Introduction: Painted Mattress Survival Boat

Picture of Painted Mattress Survival Boat

Make the "Katrina Granny", an improvised boat by painting a mattress.
This boat is perfect to get from your house to high ground when the flood hits.
This truly is the fastest boat in the world. To build that is.
You can even use it for a mattress while waiting for the disaster to hit!

Next time you're driving to the beach and you see a mattress and some paint cans dumped by the side of the road, you know what to do!

Step 1: Mattress

Picture of Mattress

Here's one now.
It's badly weathered and has big holes in the sides.
It's almost a boat already!

Step 2: Paint

Picture of Paint

It doesn't much matter what kind of goop you use to seal the cloth of this short-term boat.
If you plan to continue using your boat for a mattress, latex paint will breathe more than the others and be a nicer sleeping surface.
If you're just in a hurry to float, consider paint, tar, varnish, linseed oil, crisco, lard, butter, heavy grease, wax, etc

There is something very wrong with the labeling on this paint can.
See all the words on this paint can? Notice that "PAINT" isn't one of them?
What the hell is all the rest of that gibberish there for? Deep Base? Is it full of CDs of dance music?
How many years of schooling and experience did the label design committee, marketing team, etc have? I'd guess thousands.
Humanity are the world's craziest people.
No wonder so many of them live below sea level in hurricane country in carefully planned disaster traps.

But it's not just OTHER PEOPLE who are insane. You dear reader, active citizen in the "world's greatest democracy", are part a giant insane committee.
It is YOUR dumb engineering megaprojects that channel the rivers and make barrier islands wash away. It is YOUR taxes that pay for it.

Step 3: Transport to the Workplace

Picture of Transport to the Workplace

I loaded the mattress on Damon's boat trailer to move it for painting.
This mattress has a nonwoven olefin scrim on the bottom which I pulled off.

Step 4: Squish One End

Picture of Squish One End

Okay, the basic directions for the project are "Paint a Fricking Mattress and Call it a Boat."
But like all artists, we are confronted by the limitations of the materials at hand.
So we make a virtue of necessity.
This mattress is all rotten and gone at one end.
We'll lash a board over it to squish one end of the mattress and make it pointy.

Your materials will be unique in a different way.
If your mattress is very flexible, you might want to tie a frame on the top.
If it's terribly full of holes, you might want to wrap a tarp around it.

The most important thing is to leave a big hole in the top of your mattress so you can bail water out of it.

Step 5: Giant Sewing

Picture of Giant Sewing

I drilled holes in the board to lash it to the mattress.
I used the Clutch Finger Knife as a giant needle
to stitch lashings through the board and lash it to the mattress frame.

Step 6: Tighten the Lashings

Picture of Tighten the Lashings

Team members Aloisius and Cioatla Macasque tighten the lashings with the help of clamps and a mighty spear.

Step 7: Painting

Picture of Painting

The Rothko-like depth of their brushwork beckons us into a lime-green dreamworld. We enter where faint wisps of the original printed pattern dance before us, evoking the palimpsest that is the mind.

Step 8: Drying

Picture of Drying

If you don't have time for paint to dry use roofing tar, crisco, etc. instead.
Or just wrap a tarp around the mattress and get boating.
Watch this video to see how that sort of thing is done.

Step 9: Spring Is in the Air

Picture of Spring Is in the Air

While the paint dries we goof around flinging a coilspring from a car with the discarded mattress bottom scrim tied to it as a tail. It's good for a game of "monster eurythmics" or "redneck custom with funny name" or what have you. It bounces in a totally unpredictable way and seems extremely dangerous. No one got hit in the face or hurt in any way, so good times were had by all.

Of course we were all traumatized by the major pun, "spring is in the air".

Step 10: Testing!

Picture of Testing!

Of course it needs hydrofoils, a motor, a cabin, solar panels, etc. etc., but it's always a good idea to try something out before perfecting it.

In the water she goes!
The Katrina Granny floats high and dry.
The water doesn't come anywhere near the holes.

I hop on. It's very stable. When I push down one corner a little bit of water seeps in through lashing holes at the front where we missed painting or the cloth shifted.
If you were at sea when you discovered this, you could fix it by stuffing plastic bags in the holes.

Success!! Next time you see a mattress and some paint cans dumped by the side of the road,
you know what to do!

Step 11: Patching the Holes

Picture of Patching the Holes

The boat works so well it's worth it to repair and make it even better.
Jane Lee sews and staples a patch from an old sheet over the biggest hole.
That staplegun is great. But everyone stops talking and moves away when it's being used.

Step 12: Painting the Patch

Picture of Painting the Patch

Not much to it, just smearing some paint on there.
Get plenty under the edges of the patch to hold them down.
Cries of lament are heard that the floral pattern of the sheet gets hidden under the paint.

Step 13: Pattycake Boxing at Sunset

Picture of Pattycake Boxing at Sunset

Rob shows up with boxing gloves and challenges me to sunset boxing.
I say I'm still getting over the headache from last time. He says "okay no head punches."
This time I don't get hit in the head and his arm doesn't get dislocated. Not even once.
Boxing sure is a great sport when no one gets hurt.

Step 14: Wet Patch

Picture of Wet Patch

The sewing is good for large patches where there's some load on the cloth, but a bunch of the holes are small. What to do? As an experiment Cyrus tries a "wet patch". Jane cuts him a rounded patch of sheet with pinking shears. He sticks it onto the wet paint and then paints over it. It adheres very well. This must be good paint.

This is the fast way to do patching for small holes. Before long the boat is all patched up and ready for new adventures!

Step 15: Testing the Patches

Picture of Testing the Patches

My cousin John Anderson tries it out.
The boat stays on top of the water and he stays on top of the boat.

Step 16: Sail Rig R+D

Picture of Sail Rig R+D

John and I lash a tripod mast onto the boat with bike innertubes.

Step 17: Sailing Launch

Picture of Sailing Launch

We hoist and brail up the lugsail from the steampunk landsailer. The mast supports are handy to tie bike innertube oarlocks to, but with the two of us it turns out to be easier to just paddle. We paddle into the wind.

We've got some "no parking" signs to use for leeboards. "wrong way" signs would be better, does anyone have some I could use?

Step 18: Rig Details

Picture of Rig Details

I drilled holes in two corners of the aluminum signs to hang them over the side of the boat by cords.

The innertube oarlock is simple, just a few turns of innertube around the strut and oar.

Step 19: Sailing Trials

Picture of Sailing Trials

To be continued. We paddled upwind and sailed downwind, but didn't manage to sail upwind.
the leeboards were too far forward or something. Unfortunately we don't have any photos of the sailing.

tune in soon to see such pictures of the next try and see how it worked out!


buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Looking at the first pic I am expecting you to ask Leo DiCaprio to paint you like one of his french girls

CreativeNÜlife (author)buck22172016-04-12

I imagined. LOL

Stan1y (author)2014-12-27

for an emergancy boat to escape rising flood waters I think I'd try the wardrobe first, but I can see that ain't much use if they are built in.

overcomer8 (author)2014-10-27

I'm a little confused is this the mattress or the box springs to the mattress? sounds like a good idea in an emergency!

rfletcher3 (author)2014-05-20

This is amazing! FTW!!!

To the lab, indeed!!!
Hahaha summer is near!!

finton (author)2013-06-14

Another great and entertaining idea from Tim! One could also use the waterproofing ideas on a bed-sheet to create wrap-around tarpaulins or waterproof tenting/rain-capes.

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-16

how long will it last doest it leak water

geckomage (author)2011-11-22

good thing i live ontop of a large hill that never floods. lmao xD and you're grossly stereotyping everyone, and most of the people on here arent going to be like that. and im sure it makes most people want to quit reading your instructable right here. thats what im doing :P peace

Wazzupdoc (author)2011-08-14

This is great. A painted box-spring set used as a boat. Really simple and maybe needs a few hour's prep. Tim you rule! I don't really understand most of the comments. It's self explanatory.

Kayla Ree (author)2010-04-08

uhm well most of us Americans and other international citizens have enough knowledge and common sense that we know enamel means paint. its not the world's fault or any of our faults that you've been locked in a cellar for 30 years and don't know that the world isn't perfect.
but thank you for the stereotyping in your intro. really makes me want to rate your instructable.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-07

and I feel the need to agree Kayla Ree. . .

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-07

thank you KingOfCatfish. at least I know I'm not the only one with common sense.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-07

Common sense, if you could bottle it you would be a millionaire!
Oh well, I'm just a young white male from Texas. So according to stereotypes, I must be a racist, pro slavery, inbred bigot that has received no education, a drunk, and probably have a few speech impediments. Oh wait, on second thought. . . Ha-ha!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-09

hhahahaha that had me laughing forever!, according to the list of stereotypes on google, I don't have a religion, so I must be evil and have no morals. I have straight A's, so I must have no social life. I'm a girl who actually eats lunch, so I must be fat. stereotypes are stupid, if you ask me. what has America come to . we judge people by what they do, how they look, or what they believe, instead of actually getting to know them,

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-09

Aww, so much truth in an Instructables comment! ha-ha! But stereotyping is not just an American niche though! Oh well. I'll just stay in my zombie shelter and wait for my chance to start a colony of survivors. . . muahaha!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-10

oooh. zombie shelter, nice idea for an instructable:) id join your colony of survivors.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-10

Sweet! There is just one rule, and that is, DON'T DIE!!!!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-11

okay, i think i can handle not dieing. oh, you forgot double tap:) i love zombieland.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-11

Double tap for sure!!! And I have the firearms, as well as survival and camping gear. I can survive in the middle of no where, lol
And now I want a twinkie, haha!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-12

Hello Ethan:) why Gary?? eeeww! twinkies are so gross!lol.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-12

The nick name is a really long story. I said Twinkies because of Zombieland. Oh, and I guess your name is Kayla?

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-12

oh.ok:) yeah, i get it, because Tallahassee wanted a twinkie, but every box they found was blown up.haha ima little slow:) and yes my name is Kayla, short for Mikayla.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-12

lol, and I do love Twinkies! And I doubt that you're slow!
I knew a Mikayla, lol, and I do now!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-13

ewww. they're so nasty though. and some days..i am a bit slow. well, i dont think i've ever known anyone named Ethan before, so i guess your the first : ) but i do know a Gary, and he's a jerk. i bet the Mikayla you know doesn't spell it the same way i do:)

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-13

lol. Well I have an inner fatty that loves them. I can eat my wait in junk food and not gain an ounce!.
Since that Gary was a jerk, let's go with Ethan, ha-ha.
And actually she did! But I haven't seen here in months! blaahhhh

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-13 bestfriend, Mikaela, can eat everything and shes like a twig. but i bet she'll be huge when shes 40. ok , Ethan sounds good:) really? i have never met anyone who spells it the same way.

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-13

lol. probably xD. Yeah, it was cool, but she was really quite and shy, lol

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-14

im pretty quiet, not really shy. but you know what they say, watch out for the quiet ones, theyre most likely to be planning your demise^_^

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-14

lol. I'm usually quite too! Well, until I get comfortable, then I get talky

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-14

yeah,lol, i guess thats true. if i know the person im talking to then im really loud and talkative, sometimes obnoxious:)but i f i have no idea who they are, then i dont usually talk.
Do you like john lennon?

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-14

hahaha, very nice!
I haven't really ever listened to him. Why do you ask?

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-15

i dont know, i was listening to give peace a chance while i was replying to your comment. i needed something else to say, it looked to short : )

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-15

lol. Very nice Mikayla. Have you ever heard pf MCR? They are my favorite band!

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-18

by MCR, do you mean My Chemical Romance? then yes, i have. welcome to the black parade is my favorite band would be...Evan & Jaron, Lifehouse, or The Goo Goo Dolls. i dont know, i just can't choose:)

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-19

haha! That sounds pretty sweet! MCR is coming out with a new album in less than a month!!!!! You should listen to their new son "Na na na na" on YouTube

Kayla Ree (author)KingOfCatfish2010-10-19

ok i will when i get home, the firewall won't let me on here:( i may have to buy this cd....: )

nashamuq (author)Kayla Ree2010-12-25

I like how both of your convo became online flirting. hope it got u two somewhere

Kayla Ree (author)nashamuq2010-12-28

what are you talking about? two people cant just simply talk anymore?? i was new to i'bles and i didnt know there was a pm button.

Nuonaton (author)Kayla Ree2011-07-06

*Laughs. I have no idea why, But I read all of that.

melissa_b04 (author)Nuonaton2011-07-25

ahh me too! I geuss I got some sort of entertainment from that. Weird since I'm not a fan of reality t.v. Maybet cuz I am bored at work. Yep... that'll do it. Kaylee and KOC, ya'll seem alright. 2 people talking about zombie 'pocolyse and music. Ahhh.. good times.

Nuonaton (author)melissa_b042011-08-09


there is?-

joe.esq1 (author)nashamuq2011-07-19

aww, cute, Kayla and KingofCatfish can do an 'ible on web macking!!

not a dig, I was entertained at work by the convo!

KingOfCatfish (author)Kayla Ree2010-10-11

Oh, if we're surviving together you should know my name. I'm Ethan, and my friends call me Gary

melissa_b04 (author)2011-07-25

bruh, if you get several of these Granny boats, you could assemble them in a way to make a bigger one. Then put some sort of har surface on it like plywood and BLAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Instant party boat/floating dock/floating beer refuling station at the lake.... In fact..... TO THE LAB!

redcore4 (author)2009-09-11

You underestimate your audience. I am not a US citizen - this website is more global than that!

melissa_b04 (author)redcore42011-07-25

i concur. I wish there was a like button similar to FaceBook

edenecke (author)2011-07-24

It doesn't say paint, because it's enamel (a type of paint)

gimpysgirl (author)2011-03-27

Aren't you using the "box" under the mattress instead of a mattress. I've never seen a mattress with wood slats. Aside from the misnaming, great idea.

jerwhite (author)2011-03-11

Tooth enamel- a cellular aggregation that functions in the formation of tooth enamel
Enameled wire- wire insulated with enamel-like coating
Enamel pain-t a commercial paint that dries to an especially hard glossy finish
Vitreous enamel- a smooth, durable coating made of melted and fused glass powder

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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