Entry 3

An Apartment Boat
© 8/2003 By Lew Clayman

So says to myself, I could really use a boat like that.

So then I think, what’s it gonna be? And I reread the rules of the contest and I see the words Greenwich Village and I think back to that time when I was kid in The Bronx and like every teenager in the The City I take the Subway down to The Village for the first time this one Saturday night with a coupla friends - everyone says it’s so freaky but really it’s just this old neighborhood way the hell downtown and we couldn’t afford to go in anyplace, and I don’t even like cappuchino. So it’s maybe ten o’clock and we get really hungry and walk over to Chinatown and pick the first place we see that doesn’t have a lot of Chinese customers and we go in and the food stinks and then I found out, don’t ever eat with the tourists.

But it mighta been different. I mighta gone back in my twenties, dressed in black, hung out at places, and I woulda had the coolest accessory of all: a portfolio.

Figure 1

Portfolio in the basic version is a paddler, almost 8’ long and not very interesting as a boat form (see fig 1). Disassembled into three main modules and a few other items, it stows in a soft shoulder bag (see fig 2) which is 37x25x 7 inches. It stores in a closet and travels easily in an elevator and on the subway, all the way from The Village to the river or even to The Park, or even (I don’t tell people this) to The Island. The double-paddle disassembles into two halves, which stow in slots on the bag in the manner of tennis rackets. Gunnels are 3” ply strips, also of ¼” stock, glued in place. End pieces are 2’6” overall, with the waterproof fabric pocket transoms angled back 6” on the bottom; the middle pieces are 3’ long. Waterproof fabric pockets for bulkheads are placed one inch from all mating ends. Stiffeners, discussed below, are inserted in the pockets.

Figure 2

Bow and stern modules are identical, and as many center sections as desired may be inserted. The basic 94” LOA paddler uses only one; a second adult paddler might want to use a section for himself and a third for additional buoyancy. Bow and stern sections are shown with fabric decks with zippers; the center units are shown open but could be fitted with zipper cargo covers, kayak skirts, or whatever is wanted. Customized units are possible in any length.

Units attach as follows: the forward unit is fully assembled, and the aft unit is placed overlapping and “inside” the forward unit, such that the 1-inch spacer area at the mating ends line up, and so do the six boltholes. Note that for a each section, aft boltholes are set ¼” (one ply thickness) higher than the forward boltholes (see fig 3, assembly). Bolts and wingnuts are placed and secured, with washers and lockwashers. Then the center unit bulkheads are squeezed in, and the process is repeated for the next center unit or stern unit, as the case may be.

Figure 3

The sides and bottoms are ¼” ply, bow and stern transoms are fabric with ply stiffener inserts. As an alternative, the sides could be made from ply with large empty cutouts and fabric covers; this might save some weight and add cool; instead of ply you might use a custom aluminum alloy frame with molybdenum, not because of any real advantages - I just like to say molybdenum. It’s a metal, right? You could make the bow profiles curved, to create a spoon shaped entry, and use heavy plastic as the stiffener; doorskin ply might also serve. Similar remarks apply to create a sexier stern.

The hinges are made from split bicycle innertubes, glued and stapled, and form the chines; I’m sure that molybdenum could be used here too, some way or other. Molybdenum. Ooh.

An alternate stern is possible for power, using ½” ply and a vertical stern with bracing bolted into the sides. Braces are simply angle irons, two each side and two on the bottom (not shown). Bow and center modules as above. Storing a small outboard and gasoline in a small apartment doesn’t appeal to me, but that’s your problem, not mine.

Complete drawing (click to enlarge)

For rowing, the simplest of all oarlocks are loops of rope set near the aft end of a center section, through a reinforcing pad of 1x2 screwed and glued in place on the outer surface. The oars should be, it says someplace, between 38” and 42” long, which means that the paddle halves will serve nicely. Cover the mating sections with a small towel held by velcros sewn on, and you can grip them without slicing your fingers on the mating hardware. Another such serves as leather on either side. Or carry a spool of serving twine and make up a big fancy macramé thing - this is The Village: Go nuts.

Sailing is a tricky business. The smallish, but high-aspect, 40 square foot sail is mounted, Bolger-style, on the inner face of the starboard rail, and is shown loose-footed, although a sprit boom wouldn’t be a bad idea. Larger bolts hold the mast and hull together at this point, and the boltholes are enlarged to accept it; adjacent bulkheads are holed to secure the mast near the foot and gunnel in a forward-aft direction; in all there are four holes piercing the mast. (see fig 4) The leeboard, 48” x 18” and intended for shuttling, needs a different carrying case sewn to suit; while the sail folds and the five 4’ mast sections can have slots of their own on the bag. As shown, the mast bolts together, but a more elegant solution is possible. The rig bag may be brought, or left home, as desired. For sailing with more than one person, a pair of rigs mounted three sections apart makes a really odd schooner. Steer with paddles.

The carrying bags, of course, should be black.


Lew Clayman is six feet tall and trying to lose weight. Although he has lived outta town for seventeen years, he still can’t find a bagel that really measures up.