The ‘river cruiser’ class is a style of craft that seems to have been most popular around the early part of the 20th century, but has since fallen out of favor. I still like the looks and mana of the capabilities are well suited to my desired uses:

  • Shallow draft
  • Good accomodations
  • Trailerable (some of them, anyway)
  • Lower power requirements (fuel economy)

I’ve found a handful of primary designs/designers, with another couple of some interest:

Mundoo II and III

The Mundoo designs are based roughly on Bolger’s box keel hull (see below) and are proven in Australia. The Mundoo III at least is offered in an electric power design and has been successful in that configuration. The forward cabin gives another bed (I have to sleep 3 at least) without using as much interior space. The tradeoff is that you don’t have the easily accessible forward deck area.

Mark Van Abbema’s V39 and V28

The V39 is a proven design (at least 3 have been built – one has made the entire Great Loop, one most of the loop I believe, and another has only recently been launched). It’s outboard powered, although i have corresponded with the designer who feels it would be similar effeciancy to the Mundoo hull form. The biggest complaint. I have seen about the design is that the flat bottom pounds in chop.

The V28 is a new design that hasn’t been built. Its a combination of an earlier V20 craft that Mark and his father built which was successful. Taking that hull form (V bottomed to reduce pounding) and enlarging it a little and putting a V39 type cabin on it.

Both of the Van Abbema designs are available inexpensively.

Atkin’s River Belle

The Atkin’s River Belle is a much older design, but includes Atkin’s “radical” tunnel stern hull form. Its a hull design that has seen much success in other boats. There was one modified River Belle built that the user was very pleased with. The ability to power with an electric setup is the biggest question for the River Belle. Atkin’s spec’ed an 80hp inboard motor to acheive up to 15 mph (planing speeds I believe). This is going to be prohibitively power hungry for electric, I think. What isn’t clear is how well these hulls perform at lower speeds.

Bolger’s Sitka Exporer/Windermere/Tahiti/Dakota?

Bolger has several of his “box keel” designs, a couple of which might play in this area… The Topaz is a nice little “day” cruiser, double ended with outboard power (in a well). The Windermere is a similar sized (31′) liveaboard layout for 2. The Champlain is a 22′ “small” craft of a similar look.

The Sitka Explorer is a nice looking design that as far as I know was never fully completed.

His Bell’s Puffer is another “unfinished” design that strikes me as very similar to the Florida Bay Coasters… high freeboard, “tall” craft, but with lots of room to live aboard.

I’ll mention one more here. Phil Bolger has hundreds of designs and no online (or otherwise) catalog, so its tough to find fitting boats without contacting him – which is only possible via fax, postal mail or phone. The Dakota. Probably the closest design to the other craft mentioned here, its a 38′ craft designed as a river cruiser. Its the basis for the Mundoo line of craft. The picture above is a modified interior layout, but is the best profile drawing I ran across.