Shantyboat: Beyond Napkin Plans

Ooo, graph paper!  Getting fancy now.  I’m trying to turn my shantyboat speculations into something that feels a little bit more tangible.  When I sketch it out proportionally, the shanty boat is less long and skinny than I had drawn it.  In fact, it looks like a tiny shanty.  On a boat.

I’d kind of like to make the cabin a little more squat, which I can afford to do since I’ve dropped the cabin floor a foot or more below the level of the decks.  However, I am limited by a funny thing:  The head height of the porches.  They need to be at least 6 foot at the lowest part (and even that’s pushing it a bit and likely to bonk any of my NBA friends).

There was some concern about balance with the cabin shifted back from center a bit.  Mostly that is to give us a big fine front porch and it only shifts the cabin back about two feet.  Plus I heard a boatbuilder suggestion to shift weight toward the back.  It lifts the bow and allows you to take oncoming chop a bit better.

Oh shit, and why do I keep forgetting the head?  There is a little 1-1/2 deep x 3 foot wide bump out along the front (or maybe the back) where the head goes.  Looking at it here, probably the back would be a bit more aesthetically pleasing.  It bumps into the interior a foot and half also to make a tiny 3 x 3 foot bathroom.

The interior is 10′ x 8′.

A little SketchUp magic and Voila!

Nice.  I’m liking the look of this.  Now, I just need to get myself a border collie.

Originally posted 2012-05-21 12:40:50.

Wes Modes' irrepressible sense of adventure has lead him to decades of train hopping and DIY rafting on a half dozen major American rivers. In various lives, he is a sculptor, writer, performer, adventurer, comic artist, and most recently a shanty boat maker. The chronicles of his ongoing personal journey to build a shanty boat can be found at


  1. Any benefit in considering an arched canvas roof over a metal frame, which could reduce weight and cost and lower the center of gravity?

    An additional consideration would be whether to make it easily openable in good weather. A further step might be to extend the canvas portion to the upper part of the vertical walls, say everything above window level. Go one step further and make the upper half of the outer hard wall movable or hinged so it can be lowered to the outside of the lower part to open the cabin above, say, 3-4 feet. Or just open the movable upper half of the hard wall and leave the canvas in place overhead for a sun roof.

  2. You could lower the cabin structure ( more squat ) if you carry the pitched roof out over the porch.
    The door header could then be a little higher off the front deck level.

    • Ah, Duncan, but then it would ruin those beautiful lines of that exposed gable, as well as ruin the sweet view from the gable window while lying in the sleeping loft.

      I was thinking that if the porch roof was a little narrower, it could start a little higher on the gable end.

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