Design process from simple to complicated – Plywood Murray Riverboat

The Problem with Design

The problem with design is that it is relatively cheap. Sometimes fixed price. But it is not realised what successive design iterations are doing to the boat.

In the end Chris was unable to complete the boat. Partially because the hull turned out to be in much worse condition than expected. But also despite some nice positives coming in terms of usable space below, other things just seemed to get more and more complex.

Riverboat restoration and new interior -

Background to the Riverboat Restoration

Chris came to Duck Flat Wooden Boats with plans to fix up an old riverboat hull he had bought. Duck Flat contacted me.

I helped go over the boat and work out how much it had deteriorated. Basically everything above decks was in poor condition but the inside of the hull looked OK – at last as far as we could see.

Chris spoke to Duck Flat about a major restoration and the Ducks asked me to do some preliminary drawings for the interior and some basic idea of the exterior appearance so that everyone would be working from the same page.

Original Hull

The hull had a huge amount of volume and is a quite conventional shallow vee hullform.

Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

I think the volume was what was attractive to Chris – a big area for entertaining with the chance of having a reasonable area on the flying bridge as well.

This is the early drawing created from the measurements I took from the interior to get some idea of the space available.

Most of the interior had been stripped out but the feeling was of dark and gloom and deterioration.

The engine was quite modest – clearly with the aim of going on gentle cruises rather than have a high speed capability – not only does it save a huge amount of the running costs but keeps the hull stresses quite low allowing the hull to be simply framed.

Continues below.

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Storer Riverboat 35ft35ft riverboat along prefab principles -

Riverboat Version 1

Chris organised for the boat to be moved to Duck Flat and had removed a great deal of the deteriorated interior.

The part of the boat that we wanted to keep was the feeling of space. So the general plan was to retain the new openness in the interior of the boat by only having the head (toilet/shower) area closed in.

Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

As the focus of all boats and houses tends to be the kitchen we made it the link between the inside and outside areas of the boat – particularly as there was enough width in that area to let people pass through without disturbing the cook.

The bulkhead in front of the kitchen is to be largely cut away and there is a large sliding window in the aft bulkhead. This way people working in the kitchen have access to both the saloon and the cockpit as well as being able to take part in general conversation.

The main purposes of these drawings were to provide a discussion point between Chris and Ted as well as to reflect the real sizes of things as far as possible (the dashed lines are a metre apart). As you can see having some details included makes the boat look much more realistic.

We had moved to an open transom. I had worked out a possible postion for the ladder to the flybridge. The stern had been extended slightly to provide a platform outside the boat for swimming or landing fish.

My main thrust was to try and simplify the appearance of the boat – because of the huge interior volume it was somewhat bulky – my tendency with such boats is to try and get rid of fiddly bits of design – so the boat all looks “of one piece”. Whether that was achieved or whether the boat moved away from that you can decide, the drawings are all here except for some detail construction ones to solve specific problems.

I think it was achieved in part for the interior, but the outside ended up much too complicated so the line of the boat was lost.

Riverboat Version 3

(Version 2 wasn’t different enough to be interesting)

Ted and Chris discussed the various options and some aspects they didn’t like.

So the stern extension had to go – to be replaced with conventional fold down dolphin boards. the other big change was to reduce the hull side height in way of the cockpit.

Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

The stairs/ladder up to the flybridge were moved to a position that wouldn’t clutter up the cockpit so much and now landed on top of the engine box.

Riverboat Version 4

This version resolved some of the space concerns in the interior.

The area for the double berth was increased by pushing the bulkheads before and after outwards. The main bulkhead at the back of the saloon was moved aft allowing the setee on the starboard side to be long enough for sleeping and the galley and head areas were reduced slightly.

Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

Also we realised that anyone stepping up on the engine box to go out onto the dolphin board was going to hit their head – so we moved the back of the canopy over the cockpit forward.

Two large storage boxes for light but bulky gear like waterskis and lifejackets were set up as seats in the flybridge area and also to prevent large numbers of people from congregating there which might upset the balance of the boat.

Also note that I have started to dimension the layout so the builders have some idea of where things need to go.

About this time enough work had been done on the outside of the boat to discover that there was serious rot under the fibreglass coating of the hull. A typical problem with polyester resin which tends to trap moisture between the wood and the glass as opposed to epoxy which sticks properly to wood. See my FAQ

Riverboat Version 5 – Final

This was the main working drawing so more dimensions have appeared. Different parts of the drawing were printed out for different areas of the boat to show detail. Additional drawings were made for the smaller areas – partially to make sure Chris was happy with the actual sizes of things.

Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

Note that a lot of the construction detail was left out – because the building team was highly experienced and knew how parts go together – whereas one of my plans for amateur builders would be highly detailed in this respect.

Some Pictures of the Riverboat Reconstruction

These pictures give quite a nice idea just how the various areas are turning out. The only downside is they don’t reflect the actual amount of space inside. A huge amount of work was done and the boat was sold at this stage.

double berth forward - Riverboat redesign for Murray River - storerboatplans.comDriver's station Riverboat redesign for Murray River - storerboatplans.comRiverboat redesign for Murray River -
table area - Riverboat redesign for Murray River - Interior settees Riverboat redesign for Murray River -
Cockpit area Riverboat redesign for Murray River - storerboatplans.comEngine bearers - Riverboat redesign for Murray River - storerboatplans.comGalley area Riverboat redesign for Murray River -

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