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Kobuk
In the summer of 1965, I lived in a small village located next to the Kobuk River in Arctic Alaska.  Its clear waters flow  across the tundra with the austere Brooks Range in the near distance.  I always wanted to return to that pristine environment, and when I decided to build a river boat I found I couldn't help but name it "Kobuk."  It is pronounced, incidentally, as "co-buck," with the accent on the first syllable.

Kobuk was built according to plans sold by Glen-L Marine.  This particular design is called the "River Rat," a 19' runabout designed to be used on rivers and in shallow waters.  The plans explain how to extend the length of the basic design and Kobuk was built in this extended fashion.  As the line drawings to the right indicate, the River Rat was not visualized as a vessel for live aboard ccruising, but the slightly longer length of Kobuk made it possible to construct a cabin area and build in a bunk under the forward deck.


The River Rat hull shape is hard chined, broad in the beam, and blunt in the bow.  It also has low freeboard and a shallow deadrise.  These characteristics describe a boat that is easy to build, carries a fair load, and draws little water.  In rough water one should expect a harsh motion and wetness, but the overall buoyancy of the hull should deter swamping in anything but severe conditions.
Line Drawings for the River Rat
Hull Construction
Kobuk was constructed out of mahogany and marine plywood.  The mahogany was used to give the hull its structure while the planking was done in plywood.  All joints and seams were fastened using epoxy glue and silicon bronze screws.  Once the hull was finished, the exterior was fared out and sheathed with a layer of fiberglass cloth embedded in epoxy resin.  The hull was constructed in complete conformity with the River Rat plans but the cabin was a singular creation.  It too, however, has mahogany framing, plywood planking, and a fiberglass sheathing.  The one exceptional wood in the boat is the rub rail, a protective perimeter of white oak.

The cabin was constructed using lumber and plywood of the smallest possible dimensions.  This was done to insure that as little weight as possible would be added to the boat and to keep the center of gravity as low as possible.  The broad cabin top was strengthened by giving it a convex shape.  It also is hinged and can be raised about 6", thereby allowing for ventilation in the cabin.  The windows are tempered glass.  Serious consideration was given to using plexiglass because of the lighter weight, but in the end the clarity and scratch resistance of glass was thought to be important since the whole idea of the trip is to see things.  The very large front windshield is likely to be vulnerable to boarding waves and so a vertical bar was rigged down the center inside the cabin--one that can be removed for better visibility in good conditions but that would provide greater glass strength in bad.

In its final form, Kobuk reflects the general lines of the River Rat, but has a somewhat oversized cabin that might be viewed as unseaworthy.  Since the hull is open in the rear anyway, however, the potential for swamping is little affected by the size--or even the existence--of the cabin.  On the positive side, the large cabin allows for standing headroom which is very convenient when living aboard and handling all chores without a crew.  The awning that runs aft from the cabin is a more or less permanent fixture; it is taken down only when the boat is trailered.  It too allows for standing headroom.
Kobuk on Lake Powell


HOME PAGE

Kobuk
The Voyage
Spike
Design
Construction

The Plan
The Log

Writing
Travel