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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ridiculously versatile

The world is full of boats that do just one thing quite well. QUIDNON is not one of them: it does a great number of things adequately and just one thing ridiculously well.

Ocean yachts are designed for ocean cruising and racing. They make poor houseboats due to lack of space. They can’t go through shallows because they have a keel. They don’t make good canal boats because their masts can’t pass under low bridges. They require a crane or a Travelift for hauling them out for maintenance. They are expensive. They are also quite slow. They can’t carry much freight.

Motor boats are sometimes big enough to make good houseboats. They are either unable to make long ocean passages because of their limited range, or they are expensive to take on ocean passages because of fuel costs. They can go faster than sailing yachts, but then their fuel consumption becomes quite ridiculous. When used as houseboats, their large engines make a poor investment. They also require a crane or a Travelift for maintenance. Some of them can carry a considerable amount of freight, but this makes them slower and increases the fuel consumption.

Houseboats are either houses built on floats or boats that can’t handle rough water. They are reasonable to live on and can be used on rivers and canals, but they can’t venture out on the ocean, never mind make ocean passages. They don’t carry freight.

Houses are great to live in—much roomier than any boat. But they do have two major shortcomings: they don’t move, and they don’t float. This is increasingly a problem: lots of houses are lost to flooding every year, and the toll will only go up as oceans rise and extreme weather events associated with climate change become more frequent. If an area where you have built a house becomes unpleasant or dangerous, you can’t just move the house but have find yourself a new dwelling.

Boats do float, but with most boats nobody particularly wants to live on them on dry land. On land, both yachts and power boats have to be put up on jacks, and then living on them is like living in a treehouse, with a long climb up a ladder just to get home. If a flood causes them to float off the jacks, they are unlikely to settle back onto them. Instead, they fall over and get damaged. Then they don’t float any more.

Houseboats generally do better on dry land than other kinds of boats. The Dutch have built some houses on barges that are designed to float up and down. When the water is low, they bicycle home; when the water is high, they row a dinghy. That’s a good idea in a country that’s mostly under water. But I haven’t heard too many stories about people living on houseboats on dry land.

QUIDNON is specifically designed to do a great number of things adequately.

It makes a reasonable land-based residence that floats when it has to. Its bottom is flat, and it settles upright again once the waters recede. It is a second-floor walk-up, but then its roof makes a wonderful deck, and the cockpit makes a nice gazebo.

It makes a good houseboat of the sort that just stays at the dock: then you can skip the expense of the masts, the sails and the engine, and just live on it. If you want a comfortable, inexpensive DIY dockside dwelling that looks enough like a boat to not bother the neighbors, look no further.

When the time comes to move house, just drop in an outboard engine. It is a good boat for rivers and canals because it only draws a couple of feet. If all you need to do is motor to a different marina twice a year (to shift between summer and winter camp) or to go from a marina to a mooring field and back, there is no need for a dedicated engine. Instead, you can just drop in your dinghy engine into the engine well, then put it back on the dinghy.

If you want to go sailing, add masts and sails. Even with masts and sails added, it still makes a good canal boat, because you can drop the masts by yourself with just a comealong—no crane needed.

If you want to make ocean passages, that is not a problem either. QUIDNON has 130º of stability, making it quite safe, and is reasonably fast for its size, especially downwind. It isn’t fast upwind, particularly in rough seas—but then few people enjoy such a bone-shaking ride in any case. Some people view the ability to go upwind in any conditions as key, forgetting the fact that the entire planet has been explored and settled using boats that couldn’t go upwind any better than about 60º to the wind, tacking through 120-130º. If sailing upwind were important, people would have paid more attention to this problem. The only sailors who valued the ability to sail close to the wind were corsairs—pirates! In fact, most ocean sailing is still done off the wind or downwind, with the prevailing winds. Choose your courses the way the old-time mariners did, and you can even use QUIDNON to circumnavigate. And should you wish to carry a few tons of freight, there is plenty of room for it, and the extra weight won't make much of a difference.

When the time comes to haul out for maintenance, you don’t have to pay a crane operator and a marina. Just find a sandy spot that dries out at low tide, anchor there, and wait for the water to recede. The bottom is surfaced with roofing copper, and you just need to scrape off the seafood that grows on it where you can reach it. The rest of the seafood will get crushed against the sand.

And now, here is the thing that it does ridiculously well: getting around onerous regulations.

If you live in a house, you are subject to an ever-increasing number of regulations. You are limited in what you can build, where you can build it, what materials you can build it out of and what you can use it for. There is a permitting process to follow. You are usually forced to hook it up to utilities and to pay real estate tax on it. You are often required to hire licensed tradesmen to build and maintain a house. All said and done, many people pay close to half of their income just for a place to live. This would indicate that housing is basically a racket.

If you live on a boat, the regulations are few. There is nobody to stop you from building whatever boat you want. There is generally no permitting process, except for mooring permits in certain areas. States will try to charge you for registration, but you can get around this by documenting your boat with the Coast Guard.

There are rarely any issues with storing a boat on land that you own or lease. If you also own or lease the boat, who is to say that you aren’t allowed to live on it? If putting it on land is still problematic, dig a reflecting pool and put QUIDNON in it. Lakes, rivers and harbors are generally considered free to anchor in. If a piece of land is particularly prone to floods, you generally can’t get a building permit to put up a house on it. But there is nothing to stop you from putting a boat on it.

With most boats, when you buy it you pay the designer, the manufacturer and his workers, and the investors’ profits—in addition to all the materials and supplies. With QUIDNON, the design was done by volunteers who designed the boat for themselves, you provide your own assembly labor, and your only costs are the materials and supplies and for somebody to mind the numerically controlled mill to cut out the parts for the kit.

QUIDNON may not be as posh and sporty as a yacht, not as fast as a power boat, and not as roomy as a house. The one thing that it does ridiculously well is set you free. First, there is financial freedom: no rent or mortgage, no real estate taxes, no need to pay tradespeople. Second, there is freedom of movement: sail or motor anywhere you want, stay for as long as you like. Haul it out and use it as a beach house on some nice uninhabited island, then push it back in the water and sail off again.


  1. What a great post. I read this to my family after dinner and it made us laugh and nod in agreement. We have spent the last 5 months cruising in our sturdy little 34 foot sailboat. It has served us well and we’ve had a blast, but we are longing for a bit more elbow room and storage space. Quidnon gets mentioned daily by our family. There is so much to love about your design and we have high hopes for it. My boys, ages 8 and 10, are counting on a cruising/liveaboard boat that will accommodate a spacious and capable sailing dinghy. How would a mini nesting Quidnon with balanced lug rig look sitting on the foredeck? (: Glad to support this project and look forward to seeing it develop.

  2. Dmitry,
    It's been fun following the design process of Quidnon. I'm looking forward to watching you build your first full scale "model". This is an exciting project !!!
    Vancouver, WA

  3. What is a ballpark figure on cost, bare bones, sails/rigging, that's about it.. Let' say do it yourself or let's say a company started to build and sell them. Just a rough guess.

  4. Unknown, rapier—

    The kit will contain a bunch of plywood panels that all slot together like IKEA furniture, some pieces of dimensioned lumber with pre-drilled holes and a pile of parts welded together out of mild steel and galvanized. The rest is commodity items, and a shopping list will be provided. I can't quote a price yet, but my ballpark estimate for the cheapest version is around $50k.

    Pantalones, F Mat—

    We aim to please! Yes, nested dinghies on deck are in. Helicopter pad is right out, though!

  5. Watching this development with delight, Dmitry, from my retired-old-man's backwater mooring - which does indeed offer all the advantages that you mention. (Imagine being able to SAVE money on a British state pension of £160 per week! I can...:)

    I gave up bank accounts some years ago, along with cars, but now an out-of-the-blue offer of a pension-pot that I didn't know about has been offered to me, and I need an account to get it paid to me. So, as soon as I have one again, I shall be joining your Patreon scheme. And I'll shove some money towards your crowd-funding push too. The bank to which I'm applying (the first one that I came to on Main Street on my bike) is being extremely picky about my documentation to prove who I am and where I live, since they were stung with a fair-sized fine just recently for drug money-laundering. But it seems that I may have those small irritations sussed soon now. With luck, I'll have a new account in a couple of days. Then I can start getting my weekly fix of inimitable Orlov analysis and wit again. And I'll contribute to you fund-raiser too. Go well, good sailor! :)

  6. Even I, an inveterate landlubber, am enthused enough to help fund this. Go Dmitry!

  7. Really effective copy for landlubber and seasoned sailor alike. When I first read "Buehlers Backyard Boatbuilding" back in 1991 it was brilliantly clear boat living was the way to go. Three liveaboard boats later it's STILL vividly clear how much sense living aboard makes. Toss in affordable world travel and the best backyard(s) ever and it's a no brainer. Work into a vibrant culturally rich cities hidden backwater canals or celebrate raw wildness in stunningly beautiful remote anchorages. Shoal draft-flat bottom takes most of the stress out of sailing too. Here's hoping Quidnon really fires a huge amount of folks up and is a huge success in liberating a lot of slaves from conditioned housing cost servitude.

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