|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
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.
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
is open in the rear anyway, however, the potential for swamping is
little affected by the size--or even the existence--of the cabin.
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.