River Explorer  

Design by Harold Duffield - Florissant, Missouri - USA


The 20 ft River Explorer is really just a giant John Boat with a simple house built on top. It’s almost impossible to beat a good John Boat for ease of construction and stable usage.

When my oldest Daughter was 13 years old, I took her on a trip down the Mississippi River on a 7 day float trip from Moline IL to St. Louis where we live. We did the trip on a 16 ft Compac sailboat with a 6 hp outboard.. We sailed and motored one lock a day, spent the night, and then locked though in the morning for our next day’s journey. A very small boat, and a very long journey in 7 days. We spent a lot of our time slogging into the October wind making our next lock stop for the night. However, we had a great and memorable adventure shared between Dad and Daughter. Somehow things are just better when you have unique experiences with your kids.

Then, when her son turned 13, I did the trip again with him. This time we went from Keokuk IA to St Louis for a shorter 7 day journey using a 23 ft Aquarius sailboat turned into a terminal trawler. Without the rig, and with a 9.9 Honda and plenty of shade. This boat was almost ideal for the adventure. It has plenty of room inside, and has a very shallow draft for anchoring out at night. In fact, we rarely used the anchor. Instead, we dropped the steel center board into the mud and held firm in shallow water near shore. We fished for our supper and watched the ospreys dive for theirs. We didn’t smoke cigars, but we did tell “mans stories” as we fished and cooked our supper. We farted with huge smiles. No need to say we had a great and manly time.

My 12 year old grandson on the Aquarius 23 trawler

The Compac with trailer and outboard cost $1,500 used in 1980. The Aquarius cost me $1,200 for both the boat and trailer. I traded canvas work for the 9.9 Honda. The bimini shade was made by me, because I am in the boat canvas business.

My point to this story is; You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to have unforgettable experiences messing about on boats. All it takes is a little imagination, and a healthy disregard for what the In Crowd thinks.

That’s my thinking when I designed the 20 ft River Explorer. I wanted a boat that can be very material cost effective, and not labor intensive in the construction. To meet this criteria, I designed the boat using standard sheet size 1/8th inch aluminum for the bottom, bow, and stern.. All these items are readily available and can be bent up by any shop with a brake. I chose aluminum for it’s obvious in the water parameters. It won’t rot or rust, and is easily fabricated using carbide blade wood working tools. However, steel would work well also. The main difference would be a slight weight change, and protecting the steel from rust. With today’s steel paint finishes, rust concerns are greatly reduced.

click for larger view
Click image above for larger view

The hull sides can be either 20 ft 2x12 wood planks, or plywood planks laid up with ¼ plywood layers. I prefer the plywood layers over wood planks for strength, and also stability.

The house can be anything you want. I’m showing a traditional houseboat lay out with a large front deck. You could go with a shanty, or even an open lay out with a canvas roof structure supported by PVC tubing. You could even go urban and install a gen-set and air conditioning.

The estimated cost of material to build the River Explorer as drawn is around $3k plus trailer and motor. Motor size can be 25 hp to go slow, or a 90-100 to go like stink Harold

Harold Duffield

About the designer: Harold Duffield - age 67 - grew up on the Mississippi River - was whats known as a "river rat". He has been messing about and building boats for over 50 yrs. Now he is offering plans and kits for fishing boats, shantys, house boats and even sailboats in aluminum as well as finished boats. https://www.oneuglyboat.com/

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