every 12 inches.  Then, I attached the 1 x 2 inch boards using 2 inch stainless steel screws through the wood and into the aluminum.  The 1 x 2 inch boards are wider than the old rubber insert and create a 3/8 inch wide slot between the board and the hull at the top.  The new 3/8 inch wide plywood cabin sides will fit into this slot when they are installed.

While working on the new rub rails, I also was cutting and painting the plywood sides for the false cabin.  I gave the wood three coats of paint on the outside, two on the inside.  The holes for the round windows (portholes) were cut 6 inches in diameter.  When the sides are installed, each plywood panel bends to conform to the curvature of the boat.  After they are in place, I’ll glue thin plexiglass panes to the inside of each porthole cutout.  Two of the portholes on each side are positioned to line up with the original sailboat windows, which are left in place in the walls of the old cabin.  The top edge of the new plywood sides is level, parallel with the waterline.


The roof of the false cabin will mainly consist of a new deck that will be built several inches above the original deck.  The new deck will be level from front to back and side to side.  I’ll use standard 1 x 4 inch Pressure Treated decking boards.  After I have the sides temporarily in place, the joists for the new deck boards will be added.  At the outside edge, the joists are supported by the plywood sides.  All the joists and joist supports are made from Pressure Treated wood.  Where one plywood side panel butts up to the next one, I’ve attached a small wood backing plate to insure the joint remains tight and smooth.


I installed the cabin sides and joists on the forward 2/3 of the boat.  The aft third of the boat, which has no cabin, will have a narrow strip of plywood bead board underneath the gunnel.  This will allow me to carry the side panel bead board look the entire length of the boat.  I’ll install this narrow strip of side board when I install the cockpit gunnel boards.


So far, the conversion is going about as expected.  As usual, the Devil is in the details.  Determining the exact dimensions of the side board panels was a bit of a challenge.  The bottom edges form a long sweeping curve since they follow the original sailboat rub rail line.  The body of each panel bows significantly as it conforms to the ever changing width of the boat, as you go from front to rear.  The first panel involved some trial and error.  After that, each new panel became easier to figure out.


It was important to tip the trailer up until the boat was sitting level, just as it would be in the water.  That simplified making sure the doghouse roof and the deck would be level when the boat was floating.


In the next installment I’ll begin by putting down some of the new deck boards.


Originally posted 2012-12-19 22:02:42.

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  1. Looks real good. My boat is glued together with asbestos additive in the glue. This was common practice in the 1960’s. It is in the areas where the hull and deck are clued together also where internal furniture is fixed to the hull. Cheers for Christmas and the new year. Iggle

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