This is the second in my occasional series of boats that I have an interest in. These are boats that have caught my eye or piqued my interest for a number of reasons. This one like my first offering, the Surf Scoter is designed for home building. But unlike the Surf Scoter this vessel is not going anywhere in a hurry and so I present to you the River Walker. The boat is decidedly boxy there is no getting away from that fact but the more that I look at this boat the more I like it. This boat is intended as a boat that you can spend extended periods of time on and not be tripping over each other. I see it as perfect for a couple.
The river walker is designed by George Buehler who is something of a maverick in the boat designing world and in many ways is outside the mainstream in much the same way that the late Phil Bolger was. George's philosophy has always been stop talking about it and get on with it. To paraphrase his write up on the River Walker he says "Do not get carried away, this is no big deal it's just a wooden box" and he is right. But that is precisely why I like this boat so much, simple to build in the extreme there are no complex curves, no lofting, on spiling of adjacent planks, you could pretty much build the boat with tools that just about everybody has in the garage. I feel that if you could build a garden shed then you could build this boat, that is not to say however that you should be shoddy about it. The design is so simple that the boat could be lengthened or shortened to suit requirements, all the frames are identical and built from 2 by 6 and 2 by 4 timbers so adding or subtracting additional frames is no big problem. Likewise the boat can be altered in width too without upsetting much. As drawn the boat is 10 feet wide which will give lots of interior space but would make the boat difficult and expensive to move by road if you had much of that to do but with the boat slimmed down to 8'6" or 9' you could reasonably expect to tow the boat behind a full sized pick up truck. On the other hand I think that the River Walker would make a great summer getaway retreat and tied up in some marina or mooring you would have a perfect summer cottage with water views for short money. If you fancy a change of scene then you could motor off to another destination. George Buehler suggests a sail drive hi thrust outboard of the 25hp variety so you will not be going anywhere very fast but you would probably move at 5 knots which is as fast as many a sailboat and anyway is it not about enjoying the journey. The boat is flat bottomed so can operate in shallow water and in many cases could be driven up onto the beach at high tide allowing you to step right off onto the sand, an idea which I like the sound of a lot.
The sad fact is that many traditional boats hardly if ever leave their moorings so if the boat is going to spend the majority of it's time at the dock why not make it comfortable, there is standing headroom everywhere in the boat and instead of cramming in bunks leave some open 'moving about' space inside the boat. The fact that it is actually a boat and has motive power should not annoy marinas in the way that pure houseboats might and as drawn does in fact have a raised pilot house which would give great visibility when underway. If I had the time a tip down the Intra Coastal waterway would be a grand idea and I could have a small sailing dinghy on the roof if I felt like a sail now and again or needed a boat to get to shore if I was moored out for the night away from the black-flies and mosquitoes. There's room too in the cabin for a diesel or solid fuel heater so further extending the season in the more northern latitudes. Space too outside on the back deck for me and the wife to sit at the end of the day with a beverage or two and in the morning space to stretch out with a cup of coffee fresh from the stove with the morning papers.
Lest you think that I am day dreaming a little you might be right but is that not half the fun and anyway I have always found it beneficial to think how any boat might be used before I start work on her.
Building any boat as I have said before is a major undertaking but this is one that even the most novice of builders should be able to finish. None of the systems need be that complicated and I think that if it were me I would keep it as basic in terms of electronics and electrics as possible; LED lights and oil lamps for illumination, charcoal or diesel stove for heat and cooking, a lead for taking soundings and my Ipad with suitable charts loaded for navigation.
I can see it all now in my minds eye and it all looks good.
Pictures courtesy of the builders and Buehler Boat Designs.