Introduction: Cozy Boat

Picture of Cozy Boat

A little boat like a floating papasan chair. Perfect to lay in and look at the sky.
Exactly big enough for two people to snuggle.
The supermodels in the boat are Arwen and Saul.
This boat is part umiak, part currach, part coracle, part papasan chair.
Here's how to make a tougher skin for it from truck tarp material.
The book "Umiak" by Skip Snaith will fill in any construction details that aren't clear here.

Now on Know How!

Check out episodes one, two, three, four, six, and

Step 1: Stems

Picture of Stems

The boat ended up being 9'6" long, 43" wide (measuring to the outside edges of the boat, and 18" deep in the middle (measured on the inside of the boat.)

The first step was making the stems.
I sketched them out freehand and cut them from 3/8" marine okoume plywood.

To beef up and widen the outer edge I glued on some more plywood using epoxy thickened with wood dust as seen here.
White flour works just as well, whole wheat flour doesn't. Don't use 5 minute epoxy for anything, it's not waterproof.

If I did it again I'd make the stems taller and not nearly as beefy.

Step 2: Set Up the Frame

Picture of Set Up the Frame

Here it is with two main ribs, keel, gunwales, stems, and headboards lashed together with strips of bicycle innertube. At this point you have some control over the shape of the boat.
Fiddle around and change things now when it's easy.
The stem-headboard lashings are nylon string soaked with epoxy afterwards because I was confident those parts wouldn't need to change. It turns out this boat wants to turn around and go the other direction regardless of which direction it's going. So I'd make the next keel with less or no rocker. Water sometimes splashes over the bows, so I'd make the bows higher.
Put those two facts together and the stems will have to be taller too.

Step 3: Peel Some Ribs

Picture of Peel Some Ribs

I made the two main ribs by cutting the rim of a papasan chair in half.
It's rattan, which is strong light stuff.
The other ribs are much thinner, willow shoots 6 or 7 feet long cut from a thicket. If they grow in the dark they get tall before branching. Then I tied them as seen here and let them dry for a bit. Danielle Smith is peeling the bark off these ribs with a vegetable peeler. "PLUR" written on her hand stands for "peace, love, unity, respect". You'll have to ask her why. The veggie peeler is the best way to take the bark off. If you wait too long the bark will get hard. If you do it too soon and don't oil the ribs enough they'll crack, which isn't really a problem.

The other lumber came from a company that makes wine racks. The lumber bundles they buy come wrapped with same-species tropical wood 20 feet long. I grabbed a bunch of that, ripped it thinner with a tablesaw and a thin-kerf blade, and rounded the edges off with router, plane, rounding plane, spokeshave, sandpaper, basically every tool I had. Router with quarter-round bit followed by hand sanding was fastest. Splinters while hand sanding were a major hazard.

Step 4: Lash on the Ribs and Stringers

Picture of Lash on the Ribs and Stringers

The thin ribs needed little blocks of wood shoved in next to them and lashed over because the main ribs are so thick.

16 ribs times 13 longitudinals equals 208 lashings. I should have used string instead of innertube. It takes a bit longer, but after it's soaked with epoxy it lasts longer too. There's nothing temporary or easy to change about 200 lashings.

Step 5: Frame Details

Picture of Frame Details

The stringers don't need to reach all the way to the stem. It's a lot easier if they don't and the shape goes into some compound curves there so it doesn't really need them for support. The last rib at each end is too sharp a vee to bend, so it's two sticks. It would be better to use curved sticks, putting a bit more volume in the bows. The willow ribs were irregular, but once lashed into a mesh with the stringers, the whole shape got nice and fair. Willow isn't the only species that works for ribs, and unless you're cutting when the leaves are out you probably won't know what species it is anyway.

Step 6: More Frame Details

Picture of More Frame Details

The stick that goes inside the ribs is for the lacing that tightens the skin onto the boat.
It's also good to rest a seat on, if you wanted seats.

When the thing was all together I soaked it with linseed oil. I could have done that first and it would have been less work, but at the time it always seems like a pain in the neck.

Step 7: Closed-Cell Foam

Picture of Closed-Cell Foam

I put an inch of soft closed-cell foam between the frame and the skin. It serves a number of functions. If you hit a rock the frame won't bite a hole in the skin. It makes the boat float pretty high even if it's swamped. If it gets punctured it's self-healing. This foam is what they shove between the girders of curtainwall buildings. I think it's urethane about 3lbs/cubic foot. It's similar to what they use for sleeping pads for camping. What this foam doesn't do is make you comfortable, since the ribs and stringers are between it and you. So I made a thicker closed-cell mattress to lay on the bottom and cushion the ribs.

I glued the closed-cell foam layer together using contact cement following the directions on the can. It's DAP Weldwood original earthwrecking contact cement. Fabulous stuff unless you're a brain cell.

Step 8: The Skin

Picture of The Skin

From this point the construction is exactly like Skip Snaith's book "Umiak", which is really cute and you ought to have it. Buy it here and the author himself will answer the phone:

I used an outer skin of denim, regular jeans material, painted with black rubber roof paint (Sun Roof Systems brand). I used an inner skin of red taffeta to protect the foam from heels etc. and to make the boat more festive.
Here I am fitting the denim skin. There's a seam over each stem and a hem around the edge with a piece of cord in it. The cloth stretches enough to fit tightly over this boat's shape without any other gussets or seams.
When lacing the skin tight over the frame, the lacing cord is just poked through holes punched through the hem. The cord in the hem keeps it from ripping out.

Step 9: On the Water

Picture of On the Water

Saul and Arwen embarking on the Charles River to see some fireworks. The oars are Irish style "paint stick" currach oars. The oarlocks are called "tholes and bulls". The pivot boards on the oars are "bulls" and the pins are "tholes". These oars are bigger than they need to be for this boat, which will never go faster than three miles per hour with any oars.

The wheels at the stern are from a bicycle baby wagon. The wheels come off easily but it's no problem leaving them on. To move this boat by bicycle I shove the oar blades under a rib, tie them to the bow with an innertube, turn the boat over, lash an oar handle to my bike rack or seat post with innertubes, and ride away.

Step 10: And in the Water

Picture of And in the Water

How stable is it? About that stable.
Now floating nice and high with all that closed-cell foam, a little bailing and the boat is back bobbing on the water like before.


MustafaS24 (author)2017-08-16

Can you share line drawings of above boat , beside the diy , I loved the design so much. I really need line drawings. As you said , it is mixture of 4 different traditional boat, I loved how she looks very much. If you cant , please tell us a boat plan or advise other lines drawing, please. Thank you, Umut , Istanbul

cantbuildmuchatall (author)2015-11-04

Really impressive, thanks for putting this up. What quantity of roof paint did you use? It's pretty expensive here and I'd like to get the right amount the first time.


bridi (author)2013-06-21

Nice job, nice boat. One correction; 5 minute epoxy is waterproof, I've used it as an emergency repair on boats below the waterline and it's lasted fine.

neil1701 (author)2013-02-28

I quite liked your home made boat.I made one myself and entered it in i think it was summer watercraft challenge on instructables last year.I made a frame on skin idea but used upvc planks like used for making double glazing window frame,plastic sheeting on the outside for a skin and blocks of foam and plastic bottles stuffed inside it for bouyancy.Was about 5 ft 5 inches length by 4ft in middle-beam at widest point and drew about 5-6 inches.A few pictures attached....

Legutki (author)2009-09-26

where do you find Papasan chairs?

LucDaRocka1 (author)Legutki2012-12-02

I just found one in a dumpster!!

yanksguy (author)Legutki2010-10-11

The ARC, Goodwill, alleys, yardsales... Most folks are trying to get rid of them.

J@50n (author)Legutki2009-09-26

pier1, world market, walmart (maybe), tons of places, all over the internet

Legutki (author)J@50n2009-09-26


J@50n (author)Legutki2009-09-27

ur welcome :)

LucDaRocka1 (author)2011-05-30

could i build a skeleton out of bamboo? i have a lot that grows right down the street on property where the people who own the land let me pick it. :)

Wazzupdoc (author)LucDaRocka12011-10-29

Yes. Do it.Do it now! You'll never regret it.

LucDaRocka1 (author)Wazzupdoc2011-11-02


Wazzupdoc (author)LucDaRocka12011-11-02

Wrap, bind and duct-tape the joints before you skin it. Bamboo is extremely sharp on split edges and "splinters" (Google "punjie sticks"). Also, check out the Gaelic skin boats, I think the spelling is "camragh". They are brush rings bound about in a doughnut fashion and then laid on a tarp (skin) and then pulled inside and ticked under the brush ring. Paddle away! I pray you can swim, or have rescuers around the pool with a line. Keep trying.

LucDaRocka1 (author)Wazzupdoc2011-11-10

well it was cold when we sank, we were in jeans and heavy coats...... and thanks for the tips

Lozowsky (author)2009-12-06

I like your vice.

McGyver2 (author)2009-09-12

nice.... now if it could only fly....

McGyver2 (author)2009-09-11

So if there are wheels on the up side of it, does that mean that it can be flipped over and doubled up as a land vehicle too?

TimAnderson (author)McGyver22009-09-11

yes indeed. just flip it upside down and it's a wagon.

Yerboogieman (author)2009-04-25

Saul looks like Will Ferrell.

PaulE (author)2006-09-20

A beautiful instructable. BTW, where did you find the roof paint? It looks perfect for another project I am working on.

TimAnderson (author)PaulE2007-06-29

I got it at a home depot in Massachusetts. It's "snow roof systems" brand. The black stuff is a lot more elastic than the white stuff. It's waterbased and very thick. Pretty much anything you can paint on cotton canvas will work well. If the skin is nylon your coating has to encapsulate it perfectly or it'll get loose when it's wet.

becauseican (author)TimAnderson2009-02-16

i live in masserchuset (trying to type local dialect). alot of the materials here are more for colder conditions. what town was the home depot in.

abadfart (author)2008-06-05

nice I could have some fun with this

akanigel (author)2006-11-04

To see a good idea for sails go to this site This is similar to a traditional fishing boat called a "Somerset Flatner". Somerset is a county in England and is / was used on inshore waters for fishing. When I was messing about with such boats a few years ago I came up with the idea of making a 'skin' out of a builder's / farmer's tarpaulin and getting silicone sealant ( the stuff used to seal around work-tops in kitchens and bathrooms) and smearing it with a spatular all over the skin to make it one piece and water tight. However the tarps are polythene and the silicon sealant didn't bond very well but I'm sure someone can come up with a better sheet material even if it's cotton. The cotton won't rot because it won't get wet. So perhaps next summer I will have another go at this. Nice job.

greatscotmagic (author)akanigel2008-05-16

The link doesn't work because of the period at the end. if you clcick on the link just remove the period from the address in your browser. It is a great site.

_soapy_ (author)akanigel2007-06-25

Buy a decorators plastic backed coversheet. Put the plastic side out.

ledzep567 (author)2008-01-02

how much does this weigh? do you think it would be sturdy enough to stand(carefully) in it? great instructable by the way

ArtisticBabe (author)2007-10-10

Oh my god, I love you Tim! SEE YOU IN FRANCE! haha, laughing my a$$ off!

MNboats (author)2007-03-25

This is great! I'm wondering about the dimensions. How long is this boat? Happy floating!

TimAnderson (author)MNboats2007-06-29

The boat ended up being 9'6" long, 43" wide (measuring to the outside edges of the boat, and 18" deep in the middle (measured on the inside of the boat.)

Clayton H. (author)2007-06-27

On the second image in the intro, whats that grey triangle shape near the bottom righthand cornner?

rocknrollskwurl (author)2007-06-22

dude i gots ta gets me one of these! (first a girl for the "cudling" part is nesesaery

random person (author)2007-06-09

I think the wheels on the back are a very clever idea, i think i may have a go. Thanks

LSRPhoto (author)2007-06-04

I am VERY VERY Impressed. We bout a 2nd hand canoe and we love it. I always wanted to make one by had. a Friend of mine mad a boat out or wood buy hand. Nothing fancy and painted the bottom white so it looked like a normal boat. He sold it for $25,000!!! The guy wanted more from him. Its amazing what hade made stuff can be worth. It was like a little jon boat.

silentdeath (author)2007-02-27

but.... maby u can have an outboard motor or paddles?and just a bit bigger to have 4 people in it? or size it down for a swett pool toy?

Sgt.Waffles (author)silentdeath2007-03-18

An outboard motor would weigh probobly as much as the boat. A trolling motor with a transom mount would be good, but then you couldnt haul it by bike.

silentdeath (author)2007-02-27

cool boat i may try it in the summer time!

Potroast (author)2006-11-28

Great article. I learned something on some skin on frame site. I think the tippyness may result from being so round bottomed. The site I looked at the guy made his ribs with a nice arc. He test floated it in the pool with a temporary plastic drop cloth skin. Too tippy, pulled all the ribs out, made them a very boxy, flat bottomed U shape by thinning the ribs at the corners of the U and that worked out well.

I admire the heck out of you guys for trying and succeeding. You might want to check out to see a slightly bigger, but suprisingly similar boat that was featured on the cover of woodenboat magazine in august.

rimar2000 (author)2006-11-14


Mostly_harmless (author)2006-10-08

Lucky bastard gets a boat, and a pac-man machine???? How does that seem fair???

jackelfroth (author)2006-09-13

This really is a great instructable! I've seen several comments on possible additions (ex./ outboard motor). I thought a good suggestion could be a form of canopy, perhaps something that would fold down like a convertible car top. Heck, you could make it from a tarp! Approx. how much time and $ went into this project? Thanks again! By the way... is that Pac-Man I see in your workshop?

I salute you,I would never have the confidence to so out in deep ,cold ,water, risking death by drowning in something I had built.

huckuba (author)2006-07-18

This is the coolest project I've seen here! What do you think about using "wire ties" instead of your inner tube strips?

TimAnderson (author)huckuba2006-07-21

I tried to make a boat frame with wire ties once. They broke easily and slipped, the joints weren't strong. A little sunshine made them really brittle. It looked really bad. Lashing the joints with string then soaking the string in epoxy is much better. A little slower to do than innertubes, much better looking, stronger, more permanent. I've never found a good use for wire ties except tying wires. When I need them for that they're gone because someone used them all up to make their project look like a bird on drugs did it in a panic. Wire ties are really great for tying wires. Much better than the waxed string that was used before. That waxed string makes good dental floss if you peel out some of the fibers. A spool of that will last you five lifetimes.

RedSevenOne (author)TimAnderson2006-08-23

I aggree with you TA. wire tie are way too brittle. There is an alternative however. I would look at Spectra cordage. We have good success with it for lashing both Bamboo and Composite tubing.
Here are some links: The first one is from Honeywell the makers – We have good success and friendly service from Donaldson and good technical support from Samson themselves
However any supplier worth their salt will be able to get it for you. If you are around a harbor that has race boats, you can make friends with the crews and riggers and likely get anything they want just for the asking or help along the way.

TimAnderson (author)TimAnderson2006-07-21

Thanks for the encouragement. I wish I'd said something more encouraging back.
Take a look at to see some other very slick skin-on-frame plans.

mrbinky3000 (author)2006-07-03

Now that's a REAL instructable. Still, I wish there was more detail. How would you attach a sail or a motor to the boat. Also, those bike tires gave me an idea. How about attaching them to some gears for a laid-back paddle boat?

RedSevenOne (author)mrbinky30002006-08-23

My best suggestion would be a kite. On the paddle system, there is one indevelopment at ABOTA. I will post the rig as soon as it is tested in Early 06/09.

About This Instructable




Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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