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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Self-Sufficient Haulout

A self-sufficient sailor needs to be able to get his boat in and out of the water either with minimal assistance or entirely unassisted.

This need arises in a variety of situations, both common and less so:

1. To deal with maintenance and emergencies.

1.A. To redo the bottom paint and to make emergency repairs that cannot be done with the boat in the water. With Quidnon, the list of such emergencies is much smaller than with most boats. There is no engine shaft, cutlass bearing or propeller; these are integral to the outboard engine, which is easy to pull out for servicing. There are no through-hulls below the water line; raw water intakes for the ballast tanks are via siphons. The bottom is surfaced with roofing copper that lasts longer the useful lifetime of the boat. The sides below the waterline need to be scrubbed and painted periodically, but this can be done with the boat drying out at low tide. Marine growth on the bottom, which cannot be reached while the boat is drying out, simply gets crushed and ground off against the sand or gravel and falls off. Still, there are situations when a haulout is needed for maintenance.

2.B. To get out of the water if a hurricane or a typhoon is bearing down on you. The easiest thing to do is to run Quidnon into the shallows in a sheltered spot and to run long lines out to surrounding rocks and trees. But an even better option is to haul it clear of the water first. While other yachts are busy hunting around for a hurricane hole (a sheltered spot with enough water to get in and out without running aground) or wait in line at a boatyard or a marina for an (expensive) emergency haulout, the captain of a Quidnon has plenty of options.

2. To turn Quidnon into a waterside home.

2.A. Suppose you arrive at a tropical island and decide that you want to spend a few months there, subsisting on fresh-caught fish and crabs, coconuts, sea bird eggs, growing a patch of taro or yucca and generally lazing around. There is nobody around to assist you. You enter the lagoon, find a nice sheltered spot with an easy grade up a white sand beach, let Quidnon nose up to it, jump overboard, wade ashore, walk the anchor ashore, dragging the chain, and bury it in the sand. Then you drain the ballast tanks and unbolt and drop the solid ballast box that fits snugly in a recess under the cockpit. Finally, you spend an hour or so working the anchor winch while placing coconut palm logs under the hull for it to roll over. Voilà! Quidnon is now a beach house: it doesn’t rock, the bottom doesn’t accumulate seafood, and getting ashore is as easy as climbing down a ladder.

2.B. You spend your summers cruising inland lakes, rivers and canals, catching and drying fish, hunting wild game and harvesting wild-growing fruits and vegetables along the shoreline. Autumn arrives, it starts snowing and the waterways start icing over. Before they become icebound and dangerous you pick a spot where you want to overwinter: somewhere sheltered, with plenty of firewood available locally. If you are lucky, you find a spot that has something like a beach, with no more than a 10º grade. Failing that, you grab a shovel and an axe (to chop through tree roots) and dig down a slope. Then you follow the same procedure as above. If you are quite far north where temperatures stay below freezing for months on end, it would make sense to insulate the hull on the outside by piling snow against it (snow is an excellent insulator, and is free).

There are lots of other, less extreme scenarios. For example:

3.A. You either own or lease a patch of land next to a waterway and build a boat ramp. Then, equipped with nothing more than a boat trailer and a pickup truck or an SUV you can either live on a Quidnon ashore or put it in the water and go cruising. This would be ideal in colder climates, where you would prefer to stay put during the winter. In going through the Intracoastal Waterway, I saw plenty of places where such a lifestyle would make sense. People there tend to have a full-size house and a half-size boat, but why not have a full-size boat and a small, utilitarian structure on land used as a workshop and for storage?

3.B. For those who have a shoreside dwelling, it is perfectly reasonable to own a Quidnon but only use it during the warmer months. But storing a boat, whether in the water or on shore, is often an expensive proposition. But there are plenty of creative ways to store boats in close proximity to boat ramps. For example, people who own vacation properties are often quite happy to have you pay a little bit of rent—much less than a marina or a boatyard would charge—to store your boat on their land during the off-season. Again, all you need is a trailer, a good-sized pickup truck or SUV and a boat ramp that’s nearby. (If it’s farther away, you will need highway permits and signal cars, because Quidnon qualifies as a “wide load.”)

The mechanics of a self-sufficient Quidnon haulout are as follows.

1. Get rid of all ballast. Fully ballasted, Quidnon weighs in at 12 tons, 8 of which is ballast. Of that, 5 tons is water ballast, which can be made to disappear by draining the tanks. The remaining 3 tons is solid ballast consisting of steel scrap encapsulated in a concrete block bolted into a recess in the bottom directly under the cockpit and held in place by several large bolts and a purchase. To remove the solid ballast, with the boat in the water, it is necessary to rig and tighten the purchase, undo the nuts on the bolts (which are along the sides of the chain locker below the cockpit, so the cockpit sole needs to be removed to access them), then ease the ballast down to the bottom using the purchase. Finally you would probably want to attach a line and a buoy to the ballast block before letting go of it, so that you can find and retrieve it later.

2. If your haulout spot has overhead obstructions (tree branches, power lines) remove the sails and drop the masts. This can be done by one person using a comealong. Once down, the sails and the masts are lashed down on top of the deck arches, to keep them safe and out of the way. On the other hand, if your haulout spot is exposed, you may want to leave the masts up and mount wind generators on top of them, to avail yourself of the free, though somewhat unreliable electricity.

3. Let Quidnon nose up to a grade no more than 10º. The maximum slope for boat ramps is 15% grade, which is 8.5º; most beaches are less than that. If you are hauling over ground solid enough for logs to roll, all you need are the rollers; if not, you will need to lay down some logs to serve as rails. Walk the anchor ashore and bury it, as described above. Work a log under the skids, then work the anchor winch to move the boat forward. The first log will try to squirm out and will require some gentle persuasion using a sledgehammer. Repeat. Catch the logs that slip out the back and move them to the front.

4. The amount of time required to move Quidnon 100 feet up a 10º grade using a crab winch (where a single person rocks a winch handle back and forth) is around an hour of steady effort (assuming a person can generate 100W of power) not including the time needed to move and pound in logs, drink water, curse, swat insects and whatever else. Reasonably, it adds up to a few hours’ work for one reasonably fit person. Of course, if you have a 1kW generator, an electric winch and a couple of helpers you can get this accomplished in around 20 minutes.

Quidnon will come equipped with rails, integral to the keelboard trunks and surfaced with bronze angle to distribute the load and to resist abrasion. The round logs are not included and would need to be procured locally. Driftwood is often a good, free source, and can be collected beforehand in preparation and stored on deck. It can be used as firewood afterward.

Once Quidnon is far enough from the water, it is important to level it, by digging down or by pounding in wedges. It is rather important that it doesn’t try to roll back into the water one stormy night while you are asleep. On the other hand, if your haulout spot is in an area that is considered dicy from a security standpoint, you may want to crank the boat around, so that it faces the water, and rig up a system so that a few blows with a sledgehammer and a few minutes on the anchor winch will cause it to roll back into the water (or onto the ice) and, one would hope, away from danger.

Incidentally, although this is hardly their main function, the rails over which Quidnon is rolled ashore can also be used to turn Quidnon into a sled, over ice. Ice provides a nearly frictionless surface, and it should be possible for a few people to haul Quidnon to a new location a few miles over ice. This trick may come in handy if halfway through the winter the game or the firewood at a haulout site on one side of a river becomes depleted. A particularly adventurous Quidnon skipper might even consider putting up a bit of sail and taking advantage of a winter windstorm to try a bit of ice sailing. (It would make sense to put up a bit of each sail, and to use the sheets for steering, because the rudders won’t be of much use when gliding over ice… unless the adventurous skipper takes the time to fit them with skates.

If these scenarios seem outlandish to you, then consider the more prosaic ones: while all the other skippers are waiting around with their wallets wide open—for the diesel mechanic to fix their engine, for a scuba diver to cut away the dock line that got wrapped around their prop, for the travelift to haul them out of the water and put them up on jacks so that they can paint their bottom or fix a leaky through-hull, or for a crane to remove their mast so that it can be worked on it—you would be off on your next adventure, self-sufficient and free.


  1. I see a problem with using galvanized angle iron for rails. They would be in proximity to the more-noble copper bottom and sacrifice their zinc coating in rapid order.

    I don't suppose bronze angle iron is in the budget? Or, are the rails easily replaced?

  2. Dmitri,,,
    Good explanation of more Quidnon positive attributes and ways of utilizing them. I think I’d prefer the ‘pointy’ end facing the water/weather—as was originally intended when designed.
    Why not back it up close to a ramp/beach, drop the ballast, raise the rudder blades, and using the same ballast purchase attachment point, run a line under the hull, over the rollers, and back to a shore anchoring point, using a winch/come-along/pulleys for moving power? The upper roller should be level, so that when high enough, a bottle jack, blocking and wedges would easily raise, level and support the seaward bow end. No boat spinning required for a speedy exit—just knock out the blocking and launch. Or pull in using the ballast as anchor. (Among many other tools, my Quidnon tool locker will contain jacks, come-alongs, pulleys, saws and an electric winch.)
    What say you, Dmitry? Good thinking or not?
    Has your sailboat sold yet?
    Is the Quidnon project still on track?
    Are you thinking about Patreon, a You–tube channel or other crowdfunding sources? (If you don’t, someone else will—I’d almost guarantee it.)
    Best always to you, yours and the Quidnon wet dream I think many of us share. locojhon

    1. I suppose it would be possible to reverse the direction of the anchor chain and run it to a roller on the transom, but currently there is no plan to do that. On the other hand, there should be no problem with launching the boat stern-first. It is the task of cranking it around to face the water that is entirely optional. In fact, since the solid ballast needs to be reattached before sailing off, launching it stern-first would make more sense.

    2. The logic then would be to have a chain or cable from the ballast, sitting on the bottom of the water up to a point in it's normal home so that you could winch yourself back into the water. Maybe one of those come-alongs for an endless cable. There must already be a strong point to lift the ballast back into it's home, might need modifying to handle the other angles

    3. Dennis, this is an excellent idea! Thank you. We'll work on that. (This, by the way, is what makes this blog so amazingly useful. Good ideas like this are worth the wait.)

  3. Great concept! Looking forward to fruition of your project and kits being made available to the public. Have you considered putting the drawings, parts and materials list, and basic construction techniques out there before the kits are available? This would afford you the benefit of; other prototypes that can be tested to identify potential construction and operational issues before final production of kits. For the record I am an industrial designer with experience in testing and evaluating ready to assemble kits including instructions among many other technical projects, in addition to being interested in building this boat with or for you. I am available and am willing to offer time and experience for this project. I submitted my email today for contact information. I currently live and reside in the mid-west with access to the great lakes and inland water ways. Looking forward to the prospect of working with your team and realizing this project!

    1. Building a Quidnon from drawings would be a giant step in the wrong direction. There is a huge benefit from milling out parts on an NC router. Of course, it is possible to cut them all out on a jigsaw, but why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. Whether you output the geometry to a paper printer or to an NC mill that cuts it into plywood, the process is largely the same, except that you can't build boats out of paper.

  4. Hi Dmitry! I just came across Quidnon two days ago and quickly binged on everything I could find about it. Absolutely fascinating concept!

    Why are there not more sailing scowsin the world today if they make such great live-a-board-boats with acceptable sailing characteristics?

    I am sure you have investigated the market quite extensively before starting to design Quidnon. Have you found anything remotely similar?

    Of course people often buy impractical things because they look cool in the store (full-suspension mountain bikes for grocery shopping and high maintenance sloop rigs and wheel steering for small singlehanded voyaging boats come to mind), but I would have expected to find at least *some* FRP sailing scows on the used boat market.

    1. The reason I launched this project is precisely that boats of the sort I want simply do not exist. As Nassim Taleb pointed out, it took a few thousand years for people to add wheels to suitcases. There are numerous similar examples of obvious missing features in the world. On the other hand, there are plenty of things that shouldn't exist but do: flushing toilets using purified drinking water; caps with flat visors; circumcision. The world is a funny place, and getting funnier every minute.

  5. Reuel Parker would have benefited having you write a forward for his sharpie book. This essay points out some key bennies of flat bottomed shoal draft very well. Hard to fathom how someone would want a keelboat (if given a choice) after sailing both types.

    1. Sailboats whose only job is to go from one deep-water port to another engineless, where they are towed to and from dock, might as well be built with a generous full keel. Other than that, you are right.

    2. Bring on the new age of cargo sail transport....

  6. Good stuff! Happy to see this project coming along!

    As always, I'm curious to see the log-rolling tried out. Wonder how it would trade off against lubricated skids (basically just the temporary tracks you describe).

    I imagine extra effort due to friction, but less log shuffling - those logs would be heavy to withstand the rails, no?

    As a point of reference, I've moved 3-ton marine dock frames this way on level ground (gravel), using dishsoap-lubricated 2x12's as rails and skids. Team of about a dozen average people, albeit with 6-foot pry-bars rather than a winch. It was real work. A chain hoist would've been nice, in retrospect.

    1. We'll have to see which approach works best and becomes the most popular. To add to the list, there is also the possibility of digging a ramp into the dirt, waiting for winter weather to set in and for it to freeze, then dumping water over the ramp and letting it turn to ice. This would provide a relatively frictionless surface for moving the boat ashore.

  7. Dmitry, guys... I don't understand why the holes for the "frontal rudders" (<--is that the name?)" are so thin and quadrangular? Wouldn't this make it difficult to upkeep? What about the sea barnacles? Wouldn't it make a party over there? Why the holes are not trapezoidal and thicker?
    I don't know the Quidinon's rudders appears fragile to me...
    Thank you very much for your patience! Sorry for this silly questions! :)

    1. I am not sure I understand the question. The keelboards (as we call them, since they are off-center and can't be called centerboards) are made up of a plywood sandwich screwed and epoxied together and sheathed in fiberglass, so they are plenty strong enough. The slots they move in are quite heavily reinforced. This is all based on an existing centerboard design that has lasted for a few decades and thousands of sea miles without any problem at all.