Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Swamp Donkey" my Mississippi SUV!

As you know from my last post I have recently relocated to Mississippi. I now live all the way down on the Gulf Coast and that raised a little concern when I first got the word.  I figured that I had better do some quick modifications to my preparedness strategy.  Back in the Sierra my biggest threat was winter storms and the likelihood that I would be isolated for long periods with no power or supply chain.  Now, I have to shift my focus to bugging out not in.  I figured that in the event that I got the word late or any number of communication failures that I better have a small boat.  So in light of this I set my sights on a canoe because I could get alot of enjoyment out of it even  if I never needed it as an emergency vehicle.  I started checking the paper and online to find the right donor boat for this project.  It took about a week and I found a beat up 16ft canoe just begging for some loving.  It cost me $25.00 and the gas to get it home so I began the project by researching online as much as I could about fiberglass boat repair.  It was  not my intention to restore this thing to factory condition. My goal was to make it seaworthy and reliable while learning the ins and outs in the event that I had to make a repair in an emergency.  I picked up a few supplies that I didn't already have and then I set to work on it with a one week deadline.  Here is how the project progressed.

This is how I brought her home!

I set  to work on scraping off all the old paint and caulk to expose all of the problem areas then sanded the entire boat with 400 grit sandpaper.

This is what the center of the hull looked like (notice the big crack on the left side) this was on both sides of the hull and went all the way through.

I removed the gunwales and repaired the inside with three large sheets of fiberglass cloth.  This also reinforced the center of the hull where I would be kneeling to paddle so I put the epoxy on super thick.

I reinstalled the seat braces and put fiberglass/epoxy filler over the rives and covered the rest of the smaller repairs on the entire hull.

 I let all the epoxy cure for about a day and a half and sanded the entire boat again.  Once sanded, I hosed it off to remove most of the fiberglass dust and put my little labor force to work washing and degreasing the entire boat.

Once the cleaning was complete I primed the inside and painted it with an epoxy garage floor paint that I had leftover, I completed the look with the sprinkle on paint flakes so it matches my garage floor perfectly.  I like that look but it may not be right for everyone.

This is another view to show off the paint job.

That done the next step was to double prime the hull.

And lastly painting the hull with a high quality roller and epoxy paint.

I allowed the paint to dry for a little over a day and then added a double coat of car polish/wax.

Almost done, I reinstalled the gunwales and the decks.

I used a run-of-the-mill rivet gun to secure the gunnel's so It would be easier to make repairs in the future. 

The build complete me and my first mate Leif hit the lake to take her on her maiden voyage.

The lake was a little choppy but she handled like a dream.

We beached her on the opposite shore, had some lunch and cooked up a small pot of tea.

Leif kept sneaking off to explore the shore line and gather a little fire wood.

So in the end we took a $25.00 wreck of a canoe that was probably bound for the dumpster and with about 50$ in materials, some left over junk and a little ingenuity we constructed a beautiful seaworthy vessel that will provide us years of service and an alternate escape plan in the right emergency.  But the essence of the experience is this.  I now know how to repair and maintain my canoe because there is not a scratch, dent, rivet or repair that I am not completely intimate with.  It is now truly mine and that is the essence of Survivology.

I hope that you enjoyed sharing the experience with us, the canoe is now named "Swamp Donkey".  She is my pack mule and my Mississippi SUV.


  1. Nice work! Looks like a lot of fun.

  2. Thanks for sharing you project with us. I'll miss your mountain adventures but I know there will be new adventures to come. You first mate needs a boatswain whistle so he can pipe people aboard :)

  3. Nice restoration! Pleasure to meet you at the range the other day.