The One-Man Duckboat
Get small-water versatility in this easy-to-build craft.
Small-water duck hunters need a boat that they can paddle quietly into swamps and sloughs, yet one that has enough room for decoys, gear, gun, and dog. This boat is perfect for the job. It comes out to approximately 16 feet in length and weighs about 100 pounds. Building it isn’t very difficult, and it should take about 20 working hours. Although you should follow the general measurements, much of the construction is fit-and-cut, then fit-and-glue. Total cost for materials is about $200.
**1. Joining the Hull **
Sides First rip the four side pieces 8 feet long; cut the bow and stern ends at a 35-degree angle from bottom to top. With a radial arm saw, make the mid-cut for the 75-degree scarf joints (overlapping, beveled edges). Coat the scarf-joint edges with an even strip of five-minute epoxy, clamp them in place, and let dry to create the two 16-foot-long hull sides.
Next, cut the bow and stern end blocks from a 2×4, using a table saw with the blade set at an 80-degree angle. The triangular end blocks should be 1/4 inch across the top and 11/2 inches across the bottom. Join the hull sides at the bow: First coat an end block with epoxy where the inner surface of the hull will make contact. Clamp the sides together so that they pinch the end block in place. Once the bow has set, bring the stern ends to meet in the same way with the other end block. You can add countersunk brass screws for strength after the epoxy is dry.
**2. Bracing the Hull **
The three braces form the internal framework of the boat. They are different sizes (see diagram), but you construct and insert them in the same manner.
Cut the ends of the bottom brace at a 98-degree angle, and epoxy and screw on the two side braces to create each U-shaped assembly. Set the center brace at the hull’s midpoint seam. Set the forward brace roughly 55 inches back from the bow, and the aft brace roughly 38 inches forward of the stern. To secure the hull, screw a temporary wood stretcher where each brace goes, across the tops of the hull sides. Epoxy and screw the braces flush to the sides, making sure that the bottoms of the braces are even with the bottom edges of the hull sides, and the tops of the side braces even with the top edges of the hull (see cross section).
3. Completing the Hull
When the braces are set, turn the boat upside down and lay two 4×8-size pieces of plywood over it. Draw the contours for the hull bottom, and cut them to shape with a jigsaw. Join the two pieces with a 75-degree scarf joint and epoxy.
Glue the hull bottom to the bottom edges of the hull sides and the braces. Rip the gunnels 16 feet long and epoxy them in place, flush with the top edge of the hull. Fasten these with screws from the inside of the hull.
4. Creating the Decks
This boat has hinged rear and front decks, and a center deck just fore of the seat section. (Check for leaks before you begin this stage by floating the boat. Patch any problem spots with fiberglass tape or cloth and resin.)
Remove the stretchers from the hull sides. Then cut the fore and aft top braces and epoxy them to the fore and aft brace assemblies, making them flush with the top of the hull (see cross section).
Both the fore and rear decks, which should end at the midline of the brace tops, are installed in the same way: Mark the contours on a plywood sheet and cut to fit. On the front deck, epoxy the hinge strips on either side of the seam created by the front deck and center deck lid (see below), then attach the two 2-inch brass butt hinges. For the rear deck, epoxy a decking strip to the exposed brace surface (to create an even plane for the hinge strips). Epoxy the hinge strips in place, and then attach the hinges. Screw in the deck lids.
The center deck lid is designed to give your dog a place to sit. Trace the dimensions of this section on plywood and then cut it.. Next, make as large a hole as your dog will need to jump in and out, but allow him enough coverage to duck out of the wind. Cut the center top brace and epoxy it to the center brace assembly. Anchor the deck lid with epoxy and screws to the tops of the hull sides and braces so that its back edge is flush with the center line of the brace top.
5. Finishing and Painting
Cut the two 4-inch nose blocks from a 2×4; these are shaped just like the end blocks. Glue them into place on the stern and bow points, then install a screw eye in each point a few inches below the top edge. Loop a piece of tough but stretchy rubber tubing through each eye, leaving it long enough to pull up and around the back of the nose block to secure the deck.
For a seat, a simple plywood plank screwed into the aft top brace and boat seat pads can work fine. Or build a more secure seat frame with wood, and install padding. A pop-up kayak seat can also work.
All joints should be strengthened and sealed with fiberglass tape. Applying a coat of epoxy paint or fiberglass cloth and resin will provide further protection and waterproofing. Then add a camouflage pattern. You can do so with stencils, or simply make your own design with nonglare paint-just be sure to make it dull so that it breaks up the boat’s outline and blends in with mud and vegetation.
Front End of the Boat
Back of the Boat