Shanty Trawler is Ready to Use !!!

The 21 foot Shanty Trawler is 95 % done and very usable. So, this will be the final “progress” report. The remaining finish work may stretch out over the next two or three months as time permits.


I had the boat out again yesterday. I’m very pleased with it. I like the unique look and I like the way the boat easily glides through the water. At 4 to 5 mph I’m getting at least 15 mpg, maybe more. I hope to take it on a weeklong trip in the IntraCoastal this spring. Maybe to New Orleans or Panama City. Before I use the boat overnight in warm weather, I’ll have removable screens for all the cabin openings to keep the mosquitos at bay. I may even make a mosquito netting that encloses the entire cockpit area. That would allow me to use my BBQ grill out there at night without worrying about bugs.

The roof over the cockpit area has been added. It got three coats of paint, just like the other wood surfaces. It is arched a little to shed rain water quickly.

The outboard motor mounting bracket was reinforced to keep it from flexing under full power.

I built a seat for the helmsman at the rear on the starboard side. The view forward is great from there.

And, finally, a tracking keel was added under the last five feet of the boat. It hangs down about 5 inches. It works just fine.

Looking back, I’d say the work took a little longer than I had expected it would. It would have been much easier and faster if I had been able to move the boat inside a garage for the work.

Cost wise, I came out about where I thought I would. I paid $500 for the sailboat and trailer. I sold the mast, boom and sails for $200 on Craigslist. I spent about $500 on new materials. That leaves me with a net cost of about $800. I had planned to keep the cost under a thousand.

As far as the design goes, if I had it all to do over, I’d move the windshield back a couple of feet and make the “doghouse” about a foot taller. That combination would still allow easy access into the cabin. It happens that the MacGregor 21 had an unusually long cockpit. Most other 21 foot swing keel sailboats would have a shorter cockpit and therefore the windshield would naturally be further aft.

I’d also make the rub rail out of slightly wider boards. Originally, I thought I’d have trouble bending the rub rail boards to fit the curvature of the boat. So I used 1 x 2 inch boards. It turned out that bending the boards and fastening them in place was no problem at all. I could have gone wider without any problems.


If anyone out there is interested in converting a sailboat to a power boat, let me know. There have been a lot of details I’ve thought about and worked out that did not deserve mentioning in the progress reports. If I ever do another one, I’d start with a slightly larger sailboat. As you move up from a 21 footer, the boats get wider and the cabins have much more space. The resulting trawler would be even more stable and have more room for overnighting. I don’t think the cost of materials would be much more than they were for the 21 footer. To keep the resulting boat trailerable, I’d not go any larger than 25 feet. The MacGregor 25 would be a perfect boat to convert. You would end up a larger cabin, with stand-up headroom under the “doghouse”. The roof above the cockpit area would be about a foot wider and two feet shorter than this one. A 6 hp outboard would move the boat along just fine.

Get out on the water and Shanty On!!

Rod Edens

Editor Note:  A big thanks to Rod for sharing his stories with us on  I invite all of you to share your stories of building, boating, and living the shantyboat life.


Originally posted 2013-02-17 15:56:36.

A website about Shantyboats and affordable living on the water. More than 800 stories to date, and growing.


  1. >>If anyone out there is interested in converting a sailboat to a power boat, let me know.

    I’ve been looking at building the Glen-L shanty boat Waterlodge – but your build has me looking around for an inexpensive swing keel in my area.

    So I might be in touch.

    Question: do you think it would have been possible to keep the sail rig and modify the boom height to augment the motor for long distance cruising?

    • Bob, Sorry it’s taken me so long to answer. Yes, I think you could keep the sail rig. It would be great to have sails for a long trip. I’d see raising the boom, keeping the jib the same and keeping the rudder. The boat would not go windward nearly as well as it did as a sailboat, but it would do fine on a broad reach or downwind. You would put the motor off to one side of the rudder. You might find that you would want to make the rudder post extend higher up so you could see forward better when sailing. Good luck,keep me posted if you can.


Comments are closed.