Watson's Awning Blind
November 03, 2010
Plus, Chetcuti's Bufflehead Duck Boat.
Tim Watson of Graham, Illinois is a commercial fisherman during the spring and summer and part of the fall. But once duck season begins, he stops fishing and transforms his homemade metal plate commercial fishing boat into a boat blind. The fact that he made his metal boat and that he put on his duck-camo thinking cap to come up with a great blind for the boat are what make his boat and blind unique.
Pictured above is the interior of Tim Watson's Awning Blind--a perfect hiding spot for Tim and his crew.
"I hunt in both Illinois and Missouri," Watson said. "I hunt on public land in Illinois and don't use a boat for those hunts. But when I go to Missouri, I can hunt out of my boat. So about five years ago, I decided to build a blind for my boat."
The boat is 22 feet in length, so it required a fairly long blind configuration to cover it.
The boat is powered by a 75 horsepower Mercury outboard motor.
Watson discovered the perfect blind in a readily available storefront awning that can be seen sheltering shoppers along the along the main street of any town. Old awnings are taken down during building demolition all the time. But new awnings can be purchased from many sources.
"My blind is a 24-foot piece of awning, cut into two 12-foot lengths," he said. "I bolted it together so it measures 12 feet long and seven feet wide at the bottom. It sits on a two-by-four-inch lumber frame that rests in the bottom of the boat. It has four swivel seats and a bench along one side for a cooking stove. I store 40 to 50 decoys in the bow of the boat."
The blind is covered with sheet metal that came from an old swimming pool that was then painted olive drab. A canvas tarp runs across the front of the boat and another one runs across the back of the boat when it is set up for hunting.
The opposite side of the boat is open, with three ribs arching across the boat from the gunwale to the top of the awning frame for structural stiffening. Military surplus camouflage netting slides up and down as necessary and is tied in place to provide an adjustable height for the shooting port. Lengths of tubing tied longitudinally across the netting provide stiffness and allow the netting to slide up or down like an accordion to the desired height. The blind is placed into and taken out of the boat with the aid of a tractor-mounted front-end loader.
"The blind was simple for me and my hunting buddies to build," Watson said. "We have enjoyed many good hunts from it. It's not the highest quality boat blind. But it gets the job done when the ducks come calling."
Chetcuti's Bufflehead Duck Boat
David Chetcuti of Cambridge, Ontario undertook a tough project but made it appear very simple. Undaunted by doubters and detractors, he designed and built his own wood and fiberglass duck boat.
"After several years of enjoying your magazine, I thought it would be a good idea to enter my boat into the Boats and Blinds Contest," Chetcuti said. "For the first 15 years that I hunted ducks, I hunted with a partner on the open water of Lake Couchiching in my home province of Ontario, Canada. We hunted from permanent and semi-permanent shore blinds. My boat was considered to be just a means of getting to and from our blinds. So I just used a small aluminum fishing boat, covering it with camouflaged netting and stashing it behind the blind."
Then came an awakening to other possibilities. Some hunters built a blind in the middle of the bay and Chetcuti was forced to watch as those hunters enjoyed some outstanding shooting.
David Chetcuti built his Bufflehead Duck Boat more out of necessity than anything else. He needed a stable rig for open water, so he created the Bufflehead.
"The only thing I didn't like about theirsetup was that it was awkward for them to get their boat out to retrieve their ducks," he said. "This is when I first started thinking about building a boat for open water shooting. I wanted something that would be a blind, be mobile and would leave no trace after we had gone home."
Chetcuti said he read many articles and watched lots of hunting shows over the next few years, paying close attention to what other hunters were doing. Gradually he formed a mental image of his ideal duck boat. Then one day his partner announced he wasn't going to hunt any longer.
"This finally got me off my butt," he said. "Our system of hunting was based on two hunters. Now I needed a system that I could handle by myself. I started thinking about sneak boxes and layout boats and started drawing."
Chetcuti drew a baseline on his garage floor. Then he drew a 12-foot long line perpendicular to the base line to represent the maximum length of the boat design.
"The new boat had to be stable enough to lay flat even in a crosswind, so I set the width at five feet and the transom width at four feet," he said. "I found a piece of thin wood and drew a curve on it from the bow to the transom. With some help from my dad and some trial and error, I settled on a shape I liked. The boat's final length was 11½ feet."
While looking at boats to formulate some ideas, Chetcuti noticed that bass boats were incredibly stable and rested close to the surface when not moving. He used this basic design, selecting a V bottom rather than a flat bottom so the boat could carry a big load without being too "tippy." He said the finished boat could carry a huge load for such a small craft, even in two-foot waves.
Chetcuti drew half-models of the transom and frames that would give shape to the boat. From the bottom of the V to the top of the deck, the boat is 15 inches deep, with a three-inch combing around the cockpit to prevent waves from entering the cockpit if they break over the bow.
"Since it was my first attempt at building a boat, I went to a boat builder's supply in Toronto and told them what I wanted to build," he said. "They estimated the amount of wood and fiberglass needed and wished me luck. They didn't appear to have a lot of confidence in my ability to do the job with no experience and having no real plans on paper. I am a woodworker and carver, but they didn't think I had the training necessary to build a boat."
Chetcuti build a strongbac
k from dimensional lumber to hold the boat as it was built.
Then, using his half models, he built the frames from Philippine mahogany and ¼-inch plywood gussets.
He made the transom from ¾-inch marine plywood and attached everything, building the boat upside down. Then he attached a white oak keel and longitudinal stringers to hold the hull together. He beveled the edges of the frames and the keel so the ¼-inch plywood bottom would make full contact and bond securely across the length and width of each surface.
Pictured is Chetcuti's finished Bufflehead Duck Boat. The unit can handle heavy loads in open water, a feature cherished by Chetcuti.
At the point were the keel and stringers came together at the bow, he used a heavy piece of wood to secure them.
"The plywood bottom was very easy to make," he said. "I just clamped a sheet in place and traced the outline onto it. The plywood had to be longer than a standard sheet so I planed a wide bevel onto the mating surfaces and glued them together. After I had cut out the shape of the hull from the plywood, I glued and screwed it to the frame using plastic resin glue and ¾-inch stainless steel screws."
The hull was flipped over and the inside painted. A motor well was built, along with additional support framing for the deck. A level floor was built across the bottom for sitting and standing. The space between the bottom and the floor was filled with foam floatation. Foam flotation was also added to the bow and inside a box at each corner of the stern.
Decks were attached to the framework in the same fashion as the bottom. A pair of hardwood blocks were glued and screwed to the deck amidships and directly above the center frame to solidly support a pair of oarlocks.
"I had never used fiberglass before, so I spent a lot of time reading in various boat building books until I felt I had enough confidence to start," he said.
"On the whole, it didn't go badly. I used one layer of 15-ounce fiberglass cloth with extra reinforcing at all the joints. After applying the fiberglass, I painted the boat and motor."
With the boat empty, the 9.9-horsepower Evinrude outboard motor tended to make the stern ride too low in the water. But with four or five bags of decoys and the rest of his hunting gear stowed, Chetcuti said the balance is perfect and the boat sits and rides very well.
"I gave the entire boat and motor a coat of flat gray paint like the color of the water in the fall," he said.
"Then, using homemade stencils and camo spray paint, I painted it to resemble reeds and grass all over. The effect works and looks great at a distance. The last thing the boat needed was a name. But I didn't want to be too obvious so I carved a pair of flying buffleheads and attached them to the hull near the back. Funny thing is nobody asks what the boat's name is. Non-hunters don't care and hunters can tell at a glance."
Chetcuti did not document the time it took to complete the boat, but the cost was about $900.
"Now that I've done it once, I could build another boat better and cheaper," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'm planning another duck boat. It will be welded aluminum, which should make it lighter and more durable."