The top idea in Category 1 of the 2008 Boats & Blinds Contest
Edwards McBride Twin-hulled, Tidal Extremes Floating BlindCharles Edwards and Pat McBride, Homer, Alaska
The Edwards McBride Tidal Extremes Floating Blind is designed with skirt bows and sides that fold inward and a dog ramp that lifts so the blind can be towed with a minimum of drag.
Charles Edwards of Homer, Alaska, deals with waterfowl hunting conditions unlike those of almost any other location. Besides the usual wind, wet and cold waterfowl hunters contend with everywhere, Edwards must deal with tides. To hunt effectively, he had to design a blind that could function in extreme tidal range conditions.
"I built the floating blind with a partner, Pat McBride, so it was a team effort," Edwards said. "The area we hunt is tidal saltwater with high tides of plus-22 feet and low tides of minus-5 feet. With tidal conditions changing so fast, we needed a blind that was easy to set up and could also be moved quickly. It also had to be stable and remain safely at anchor in some very rough water."
The blind might be complicated for most people to build in a garage. But Edwards runs a welding and repair shop that builds aluminum boats. McBride is a commercial fisherman.
"We decided aluminum fabrication was the most durable type of construction and the easiest way for us to go," Edwards said. "The materials we used for constructing the blind are, for the most part, readily available from metal supply businesses. But we turned the plastic rollers used for the sliding panels on gates with a lathe. Another simple, but effective innovation is the cable loop used to create a hinge for the pipe bows at the front corners, which solves the problem of a need for a flexible hinge. The cable loops fit through holes drilled in the front and sides of the pipe bows."
The boat is a dual-hull design for balance and stability. The hulls were built first -- each constructed from a 72-inch wide sheet of aluminum bent into a 36-inch-by-16-inch cross section and angled upward at the bow. Each hull is 12 feet long and has three compartments, which are separated by welded aluminum bulkheads. The forward compartment and rear compartment of each hull is filled with foam flotation. The middle compartment of each hull is left open for storage and for the hunters to stand or sit inside while hunting. Aluminum hatch combing keeps the middle compartments watertight while towing and when the blind is not in use. The hatch covers pivot open toward the stern to allow easy access to the shooting stations.
After the hatch covers were complete, aluminum deck panels were added to the tops of the hulls. Then the hulls were turned over and full-length strakes of 1½-inch-by-1½-inch-by-½-inch angle were welded along the bottoms to keep the blind tracking true during towing. Tow eyes made of flat plate were welded to the interior forward edges of the hulls.
The hulls were then fastened together using spreader tubes and gussets, forming a 9-foot-wide platform, including the 36-inch separation between the twin 36-inch hulls. Metal angle braces with wood inserts created a motor mount. But so far, Edwards and McBride have towed their blind to their hunting area.
A gate frame covers the bow of the boat, pivoting upward from the hinge point at the extreme front of the bow. The gate frame is 60 feet long and 9 feet wide and constructed of 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-3„16-inch angle only along rear edge. It is formed in three rectangular sections, with the interior, front and sides made of 2-inch-by-1-inch-by-1„8-inch channel, with the interiors welded together back to back.
Front view of the Edwards McBride Twin-hulled Tidal Extreme Floating Blind with the skirt bows folded down, the roof folded up and the sliding gates and frames lifted into shooting position. The fully deployed blind, sans camouflage netting, is ready for hunting.
On top of the gate frame sit three gate panels, which slide toward the rear on the plastic rollers installed inside brackets made of 1-inch-by-1„8-inch square tubing. The rollers are bolted in place inside the tubing brackets along the bottom of the sliding section. Sliding the gate panels forward or aft adjusts the size of openings at the shooting stations, as well as the height. Bolts dropped into notches in tracks made of 2-inch angle keep the sliding panels in place.
"It is important to design the gate frame to keep material off the gates so they roll freely," Edwards said. "The sliding gates can be built into any shape. If you are in an area that gets snow, they must be able to support the snow load."
Above the sliding gate panels, Edwards constructed a framework of solid aluminum stock for supporting military-surplus camouflage netting. The framework is fixed in place on the gate frame, allowing free movement of the sliding panels beneath them.
Next came the installation of the wooden side panels. The panels are hinged at the hull-attaching points, allowing them to fall flat to the interior decks of the blind. The exceptions are the short sections that run the length of each shooting station along gunwales. These sections are fixed in place and extend 8 inches high. Hinges allow an extended hinge height necessary for folding down the side panels so they clear the hatch covers and forward and rear wooden panels when they are in the down position.
When the forward wooden panel folds upward into the hunting position, it holds the frame/gate assembly in an elevated position. The wooden panel fits tightly along a piece of aluminum angle welded along the bottom of the frame/grate assembly.
The camouflage netting for the outside of the blind is secured to bows made of aluminum pipe. The front bows are secured to one another and to the bow corners using steel cable, which acts as a universally directional hinge.
The two sides and the forward and aft bows rotate up and onto the blind during towing and storage, and downward all the way to the water while hunting, forming aprons that create a continuous camouflage netting cover to completely conceal the outline and materials of the blind down to the waterline.
A roof, consisting of another pipe bow frame with strip of plywood bolted all the way across from side to side, rotates upward to the interior side of the aft bow frame. The roof frame top and rear are also covered with camouflage netting to hide hunters from wat
erfowl approaching from the rear, as well as to break up the hunters' outlines against a dark background when waterfowl approach from the front. The roof bow frame is held erect with metal braces welded to the bow frame sides. These braces support aluminum angle that extends all the way across the blind from. The angle fits tightly on top of a hinged wooden panel that, when lifted, forms the support bracing for the roof bow frame.
Covered in camouflage netting, the Edwards McBride blind is set to hunt.
When the blind is being towed or stored, all panels and bows fold in, forming a compact, compressed top profile for low wind resistance. The exception is the dog platform and hide, which remain fixed on the outside port corner of the blind near the stern. The dog deck extends from the main blind deck at the same height and is suspended over the water. An aluminum tubing frame supports a solid fabric windbreaker to protect the dog from the elements. The dog deck is covered with exterior carpet. A ramp, which pivots down to the water on a hinge from the front of the dog deck, is also covered with carpet.
Two aluminum strips ensure a good climbing grip for the dog's toenails.
When he doesn't have a dog along for the hunt, Edwards uses a kayak to retrieve downed birds. The kayak is hidden beneath the rear camo apron.
"We've found that the camo material with the web netting on the back is the most durable for covering the blind and it will last several years," Edwards said. "A catalytic propane heater down in the hatch underneath where you sit gives some very welcome heat when it's cold. The storage space in the hatches saves lots of the work involved in packing decoys, as they can be stored inside with the blind folded down. A cable-type bicycle lock around the two top bows locks the entire blind securely."
Edwards said the blind tows so well behind another boat, he hasn't added an outboard motor, although it is designed to be self-propelled. The blind tows well in calm conditions at good speed. However, he said during rough conditions, it must be towed at slower speed.
"We have really enjoyed hunting from this blind over the years," he said. "We've had some nice shoots from it. It's been well worth the time and money we spent building it."