Winter Jon Boat Project
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Big Al's Cabin
Blog Details
Winter Jon Boat Project
Dec 15, 2007 4:50 PM

This winter in the northwest has been an unusually wet one, and that is saying something for a region often referred to as the "Olympic Rainforest."

To combat the doldrums of a wet, blustery winter, where daylight means at best a dull, lead gray sky, and at worst black storm clouds dumping torrents of rain and bringing blustery winds... I began a project to create a functional, inexpensive, dual purpose boat. The boat had to be capable of satisfactorily navigating the thick weed beds and beaver ponds where the bass I love to pursue lurk, and negotiating the shallow flats, and mud bays where the ducks and geese I love to hunt in the winter congregate.

I began the project by purchasing a new, display model 14 ft Jon boat, from our local Sportsman's Warehouse. There were some big dents and scratches in it since it was a display model, and for that the Warehouse deducted $100 from the purchase price, bringing the total purchase cost to $600 and some odd dollars.

I hauled the boat home in the bed of my pick up and set it outside my garage/shop until I could refurbish an old, damaged boat trailer I had, which I did after ordering the necessary parts from various trailer mfg's.

After I had built the trailer to fit the boat, I loaded the boat onto it and wheeled it into the garage to begin my real mission... the boat project. I began by purchasing a couple sheets of 1/2" marine grade plywood and fastening them to the ribs on the floor of the boat. Obviously it's important that the screws dont go through the bottom of the boat (or even come near it for that matter!)

After laying the plywood to create a stable, flat floor, I purchased some thick, black 3/8" flexible rubber bed liner material from a local Napa Auto Parts store and fastened it to the plywood. This was done in order to reduce noise and protect the floor from mud, and water, etc, as much as possible.

Once the flooring was complete, things began to get complicated. I purchased a bunch of heavy 12 gauge copper wire and I created a "wiring harness" that ran from the bow of the boat to the stern where the harness attached to a high amperage, deep cycle marine battery. In the bow I wired in a recessed plug-in receptacle for a bow light (required in WA for running after hours of darkness or before daylight), and also a recessed plug receptacle for the bow mounted electric trolling motor I intended to place there. The recessed receptacles were placed inside a small wood frame that I made and attached to the forward bench seat. I then bent some thin sheetmetal over the wood frame to make it appear as though the receptacle had been mfg'd into the boat.

In the stern I added another recessed receptacle to accept a stern light, or anchor light, also required for operating the boat during the hours of darkness.

My jon boat didn't come with oar locks so I purchased a pair and added them, as well as 3 rod holders and a down rigger, as well as some cleats for tying the boat up or anchoring it. (I own a 24 ft Reinell Cabin Cruiser, which I take salmon and bottom fishing off the coast, so many of the parts I had lying around from various projects and repairs made to the larger boat.)

I riveted a stainless yard stick along the rear bench seat to assist with measuring fish and purchased some camo swivel seats, which I mounted to the flooring. I added an accessory to each seat as well that would keep beverages and shotgun shells within easy reach (obvious necessities!)

Next, I acquired an old steering harness from a similar sized boat, complete with steering wheel and throttle linkages. This took some shopping around but was relatively inexpensive and in reality it came with a hulk of a boat. After I removed the harness, the boat went to the scrap heap! (The guy insisted I take his POS boat too and wouldn't just let me take the harness!)

I built a plywood "steering console" using 3/4" marine grade plywood, which I covered with outdoor carpeting to improve it's appearance and reduce noise as much as possible. I also formed thin sheet metal over portions of the console, in reality to give more of a "factory" appearance to the console, making it match the rest of the aluminum boat. The steering control linkages and cables were too stiff and bulky and stood out along the side of the interior of the boat so I formed more sheet metal, which was riveted to the side of the boat, that covered the steering/throttle cables and wiring harness. This improved aesthetics, plus served to protect the cables and wiring from being snagged by a foot, hooked, etc.

After all the metal work was complete, I re-painted it with olive drab "repair" paint that I had purchased from Sportsmans Warehouse to match. This lended to the factory appearance of my work, and helped make it appear as though the boat was manufactured this way.

Next, I took and old Mercury 7.5 hp outboard engine I had, and ordered a conversion kit for it to accept the throttle linkages and steering cable. This took some on-line shopping and led to my discovery of Twin City Outboard in Shakopee, MN. The folks there were a wealth of information and had just about any part you could want for outboards from 1906 to the present! Needless to say they helped me tremendously and their prices were more than reasonable! I was very impressed with their knowledge, experience and selection of parts.

After acquiring the necessary parts I set out to convert the motor from an outboard where I would have to sit in the rear and steer it, to one in which I could sit comfortably at the steering console and shift from forward to reverse, accelerate and decelerate and steer with ease. To assist me, I enlisted the help of my long time friends at Belfair Marine, located near my home (a person can't operate a fishing boat in the corrosive salt water environment of the Puget Sound or Pacific Coast, without becoming at the least an unwitting financier of the local marine dealer/repair shop!) They installed the kit, tuned the engine, and professionally hooked up the steering, shift and throttle cables.

When they were done I installed a 35lb thrust electric trolling motor to the bow. I installed rod holders to the front of the steering console and drilled large 3" dia holes lower in the console to accept rods laying down such as when driving to one fishing hole or another. I've taken her out and I gotta say she meets and exceeds all my expectations! I can walk right to the bow and steer the electric motor without the boat feeling tipsy. The boat is easy to load and unload by myself. The motor runs and shifts like a top. One thing I have noticed is, with a buddy in the forward seat and a case of beer the boat travels well, but it doesn't plane... but when I am by myself it planes well (even with two cases of beer!)

Blog Comments (3 total)Post a Comment

Secret Weapon Lures
12/19/2007 6:03:52 PM 

Good job, Big Al!. I went down the same path a few years ago (but not quite so elaborate). My jon boat conversion project is documented online as the ODF Project (that's the name of my boat: Olive Drab Floater, or "ODF" for short). Just Google "ODF jon boat" to find it. If you like, I can add a link to your blog account, or I can post your story as a page off the ODF site. For some reason, it gets about 600 unique visitors a week... must be a lot of folks out there wanting to do just what you did.... Joe

Tball AKA T R Conneaut Oh
12/19/2007 7:59:21 AM 

Sounds to me like you did one great job! Congrats on your success! Now go out and get the big bass!

12/16/2007 7:29:49 AM 

Al...great read. I started doing the same thing last winter. I still need to do the steering console. Check out the jon boat in the gallery of fishin5. Still work to be done.

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