I’m too smart for my own good. Okay, a lot of times then. I belong to a fair
number of Internet boating forums; sailing, power, boat design and boatbuilding
are just a few of them. Last year, around the middle of March, the discussion
on one of the boat design forums turned to paddle boats. Not those one or two
seaters you paddle around the lake, but real boats with Mississippi sternwheeler
type paddle wheels.
discussion revolved around designing a smaller one for private use in somewhat
sheltered waters. I followed the ebb and flow of the email conversations and
looked at some of the web sites mentioned. At the same time I was looking at
the calendar and realizing that April 1st was approaching. As usual,
I put two and two together and came up with five.
use a CAD program to do the illustrations for my “how-to” columns and soon put
it to work making some preliminary designs for a small stern wheel powered
boat. It was addictive. As the design took form, I added more and more details.
Then the brilliant idea struck. I would go ahead and do a more finished drawing
and release it as a new design on April 1st as a spoof.
all seen those concept drawings in the boating magazines, right? XYZ
Corporation announces their new, state of the art, high-tech, turbo powered
“Whatzit”. Complete with stylized renderings with a couple of models lounging
in the cockpit. I’m convinced that many of these are trial balloons. “Let’s get
this drawing published, Fred, and see if we can get anyone to order it. Then
we’ll build it.”
that was my plan. I finished the drawing you see here and came up with a name
that sounded like it belonged to a character boat. “Winton M. Green”, my middle
name, my father’s middle initial and my mother’s maiden name. It sounded good
and seemed to match the boat. I sent the drawing and text off to a couple of
publications. Most didn’t respond. One said they wouldn’t touch it with a
ten-foot boat hook as the last time they did something like that they were
bombarded with inquiries from folk who didn’t understand the joke.
should have told me something but it didn’t. One on-line publication did pick
it up and published the drawings and my email address. BIG mistake. I
immediately began getting messages asking detailed questions about the design,
the power plant, performance figures, when it was going into production and how
much it would cost.
one, but no one, looked at the date and thought it was an April Fool’s joke,
nobody! Here is the text from a typical message:
I saw your drawing of the Picnic
Paddlewheeler on Duckworks.
I have been looking for plans or at least a starting point for a paddlewheel boat
for the shallows of Biscayne Bay here in Miami. I also live on a fresh
water canal, which sometimes has an abundance of seaweed, where it would be
more of a novelty, but still make it through the seaweed without clogging the
impeller which happens to our jet boat.
I have found several resources and even plans for smaller paddlewheeler boats,
but no firm hull offsets for something of the size of your Picnic
I am curious as to how far you have gone in your design. I would be
interested in seeing more details about it, such as draft and displacement as
well as top view profile.
only didn’t the reader get the joke, they were mad at me because the design
wasn’t finished, wasn’t available and wouldn’t be in production. The on-line
magazine even added the drawing and text to their archive, so I’m still getting
I was, with a design for a new genre of boats, the “Picnic Paddlewheeler”, a
ton of inquiries and no boat to sell, all the result of trying to pull an April
fool’s joke. That’ll teach me, at least until the next time.
if you want to build a Picnic Paddlewheeler, just send the check to me at