Sneakeasy Goes Amphib!


One, among many, reasons I selected Sneakeasy to build is that I think it is the longest boat I can reasonably expect to get up the beach on beaching wheels. Our tidal range here can exceed 20 feet, and from my previous experience with several inflatables, beaching wheels are the only way to go for extended stays on the beach (camping, picnics etc.). Sneakeasy being very LONG, and with a tender wood bottom, needs to have bow wheels, and they need to be set up so that the bow never contacts bottom while beaching. It's a bit of a problem to deal with slinging wheels on that long snout... anything involving crawling out on that long slippery foredeck will definitely not do! Seth Macinko suggested "driving" the boat onto an axle, so here's my first implementation of that idea. I was pleasantly surprised that it worked so well on it's first attempt!


I selected "wacky noodles" (the foam tubes that kids use for swimming toys) for tires. They're cheap, this was a first cut at the idea, and well, I had some extras. These were octagonal, which helped in milling. I sliced off about 1/3 in cross section, routed a 3/4 inch groove down the middle on the router table, and gooped it up with PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive.
The "chariot wheels" are 19 inch diameter 3/4" ply, with inner and outer hubs of "2 by" stock, to form a long wood "bushing" so it will track straight. A little friction is tolerable. The axle is a piece of 3/4" galvanized pipe I had laying around. Ratchet web clamps hold the tire till the PL kicks off. On one of those wierd magical coincidences (very rare in my experience!), one wacky noodle turns out to be EXACTLY the right length for a 19 inch wheel! (Sadly I must admit I didn't plan it that way)...
A platform is added above the axle, topped by angled chocks to engage the chines. The device is stored knocked down for transport. The wheels are attached to the axle as we near the beach, and the whole works is cast off over the side. Two bendable plastic rods emerge from the top to hold "painters" at a reachable height.
The pilot must now steer the boat onto the platform (a bit dicey, but it worked) and Joe, manning the forward cockpit, will clip lines to the "painters" clipped to the plastic whips. The bouyancy of the wacky noodles and wood were plenty sufficient to hold the platform in place as we taxied to shore.

On the beach! I "drove" up this far on the beach with the 8 horse, then could easily step out of the main cockpit with my hip boots on. With the stern wheels mounted to extend a little below the prop, I've found you can just "drive" up the beach till she cavitates, then step off. The lines angling to the stern which Joe attached keep the platform from sliding off forward (the chocks keep it from sliding aft).

July 15, 1999: All the way up the beach this time, again at Coghlan Island, with stern wheels installed. The stern was at water's edge 3 hours ago!

The stern tires (4.80/4.00-8 wheelbarrow tire) and plastic rims were originally part of a Happy's set for my Zodiac. I laminated up some beefier legs and a wood chock system to hold them in place on the transom - Sneakeasy's narrow transom would not allow room for the original Happy's pivoting setup. These do not pivot, but slide down and out of the chocks to dismount.

A 3:1 block and tackle strung up to a beach log was more than sufficient to haul her up out of the surf zone. Note boulder-strewn beach. You have to be selective, but there are lots of beaches here in Southeast Alaska that have reasonable gradients and substrates for beaching wheel systems to work well.

After hauling up the beach, Joe chocks the wheels. This beach was plenty firm for the load on these tires. Softer beaches might need wider tires though.

It was a beautiful sunny day for a beach picnic, and exactly what the beaching wheels are great for. Joe was barefoot and shirtless till sunset - very warm and no bugs - unusual for Juneau!
Oops! (Houston, we have a problem....!!!) Guess the half inch threaded rod axles are a little wimpy huh? This didn't happen until we started to roll down the beach to launch. There were a few anxious moments until we figured out the wheels weren't completely jammed. High tide would eventually come at 4 am, so we would not have been stuck forever, but....
Lightening the boat enabled us to relaunch as planned without too much trouble. A little redesign work needed, but I think I have proved the bow & stern wheel concept is doable for a 26 foot boat like Sneakeasy, and a great way to deal with beach camping when there is a substantial tidal regime.

Joe loves his front cockpit!! Enroute home, while dismounting the wheels (engine off) a school of harbor porpoise gave us a peaceful very closeup visit.

Heading home at sunset...this is the life!
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My resource page for amphibious (wheeled) small craft

Contact:  Fritz Funk (fritzf@alaska.net)