Top View Specifications
(click on image to enlarge)
(click on image to enlarge)
It has been awhile since I have authored a new web page, and I thought this project might be of interest to those individuals searching for a low cost alternative to purchasing a new aluminum mini pontoon boat. By making use of something that is no longer wanted or needed we can all conserve resources, natural, and financial. Used aluminum pontoon boats and paddle boats abound.
The cost factor of a one or two man/woman mini aluminum pontoon boat is $2500 - $5000 or more. Since I have limited time for fishing, and may not find the time to enjoy the inflated investment of a new pontoon boat, I have decided to budget by tinkering my own version of the ideal mini pontoon boat from a pontoon paddle boat. The target for my budget was based upon the cost of a high end inflatable pontoon, such as the Steelheader at $1850.00 by Skookum products. If I were to invest in an inflatable, the Steelheader would be my choice. This inflatable is a brute, and will provide many years of reliable service, provided you don't mind the inflating and deflating routine.
It is not my intention to negatively criticize the merits or shortcomings, of inflatable or aluminum pontoons. That being said, my personal preference leans toward used aluminum pontoons.
The alternative to the mini aluminum pontoon boat is an inflatable fishing pontoon boat. I believe this very affordable craft has become very popular in the watercraft world. However, a common complaint by owners while operating this craft is that it is so light, that navigation on windy days is almost impossible. This type of pontoon will sustain a great deal of punishment, and can be repaired inexpensively. A prime feature of the inflatable is that it may be transported by car or truck, thereby eliminating the need for a trailer. However, the trade off for this versatility is that it must be inflated and deflated, prior to and after use for transport. The chemical composition of the pontoon material, limits it's life span. Material aging, use, and UV damage, will necessitate repairs, and eventually disposal of the inflatable pontoon's poly material.
Aluminum on the other hand, has a long working life, but can be very expensive to repair. The cost of repairs are quite likely to be high, as the aluminum would have to be TIG welded.
The idea of quickly launching and retrieving low maintenance watercraft is very appealing to me. At the end of a long day spent fishing, I simply want to retrieve the boat with all of the gear securely stored on board and winch it onto a trailer, strap it down, and proceed home. Cleaning unreleased fish is enough to contend with at days end.
This was a fairly simple project. The cost factor was easily managed and scrap was almost non existent do to the use of AutoCAD which was utilized to create the entire layout with some simple drawings.
New pontoons may be purchased from several manufacturers available on the web. Since we are dealing with high aluminum material cost, and U.S. labor, the cost factor for a set of pontoons with shipping will be far beyond the cost of a Steelheader inflatable pontoon boat..
A low cost alternative that I found was to purchase a complete paddleboat with aluminum pontoons. Removal of a dozen nuts and bolts, allowed the entire platform, and paddle mechanism to be removed from the pontoons.
The following images and comments will provide you with the methodology (which will include welding of aluminum) I used for converting one of these used watercraft into a custom mini pontoon boat propelled with the addition of a deep cycle battery, and an electric motor.
Providing a time line for completion is difficult as the work on this project was done periodically during the winter months. With plans, all parts, and materials on hand, I would surmise that a lone individual could complete the project in just a few days, with an eight hour work schedule. Locating suppliers, pricing/shopping, and ordering materials seem to utilize more time than actual assembly. Initially, much time was also spent with the layout in CAD in order to formulate a design for fabrication. After several CAD changes, the work progressed smoothly.
One Aqua Cycle Paddle boat, used and in good condition. These can be found on E-Bay or Craig's List. The prices range from the very reasonable to the extremely ridiculous. The approximate weight is 150 lbs. with no accessories. Pontoons are 12" diameter at 10' 2" long, and will support the weight of the boat plus 400-450 lbs of cargo including occupants.
One Aqua Cycle Paddle boat reduced to pontoons only. The removed components will be sold on Craig's list, or for scrap. Originally, the pontoons were joined together using two angle "L" cross members which were bolted to a set of brackets which were factory TIG welded to the pontoons.
Eight additional, and identical support brackets were fabricated and TIG welded to each respective pontoon for a total of ten which will provide support for Five aluminum "U" channel cross members. The cross members were drilled and bolted to the brackets using 5/16" S.S. hardware.
A motor mount was constructed from 1/2" thick aluminum plate and 3/4" walnut. This assembly was bolted together using zinc hardware. Holes were tapped and threaded into the aluminum billet to accommodate 5/16" S.S. hardware. The motor mount was then bolted in three places to the rear cross member. Additional 1" aluminum angle bracing was added to assist in absorbing torque from electric or outboard motor thrust. This same bracing was added to the front 1st and 2nd cross members to absorb the torque while winching the boat onto the trailer with the bow eye. The motor in the picture is a Minn Kota 30 lb. thrust transom motor purchased at Cabelas for $99.95.
The next step is to install a deck. This deck size being 5' 5" wide x 6' 5" long (including molding/trim). The overall size of the craft is 5'4" wide x 10'2" long. I opted to install a 1/2" marine plywood deck, although I almost went with an all aluminum deck because it will last at least a human lifetime or longer, which will eliminate having to replace the plywood in just a few years. After cutting to size, the plywood sheets were treated with Thompson's water sealer.
A blue chalk line grid was made upon the plywood sheets for the purpose of placing drill holes for the S.S. 1 1/2" x 1/4" deck bolts, and will secure the marine plywood sheets to the aluminum cross members. These bolts were purchased from Pontoonstuff.com. The price for the stainless steel deck bolts and the (Fence bolts (used later for securing kick rails to deck)) are very reasonable compared to several local sources that I checked for pricing, and found the cost for these very same items to be totally egregious.
The simplest part of the construction was the 32 square foot indoor/outdoor carpet installation. The carpet was purchased from home depot for about $35.00 and a quart of adhesive for about $7.00. The adhesive cure time is established at 65 deg. F. for 72 hours, so it was necessary keep the shop furnace on for 3 days and nights. Circumventing mfg, product specs. usually causes problems. It's not worth cheating on this especially since the outside temp was currently in the mid teens, and cheating on the cure time meant watching the carpet peel off of the deck while on the freeway this summer.
Also depicted in the photo is the edge molding, and corner caps. The edge molding is 3/16" x 2" x 3" angle aluminum 6061 alloy. It is needed to protect the plywood deck and provides an aesthetic touch to the project. The corners were all cut at a 45 deg. angle, and TIG welded prior to installation. The corner cap composition is that of a very hard poly material.
The finished mini pontoon with 1/8" x 1 1/4" Square Aluminum tube 6063-T52 alloy kick rails for bow and stern. The railing layout was dimensioned in AutoCAD, prior to forming. The CAD output provided the proper spacing for the various bends and the amount of material needed. These rails were formed on a manual JD32 bender using a JD Squared 4 1/2" radius jig. The amount of tubing required for the railings was 63 feet. Each rail consists of an upper and lower section which mirror each other, and must be TIG welded to provide the finished railing. The aluminum support braces were TIG welded to the formed railings, and then bolted to the deck and cross members with 1/4" x 3 1/2" S.S. Fence bolts and safety nuts. The material cost for aluminum railing and side molding was approximately $300.00, not including the stainless steel fasteners. The entire project cost including pontoons was slightly over $1700.00. Add on costs for electronics and other accessories are not included in this build.
As luck would have it, I had enough materials on hand needed for fabricating two rocket launcher style rod holders. These were mounted on the port and starboard stern kick rails The lock pins were purchased at a local ACE hardware for about $6.00 per pair. The holders were cut from 10" x 1.875" x .125" aluminum tube, and machined for aesthetics. A layout of the rod holder bracket, and it's associated holes were created in a CAD drawing, prior to fabricating. The bracket holes establish the necessary angles for the locking pins which support the holder at predetermined, 90,70, and 30, degree angles.
Image of the mounted Rocket Launcher style rod holders at 90 Deg. I would like to acknowledge Yankee Doodler, of Holland, Mi. and Crappie dot com. for providing the image concept for these rod holders.
This 12" D x 18" W x 24" H console was fabricated after layout in AutoCAD. The top and front one piece panel are tig welded to the press formed back and sides. The Humminbird Sonar on top of the console is the model 798CI HD SI. Two battery trays are secured to the deck for a pair of Optima deep cycle batteries. The switches with the red keys are from D B Electrical and are both rated at 175 AMP continuous. (see schematic below) These switches are used to switch the two deep cycle batteries when either becomes discharged, or by turning both switches on, both batteries are placed in parallel. Both of the red keys are easily removable when in the off position making them tamper proof. This configuration is low cost at $16.00 per pair, and accomplishes the same task as a more costly multi contact battery switch. A 3/4" inch hole is needed for mounting the switch from inside the console. Mounting screws are 3/16" for securing switch. Marine silicone caulk was used between the switch escutcheon and inside of console. The single switch on the right is a three position switch for navigational lighting. The fuse block mounted on the inside of the console is for the sonar and navigational lighting circuits.
A simple schematic for wiring the two Single Pole, Single Throw battery switches mounted on the console. Aside from expense, a plus to using two separate switches in this configuration is that there are two common positive terminals available that could be used in switching other electrical equipments. All wiring shown in schematic is stranded copper AWG # 6 which I had on hand, and is over rated for the trolling motor being used. In the above console, the circuit is breaker protected at each positive battery terminal for trolling motor protection, and although a single breaker in the common side of the switches would work as well, It was just more convenient to add a single breaker at each battery terminal.
The JD Squared Bender and associated 1 1/4" square tube jig. This equipment made short work of this project. It takes only a few seconds or so to make a single bend. More time is required to layout the exact start and stop positions for bends.
There is one more piece to this project that is not shown in this web page that will be created using the JD32 bender. This piece will be mounted on deck at the center of the bow, and used as a knee brace and hand rail support while standing on the forward deck.
A combination storage chest and seat will be mounted on the deck prior to the maiden voyage in spring 2011. LED navigation lights will also be added at this time
Add on modifications : Oar locks are being considered, as well as More pole holders.
For now, a tinker's tinkering is done, but then again, I'm sure I'll find more to do with this project before I tire of it's existence.
If I can be of help or answer a question regarding this project or any other project on this website, please e-mail below.
The following suppliers are great to do business with and I highly recommend:
1. Wholesale Marine....http://www.wholesalemarine.com
2. Pontoon Stuff..........http://www.pontoonstuff.com/
3. West Marine (a bit expensive but good inventory, and is local)....http://www.westmarine.com/
Worst Online Part Suppliers
This is my list of suppliers that do not follow up on orders or seek excess profit from shipping orders:
A few words about part suppliers. I have been ordering parts for teardrop trailer construction, and boat projects for over ten years. I have experienced very few mistakes with vendor shipping. The few that have created errors in shipping have compensated for their mistakes.
Occasionally, I can't find a part from one of the above suppliers, and have to try a new company. The following is an occurrence which is inexcusable.
I recently ordered two small inexpensive parts from Boaters Plus (not worthy of a link to their website) that were needed to complete another boat project. Since I couldn't find the part at one of my regular suppliers of boat parts, I found them as an online company located in Tennessee. The parts were ordered on May 21st and were to be delivered on May 23rd 2012. This information was given to me verbally, and was to be followed up with a tracking number.
On May 23rd, after not receiving a tracking number or the parts that I ordered, I contacted Boaters Plus. I was given an apology, and given an excuse for the error. Boaters Plus then promised delivery for these same parts in two days, from May 23rd to May 25th. This time, I was sent a tracking number for Fedex. The Fedex shipper depicts a delivery date of May 29th. Logic dictates that the order was originally not filled, and that there was no follow up other than an irate customer call back..(me)
Normal shipping from this supplier's location to my location is two days. By simple arithmetic, we can deduce that I will have waited for delivery, a total of eight days. This could have been prevented by simple follow up work, which is a responsibility that Boaters Plus does not assume.
What is even more galling, is to be told that the original order would be processed a second time, and that I would receive it in two days, when in reality the order was given a low priority, and would not be received until May 29th, which is an additional five days.
A final note worthy of mention is that if Boater Plus ships your order from one of their warehouse locations, there will be an additional $2.00 handling fee
Two blunders in a row and apologies are useless.
There are three primary steps for a supplier when taking an order from a customer.
Step one is: Take the Order
Step Two: Process the Order
Step Three: Follow Up to make sure the customer receives the order
Sportsmansguide.com is one of many companies that use Fedex Smartpost for shipping, which includes free return shipping.
I placed an order with online company Sportsmansguide.com. The order was for an item cost of $34.95 plus $8.99 for shipping. Geographically, this company is located in a neighboring state. The shipment took five working days, instead of one.
There was a problem with the merchandise, and when I took it back to the Post office, I was told that I would have to pay another $8.99 for shipping. Simple arithmetic tells us that after a refund, I spent $17.98 for absolutely nothing. However, I did learn about the Fedex Smartpost system, and will never buy anything from a company that uses this method for shipping.
To add insult to injury, it took only one day for Sportsmansguide.com to receive the returned merchandise from me. The Fedex Smartpost shipping method is a real profit booster for the businesses that use it, but their customers take a back seat when it comes to prompt delivery, and in this case having to pay for return shipping.
Greed is no excuse for making a customer wait five days for a delivery that should only take one day, but that's part of the greed syndrome.
Sportsmansguide.com has earned a place on my list of companies not to do business with, ever again.
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