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 four-bedroom with a kitchen, a bathroom/sauna, a dining room and a living 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. It's rugged and stable enough to take out on the ocean.

Monday, January 25, 2016

QUIDNON Assembly: Stuff and Glue

When building a boat, no matter what technique is used, most of the time goes into making the parts. Much of the quality of the resulting hull has to do with the quality of the pieces—the precision with which they are fitted together. Much time is squandered grinding and trimming them to achieve a tight fit. All of this work requires some level of expertise, plus a well-equipped workshop.

This won't work for QUIDNON, which is to be assembled barn-raising style on some sheltered bit of coastline in a few summer weekends by people who have never built a boat before, and, if all goes well, never will build a boat again, boatbuilding being entirely incidental to the far more interesting activities of living aboard a boat and sailing it around.

Therefore, QUIDNON will arrive at the construction site in the form of a set of shipping pallets loaded with all of the parts pre-made. The kit of parts from which the hull is assembled will consist of a large set of plywood panels, milled out using an excessively precise numerically controlled machine. Each piece will be numbered, and each assembly step documented in a printed assembly manual.

The usual technique for assembling plywood-and-fiberglass hulls is to screw the plywood pieces to a light wooden frame using countersunk stainless steel screws while simultaneously gluing them in place with epoxy. After assembly, the joints are filleted using a bead of epoxy loaded with a special filleting compound. This is the so-called “screw and glue” method, and is known to result in a durable, long-lasting hull.

The choice of stainless steel is a compromise: stainless steel is not really stainless, and starts to rust as soon as it is deprived of oxygen. A layer of surface oxide called passivation is what gives it its stainless properties. It is unknown how well stainless steel fasteners fare when encapsulated inside a sealed wooden hull, where there is always the possibility that bacterial action will create an anoxic environment. Ideally, there would be enough osmosis happening, with water molecules migrating in from the outside and evaporating from the inside, and enough oxygen molecules would be carried along with the water to keep the stainless steel passivated. A safer choice would be to use bronze screws, but the cost of bronze is exorbitant.

Another, even better, and very cheap alternative is to use no metal fasteners at all. Instead, the plywood pieces are fitted together using a system of tabs and slots, all of them precision-milled using an NC machine. In instances where there is the possibility of making a mistake in assembly by choosing the wrong part, the joints are keyed using a unique combination of tabs and slots, making it physically impossible to assemble the hull incorrectly. The pieces are assembled in a certain sequence, which is made obvious by the consecutive numbering of the parts. After assembly, the joints are saturated with epoxy, then filleted to fill any minor voids and to bring each joint up to its maximum strength.

Several types of joints will be used.
  1. The simplest is the box joint: the edges of two pieces are made with complementary tabs, which mesh together in a rectangular zigzag pattern. This joint is used to join the bottom with the sides of the hull, and the transom, as well as in a lot of interior carpentry.
  2. Similar to it is the tab-and-slot joint: instead of teeth, one of the two pieces is made with slots that the tabs fit into. This joint is used to join the deck with the sheer clamp (the strip that goes all around the deck and is variously known as rail, or rubrail, or inwale, or gunwale, or bulwarks). In the case of QUIDNON, the sheer clamp has quite a number of duties: below deck, it is perforated by a row of holes for the deadlights that admit light into the cabin, covered on the outside by a strip of polycarbonate plastic; above deck, it holds scuppers that drain the deck and admit dock lines.
  3. Next is the zipper joint, which makes two pieces that are within the same plane act as one, by providing good strength under both tension and compression. This joint is used to join the sheer clamp to the sides, and to assemble the deck, the sides, the bottom and the transom out of separate panels.
  4. Next, it is sometimes necessary to have some tabs slide inside slots. Certain pieces of cabinetry need to be pre-assembled before being slotted into one panel while sliding in slots in another. Unmodified, this technique leaves voids, because the slots are longer than the tabs, and voids are a problem: they are hard to fully saturate with epoxy, can fill with water, get infested with mold and start rot. Such a sliding joint is also weaker than the others: if the joint fails and slips, then this can compromise the integrity of several other joints. The solution is to introduce a third piece, which locks the slip joint, filling the void and making it impossible for it to slip back.
  5. The last kind of joint is quite trivial. It is simply a shallow trough, used to position the piece that is joined to it at a right angle. It avoids positioning errors while making the joint stronger, because even a shallow trough (a single plywood veneer's worth) is enough to give the joint plenty of strength once it is saturated with epoxy and filleted.

The assembly process

The assembly team is best organized as two sub-teams: the stuffers and the gluers. These roles don't need to be gender-specific, although I suspect that in a lot of circumstances the stuffers will be mostly boys and the gluers will be mostly girls. The stuffers have to have good upper-body strength and some spatial reasoning abilities. The gluers need fine motor control and tidy habits. For the stuffers, all that matters is speed of assembly, since mistakes are made virtually impossible by the keying on all the joints. For gluers, the strength of the joints and the longevity of the hull critically depends on their attention to detail: all the joints have to be fully saturated, there should be no accidental drips of epoxy anywhere, and the fillets have to have the correct size and shape.

The construction then proceeds as follows. Most of the hull assembly happens with the hull upside-down.

• A stage is erected at a spot that is within 20 feet of the water at high tide, using straight dimensioned lumber and leveled using a laser pointer and wedges.
• The bottom, the sides, the transom, the bulkheads, the internal partitions and pieces of the engine well are assembled using zipper joints and set aside.
• The deck is laid down upside-down on top of the stage and assembled using zipper joints.
• Frames, of which there only two—one at each mast—are assembled next, and through-bolted to the underside of the deck.
• Internal bulkheads and partitions, and the engine well, are installed onto the underside of the deck
• Small brackets called knees are joined to the underside of the deck, going all the way around. The knees sit in shallow slots in the deck to make them easy to position.
• The first layer of sheer clamp is assembled by fitting it onto the tabs in the knees and pulling the joints together using straps.
• The second layer of sheer clamp is screwed and glued onto the first. The bottom edge of this layer (facing up during assembly) holds a zipper joint that joins with the upper edge of the sides and the transom.
• The sides and the transom are assembled next, pushed onto the zipper joints and clamped in place (this is where the stuffers get a good work-out). The sides and the transom mesh together using a box joint.
• The bottom is fitted on, joining the sides and the transom using a box joint. It is horsed on using tensioned straps.
• The joints between the sheer clamp and the sides and between the sides, the bottom and the transom are all saturated with epoxy all at the same time.
• The third layer of sheer clamp is screwed and glued in place.
• Tabs that stick out where the sides, the bottom and the transom meet, and around centerboard trunks, are removed using any number of techniques: a hand plane for the handy, a belt-sander for the well-equipped or a grinder for the those who like tools that have hundreds of uses.
• The centerboard trunks are pre-assembled, passed through apertures in the staging and the deck, propped into place and glued.
• Additional layers of plywood are screwed and glued onto the sides, the bottom and the transom to bring them up to full thickness.
• The bottom, the sides and the sheer clamp are fiberglassed using a layer of mat and 3 layers of cloth.
• The sides and the transom are faired using a lightweight fairing compound and sanded flat.
• Pre-cut copper sheets are screwed onto the bottom and parts of the sides below the waterline.
• The centerboards and the rudder blades are assembled, and the centerboards are installed
• The hull is flipped over. This is done by assembling a trapezoidal cage out of timbers, knocking out one side of the staging, and using a winch to roll the hull onto the cage, and then knocking out the sides and the top of the cage, leaving the hull sitting on just the bottom supports
• All the joints are filleted on the inside of the hull.
• The superstructure—two instrument arches and the dodger or pilothouse—is assembled.
• The deck is fiberglassed, then finished using pre-cut sheets of aluminum diamond plate, which are bedded with caulk and screwed into place.
• The hull is sealed with epoxy inside and painted inside and out.
• Polycarbonate plastic panels are screwed onto the outside of the sheer clamp
• Cleats, bow rollers and rudder post brackets are installed.
• The stage is reassembled as a slipway reaching under the hull. Four casters are inserted into holes in the chine runners, which rest in a slot in the slipway.
• The rudders, the rudder blades and the tiller are assembled.
• The boat is loaded with all of the remaining parts and supplies.
• The engine bracket is installed in the engine well, the engine is lowered onto it, and the fuel tank, battery bank and engine controls are installed.
• A line is secured to the boat, the bottom of the cage on which the hull rests is knocked out, and the boat rolls into the water.
• The crew climbs aboard, starts the engine and motors away from the construction site.

The remaining tasks—installing the concrete ballast and the mast tabernacles, the masts, the stanchions and the lifelines, rigging, plumbing, wiring, berths, cabinetry, galley appliances, etc.—can be completed with the boat in the water. While this is most easily done with the boat docked, but it's quite possible to do the work even at anchor, especially in a spot where it's possible to walk ashore except at high tide. It can remain in the water uninterruptedly for the next 30-35 years: the copper-clad bottom never needs painting, and there are no underwater through-hulls, propellers or other nuisance components to service.


  1. I'm assuming you won't go through the expense and design work to use the engineered joints with your prototype. I really like the idea though. Kind of like an IKEA boat.

    1. Part of the reason to build a prototype is to test out the joint milling technology. Producing the full-scale hull is then largely a matter of scaling up.

    2. One thing that may be of consideration with the milled joints is the effect moisture might have on the un-assembled parts prior to building. They may not fit right if they are subjected humidity different from the factory floor. A tolerance gap could be machined into the parts providing something like thickened epoxy is specified for the assembly. I'm just guessing here but given the circumstances under which you for-see these boats being built, it might be something to think about. Perhaps milling some test pieces and testing them would be prudent, even prior to building your smaller scale model.

    3. Plywood panels tend to be dimensionally stable in X and Y. They do swell a bit in Z as they absorb moisture. One idea is to spray the pieces with penetrating epoxy before shipping them out, to make them water-resistant. Another is to give the tabs just a tiny bit of taper, so that everything is a press-fit. We will, of course, do tests on samples before committing to milling an entire hull's worth of parts.

    4. Or a 'smack fit' with a rubber faced dead blow hammer wielded by any member of the unskilled crew. Sealing makes complete sense - probably only need to do it on the machined edges. I like it.

    5. I second the notion of using penetrating epoxy. I use it on all cut ends of wooden boat building parts.

  2. Is this a viable deep water vessel or not intended as such. Sorry if that phrase 'viable deep water vessel' isn't really proper nautical terminology so I hope you get my drift.

    As in you never intend a trans ocean foray. Sticking to the shores of the Americas?

    1. It's designed to be self-righting and with plenty of reserve strength and rigidity to deal with all sorts of wind and water including hurricanes and rogue waves. Some additional adaptations for dealing with the roughest conditions might include extra halyards to serve as running stays, a triatic to link the mastheads together, balloons hoilsted up to the mast-tops that automatically inflate in case of a capsize to keep the masts out of water and extra ballast.

  3. "Crew climbs aboard,starts engine and motors away"....with what method of propulsion if there are no through-hulls,propellors, etc.

    1. There is an outboard engine in an inboard engine well.

  4. Alum diamond plate over glass ?

    a simpler method might Be to glass 1 3/4 or 2 oz matt on the deck and then press a non-skid pattern into the matt. the no skid pattern could Be most anything with a grid in it. Need to soray or was beaucoup mold release.

    The glass would then have a non-skid pattern imbedded in it.

    this is a budget variation of production tooling for non skid

    1. The aluminum diamond plate is optional, to make the deck surface (which is large) zero-maintenance for the useful life of the boat. The patterned fiberglass finish is durable, but the paint over it is less so. I have painted fiberglass-over-plywood decks with two-part primer and two-part polyurethane, and found that it needs repainting every 3-4 years. That's a lot of paint. Like the copper bottom, it's part of an effort to make a boat that isn't a maintenance nightmare like most boats are.

  5. item 2:

    always use Chipped strand matt Between layers of cloth, especially with unskilled laminators. The CSM fila voids and prevents the layers of cloth to align. Your lam Schedule should be

    1 1/2 oz CSM against the wood
    10 oz cloth
    1 1/2 oz CSM
    10 oz. Cloth
    1 1/2 oz CSM
    10 oz cloth

    you'll need some way to smooth the FRG especially on Hull. After it cures. grinding is typical method, but that is Labor intensive

    1. What's been used with great success before is this:
      - Fiberglass mat nailed down with bronze annular nails
      - 3 layers of cloth
      - Fairing compound
      - Barrier coat
      - Top coat (2-part poly)

      I intend to stick with this formula.

    2. Are you considering that the plywood is sealed with epoxy, then the mat and subsequent layers of glass go one with polyester? Epoxy in this case would be very expensive. I'm very interested because I must deal with the bottom of the boat I am building quite soon...

    3. There are a few reasons to go with epoxy. Polyester and vinylester resins don't cure in the presence of wood. Sealing the wood with penetrating epoxy is no guarantee that there won't be pockets of uncured resin lurking somewhere, waiting to cause delamination at the worst possible time. Also, epoxy is much safer to work with because it offgases very little, while poly and vinyl are incredibly stinky and the vapors carcinogenic and brain-damaging. Pre-thickened 1-to-1 epoxy is the easiest to work with and the price isn't too bad.

    4. I have a fair amount of experience with epoxy products for aircraft. Epoxy - while not stinky - is far more toxic than polyester or vinyl-ester which is. Also I know that if epoxy is mixed carefully it cures - period. I think that Chris Morejohn's reason for nailing the CSM is that it ensures it won't come off the plywood since he uses polyester resin. The nails provide mechanical insurance since polyester does not stick well to plywood. One other thing that I've read is that CSM has binders in it that are formulated to be compatible with polyester or vinyl ester but not epoxy. Even if you found a CSM product that was compatible with epoxy then you would not have to nail it at all. But a layer of CSM and three layers of cloth all saturated with epoxy would be VERY expensive to do here in Canada anyway. A 15 gallon kit of Canadian produced epoxy goes for about $1750.00 CDN.

  6. i have flipped dozens of large FRG objects weighing uowards of 1,000 kgs with a single Yard crane and ropes - it requires serious know how.

    i have also flipped hundreds of large Steel boxes weighing 5,000 - 20,000 kgs using 2 Bridge cranes. Not a task for amatuers

    fliiping your Hull on a beach using primitive dunnage and crafles needs to Be extremely well thought out. ( hint that's my way of telling you not to attenpt )

    1. By FRG you probably mean FRP; for the rest of you, that's "fiberglass-reinforced plastic" which is the technical name for fiberglass.

      Again, the sort of construction I am talking about has been done, without a crane. The trickiest part is doing it slowly, belaying the hull and paying out the lines that hold it up a bit at a time, because once it gets beyond a certain point it really wants to flip over because of its upside-down trapezoidal shape and the weight of copper on the bottom. Yes, the job has to be carefully engineered rather than improvised. That's why the staging, the cage and the slipway are going to be part of the kit.

  7. I think I'd employ a construction type crane-truck for hire, if available. Otherwise sounds like a fine plan. I'd choose an inland river bank as my build site, however; rent is likely cheaper & I only have to worry about avoiding the spring flood, not a lee storm or timing work with tides. Dmitri, do you have labor time estimates for the stuffers & the gluers? Said another way, how many 10 hour workdays on a rented shore would be required with a pair of stuffers and a pair of gluers?

    1. Sure, a riverbank could be fine, unless there is a flash flood, of course. A sheltered spot on salt water is rather more predictable unless there are storm surges from hurricanes.

      I don't have accurate estimates for assembly time, but I am hoping that it will take not much more than 5 person-weeks to get to the point when the hull floats and can be docked somewhere for the rest of the fitting out, which can take however long.

  8. I really like the idea of this kit boat. There are assumptions that must be valid for it to be a reality however. Infrastructure that allows for aluminum stock, plywood, epoxy and a machine shop capable of milling the parts suggests that these boats would be built prior to any kind of economic or infrastructural crisis. Based on that assumption then building the boat away from proximity to launch area is no big deal because trucks, flatbeds and presumably yacht movers would still be around and in business. Same goes for mobile cranes. In that case I would not worry so much about building the boat under old school conditions where one is close to water, and where one must use manual labour and man powered gantries to flip the boat. If however these kits would be something packaged as 'post crisis' commodities then of course they would be extremely valuable indeed - but in that case how viable would it be to build one in security and with any redundancies (i.e ruined material, mistakes etc) considered? Anyone buying one in either case would have to have some financial resources to begin with. They would therefore be able to rent some space conducive to boat building, and be able to hire transport of said boat and flip it with a hired crane in pre-crisis conditions. In post crisis conditions all bets are off I would think. I'm only thinking about this with my own experience in building a very simple boat at present - the space I rent to do it and the crane, and transportation are not major concerns compared with everything else.

    1. Once the design of the kit exists and has been tested, the kit can be manufactured anywhere in the world. I don't expect industrial collapse to be evenly distributed. I also expect that the demand for QUIDNONs will be higher in the more disrupted areas. And so a kit manufactured in some still relatively stable and functioning place, and shipped by water to a riverbank of a beach somewhere where labor is almost free but industrial equipment is hard to come by is probably the best plan.

  9. When you build the prototype, please have a video camera handy and document the whole process.

    I tried to follow the steps and the descriptions of the various joints, but it is hard to grasp from writing and some images alone. A video tutorial with a suitable voice-over would be very helpful.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I was thinking more along the lines of still pictures, diagrams and text—something that can be put together as a book—but a video would work too.

  10. Recommending 6 layers of fiber by adding CSM breaks? Or at least 3? That's a lot of weight, but more, it's a lot of bought material and room for mistakes. Also why create a 3-6 sealed hull with no throughports then fill it with copper screws?

    My addition was to consider if vacuum-bagging the hull is possible. I don't believe it's technically challenging, but you may have to talk to the marinee-weenies to see the cost/benefit/drawbacks to it.

    Surely the masts could provide the leverage for the rollover process, and any boat could use a deck winch, which could be provided, then installed onboard.

    1. There are many ways to skin a cat. This project has enough experimental aspects without introducing more variables. My previous boat, HOGFISH, was built of plywood and fiberglass. One layer of mat, nailed down with bronze annular nails, with 3 cloths over it. It showed no signs of aging after 30 years, no delamination anywhere, and the core of the hull did not show any moisture intrusion. (When time came to sell, the surveyor was quite amazed.) So, I see no reason to do anything different for QUIDNON, at least initially.

      Attaching the copper with screws is a good idea according to Dave of Triloboats. He is the one who has lots of experience with copper-clad bottoms on scow hulls, so I'll go with what he says. The screws will be bedded.

      The mast tabernacles and masts are installed later, once the boat is in the water (see the post of mast-raising) and there are no deck winches (which would be too weak anyway). Without ballast, and with the hull sitting in a cage, is not too heavy to slowly winch over by hand.

      Remember, "better" is the enemy of "good enough."

    2. If you use epoxy with CSM that might be a new thing, unless I am wrong about polyester being used on Hogfish...I think that you are right about using mechanical fasteners with the copper though. I think Dave had some problems when he attempted to use glue only. I think it can be done, but probably only under very controlled conditions where the copper is acid etched immediately prior to bonding - and then very well protected around the edges.

    3. Hogfish used epoxy. There was a long discussion previously about the best way to attach the copper. One option discussed, I recall, was to use anchoring epoxy plugs (anchors) so that the screws do not go into the wood directly.

    4. You may know this already (I did not until now), but for the benefit of others here's what I got from the West System site:

      "Can WEST SYSTEM® epoxy be used to wet out chopped strand mat? The answer is yes. The fiberglass strand in mat wets out with epoxy, but the binder holding things together does not dissolve. (It does get put into suspension and is sealed in the cured epoxy.) This undissolved binder causes the wet-out mat to remain a bit stiff compared to wet out with a styrene-based resin. For gently curving or flat projects like cabin soles or plywood decks, mat and epoxy should work fine. The fabric does not wet out perfectly clear with epoxy. Wet-out clarity of mat with epoxy varies somewhat with different suppliers, but none of them wet out as clear as a good 4 oz or 6 oz fiberglass cloth."

    5. About fastening the mat: I am using Raptor polymer nails on my boat. They also make polymer staples that I think would be great to fasten the mat prior to wetting with the epoxy.

  11. This question might have already been asked, but would a yuloh sized for Quidnon work as a backup to the engine in crowded harbor conditions? Or is it just too big to make a yuloh for?

    1. A yuloh wouldn't do much, but 4 yulohs, operated by 8 galley slaves standing near the foremast, would work very well. For going upriver engineless, this could easily be doubled to 8 yulohs and 16 galley slaves. That's over 8hp peak power! I was in some ways inspired by the design of the Yangtse junks.

    2. I was thinking along the lines of small, singlehanded manuvears in close quarters, such as how bow thrusters are used today; rather than general propulsion. But I suppose a long pole would likely serve that purpose well also most of the time, and have many other additional uses. I'd still like to be able to use a yuloh to push through the doldrums if it came to that, I can't think of a better alternative to sailing that doesn't require gasoline & a well-maintained engine. I do love the idea of an outboard engine well; because it can be useful in many ways, but I'm not sure that I'd be likely to own an outboard continuously. As you have mentioned before; it is more than possible to get just about anywhere (coastal) on wind power alone, if you are patient, and I might not put enough hours on an engine to justify that maintenance expense. A yuloh (or any oar) is simply a solid object, which has negligible maintenance costs. If I were pushing up rivers and locks of the US interior, I'd want a outboard inside that engine well, but once popping out of the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, I'd be thinking about it's resale value versus the costs of keeping it in good working order for the next time I'm chugging against a river flow. I definitely don't see much value in owning a gasoline outboard in a post-industrial collapse world, since gasoline doesn't typically last more than a year in a state that any small engine can utilize.

  12. Dmitry,

    The biggest boat hull I’ve flipped over solo was an Albacore but could I throw this idea out for critique based on my preferred way of doing it?

    Assuming the boat is built for heavy seas and rogue waves, is shallow draft, has the hull fully assembled without a lot of the keel/appurtenance weight, and that you’re building on a shore that is sandy/muddy with a good slope could you just flip it over directly into the water? I had to do this when flipping the boat on my own since I couldn’t catch it and lift it at the same time.

    Given the right location could the boat be constructed parallel to the shoreline, with one side close enough to the water that if flipped it would land mostly in the water?

    I’m throwing this out there as I think getting the boat raised on its side is the safer/easier part. Seems like just lots of dunnage and hand pump jacks working in parallel could do it. Maybe some heavy-duty ratchet straps banded around the entire hull would help spread the load away from the gunnels and act as temporary thwarts to keep you from spreading the boat open and tearing the top deck joints. After you crossed the vertical plane gravity would take over and you wouldn’t have to worry about your lowering system failing or anyone getting squished under the Quidnon.

    Of course it’s not my boat at stake so easy to armchair quarterback. For sure it’d be exciting, make lots of noise, and you’d be pretty sure the hull is strong like bull after surviving that.

    But you don’t seem too worried about the flipping over task compared to your readers …

    Also I don’t know if you’ve looked into the various Copper Grades but Roofing sheet has a ‘1/8 Hard’ grade with 2000 psi more tensile strength and higher hardness. The good news is that most products sold are the superior ‘ASTM B 370, Temper Cold Rolled H00 1/8 H’ grade, this is just something to make sure when you’re completing the purchase. Probably more helpful information than crazy ways to flip your boat!

    1. Flipping the hull directly into the water is actually a reasonable technique. I haven't thought of it, even though I have watched plenty of boats launched by rolling them sideways off a pier. The big splash always draws a crowd.

      Certainly, everything up to the deck can be completely finished before the hull is flipped, and everything else can be done with the hull afloat. Without any of the concrete or water ballast, or the engine, or the mast tabernacles and masts, or much of the rest of the interior stuff, the hull will be quite light but strong enough to be rolled. A cage will be needed to spread the forces, to avoid crushing the sheer clamp or the chine. The cage can go around the internal wooden frames that hold the mast tabernacles, because they can take the load.

      Once it's flipped, the bottom is tough enough to simply roll over round timbers and kedged into the water using the anchor winch if a ramp can be dug down for it. For the initial build we'll probably just hire a crane; the point of the exercise is to figure out a way to do this where there are no cranes, travelifts or any of the other stuff people are now used to, but plenty of local muscle.

      Dave Zeiger knows more about roofing copper for bottom cladding than I do, so I'll follow his recipe for the copper. I plan to do some extra things, like NC-drill the hole pattern in the bottom patterns, for the epoxy anchors, use bronze screws instead of annular nails, and also pre-punch the matching hole patterns in the copper sheets.

  13. Dmitry,

    I read through this article (& the comments) three times. Completely fascinating!

    I wanted a second opinion on the feasibility of constructing such a vessel.
    So, I sent a note to my friend John, who is a good carpenter, but not a sailor.

    Hi Graham,

    I appreciate your sense of adventure, but are you amenable to building that kind of project and/or enjoying that lifestyle? Are you prone to sea-sickness? (I am.) You had better rent a fairly small boat and spend some time on it before committing. Maybe, buy a used boat instead of embarking on such a daunting endeavor.

    Do you have much construction experience? If not, plan to spend a large wad to hire someone who does, because no matter how well the kit is designed, it takes skill to build something that large. Also, plan to spend WAY more than the cost of the kit, like 3X or more on things like extra materials & tools, space & equipment rental, docking fees, plumbing & electrical components & parts, communications equipment, etc. Plan it to take much longer than expected. All of that can be had at a small fraction of the cost by buying a used vessel.

    Then there’s the issue of quality of life in a confined space, and whether you’d be able to tolerate it. How safe and secure would it be? Would you be able to navigate confidently? How difficult would it be to acquire supplies and to access services? Try to imagine scenarios where things go wrong: are there solutions and fall-back options?

    I suggest one should try to get some knowledge & experience in these areas, and one should make a checklist with a realistic cost accounting. Orlov is an exceptional man — a trained engineer who independently can handle most aspects of such a project. But he wants to make money on this. I can imagine some of the tasks are physically difficult, as well.

    I’m not trying to discourage you, only to alert you to the potential challenges. This would be a huge effort and lifestyle change, not something to embark on without considerable thought and preparation, and certainly not something for you to decide while in a state of ill health, emotional turmoil or vulnerability.

    Dear John,

    Thank you for your calm, reasonable and intelligent response. Let me make these points:
    I don't think I am subject to sea sickness (I sailed the San Diego bay in the nineties, and the only thing I didn't care for was way the wind whipped at my body and caused me to freeze up)
    I don't have a lot of construction experience (outside of electronics). I'm not suggesting I build the boat. I would need probably 8 people on a team to do the construction. My role would be bringing them cups of tea!
    The Quidnon is intended to require not much in the way of plant equipment.
    Getting a used vessel would be pointless. As far as I know, you can't buy a used sailing houseboat.
    Dmitri Orlov is one of the world's experts on societal & industrial collapse. We are collapsing now. Have you seen what is happening to the world's economy, since even the beginning of the year? The time is now, building a boat in, say, two years, will be too late.
    I would have to sell most of my belongings to live on a boat like this (guns, fine art, antique furniture, electronics, et cetera) I'm tired of looking after them. Lliving in a confined space sounds great to me!
    The Greenland ice sheet is collapsing now. People still don't get it. The rate of sea level rise will soon go exponential.
    Orlov IS an exceptional man, but as far as I know, he is a software engineer. Not much software on a house boat.
    My suggestion to sail down to Inglewood was tongue-in-cheek. I have no intention of sailing on the high seas. I live on the North Shore of the Columbia river. An enormous, and calm water surface (for the most part). I have this wonderful resource, and it is not being used by me. The ability to move, if societal breakdown occurs in my area, seems very desirable.

    Does anyone else have anything to say about all this?

    1. Hi Graham,

      There is a general feeling about landlubber carpenters that they should not be allowed near wooden boats. Everything they know is almost exactly wrong. That said, your friend John has some valid points and some not-so-valid ones.

      You definitely should get experience with living aboard, sailing and boat maintenance before you embark on a boatbuilding project. Any sane person you ask will tell you as much.

      Also, to do a large DIY project you have to be a DIY sort of person. If you are someone who hires tradesmen (plumbers, electricians, painters, carpenters, etc.) to do stuff on land, then this lifestyle is not for you (unless you are made of money).

      But John's estimate of x3 expenditure over the cost of the kit seems absolutely outlandish. The tools budget is under $1k. All the electronics (GPS, radar, VHF, autopilot) is under $10k. I don't have a complete budget worked out, and I probably won't even bother working out the details of cabin accoutrements (because so much depends on how much money one wants to spend), but the boat can definitely be made livable for less than the cost of the kit.

      I am glad you share my sense of urgency about getting this project of the ground soon. As far as the pecuniary advantages of this project, I impugn John's allegation that I am in it for the money. I am in it for the boats. I am donating my time to this project, but I want others to pay for the materials—including ones for the boat I intend to build for myself and my family. I think it's a fair bargain.

    2. If you are concerned about doing the assembly yourself, has a wonderful selection of kit boats that you can build your skillset with, including several that could prove very useful for a post-industrial world. While I don't personally share the belief that AGW is necessarily near-term or catastrophic, I certainly agree with Dmitri's view that a boat such as Quidnon fits a real niche that has been missing from the pre-manufactured boat market, whether a catastrophe occurs or not. I plan on ordering a dingy kit from them to complement my own Quidnon.

    3. Thank you Dmitry & MoonShadow

  14. Dmitry,

    Glad to see a new post about your progress with Quidnon!

    I was wondering what your time frame is and how I could become involved with the initial build? Do you have a spot to build it in mind?

    I plan to send some cash and buy your books. My old Seasteading tee shirt is worn out , will you offer a reprint? Or better yet a new one with a Quidnon design.



    1. Hi Wade,

      I am still working out some details about the design, and there is a lot of CAD work that needs to be done. There are a few different options for making the kit and the assembly point can be pretty much anywhere close to water.

      Thanks for your support, and the T-shirt is a very good idea! My Seasteading shirts are a bit threadbare too.

    2. Dmitry,

      The CAD you mention, is any of this to verify the sea worthiness of the overall design? If not, how do you know this (very aesthetic) boat will be stable in the water?

    3. Mostly from his experiences, and those of others, with similar shaped hulls. A lot of his information comes from Anke Wagner & Dave Zeiger of, whose boat designs have a similar hull shape, if not similar aesthetics. Dmitri appears to be trying to develop a kit that can be built by semi-amateurs, while Dave's Triloboats are built only from plans, and are not for the faint of heart.

    4. The CAD drawings are needed for lots of things: generating bill of materials, tool paths for NC machining, various calculations having to do with stability and righting moments. Producing the parts using NC machining allows the addition of a huge amount of detail and refinement which would be difficult to reproduce by hand. When building from plans, even detailed ones, there are always bits left behind: how to mount some piece of equipment, where to run a pipe or a wire bundle, etc. This is where all the time goes. The CAD-based approach avoids much of that. And, as I mentioned, NC-machined joinery saves on fasteners and results in tight clearances and good fit everywhere.

    5. Dmitry,

      I am a landlubber electrical engineer. The CAD programs I use are: Altium Designer & OrCAD (PCB Design), PSpice (analog simulation), COMSOL (physics simulation).

      If I can ever be of assistance to you, it would be my pleasure.

    6. I did a lot of electronics design myself, mostly on Mentor Graphics. I doubt that any of the tools you mention will be of much use in designing a boat. The electrical stuff on boats tends to be simple enough that it's just a matter of looking up the right gauge wire to use in a table. But thank you for your offer of assistance.

  15. Okay, I feel like I might be misunderstanding something; but if Quidnon isn't tied to a dock, but just sitting on it's bottom on a sandy beach somewhere during low tide, how do you get onto it? Does it have a ladder not shown on the pictures so far?

  16. Dmitry, I just ran some numbers, and using the thinnest roofing copper I can find (27 gauge) the cost of enough square footage to cover the bottom & two feet up each side rings in at just over $6K and 500 lbs. Is that close to what you came up with, and is that gauge thick enough for your 30 year projection?

    1. Dave used 3/32 inch copper, which is .094" thick (11-Gauge), twice as thick as 27-gauge, so I assume it would be almost twice as much, or $10-11k. If you have better numbers than that, please post them here. I haven't costed this out yet.

    2. According to this, a single 24 square foot panel of 3/32 roofing copper costs $1,177, and weights about 4 pounds per square foot. If Quidnon's bottom is 36x16, just the bottom section would be 576 square feet, costing about $28,000 and weighing about 2300 lbs just to copper the bottom. I'm sure there is a premium in there, but I really hope that much copper is overkill.

    3. Apparently these internet-based vendors charge outrageous prices. Here is the response I got from Dave Zeiger:

      We paid about $5.25/lb for WAYWARD's copper, totaling about $8.5K.... roughly half the total expenses (a bit more than half of boat materials). But that was (again, dammit... SLACKTIDE, too) buying at peak prices, and just before the bottom fell out on oil and commodities. We only paid a little over $2/lb for LUNA's copper. I'm sure there's some industrial lag, but I expect prices will drop unless there's a global surge in demand (and what are the odds?).

      Of course, waiting for that might put us in the time-frame of supply side bankruptcy or market cornering buy-ups by deep pockets with nothing better to do.

      Our supplier has been Alaska Copper and Brass in Seattle. They're easy to work with. I haven't found any comparable supplier, but haven't looked too hard.

      We've used lighter copper 1/16 on the sides, which has stood up to some doozy side swipes. My guess is it would be adequate for soft grounding, so long as grinding weren't too frequent. I'd personally consider it a workable minimum, and a fair compromise between economy and protection.

      Copper helps spread point load over plywood's surface. Once the ply deforms, plate happily dimples. But it's main mechanical advantage, to my mind, is abrasion resistance. It shines over sheathings when even a small rock apppears... they'll craze and score through while copper shrugs (or at least deforms without perforation). With tar and felt or equivalent, under, we've never even bothered with repairing minor scars.

      Still, I sometimes think about a sacrificial layer of ply between copper and hull to absorb the hard knocks. Bedded, not glued.

      In general, your shallow keel and possibly shallow rails at the turn of the bilge (along the grounded/canted bearing lines) will take a lot of wear off the copper.

      One option is to go with thicker copper (plate or 'bar') only where you anticipate contact. In LUNA, we had 1/4in plates armoring her sharpie 'belly' (decided these were way overkill... 1/8 is my bottom contact preference). They only took up 9ft out of a 32ft bottom.

      Longevity is harder... Bolger gave 'penny weight' thickness 7 years underway and 14 if stationary. Water temps and marine growth play a big role, I hear. LUNA's side plating (1/16th inch) looked good at 15 years (some very shallow pitting, but looks to be half or more).

    4. Well, It looks like it would be in our interests to shop around for copper plate while copper prices are depressed. That, at least, is something we can acquire while we are waiting for the Quidnon kit to be worked out. So then we just need to work out how much total area we need to cover with 3/32" and 1/16" plate. I would guess that the bottom would be approximately 32'x16'of thick plate, and 2' up three sides and 4' up the front of the thin plate; so 512 square feet of thick plate and 232 square feet of thin plate, or there about. I think the spot price of copper is going to fall further over the course of 2016, so I might plan to invest some funds into plate copper around September. If I'm significantly off about my estimates for square footage above, please let me know.

    5. This sounds about right, although according to Dave the area that would benefit from thicker stuff is even smaller, perhaps as small as a 16'x16' "contact patch" that the boat sits on when settled.

  17. Even better! So if we can determine how much of the thick plate we need for a 'contact patch', we would easily go to a full 1/8" there, and use 1/16" for everything else. Would that be a pair of skid pads down each side, or just a square under the center of gravity? How would we know our ideal contact patch area?

  18. Thinking about this led me to another consideration. It occurred to me that we might not want to size the thickness of the bottom copper plating for the full 30 year expected lifespan of a Quidnon, because there is the risk that the fasteners would fail first. However, if a near term, near total collapse of the world economy or society at large truly is in our future, it's also a good bet that getting a replacement set of copper plates would prove rather difficult in 15 years time. So I propose that the bottom plating be sized with the expectation of replacement in 15 years time; but with a place for a second set of plates to be available inside the Quidnon itself. For example, if the mounting holes are machined when the Quidnon is built, a set of long bolts could be used to secure some or all of the plates together on the sole of the boat, and used as a foundation for some other mounted furniture, such as one or both of the bedroom mattresses, or a raised center walkway. In this way, those who have the means to take advantage of the current (perhaps future) low price of copper can secure a backup set of plates while also contributing to a low COG ballast, while those of us who can barely afford to build one can skip the second set and make up the ballast difference in some other fashion. This plan would set up several ways for this kind of advance planning (which is basically speculation that the cost and/or availability of copper plates in 15 years is worse than today); if Dmitry and others are correct that a cascading environmental and/or economic catastrophe occurs during those 15 years, then there will be spares available to some of us; if society does not collapse, but copper prices have risen to recent highs, then the price of scrap copper off the bottom of the boat can easily pay for the cost of labor to install the second set & rebuild the furniture; if copper prices stay the same or go down, then the decision to buy the extra set of plates would likely be no worse than investing in other commodities, such as gold, which never actually drop to a value of zero, like a company can when filing for bankruptcy. So there is a lot of upside potential, and little downside risk, even for someone who doesn't believe that AGW is a near term collapse risk. Additionally, if after Quidnons have been built, it becomes apparent that collapse will actually happen, the existence of pre-machined plates become particularly valuable to a rapid final build-up of Quidnons, since AC grade plywood is *vastly* more readily available than machined copper plates. A similar argument can be made for the fasteners used on a Quidnon, whether for the plates or otherwise.

    1. I think that you are overthinking this. Copper and fasteners should be sized to last 30 years.

    2. I've been known to do such things.

    3. OK, here's a question you raised that I guess I should answer. We're going to use bronze countersunk screws to anchor the copper sheets using plastic anchors epoxied into the plywood bottom. There will be a layer of felt saturated with tar between the fiberglass-clad plywood bottom and the copper sheathing. Probably #8 Phillips sheet metal screws. Bronze nails last around 100 years in salt water (unless there is electrolysis, and there won't be because the copper will get eaten first). Same with screws. So, if 30 years down the road it comes time to re-copper the bottom, there is a good chance that many of the bronze screws can be reused.


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