SMARGO Original Design by Jason Thornton

Jason Thornton
NCF Boatbuilding & Design ISP
Mr. Matthew Reynolds
January 22, 2014

 Original Boat Design Proposal: SMARGO TM

WHAT? A multifunctional, glass-bottomed main hull trimaran, floating classroom, and lab.

WHY? DESIGN RATIONALE: A simple thought emerged for me: why not build a multi-tasking boat that serves many of us? Smart phones are the Swiss Army knife of telecomm; thus, a Smart Argo, or Smargo? A glass bottom, smallish trimaran can act as an observation and teaching platform, a literal low-or-no-carbon, nature-synergized, mobile LAB on the water.

PRAGMATIC USES/ROI: Marine biology, ecology, and environmental studies applications, as well as for teaching sailing principles and techniques, and team building. Serve as a floating photography and film platform, or unique aquatic voice to read classic literature and poetry aloud on it in small focus groups. Every musician knows the power of water. A mobile meditation room. And many other uses and benefits. That is, many AOCs could USE it, student and faculty/staff alike, so it is highly socially relevant, a useful tool for many. Speed isn’t the priority, especially if viewing beneath us is a primary literal focus. As a trimaran, though, the amas would add much to stability and speed, as well as deck space. More of us can be on it safely, so perhaps 5-6 person capacity with equipment.

Overall Specifications: main hull: 17.5 ft length, 7 ft beam for stability; draft 6 inches, board(s) up, 2.5ft board(s) down. Amas: 12 ft length, 30 inches wide at deck, 3 inch draft no payload. Fully assembled boat: 14 ft beam. Equipped as rowboat, sailboat, and powered lab.

Sails & Masts: Lateen rig, as in Sunfish/Sailfish, 75 ft2 each (I propose 2). If each ama has a short 8-10ft mast for a lateen rig, that clears the main hull use for arena seating around the glass bottom view. The sails could be lowered onto the amas/outriggers when not in use, so they’re out of the way. The mast/sail rig can also go at the fore and aft of the main hull as another sailing option; that yawl rig would also keep drifting of the stern down some which is helpful at slow speeds. Thus, there are 3 sailing propulsion options: a) main hull mast forward (sloop rig), b) main hull masts forward and stern (yawl rig), masts foreward each ama (dual outrigger).

Shade: Since additional masts/poles besides the 2 main hull masts can go into the other 2 holes in amas, a broad 4-point diamond-shaped pattern from above is formed that allows attachment of a light canvas as sunshade. This is essential for anchoring or drifting while observing the bottom. Shaded areas on the water allow for safe and comfortable protection from UV radiation and dehydration risks.


Deck/seating: The arena-style seating around the glass bottom portion (8ft long x 4ft wide) should be built with a simple, slightly lower seat edge for back support and to keep items on board better.

Trampolines: Between the main hull and amas a strong mesh like on most commercial models is recommended for extra viewing area and weight distribution. The trampolines are easily detachable or left as part of each ama assembly when they are detached from the main hull.

Amas/outriggers: SMARGO has a big footprint fully assembled. If used by the college, then I assume a trailer is unnecessary, but probably any simple one would work if needed (or a pickup truck). Strong aluminum or pvc pipes for the amas crossbeams fit into a slightly wider main pipe crossing the main hull in 2 places: just fore and aft the cockpit viewing. They are secured amidships with a drop pin and turnbuckle. The hulls of the amas enable stowage of extra supplies, food and water, and lab or marine science equipment. USCG oars/paddles and oarlocks fit in the amas for auxiliary power, as does other safety equipment. Note: used Hobie 14 hulls are suggested as ideal amas for this application with a main hull.

Centerboard/daggerboard and rudder: The rudder is a conventional stern kick up for shallow waters all around Sarasota Bay. Two side daggerboards offer more surface area force to slow downwind drift. These boards are rotating daggerboards within a channel on each side of the main hull, similar to VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft.

Electric motor: Optional 2hp power for quiet cruising and exploring, or if winds are light. Quiet and powerful enough for a canopy-covered large lab platform just maneuvering around nonchalantly. Pricey, so maybe a later add-on through a small grant or donor/sponsor.

Multifunctional Diversity: With full equipment and features, SMARGO has these multiple functions: a monohull sloop or yawl sailboat, a monohull rowing dinghy, a monohull or trimaran glass bottom boat (with electric motor), a trimaran sailboat, a trimaran floating mobile lab, a monohull or trimaran environmental classroom.


Materials and Costs:

  1. (5) sheets 1/4″ plywood- $180
  2. (4) quarts marine epoxy- $320
  3. zip ties- $5
  4. 125 ft of 2 inch fiberglass tape – $75
  5. glass panel (plexiglass): 4’x 6’- $40-$60
  6. 2 gallon marine paint- $40 x 2
  7. mast (could be borrowed from NCF sailing club) – Free
  8. sails (could be borrowed from NCF sailing club) – Free
  9. 2 trampolines – $160 used each
  10. centerboard/daggerboard (could be borrowed from NCF sailing club) – Free
  11. rudder (could be borrowed from NCF sailing club) – Free
  12. electric motor (Minn Kota Powerdrive V2 Pontoon Boat Trolling Motor with Quick Release Bracket (68-lb Thrust, 48″ Shaft) $699. Amazon
    (used ones from $350)
  13. benches: 1 sheet 4’x8’- $20
  14. leeboard: 1 sheet 1’x2’- $10
  15.  (2) used Hobie 14 hulls – $175-300/each
  16. misc hardware – $25
  17. USCG paddles, whistle, life vests – Free, borrow from Sailing Club

Total materials cost: $1375 (without electric trolling motor); $775 monohull

Note: eventually, parts borrowed from other boats in the Sailing Club could be purchased/donated so Smargo is a standalone craft not handicapping other boats.



Construction Sequence:

– Check all build materials are present and construct in a well-lit, well-ventilated area.

– Gather all necessary hand and power tools, plans, measuring devices, etc.

– Use full safety equipment.

– Trace main hull, bulkheads, and planks onto plywood.

– Cut out main hull shapes with table saw and/or jig saw; cut crossbeam holes.

– Sand down rough edges.

– Lay keel/bottom plank on center line, cut to size.

– Build frame for plexiglass sheets.

– Align bottom panels and bulkheads, drill required holes.

– Assemble frame of keel, bottom panels, and bulkheads with ties.

– Stitch bottom and side panels together, checking alignment.

– Add planks to frame, bending and stitching as needed; add tape where needed.

– Apply epoxy resin and hardener to wood seams; apply 2 or more coats.

– Treat bottom and exterior with at least 2 coats fiberglass; fill where needed.

– Size decking, repeat same steps; attach and treat.

– Cut out seating well and attach.

– Build rudder reinforcement and attachments on transom.

– Cut out oar locks.

– Fasten sail hardware (mainsheet block cleat, jibsheet blocks, docking cleats, etc).

– Build 2 rotating daggerboards.

– Apply epoxy putty to all exposed hardware holes or other vulnerable points.

– Sand, fair, paint, check for minor fixes.

– Attach miscellaneous hardware.


For trimaran configuration:

–       Connect crossbeams through main hull channels.

–       Attach amas (used Hobie 14 hulls ideal).

–       Attach trampolines.


Possible Name: “New Horizons”


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