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Build a Shanty Boat
Vintage 21 Foot Houseboat Plans and Instructions

Restored PDF copy of vintage 21 foot shanty houseboat plans with enhanced and enlarged figures and illustrations and searchable text free version.
"Luxury" Shanty
Boat Plans
Build a Vintage 21 Foot
Budget Houseboat
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Illustration of a completed DIY Shanty houseboat.
Figure 1. DIY Shanty Boat
A HOUSEBOAT is a unique water craft in that it combines most of the comforts of home with the mobility of a boat. Of course, use is limited to sheltered waters, and speeds are slow in comparison to more sea-worthy vessels.

Float-A-Home is a 21-footer that provides plenty of living space for three or four persons. An extremely simple houseboat to build, it features a strong hull with a heavy keel and close-spaced framing. This, coupled with a relatively low profile, makes it a very stable craft.

Features include a conning room designed to provide an unobstructed view forward and to the sides through glare-proof, swing-away windows. The settee behind the helm extends to make a full length berth, and in the main cabin, steps at the companionway can be removed to make way for a fold-away berth. Of course, the entire interior arrangement can be worked out to best suit your individual needs. Shown is an arrangement where a section of the after deck is left open to provide a patio effect on the starboard side, while the galley is to port.

Shanty boat arrangement plan and profile.
Figure 2. Shanty Boat Arrangement Plan and Profile
Make up full-size patterns for the stem, transom knee, and mast, as shown in Fig. 4, and for the stem plate as shown in Fig. 3. Cut out these members from the proper stock as shown on the plans, and assemble the stem. Fasten the two sections of the assembly with two 3/8-in. x 6-in. #10 bolts, after countersinking for the bolt heads. Fasten the stem plate to the stem with two 2-in. #10 flat head screws. 

Make all measurements for framing directly on the wood stock, and cut out the pieces. Cut out the transom panel and frame #1A from 3/4-in. marine plywood. In all the following steps, be sure to coat mating surfaces with marine resorcinol glue before final fastening with screws, bolts, or nails.

Make up the transom as shown in Fig. 6, and the balance of the frames as shown in Fig. 6 and Fig. 3. Use plywood gussets to reinforce the frame corners. Notch all frames for keel, chines, and clamps, and notch frames #1 and #1A for the stem assembly.

Shanty boat elevation and plan view of the hull.
Figure 3. Shanty Boat Elevation and Plan View of the Hull
Line up the assembled frames, upside down, spaced as shown in Fig. 3. They can be held in position by temporary 2 x 6-in. battens nailed to each side. Attach the transom knee to the transom, and install the stem assembly in its notches in frames #1 and # 1A.

Notch the keel for the transom knee, as shown in Fig. 6, and install the keel. It is fastened to the transom knee with two 3/8-in. x 6-in. #10 bolts, and to each frame with a similar bolt long enough to go through the keel and frame (and through keel, stem, and frame at #1). Countersink for all bolt heads, and fill the holes with wood putty. It's a good idea to cut a rabbet groove along each side of the keel at the fairbody (the line where bottom paneling meets the keel) to take the edges of the bottom panels. If this is not done, you should fiberglass this joint to make it watertight and strong.

Next attach the clamps. These and the chines and carlins are cut from lengths of 1 5/8-in. x 5 1/2-in. stock, as shown in Fig. 4. Cut a notch along the bottom edge of each clamp, as shown. The top edge of the plywood side panels will lie in this groove. In fastening the clamps, start at the transom and work forward, alternating from one side of the boat to the other at each frame. This helps to keep stress on the framework even.

Shanty boat structual member details and dimensions.
Figure 4. Shanty Boat Structual Member Details and Dimensions
Add the chines in the same manner; trim the ends of the clamps and the chines so the chines will fit flush against the forward ends of the clamps, and against the stem plate. Fasten clamps and chines with two 1 1/4-in. #10 flat head screws at each joint. Now the temporary side battens can be removed.

Tack bottom and side battens temporarily in place, and mark all the frames for their notches. Remove the battens, cut out the notches, and refasten the battens permanently with 2-in. #10 flat head screw at each joint. Fair all framework so planking will lie flat.

Use lengths of builders paper to make templates for side and bottom planking. It will be necessary to butt sections of plywood together to make up the required length for each panel. All butt joints should be backed along their entire length with 6-in. wide butt blocks of 3/4-in. plywood.

Shanty boat superstructure.
Figure 5. Shanty Boat Superstructure
Install the side panels first, and trim the edges flush with the chines. Use 1-in. #8 flat head screws, spaced about 2-in. apart, and fasten to each frame as well as to transom, clamps, and chines. Install the bottom panels in the same manner, trimming the edges flush with the sides. Rubbing strips can be added, and fiberglassing can be done at this time.

Give the finished hull at least three coats of a good marine paint, and allow to dry thoroughly. Follow the paint manufacturer's instructions carefully for best results. Turn the hull right side up, and paint all interior surfaces that will be difficult, or impossible, to reach after flooring, bulkheads, cabinets, and other joiner work is done.

Install the floor battens in the same manner as the bottom battens were done. Install the carlins as shown in Fig. 3 and Fig. 5, and finish off the hull interior with Masonite or 1/4-in. marine plywood ceilings (interior side paneling).

Shanty boat framing, bulkhead and transom.
Figure 6. Shanty Boat Framing, Bulkhead and Transom
Make up the superstructure by installing the uprights as in Fig. 5. Note that full-length uprights are at all frames except 3, 4, and 5, where the uprights reach just below side deck level. This allows installation of berths that extend slightly under the side decks, giving a little more floor room inside the cabin.

Install the roof beams across each pair of uprights, after notching them for the headers. Install the headers in the same manner as hull clamps and chines, then notch for the roof battens and install them. Fasten cabin panels and the sun deck in place, with 1-in. #8 flat head screws spaced about 2-in. apart, and add the finishing trim and molding after the narrow side decks and fore deck have been fitted.

Shanty boat list of materials
Shanty Boat Materials List
Windows, doors, and other finishing touches can be added as shown in the plans, or the entire superstructure can be modified to suit your individual ideas and the availability of door and window units in your area. Make up the motor well as indicated in Fig. 2 and Fig. 3, and a steering console of your own design. Install mast, lights, cabin fittings, and all hardware and furnishings.

Mount a single motor or two motors totalling no more than 120 horsepower on the transom, and you're ready for the water. *** 

FLOAT-A-HOME SPECIFICATIONS
Length    21 Feet
Beam    7 Feet 3 Inches
Power    120 hp. Maximum
Cost     $850 approx.
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