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Technomadness- My Custom Box Truck Build - with sailboat inside!
#1
Greetings--

Decided to start this thread because I've reached the point of viability and am gonna pursue this until it becomes unviable or I realize I'm insane.  Part of me thinks this is a little insane (well, typical me insane-- go far out there with different priorities than everyone else, but that has worked for me pretty damn well in my life.)

My crazy idea is-- I want to live full time in a van.  No big surprise there-- BUT-- I want to bring a sailboat with me, and I want to have a nice work space like I have in my apartment.  I'm a software developer and I can't be without my computers.   And I have a tendency to not want to compromise.

I really love sailing, and owned a boat for many years.  I learned my lesson though-- the more hassle it is to get on the water the less time you spend sailing, and the less likely you are to go sailing, and the other lesson is NEVER BUY A BOAT! Well, a "real" boat.  This hobie isn't really a boat, it's a sailing kayak with delusions of grandeur and given what I've seen on  youtube it sails quite well for a not-really-rigged, just-drop-the-mast-in sailboat.   (I haven't bought it yet but the candidates its competing with are smaller.)

I don't want to trailer this baby, and I don't want to give up precious real estate on the roof (cause I want it all solar panels so I can boondock as much as possible.)   So I want the boat to go IN THE VAN.

This boat and mast are both nearly 19 feet long.

So, I started looking at box vans and really liked the shape of U-hauls -- with that "moms attic"-- which allows a couple extra feet of length without extending the vehicle.  But Uhauls are mistreated and since every Uhaul dealer is independant and none of them really own any of the vehicles, I don't think they are well maintained (no offense to anyone associated with Uhaul)

Plus, trucks are damn cheap (unless you're buying a sprinter, SMH) 

These people make the boxes that go on a cutaway chassis.   There are options for a mom's attic and a cab-door, and they will put in windows and all kinds of stuff like that.  Since I'm buying new I can specify it exactly how I want.

In fact, the plan right now, is figure out the exact specs I want, and write them up with all the options, and then send a request for proposals to the relevant dealers across texas (I don't care if its someone in texarkana that puts the box on the frame)... and get a good deal by getting them to bid against each other.  (This is how I buy new cars but never have tried this with something custom.... a lot of them have cutaways on their lots right now already.)

Happy to hear any thoughts or advice from people who have done panel vans.

Oh, and the build-- I haven't done something like this on this scale, but I have worked with extruded aluminum a lot.  I can easily built a simple frame for the boat to sit on, keeping it near the roof (much like people do with their kayaks in their garages) and have it set on a hinge with a winch--- so the back side of it can be lowered to make loading it easier.)

So, one side of the build will be lower headroom than the other.

I'm planning on using 80/20 (or a knockoff) for the build and doing a complete internal frame, with supports a cross the roof, and running front to back on both sides, all connected together-- a box within the box-- which will be attached to the box and the floor, and to which everything will be attached.  So when I build shelves and the kitchen etc I can attach them to this extruded aluminum.  

I've seen wood in old RVs.  I've seen wood in old boats.  I don't like wood.  Aluminum is the material of my choice-- and the nice thing about 80/20 is that you can make changes.  You don't have to custom cut everything.... want to move something 20mm to the right?  Just unbolt it and slide it down.  Plus it's very strong and light weight.

That's what I've got so far.  The actual boat won't be bought this year, this year just going to work on getting the vehicle and then insulating it.  I can fit my bet in there and strap it down as is, etc.   I don't want to bite off more than I can chew all at once, and am going to pace myself (because work is intense and sometimes will take me away.)
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#2
hi
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#3
You do have expansive plans. I'm curious how you plan to offload and upload the Mirage from the van to the water. I have friends with those boats and you won't be manhandling it, too heavy and bulky. From a trailer at a boat ramp is the only viable way I've heard of launching one of these. Keep us posted on your progress it's an interesting idea.
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#4
Let me briefly thumbnail what an old friend of mine named Jim did:

He was diagnosed with early MD and wanted to live one of his dreams, traveling and sailing the lakes and coastal areas of the US.

He had a few years before things would become problematic so you know what he did?

He bought an SUV and a small MacGregor Sailboat on a trailer that has living quarters inside the boat. (I'm not a sailor so forgive the terms).

This boat had a retractable keel, foldable mast, and a small motor, as well as sails. He took me sailing on it a couple of times. It's not fast, but it will go anywhere, with or without wind. 

Plus, it was like a small RV inside, very cozy, with a small galley, head, and sleeping quarters. He pulled it all over the US, camping in the boat's living quarters on land, as if it were an RV, and then, when he would arrive at a lake or the coast, he would launch the boat and go sailing (or motoring) for days, living on board, with many of the comforts of home.

He had a small solar panel on the boat to keep the battery charged, and radio and tv antennas on the mast, for receiving signals from far away, whether parked in an RV park or campground, or on the water. 

That boat was the hit of the campground when on dry land, with no water for 100 miles, and he would boondock and deploy that 40 foot mast, with Texas Flag and TV antenna way the hell up there! Here was this old guy walking with a cane and setting up and taking down a boat mast on dry land...amazing. 

Plus, he could run local shopping errands with the SUV. Best of both worlds. (but not stealthy by any means!)

As his health declined the trips became shorter and then he passed away, sadly, and RIP, Jim Lamb. 

Might be worth looking into if you are still in the planning stages.
Never trust a camp cook with lots of shiny new pans...
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#5
I just looked at the MacGregor website and it looks like they are no longer made, but can still be found used...this is a page with some pictures so you can see what they look like:

http://www.macgregor26.com/photo_gallery...page_1.htm
Never trust a camp cook with lots of shiny new pans...
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The following 1 user says Thank You to tx2sturgis for this post:
S Cello (01-16-2018)
#6
Yes the Macs are infamous in "proper yachting" circles as an ugly floating RV, or powerboat with a mast stuck on top.

But they have unique functionality, actually go pretty fast under sail, and when becalmed or see bad weather coming, you just drop your 50HP outboard and head for shore at 15+ knots!

The water ballasting has a bit of a learning curve if you're used to sailing with regular keels.

And yes lots more comfortable living space and storage compared to regular sailboats the same length.

And relatively inexpensive, just watch out even free can be too much if a lot of work is required, spending a grand on a good surveyor is a worthwhile investment.
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#7
Yep, for sure other boats could fill that space. I'm only familiar with that one sailboat, and a couple of kayaks and catamarans, and a power boat or two. Oh, and a waverunner!

But the main point is, that a sailboat with a small below deck cabin COULD fill this roll.

Like a dual-sport motorcycle, a MacGregor is a compromise and doesn't excel at anything, but works well for many things....and certainly it was almost perfect for what my friend Jim Lamb used it for.

Anyway, just a crazy out-of-the-box idea on a crazy out-of-the-box website.

Tongue
Never trust a camp cook with lots of shiny new pans...
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#8
Dunno, the Macs are pretty unique.

Soon as you get past 8'6" wide you need to get permits, each state is different.

I suppose a bilge (twin) keel would also be shallow enough if you found one cheap, a lot more common in Europe than here. Westerly would be perfect, also decent amount of living space for their size.

Definitely don't want a regular keel boat sticking up in the air 8-)

Cool idea though, lots of bodies of water away from cities you could "boondock" on, pretty much indefinitely.

But maintenance costs do add up...
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#9
Yes the Mac 26' is cavernous inside, queen bed aft, large V berth fwd and a dinette than can convert to bed/office. But as the OP said, the boat that gets used most is one that can be put on the water quickly, the Hobie Adventure Island is such a boat. I had the 16' version for many years lots of fun and very capable/safe, the mast is 2 piece carbon fiber so the whole  package is only 16' long. I only sold it because I built a wooden version 13.5' long that will fit inside my Transit.


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2015 Transit T350 148''wb LR 3.7 gas.

320 watts solar, 200 ah house battery

Longview Texas
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Technomad (01-03-2018)
#10
Very cool!

The idea here for the Mac is **that is your home**, on land while towing, or on water once launched.

Rather than sharing your limited living space with a boat.
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