The purpose of this project is to design and mass-produce kits for a floating tiny house that can sail. It combines high-tech modeling and fabrication and low-tech assembly that can be carried out DIY-style on a riverbank or a beach. This boat is a 3-bedroom with a kitchen, a sauna and a dining room. The deck is big enough to throw dance parties. It can be used as a river boat, a canal boat or even a beach house. Oh, and it's rugged and stable enough to take out on the ocean. Kits will start at around $50k (USD). The design has been tested in simulation and prototype; full-scale production will begin next year.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The final sketch


A lot of little details got tweaked in the process of presenting the various aspects of this design and taking in all the suggestions that came back. The draft (with the appendages up) got even shallower; it is now down to just two feet. The construction technique changed from the original plan, from very a adventurous combination of concrete/plywood/fiberglass to very conventional, proven glue&screw fiberglass-clad plywood core. The bottom acquired copper cladding. Headroom in the pilot house got boosted to six feet (it is, after all, a houseboat, so anything less than six feet of headroom throughout would be simply unacceptable). It acquired gunwales with scuppers, deck beams, and a large raised hatch/skylight in the middle of the deck with boom gallows right above for hoisting cargo in and out of the cabin.

The next phase is to enter the sketches into CAD, and after that will come a scale model, epoxied together out of thin plywood forms milled out on an NC machine, to do stability and towing tests, and to figure out the exact weight and placement of ballast. I might even splurge on an RC set and, since I'll be back in Boston, try sailing it around the dedicated model sailboat testing pool on the Esplanade. My goal is to draw up a full set of drawings together with a set of NC mill paths for the plywood pieces.

After any final comments, this blog is going to sleep until further notice. Since I will announce any new developments right here, please sign up to receive them. It's been fun, and very useful. Thank you all for your comments.

30 comments:

  1. I have been out for a while starting to ramp up here at the farm. The soil is warming up early it seems.

    So now the hull is hard chine with a perfectly flat bottom? I would highly recommend at least a slight arc or V shape side to side as a flat bottom will flex no matter how heavily built. Also you will increase strength enormously.

    Also I might recommend either a center runner/keel like thing or even two, one on either side a couple feet from the chine. These could be two part; First part is a 2X whatever glued & Screwed & glassed to the hull. Then a second part is another 2X whatever heavily screwed to that acting as an ablative surface for grounding. Something that can be easily replaced as it gets really beat up. They might also provide some directional stability when sailing in shallows.

    I could see a way to create a slight V to the bottom of the hull and design the runner/keel to strengthen that joint by building up several layers for the first part ending up flat to attach the outer runner. Same thing on the inside of the hull only opposite obviously

    Other than that I want one;-}

    I met a guy living aboard on a 30' somewhat flat bottomed sailboat built on a lifeboat hull. He was grounded on low tide on Mission Bay San Diego. He had two poles that fit into tubes fitted to the sides of the hull close to the stern. He could then nose up to shore at high tide and when the tide went out the boat would stand somewhat level on three points of contact. Because he had a tabernacle mast Sprit rig he could go under all bridges and anchor of careen where other boats could not. He was a total hippy gypsy living the good life on next to nothing.
    He salvaged teak to fit out the boat with beautiful wood work from packing crates and palates from the local honda motorcycle dealer for free (1980's).

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    1. The hull has been a square boat hull from the very beginning. Every complication to this shape costs money and doesn't help performance. Giving the hull a V-shape makes the chine runners less effective, causes the boat to lean when it settles (unacceptable in a houseboat that is meant to dry out) and complicates construction for no benefit at all. Bolting on rails to the bottom or whatever makes copper cladding more complicated and concentrates forces on a smaller area when grounding. All of this research has already been done, so I won't be reinventing any wheels with this project.

      No "beautiful woodwork" either, sorry.

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  2. Hi Dmitry, are you concerned at all about windage? Your design seems very high-sided for her length. I imagine that would impact her ability to sail to weather in high winds. I'm no expert, and the books don't seem to say much about this subject. But it seems like most sailboats are built much lower than that; shallow-draft vessels usually put up with low headroom rather than increase the amount of hull above the waterline.

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    1. That's right. The boat is a houseboat and has to have sufficient headroom. Windward performance is a secondary or tertiary concern. I seriously doubt that this boat would make any headway to windward at all when reefed down to just the top two panels of each sail. But in more moderate conditions it should be able to make 4-5kt to windward. What is really important is that this boat is fast off the wind. Its function as a sailboat will be primarily to move house, usually not very far, at an opportune time. Having the wind on the nose would not be such an opportune time. Also, the engine will allow it to motor or motorsail when a house move requires a windward leg. This boat might also do long ocean passages, but in these cases it would rely on prevailing winds. Passages that require pounding to windward for days on end are unpleasant in any boat, and seem like a silly thing to plan for, especially when designing a houseboat (that sails).

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  3. I'm very much looking forward to photos and video of you putting this into action as some of the more technical explanations I think will be clearer when you can show what you wrote.

    Maybe ten years from now I'll be in a position to build my own Quidnon so it will also be good to learn from whatever experience you get out of it.

    The last thing I'm hoping you can answer is the idea of houseboating in the winter - wouldn't you travel south rather than stay in a place where anchored you could be frozen in?

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    1. In designing QUIDNON, I tried to make it work for both the tropics and snowy areas in the north. I have overwintered on board enough times to know what's important, and what most boat designers completely neglect to take into account: things like insulation and condensation. So, QUIDNON will be well-insulated (the insulation will be on the hull liner, not the hull itself, with an airgap where condensation will form and drain into the bilge, keeping the cabin dry) and the dark topsides, together with the airgap, will provide passive solar heating. The same passive solar effect will be used to air-condition the cabin in hot weather, by using the convection to pull in cool air through the thermal mass of the ballast. Also, the boat will have a sauna/steam room, which are very pleasant to have when overwintering on a boat. Yes, it's far more pleasant to spend winters in the tropics, but not everyone can, and wants to. QUIDNON is not designed for being frozen into pack ice, but nowhere in the continental US in salt water is this a problem (outside of northern Maine). Portland harbor used to freeze, but doesn't any more. Also, I wouldn't overwinter in the north at anchor or at a mooring. This tends to be illegal in any case, and most harbormasters pull the moorings at the end of each season. That's what the marinas are for.

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  4. Please, Dmitry, don't put this blog to bed before detailing your plans on the rocket stove for heat. Though rocket stoves are plentiful, I have not seen one designed to be used on board, nor to heat a largish space such as this (outside of thermal mass heaters, which seem too heavy to use on a ship?)

    Thank you for this blog, also. I am an armchair sailor and your discussions of the design of Quidnon have proven fascinating on these winter weeks.

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    1. I have designed exactly one rocket stove, expensively welded up out of 16-gauge mild steel. I built it as my class project in a welding class. It was my own design. I used a stationary turbine at the output to create a flame vortex. It worked exceptionally well. But I don't want to design a rocket stove into QUIDNON, at least not just yet. I will however provide ventilation channels through the solid ballast, so installing a mass heater will be a possibility. I will definitely include a sauna/steam room arrangement, though.

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    2. Could the "mass" in the heater be used as ballast?

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  5. This process has been a LOT of fun to watch develop and I would echo sentiments to really document the build process with pix and maybe even video snippets. The idea has a lot of merit: too many people romanticize full time cruising when, in reality, most people spend most of their time anchored out having a good time in the local waters, with the local people, and a big ole sprawling houseboat would be a hoot. After living on a flat bottomed, armor plated sailboat myself there is nothing to adequately describe the pleasure of hearing that first slight grating sound as the boat kisses the bottom and shortly thereafter you're sitting there high and dry. No one else around and let the wind howl..... sweet! For a slight taste folks can watch the classic movie "The Riddle of the Sands" (version on YouTube) for a rip roaring spy tale of skinny waters, dry out on the tide sailboating on the northern coast of Germany. Yes, a special kind of sailing nerd indeed and I will never go back to a keel boat unless forced too. Buena suerte on building this vessel.

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    1. Yes, those are the key features that almost every other boat designer neglects in favor of "windward performance" and "sleek lines." A boat that's roomy, shoal draft, drops its masts in a hurry and goes aground safely is impossible to buy for any price.

      Maybe even your wife, Bob, will agree to live aboard a QUIDNON :) I am in discussions to build at least five, so maybe you will want to claim one as your own?

      Blogging will certainly resume in due course. But first I have to get over the hump of entering the design into CAD, making 3D models, completing the budget spreadsheet and other, more mundane organizational tasks.

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    2. I used the same rudder and keel solution in this small boat:
      http://arrandir.se/arrandir/bygge.htm

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  6. One of your first posts here mentioned that QUIDNON should be able to tour canals. Just wondering if that made it thru the design process, and what canals you might be thinking of?

    I've been following Dan Brown ("the Narrowboat Lad") on Youtube for about two years now. He recently did a video on his 2014 boats costs, for a year of living aboard. I think it was about 1400 pounds. Very pretty canals there, but limited to 7' wide boats.

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    1. With the masts dropped, QUIDNON will stand just under 14 feet over the waterline, which should be good enough to make it under most bridges. My main canal experience is with the Intracoastal, where, to get through New Jersey on the inside (there was a tropical storm raging outside) we dropped the masts on HOGFISH and motored. I put a 14-foot whisker pole in place of the mizzen mast (the mast step was right at the waterline) and it made it under all the bridges. Its beam is 16 feet, which is less than the maximum for all canal systems in the US and Canada, as far as I know. They were built to take barges, and those tend to be over 20 feet wide. So, pretty much anywhere in the US and Canada QUIDNON can serve as a canal boat.

      Now, what is meant by "canal boat" in England is a different thing altogether. That would be a "narrow boat" and QUIDNON is not a narrow boat. So, it will not work as a canal boat in the UK. If you want a canal boat, go to England and find one there. They are a species with a very limited habitat.

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    2. A Quidnon could use the French canals, provided she was ballasted enough to fit under the bridges. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freycinet_gauge

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    3. That would require 60000lbs of ballast. I don't think so!

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  7. From Jack Woolfe:

    Dmitry said: “In designing QUIDNON, I tried to make it work for both the tropics and snowy areas in the north. I have overwintered on board enough times to know what's important, and what most boat designers completely neglect to take into account: things like insulation and condensation. So, QUIDNON will be well-insulated (the insulation will be on the hull liner, not the hull itself, with an airgap where condensation will form and drain into the bilge, keeping the cabin dry)”



    @Dmitry: Having an air gap between the insulation and the outer hull will create the perfect location for mold to grow. Furthermore, it will be very difficult to access that air gap to clean out the mold. It would be much better if you either sealed a vapor-proof insulation to the outer hull (like a spray foam), or created a vapor-proof liner – in which case an air gap would not be needed.



    Your idea of having a hot, steamy sauna on a small boat during a cold winter is a humidity disaster waiting to happen. You will have condensation and mold EVERYWHERE! You want to minimize the amount of water vapor inside your boat, through ventilation, not increase the amount of water vapor with a sauna. Maybe you can create a temporary steam hut on deck when you want a sauna.

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    1. No, the air gap method works provided the area is well ventilated. With the topsides painted black, on a sunny winter day the temperature in the gap will climb up to the mid-70's (Fahrenheit). Now, there is no such thing as "vapor-proof" on a boat. The only place I found where it is reasonable to directly insulate the hull is along the top of the cabin, above the liner. There, warm air pools and it stays relatively dry. Also, spray foam makes hull inspection and repair much more difficult. As far as access, each of the cabin liner panels will fit into a slot along the bottom and will be held in place by two captive socketed machine screws along the top (probably Torx) so that removing them will require the use of a single Torx wrench. When overwintering in the north, I would recommend removal of each panel and a wipe-down with white vinegar, and then with Tea Tree Oil once a season (in the fall) while winterizing. I am doing it this way because 1. it's been done this way before and 2. it has been found to work exceptionally well.

      Your idea of a sauna is, again a bit out in left field. The sauna space will be sealed off, and the space right outside it (the heads itself) will be vented. The sauna/shower stall space will hold a flex-fuel heater (propane/solid fuel) which, combined with positive venting, will dry it out very well. None of the humidity generated will invade the rest of the boat. I am doing it this way because, again, 1. it's been done this way before and 2. it has been found to work exceptionally well.

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    2. Condensation on an inhabited boat in a cold climate is a given. Breathing, perspiring, cooking and washing are the main sources of moisture. If allowed a place to form freely on large, cold surfaces, drain into the bilge, and get pumped overboard, condensation will keep the air in the boat dry. If it is not allowed to form freely on large, cold surfaces, it will create pockets of moisture on the coldest surface available, form pools of moisture, which will seep down and form hard-to-reach pockets of mildew. So, the right approach when designing a houseboat for a cold climate is to specifically account for condensation, which is what I have done.

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    3. I had a double hull on my boat.
      Outside layer: glasfibre cloth and epoxi
      Inbetween: divinycell foam
      Inside layer: regular glasfibre and styren

      Very well insulated, also made the boat unsinkable.

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  8. Hi Dimitry! Sounds a great end-point + starting-point. I am glad you have moved away from the concrete bottom idea - smart tho it was. I had visions of the boat sliding down a wave and the sides hitting and stopping in a trough while the high-inertia bottom simply kept on going. Looking forward to the next installment.

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    1. Well, the same logic might apply to any ballast. It's all about how it's attached to the hull.

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  9. while the cost of new lead, (or even reclaimed lead from shot and wheel weights) can run anywhere up to $1/lb ... how about recycling keels from abandoned or damaged sailboats? how much work is it to get the lead out of those? I know boat yards will be aware of the value of lead, but needing to reclaim it from the fiberglass and paint could allow for some "sweat equity" purchase savings.

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    1. Breaking old sailboats is a major business, and recovering the lead (along with other scrap) is its object. There is no discount. I see no reason to use lead where concrete is plenty good enough, provides thermal mass, enhances structural integrity and provides a very solid mast step for the mainmast. Oh, and pouring concrete is a lot easier, more pleasant and healthier than pouring lead.

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  10. Hi Dimtri,
    First time posting, but I've been following your blog for years. Very much appreciate your unique take on matters. And, I'm very impressed with your current project. I like the sailing houseboat you're building and was wondering - - if you obtain enough positive interest - - will you mass produce this, possibly do custom orders, or possibly sell the plans for it? It goes without saying I would love to have one myself. Also, I didn't see anyone else mention this before, but how were you planning on addressing the solar gain you will probably experience in the pilot house? I bring it up not to point out a potential problem, but instead an opportunity. Have you considered pulling the heat generated in the pilot house during winter daylight into the cabin? It would be a simple matter to use flexible vent pipe with an in-line, variable speed, reversible fan to draw the heat from the pilot house and blow it into the cabin. You could go further and insulate the inner liner of the boat with phase change material insulation. Granted, it's a bit pricey, but the benefits I think would justify the extra cost. For example, during winter if you were to pull the heat generated in the pilot house into the cabin, the pcm insulation would absorb some of the heat and at night give up the absorbed heat back into the cabin. This way, you save on fuel costs by not having to use a heater which could be reserved just for backup. Additionally, you could reduce the size of the fuel needed to be stored thereby freeing up space for other uses. Another savings could be realized by reducing the amount of fuel needed to keep the cabin heated when using the heater as the pcm insulation would act as thermal storage. Conversely, the same fans could blow the cabin air into the pilot house where it could be vented during the summer. Cross ventilation could be achieved by opening the hatch. This setup would be comparable to a whole house fan on land. And with the pcm insulation, heat absorbed at night within the cabin could be expelled during the day and be ready to start the cycle again next night. In both cases, the cabin could be kept comfortable with very little effort or expense. And, an added bonus - - it's green! :-) You're relying on the Sun for both heating and cooling. Also, if you were to implement this, you might want to enhance the solar gain in the pilot house and add more light by adding a nonoperable skylight along the roof center line between the solar panels. I would use myself Solexx, a greenhouse glazing that's rigid, strong, offers good insulation and durability. Just a thought for your consideration.

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  12. Quick note on your final sketch. The rudder looks like it's not offset properly. Blade is shown FORWARD of rudder post. Normally it should be mostly AFT of rudder post, with some portion FORWARD in order to balance the pressure on it, and make it easy to turn. Or maybe I missed something? As shown water pressure will rip tiller out of your hand and go full stop to one side or the other.

    Centerboard pivot pin geometry could also be a little different to balance the weight of it, so you don't have to pull all the weight of it up. Will have to look at mine, but pin is near bottom of hull, not in center of round part.

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  13. The rudder is almost perfectly balanced by adjusting the bottom stop for the rudder blade. It has some area forward of the pivot to make the adjustment possible.

    The centerboard design is based on existing proven designs. The centerboard blade is designed to be very close to neutrally buoyant in salt water, so that it can bounce off the bottom with no damage. The important part is that most of the blade is above the water line when retradted, so that it doesn't accumulate growth, and that the pivot is above the waterline, so that it does not corrode. The pivot connection is kept loose, so that there are no lateral or torque loads on it at all, and the blade acts as a lever on two points. One is the slot at the bottom of the hull, and another is the slot at the top of the blade, through which it rotates.

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    1. I have sailed with a a similar rudder but it was placed aft.
      Lots of strain in the rudder (broke)
      Dmitrys solution is better.

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