Friday, December 25, 2015


Up to now we’ve kept pretty quiet about our plans to build a sailing barge among many of our family and friends (though not all of them).  The reason being is that we wind up on the defensive and the criticism and genuine concern for our perceived foolhardiness gets a bit tiring.

One of the most prevalent arguments we have encountered is that if we must have one - why we don’t go out and buy a boat?  And it is true that there are so many boats out there for sale.  Just look on Craigslist or Yachtworld and boats can be found that sit there for sale for months or even years, and at small fractions of their true value.  And to those people whose concept of a boat is conventional I can see their reasoning clearly. 

Most people we know think of boats in two categories – power or sail – and then the subcategories are limited.  For power they will think inboard or outboard, and trailerable or larger.  Sailboats will be trailerable or larger.  Materials in both main categories will be fiberglass and maybe aluminum (good!) or wood (bad!).  And all will have owned – or know someone who has owned such a conventional boat.  We should be - in their minds - buying a bargain priced conventional boat if we should have a boat at all.  Which leads to the next argument.

A boat is a poor investment.  The old adage gets presented to us that ‘a boat is a hole in the water into which one throws money’.  And that is quite true for most conventional boats.  The larger ones tend to be system intensive with complex engines, dual steering stations, pressurized hot water, diesel furnaces, macerating heads, complex electronics, stainless steel rigging, Dacron sails and the list goes on.  All of that stuff breaks or has to be maintained and it is not cheap.  Throwing money indeed!

So the task of even describing the boat we MUST build – for there are none out there to buy though they exist – is a frustrating experience.

When we talk of simple composting toilets that one can make for less than $50 and how they are superior in every way to a conventional flushing marine head the reaction is disbelief and some disgust.

When we talk of the simplicity, ease of use and comparative low cost of a junk sailing rig our message is meaningless to them for the lack of reference unless they actually sail, and then those who do - even if they have heard of a junk rig - can be prejudiced.  And that prejudice will not come from experience but hearsay.

When we talk of plywood/epoxy construction it gets a bit better since SOME people (within our circle) are aware of this very desirable method of construction.  Otherwise, and for the rest, it is a wood (bad!) boat.

When we say barge (for lack of a better term) the image evoked is that of a work barge or gravel barge.  The same goes for the word ‘scow’. 

If we say ‘sailing houseboat’ the image evoked is that of a Shuswap Lake floating party pavilion with some kind of sail on the upper deck between the bar and hot tub.

If we say ‘flat-bottomed’ they say ‘it will pound on the waves’. 

If we say ‘no pressurized hot water’ the image evoked is that of complete discomfort and any attempt to show that a simple shower using a garden sprayer with water heated on a stove cleans one’s body just as well as a half hour shower at home – minus the perceived luxury of doing so – we are looked upon with pity.

So without going on about it and working myself up over it, I think that showing them rather than telling them will be the only way.

To that end I made the first part of our boat today.  It is a forward side panel that I will use as a stringer template as well.

Merry Christmas Everyone!


  1. The first step has been taken of a long but fun journey. Congratulations and we look forward to following your projects online documentation. Final version looks great. We visited Dave and Anke when they temporarily lived aboard a friends 32X12 trilo (while building 27' Slacktide in Sitka) and both Dave and I commented that at 12' wide it was 2' too much. At 8' wide it is economical and contributes to a nice 4:1 beam-length ratio for sailing efficiency but 10' just feels right..... sorta marine architecture feng shui..... for a really comfortable and spacious feel inside. Since trilos are not magnificent pointers anyway (capable of waiting in supreme comfort for a favorable wind) why not have a beam that is optimal? It's all relative anyway and one persons jaded opinion and 2 bucks buys a cup of coffee at a Starbucks knockoff. Best wishes in 2016 and best of luck in building. Don't follow my lead and combine beer drinking and table sawing occasionally. Love the full width flush deck: strong, easy to construct, lovely room inside, and lots of deck space for sprawling and roaming about. Bow looks like a wedge for punching through the face of a rogue tidal wave! Peace be wid yas in 2016.

  2. Thanks Robert! I'm going to need some critical eyes on things and I'm happy that you are watching.

  3. Also wrote about idiotic conformist boatbuilders over on my anarchist watermen blog along these lines:

  4. Robert, your blog is displayed on my blog list down the right side of this page. A link for any new posts you make show up there. Your last one is pretty good!

  5. Good luck on your build. I too am building a triloboat, 32x8, but with a few design differences from Dave and Anke. Most notably is including an inboard engine and jet pump, but the design is still pretty much a copy. I have 4 bulkheads built and the bottom plywood (double layer of almost 3/4 formply) glued and screwed together. +1 for the composting toilet, that was the first piece I built (need to answer the question on whether black water tanks could be omitted)

  6. Thanks Dennis. We had a fiberglass sailboat with a conventional head and holding tank. I ripped it out and sealed the tank. In my opinion marine holding tanks are disgusting. I think mixing solid and liquid waste is disgusting. Instead, we made a simple toilet with a 5 gallon pail, toilet seat and nice wood surround. We would line the pail with a biodegradable bag and put in some cedar sawdust. After each use (number two only) the deposit was covered with more cedar chips. There was never a smell and it was far more pleasant to use than a marine head. When the bag was full, into the dumpster it went. I don't know if that is legal and I don't care since diapers go into the regular trash; what's the diff? As for pee, well we have those red plastic bottles designed with gender adapters. No muss, no fuss and nothing to break.

  7. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year of boatbuilding adventure!

    Striking out on one's own often attracts the rude comment, but how else do we ever find the way that's right for us?

    Work safe and have fun!

    Dave Z