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Raft Building - How the Neutrinos Do It

The Basics

The following is quoted from a letter by Rodger Doncaster, who helped build several Neutrino rafts, and was one of the crew on the North Atlantic crossing, written in response to a request for raft building information.

The information we can give you is considerable. If I had the time I'd write a small book on just raft building. I will give you some basics here.
You have a vessel if it: FLOATS/ GOES/ and STOPS.
As you talk to boat builders you'll see how hard it is to construct a standard boat, which depends upon its watertight integrity in order to float. Matching wood, precision work, messy and expensive fiberglass - all go into making a boat, which can sink if it runs into a rock, beach, or another boat, bad weather which swamps or rolls it, etc.
This is why we build rafts. We are not worried about watertight integrity, because we use wood, foam, and other materials which float of their very nature. Our hull is not watertight to begin with, so if we run into something and crack, break or pop a board, it doesn't matter because the floating materials inside the hull continue to provide lift. You can ignore the hole and nail a replacement board in place when you get a chance.
Foam is one of the best materials and is what we have used in most of the Neutrino rafts. We've used both styrofoam and polyurethane; styrofoam is more susceptible to damage from oil and gas spills, so polyurethane is preferable. Chunks and odd scraps of foam are often found floating up on river banks and beaches, and can be stuffed into an old hull, (thereby turning it into a raft) or into a frame you construct, along with plastic bottles, and anything else that floats. We have often used the two part liquid mixture form of polyurethane, which quickly expands, spreading and filling all gaps and cracks, and acting as a glue to hold all your individual floating objects together inside your hull.
Where you plan to go with your raft will have a lot to do with how you design the structure, and also how you plan to make it go. A raft can be for 1. strictly inland use - rivers, canals, small lakes; 2. coastal and larger lakes; or 3. ocean going. The Neutrinos had built and experimented with 6 inland and coastal rafts before building Son of Town Hall and crossing the North Atlantic.
All the Neutrino rafts have been built from scrap and recycled materials of every kind. This is one of the great things about a raft - since it doesn't require watertight integrity, it can be built out of anything that is available. You can take whatever is around you and creatively recycle it into a floating, travelling home.
If you are looking for information about building a raft for a race, click here.

If you are working on or contemplating building a raft for living or travelling, please check the following pages:
Plans of the Son of Town Hall sailing raft; Construction of the Sailing Raft Son of Town Hall; Construction of the Vilma B for the Mississippi River trip; Reconstruction of the Vilma B for coastal travel.We are always interested in corresponding with those who wish to live and travel on rafts; if you have additional questions, please write to [email protected]

If you feel the information on this site, and/or that received from us through e-mail correspondence, has been helpful to you, please feel free to make a donation of any amount, from $1 to $5, or more, to help us with our raft construction projects and travels.

Click here to make an online donation to the Neutrino Raft Recycling Projects.

 

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Special Thanks to Wiel
Last revised: May 30, 2006