The perfect boat. What a profound statement. It's like saying unicorns do exist or that there really is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. If there was a perfect boat, why are there so many hundreds of thousands of different kinds of boats? There are small inflatables that can be bought for under $50.00 to billion dollar super yachts! How could any one of these be called the perfect boat? Of course the answer lies in the needs and wants of the individual boat owner. We each have different desires from our own boats and they can vary greatly depending on what we do with them. Whether it's for sailing, day cruising, fishing, roaming small creeks to voyages on the open ocean, no two boat owners have the exact same requirements needed from their boat. In fact, it's common for one individual boat owner to own several kinds of different boats!
So this is a small write up on my current perfect boat. To start, I have two lifelong passions that have been a big part of my life. One is fishing and the other is my love of boats. I guess the two kinda go hand and hand. I live in Central Texas and my main need for a boat is for fishing creeks, rivers, small to large lakes with occasional jaunts to the bays on the Gulf Coast. I too have had several boats over my years ranging from fairly large trailerables to small inflatables. Each has served their purpose at the time of my ownership of them, but over the years I find myself wanting to downsize quite a bit. Big boats have become just too much trouble for me and I did not use them as often as I should. I have become a strong believer in the fact that the smaller and easier a boat is to deal with, the more likely it's going to get used! So I looked at inflatables. They are great, but they too have their draw backs. like wet butt, wind and they don't mix well with sharp hooks and other fishing gear. I then tried some of the plastic kayaks and canoes. Again very nice boats but they can be heavy for one person to handle. They require all kinds of racks to transport if you don't want a trailer. And at 14 or so feet long, they need a good amount of room to store them. especially for a "one man" boat! So the search for my perfect boat continued.
This search has lead me to fulfilling another livelong interest, building my own boat! After exhausting most of my choices amongst the manufactured boats, it seems I found much more variety in hobby designed and home built boats. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of different types of boats to choose from. Modern technology (mainly the internet) made it easy for me to find new and unseen, to me, boats that I never even knew existed. So I remade my list of needs and wants and started a whole new search.
The first boat I built was a Shorty Pen Flats Rat. It was a super starter boat. It was easy to build, holds a ton of weight, stable, easy for one person to handle and just an overall fun boat! At only 8' it does not take much room to store and is easily transported in the back of my small pickup truck. Once that one was built, a desire to build another one started itching me. Next was a Gavin Atkin Mouse Boat. Another wonderful little boat. Very light, easy to paddle and again just an overall fun boat. Some of my friends and fishing buddies started to see the enjoyment and ease of these little boats and the next thing I know I have built or helped build around 8 of them so far!
But as I was becoming a boat builder my list of criteria I needed (now wanted) from a boat grew even more stringent. I wanted a boat with the portability of an inflatable but a rigid hull like a "real" boat. It needed to be super easy to set up, light in weight, stable, comfortable, easy to handle for one person, and yet still durable. I have been caught in some heavy winds in my other boats so with this one I wanted it to take my trolling motor (oh yeah, my downsizing is in perfect relation with my growing laziness). So as my list grew it seemed that my perfect boat would just get harder and harder to find.
Then on one of my periodic visits to Ken Simpson's plans I saw his then newly designed 1SHEET+. I have always been extremely interested in his boats and designs but could never really make up my mind which one to build. This little one sheet treasure caught my eye and right then and there. I knew I had to build one! I started building as soon as I got the plans. A quick visit to my local Lowe's for some simple supplies and I was building my new dream boat!
Ken Simpson's plans are super easy to follow. They provide everything you would need to construct one of his boats. All the dimensions are clearly laid out, step by step written instructions, clear photos to help explain the written text and even templates to use for the angled cuts. I stayed in touch with Simpson during my whole build, but I made it a point to not ask him for any help on how to construct this boat. I wanted to prove that even without any additional help; anyone could build one of his boats just based on the plans alone. Mission accomplished! Oh, and I must add, the only tools I own and used were a simple jig saw, electric hand held sander and a cordless drill.
The build was very easy and straight forward. It took me a little over two months to construct the boat working on the weekends and some after work time. His T&G process is easy to do, inexpensive, simple water cleanup and so far has proven to make for a very strong and durable joint. The way he plans the supports for the bottom of the boat (1x2 braces inside and skids on the outside), the decks and all the other aspects make for one very solid little boat. It is also a very light boat and considering it breaks into two parts, extremely easy to handle by one person. It is held together with only two simple bolts and takes less than five minutes to put it together. I must admit, I was somewhat concerned about how strong the boat would be when assembled considering it is only held together by two bolts. But from what I can tell, the structure of the boat will collapse before it separates at the joining bulkheads!
After I finished the boat I was very excited yet nervous about taking it on its maiden voyage. I'm 6' and 200 lbs. This boat is super cool and very portable, but it's also very small! I was concerned about it being able to handle my size. I built a seat mount for an old canoe seat I had laying around. It was comfortable, but it raised the seat about 6" off the bottom of the boat and made it somewhat unstable. I then used a simple stadium chair just placed on the bottom of the boat and that made it much more stable. However, with use I have grown use to the canoe chair and for now will continue to use it. The best seating option is probably to build a seat as shown on Simpson's site. It's simple, light, and keeps the center of gravity much lower than the seat I am using.
After I got comfortable paddling it, next was the exciting part, my trolling motor! This was one of the main reasons I built this boat. I have paddled for years and let's just say it's lost its charm with age. So I was so looking forward to having a small craft that I can just kick back and enjoy the ride. And boy did I! That little boat zooms around like a water go-cart. I did not make a tiller type extension for my motor and at full speed quickly realized that reaching behind me to steer was not going to work. But I learned that if I use my kayak paddle and just dip it into the water on either side of the boat, it turns that direction. In fact it worked so good, I'm going to use my paddle as my "steering wheel" from now on. The motor test passed with flying colors. It was such a pleasure to just motor against the wind rather than fighting it with each stroke. Even though I was a football field length away from the shore, I think the people on shore could hear me giggling with joy as I was zooming around the lake!
So all in all I have (for now) found my perfect boat! It does everything my very demanding list required. It is very solid (like a real boat), stable, super easy to handle, transport and store, takes my trolling motor and can fit in almost ANY car (with no racks required!). It's small enough to use on even the littlest of creeks but robust enough to take on bigger water. So I encourage anyone looking for a small yet extremely versatile boat, take a look at some of the plans Simpson offers.