Help with homemade boats. Duct tape boats? And other craft (woods-related Guy Stuff)

I’ll be blunt: I’m building a fort in the woods.

“What the hell are you doing that for? You’re old enough to vote!” you cry.

“Well I don’t care! I want a fort in the woods because it’s freaking cool and there’s gonna be no girls allowed and that’s final!” I say.

I found a pretty good spot the other day. It is deep in the brush and next to a local waterway. Spiders and mosquitoes, which plagued earlier exploration efforts, are minimal here. Being by water makes fishing an option.

I have begun construction of two treehouses on the spot. Walking toward the fort there is one on the left, which you can see here. It isn’t a very good cell phone picture I’m afraid. It’s essentially a VERY high platform with various stepladders leading up to it, and the other side from view has a rope which may be used to rappel oneself down the structure. This will be the lookout point and where in the future we will hoist our flag (I am open to flag suggestions).

The second structure, on the right, is here. Keep in mind I’ve only just recently started this project. What you see there is some trees grouped together and a platform built in that, with wood and other debris scattered around the ground. I’m going to finish the platform and on the first story I’ve got some 2x4s and other wood I’m going to use to add walls to that, so we have an enclosed structure. Aside from the obvious survival benefits shelters also muffle sound somewhat, which is necessary to avoid detection.

In the background of the RIGHT tower between other trees and brush you can see the local waterway. There’s the rub, there’s what I registered here to ask the smartypants about.

This river feeds into a larger body of water, and that body has islands on it. ISLANDS, see. Uninhabited, secluded, awesome. This fort has numerous points to launch a boat off of, and with that in mind it is my intention to explore these islands.

Thing is I don’t have any boats of my own. Or much nautical knowledge. I suppose I could grab a friend with a motorboat and do things that way, but I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to do that on numerous grounds (or, waters). Firstly, it is loud, disturbing the waterlife and polluting the water. Secondly, a “real” boat is natural, easier to moor, evades detection at night (very important), and is simply MORE MANLY. This is important, it is the principle of the matter.

But like I said, I don’t own any kayaks or canoes. So to keep with the DIY ethic of this whole project I intend to build my own boat. But like I said I don’t know anything about that stuff. A buddy of mine has made a number of duct tape boats in the past. Essentially that is a balsa wood-made “boat” covered in numerous layers of duct tape which is only a boat because the walls are just high enough to displace water to barely barely (by inches) keep afloat. But it has ferried over 200lbs upriver and back once before. He’s out of touch however.

My requirements aren’t much. The specific island in question is close enough I could swim there if I wanted, though I wouldn’t be able to carry any supplies to set up a second camp that way. I just need something that can carry roughly 200lbs or more 50 yards give-or-take, and it must be cheap and easy to make. If there are any former Boy Scouts, Venture Scouts, Indian Guides, Beaver Scouts, or general Rugged Outdoorsmen on the Straight Dope, or anyone with numerous websites they could direct me to, so that I can continue this project I would appreciate it muchly.

Also any cool name ideas for the fort, the island, the camp/fort to be set up on the island, as well as flag ideas, all would be appreciated. A buddy of mine suggested Fort He’s A Jolly Good Fellow, but that hasn’t gone over too well. But also, mostly, help me out with this boat.

The simplest of all boats to construct is probably a coracle - take a look here:

-you could make the coracle a lot more easily if you opted for a fabric that was naturally waterproof, such as butyl pond liner or even a laminated tarp.

Duct tape will probably work OK in the short term, but I think the adhesive will tend to soften in prolonged contact with water and the boat will come apart.

I’d help, but I’m only a Girl Scout (current, not former and with a fair amount of waterfront experience), so I probably wouldn’t be able to supply adequate information.

What’s wrong with being a Girl Scout? :confused:

I was mostly just teasing you for all of your “No Girls Allowed” type jokes and for listing all male oriented groups in your request for help. I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with Girl Scouts. We’re pretty cool people for the most part, we’re just not outdoorsmen.

I’m curious how sturdy your friends balsa wood boat was. I’ve not used boats made out of that material before, but I’ve seen it used elsewhere and it doesn’t seem horribly sturdy. I’d believe that his boat was usable, but I’d question its longevity. Do you know how long it lasted?

This site has a pattern on it that you may be able to adapt to your purposes.

You may find yourself tempted to use stale marshmallows as a building material. Resist the temptation.

And, more importantly, if you give in to temptation, be sure to make a post about it on this message board, a post with links to photos!

Drop me an email at tuckerfan (at) I’ve got some PDFs and the like of some old Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and similar magazines articles on how to build your own boat. At least one of them should fit your requirements.

Do any of these articles describe building small (2 or so person) sailboats, by chance? I have friends that would be delighted to know.

I think they might, I’d have to check the files. If so, do you want me to email 'em to you?

I just checked, and two of them are for sailboats. Both of them are small two person jobs, suitable for a day on the water.

That sounds far too awesome to pass up; could I hit you up for a copy of the sailboat stuff myself? I pmed you my email, but feel free to ignore it if it’s too much trouble. ^^

Check your email. :slight_smile:

OK, I’m bragging here, but I once took third place in the Semana Nautica Krazy Kardboard Kayak Race here in Santa Barbara. You are given one 8’ x 12’ piece of corrugated cardboard, a roll of 2" packing tape, a felt market and box-cutter. You have 45 minutes to build a cardboard kayak that can go around a buoy about 100 yards out in the ocean. It’s too hard to explain here, but my super origami skills allowed me to build the prettiest kayak, but not the best one. My boat actually made it in some magazine like Kayaking or something like that.

Screw the boat, swim a long rope out to the island and construct a zip-line across the water. Way more fun.

Also, I think you totally belong here, and must join immediately.

I don’t know how to make a boat, so I can’t help there. But it seems like a raft might fit the theme even better, and those, I do know how to make. In fact, I know of at least two ways to make one.

The more primitive and rugged way is with a bunch of logs, each a few inches in diameter. Lay two logs on the ground, parallel to each other, and a little less than a full length apart. Put all the other logs the other way across them. Now, take a bunch of rope, and tie one end to one of the logs with a clove hitch. Wrap it over one of the top logs, under the bottom log, over the next top log on the other side of the bottom log, and so on. It should looks something like this:


. Then go back down the other sides of that bottom log, so it’s like this:

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Then go over to the other side of the raft, and attach the other bottom log the same way.

The more effective but more modern way is to make a big, flat box, about a foot deep. Fill the box with empty, capped milk jugs, and tie them all in place with twine through the handles. Flip it over into the water.

It wasn’t sturdy at all. Learn over two inches to the left and you’re a goner. It worked, sure, and on our primitive technology level that counted for a lot. It carried my mate and I upriver a little ways and back before, but paddling gently on a stream has never required so much finesse and inspired so much terror before.

Thanks for the link BTW, it’s been very helpful.
Searching through my attic yesterday I discovered I had a 78"x46" two-person inflatable raft I didn’t know existed until now (also a copy of D.B. Cooper’s memoirs, but that’s neither here nor there). I lack oars, but I can make/beg/borrow/barter oars/paddles. I do not see this as a permanent solution AT ALL, for reasons including those cited earlier but also because: 1) it would have to be inflated on-site every time and I want something that can be left at the fort without having to worry much about it, and 2) again, the principle of the thing. But for now while I’m antsy it will allow me to explore the local islands some until a more permanent solution can be found, and until then I’ll report back to you guys on my explorations.

I likes the way yous thinks.