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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Monday, April 25, 2022




– A particularly ambitious vessel from found materials


For a scavenger, patience is the key to the pantry.

– Delia Owens


Trouble can come upon whole peoples, catching everyone by surprise. It happens. It’s happening now around the world. It can happen here.

Let’s try a little thought experiment…

Say that things have fallen apart, a little or a lot. Either the local, regional or global center did not hold and things got chaotic. Looters came and went, along with most residents. 

Say we want or need to build a sailing vessel from scratch with materials at hand in a depleted sub-urban area. Let’s say things have been permanently abandoned, and the moral coast is clear. Let’s further stipulate that all stores have been emptied.

What do we need? What of that is at hand??

Triloboats are designed to comprise a workable minimum. Simple box barge / scows, they are relatively quickly and easily built from rectangular materials (sheets and planks). They’re largely ‘form stable’, requiring little or no ballast. 

But there are plenty of other contenders!

Free-standing rigs simplify construction immensely. They are set on what are essentially flagpole principles: get a solid grip at the bottom and let the rest fend for itself.

A whole range of waterproofing puckies can be magicked up from combinations of asphalt, oils, waxes, gas/diesel/mineral spirits/turpentines, cement (lime) and toxins (antifouling).

So let’s look around for what’s at hand…

  • Residential – Fasteners galore, plywood (sheathing and sub-floor, mostly), 2x framing, beams (solid and composite), hardwoods(?), insulation (foam and fiber), windows, roofing (asphalt, sheet metals and flashing), plumbing, electrical, hinges, carpets, fabrics, housewares, soaps and bleaches. Jonni Rings™ (micro-crystaline wax rings sealing toilets)!!! Electronic and electrical.

  • Commercial buildings and schools – Bolts, hardware, hardwoods (bars and VIP enclaves), plumbing/piping, stainless sheets and furnishings (from kitchens), propane hardware (can be used with home brew methane), industrial cleaning agents, big glass, plexiglass, electrical, asphalt (flat roofs). Awnings?

  • Cars, RVs and trucks – Oils, 12VDC electrical and batteries (keep an eye out for lithium based batteries or better!), alternators + regulators, inverters, engines (can run on wood -smoke or -gas), pumps, hose, radiators (vehicular air conditioning radiators use lead-free solder), bolts, tires, tarps?, jacks, tools and tire irons, maps.

  • Roads – asphalt, bolts (guardrails), sheet metal (signs), manhole covers (ballast), culverts. Bus-stops (plexiglass).

  • Power Lines and sub-stations – Poles, guys anchors, bolts and Ubolts, turnbuckles, wire (electrical and supporting cable). Copper for melting and plate production.

Appliances and accessories yield small AC and DC motors (windshield wipers, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, washers and dryers, etc), alternators and vacuum pumps (refrigerator/freezers). 

Line can be found in various ropings, scaffolding and window-washing set-ups, on flag poles. Keep an eye out for line in the back of trucks.

Look around for tools. Saw blades and files are some of the harder things to improvise, so keep an eye out. The business end of power tools can be given handles and used manually. Home garages, garden sheds and firehalls may have been overlooked. 

If you’re in a higher-brow kind of area, look for copper furnishings, roofing, gutters and flashing for anti-fouling.

Marinas and boatyards could be full of goodies, up to and including vessels that weren’t cherry-picked and need some work, much of it left behind in the rush to turn-key

 (see Bob Wise’s Volkscruiser Blog). 

Junk yards, of course. And landfills.

I’ll bet libraries - full of analog know-how - will largely be unlooted. Meantime, any skills acquired in advance of trouble are a plus.

And I didn’t even mention dumpsters!

Point is, we’re awash in material abundance which our ancestors would have coveted, and immediately pressed into service. No matter which way we turn, the merest garbage of our age is the stuff of early sci-fi dreams.

Consider looking around for vessel ideas that might work well with found materials. Let’s use our imaginations! Think out-of-the-box!!

The scenario of our thought experiment is extreme-ish. But no need to await some fallen sky… much of all this is available now for nearly free. Permissions to mine liabilities (condemned or obsolete installations) are easy to come by.

Look around!

Related Posts:

A Rogue’s Gallery of Boat Recipes

Musings on the Economics of DIY

Simply Does It


  1. Here where we live have a lot of plastic barrels from pine tar extraction. Can think in a Triloraft, with these barrels and a very simple, but strong wooden structure to put it up (a sort of external skeleton. Pine and eucaliptus trees can give a reasonable mast. Bucket-bamboo too, asnd for spars. Ropes and tarpaulins from trucks for sails and some sort of shelter. A spartan outfit, but functional. With fish nets onboard and some seeds and manniocs to plant in hardly acessible parts by land, you can have a operational way of live in this colapse. Here we are in the coast of biggest lagoon of South America, that brings us with a lot of nice gunkholing places... doesn't seen too bad at all!

    1. Hi Lucas,

      Sounds like you're well set in a good place.

      Poly Barrels are a great resource! Check out these Vietnamese beauties:

      Don't have to settle for a raft!

      Dave Z

    2. Amazing! Sort of a whaler or peapod made of plastic barrels! Rivets and store type caulking seam make a lot of sense in this type of post colapse construction. Now i sail a Wharram Hitia, and after seen this video, i changed my strategy from a raft a la Kon Tiki, to a catamaran of barrels, lots of internal space to live and store things!

    3. There was a very interesting article in WoodBoat Magazine about a couple who built a low-tech, fabric over wood frame catamaran and later sailed it across the Atlantic.

      /Combewright, Wayland, author and builder:/"All for a Horse," 72:70

      Well worth looking up for thoughts along these lines!

      Dave Z

    4. I had seen something about times ago, canvas and paper! A curragh catamaran, seems a Wharram in general aspect, but twin masts.

      Thinks that a curragh cat should be light and fast, leaping through the waves. In this theme of curraghs, remember Tim Severin North Atlantic crossing, and Farley Mowat book about the Farfarers. Both talks a lot about the speed and lightness of curragh boats. Need not big sailplans, a small and low centered keeps the boat in a good pace.

      This could be great in a cat, low center of effort sailplans are one of the recipes of Wharram boats safe record.

      I can't find yet a great material to build the outer sheeting indeed... all seems a lot flamboyant...

      Here in our home area, there is a record of people using a kind of curragh boat, leather sheated, called the Pelota. It was used to cross small rivulets, in the XIX century. These are times of charque (dried and salted meat) production, wnd leathers were abundant. The cattle came from Argentina, Uruguay and here to, from Rio Grande do Sul. It was so popular the use of this kind of boat that a big town here was named by them, Pelotas.

  2. The plastic boat caught my attention but I soon realized that your illustration at the top seemed to be the most informative document available. May of the files and pages have been removed from the home site like they do not want people building boats like this. Why not? Well take a pile of plastics put them in the sun and sea and they immediately start to deteriorate. Of course one can replace bad bits maybe even on the fly but realistically, the whole boat within just a few years would fall apart into tiny bits in the ocean adding to the problem the project is trying to fix.
    Your post apocalyptic salvaging scheme seems much more sustainable :) I suspect it would work now. Though garbage collecting can be a lot of work. There are a lot of 60s-70s FG boats available for next to nothing which have hulls that can last pretty much forever and as they sit are as much a problem as plastics when everyone is finished with them. I suspect one of those hulls (though not as frugal with space as the Trilo) might be a great place to start if the interior is finished mostly work boat style (though the interior of some of the off shore tugs is pretty fancy). That is painted plywood. I have found a number of plywood pieces while beach walking often 30x36inch or so (table tops?) that I have brought home and reused in the boat I am "refinishing".

    1. this project just seems like a big 'green' marketing stunt. I do appreciate the idea of re-using materials, but as you said, it is rly unfortunate that there are no plans available. I've seen this elsewhere, for DIY water purifiers etc. Only the finished image, no development logs, no updates after many months, or years of continued use. This is super important. Like you, I wonder about how this material would deteriorate in the sun. Like, it is fine if it does, but at least it gives realistic expectations for others who want to do the same thing.
      Maybe it's because they don't want to be responsible for someone re-using the design and having some kind of accident? Who knows.
      A lot of these projects lack documentation, and the websites become 'heavy web experiences' rather than a database of information (which would be more useful to ppl). I'm a sailor, and my internet connection is often shit... I could not load that page, with all of the graphics, sounds... :/

    2. @Len And REK re PLASTIKI

      I agree that PLASTIKI isn't the most practical boat I've seen. It appears to have been conceived as a venture to raise awareness of plastic waste, rather than as a serious proposal for practical boat design (they may have achieved that to some degree, but it's not the first priority). I picked it just because it's striking.

      My own style is somewhere north of the Floating Neutrinos' SON OF TOWN HALL... a more traditional planking approach than PLASTIKI, albeit with more fitting and fastening than appears to be the case for SOTH). Those Vietnamese blue barrel boats mentioned in an earlier comment, for example, could be a solid basis for quite a vessel, IMHO.

      But any of this kind of thinking gets my juices bubblin'!

      Dave Z

  3. Delightfully prescient post as usual, Capt. Dave, in these 4th Turning times, and a overall design that may well be finally coming into its own soon. Given the overall theme of increasing surveillance and control (hey, no passports before WW1) folks who have opted to implement the Nuremberg Code (not involuntarily undergoing a mandatory experimental medical procedure) seem destined to sail a wavering, fine line between the classic freedom of small boat voyaging and feeling increasingly like hunted prey (hey, what's that phosphorescent trail roaring up my 1 am wake line.... oh, a nuclear powered, AI driven drone.... what could go wrong?), a strong case begins to emerge for more localized coastal and archipelago sailing. Who knew your decades honing archipelago skills, engineless, and ultra shoal of working mans means were so trailblazing to these very times?
    I'd posit recycled plate steel as another prime alternative material. Bolger designed two sharpies in this theme: the 38 foot Lions Paw with its tough 3/8th inch bottom and the Weston Martyr 45 with its bulletproof 1/2" steel bottom. Who knows, perhaps the romantic age of the civil war blockade running cargo scow is returning. A fine way to live IMHO. Thanks for the super post and best wishes from latitude 17 north where the water temp is 84F. Fair winds, great tides, anarchic delights to you both.

    1. Hi Roberto,

      You're right, of course... steel plate is a great contender. I think in any kind of collapse there's likely to be a window where (especially arc)welding is possible, and there are always rivets.

      Alas... beyond our present skillsets, but who knows... we learn new things all the time!

      Dave Z

  4. Such a piece of useful information about the wooden boats and triloboats. it really inspires me to travel on wood boats and also express the emotion amongst its simplicity. this article helps me to tackle all the ups and downs related to triloboats.

    such an great opportunity to hire Waverunner for rent in lake hamilton, in US Arizona.