Armless boatie builds it

How did he build his boat? It’s a question armless boatie Rod Haines answers with a smile – with his toes, of course.

Even though it floats and spends summers taking Rod and wife Leonie on adventures, the boatahome is actually a motorhome registered with the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association.

Rod and Leonie Hains and their boatahome. See video below of interview with Rod.

They’ve got the NZMCA wings on their trailer board and the green sticker of self containment on the stern because it has to be displayed on the vehicle.

He had a bit of trouble getting NZMCA registration, says Rod.

“They argued the toss for quite a long time – they said it’s a boat,” says Rod.

“They had to give in in the end because the fellow who started it registered his boat right at the beginning of the MHA.”

The boat is styled like a barge and follows an eclectic design process.

“It’s our design, we had a discussion on what we wanted,” says Rod.

The bed was measured to fit.

The angle of the bow was determined by the comfortable angle for reading in bed.

The height was set so Rod and Leonie could both stand up inside.

There are demarcations over who is in charge of the five metre craft.

Rod is the captain of the cockpit at the vessel’s stern and Leonie is in charge of the cabin, where she says Rod is the cabin boy.

Rod did the cutting and Leonie did the assembling.

“He built everything below waist height and I built everything above waist height,” says Leonie.

The boat is built largely from a load of condemned plywood Rod bought cheap.

It took about a year to build working part time, and was launched Christmas Day 2000.

Rod used to own a trimaran in his bachelor days.

“The trouble with trimarans is when you go out to sea they go bump,” says Rod.

“Leonie liked the shoal draft aspect of the trimaran, but not the movement.”

And being armless, Rod tends to fall overboard easily.

The sailor’s saying of ‘one hand for the job and one hand for the boat’ just doesn’t work for Rod who was born without arms. So apart from the cockpit, the boat is fully enclosed.

It was designed as they went. The open transom used to be a swing door as well.

The outboard got in the way so they changed it. Access is now via the port quarter.

There’ve been a few other changes over the motorhome’s 12 years.

A six foot settee for the son became too short when he topped out at 6’4” so they cut a hole in the bulkhead for his feet. It’s called the foot longer, says Rod.

The boat draws 8” or as Rod puts it “half a gumboot”.

The box shape and flat bottom is not unseaworthy, says Rob.

“When you get into a bit of a jobble, she heels against the chine and digs in,” says Rod. “They will actually sail, about 30 degrees off the wind.”

When caught in a blow in the Marlborough Sounds he had to send Leonie forward to the bunk to reduce the pitching.

Powered by a 9.9hp mercury outboard, they cruise at about five knots.

It’s got a top speed of 8-9 knots, but with a flat bottom, slab sides that catch the breeze and that bluff bow, steering at speed is problematical.

Rod chose the engine size because that’s as big as he can start with his toe.

He had a bigger motor on the 19’6’’ aluminium canal boat they built and shipped to England, but that had an electric start.

At 7’10” wide, gentle is too wide for the English canal lock, so they built a longer, narrower boat. 

He was hoping to sell it in England, but the English turned their noses up at the opportunity because it wasn’t traditional enough.

It’s a subject that gets him started on a scathing comparison of canal boat construction techniques.

Last summer Rod and Leonie explored the 46km long Lake Rotorangi in Taranaki, and the Mokau River. They have also cruised Lake Waikaremoana and Lake Rotoehu.

They left the boat and trailer with friends in Tauranga over the winter and picked up this summer after house sitting at Te Puna for five weeks.

It gave them a good opportunity to scout future missions.

They haven’t firmed up on options yet, whether to do the Waikato River and the lakes or head north and explore the west coast harbours.

When in use as a caravan the mobile home rests on a flat deck trailer towed by a Honda Odyssey. The Haines are from Motueka.


Good Read

Posted on 06-02-2012 14:46 | By Blasta

Thanks for the article. A great read.


Posted on 05-02-2012 09:10 | By charob

well done. sounds awsome.......

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