This little pram is an updated version of a boat we once carried on the deck of our sailboat. Its a tough utilitarian design made for beach landings and rough water. We often loaded out 90 pound dog, 5 gallons of water, bags of groceries and ourselves and rowed sometimes a half mile out to the anchored boat, in all kinds of weather. If you've ever tried to get an excited 90 pound dog out of a dinghy and into the cockpit of a pitching sailboat you'll understand the need for toughness and stability. It also had to be lightweight enough to lift on deck, and stowed on the foredeck it became our lifeboat. The pram is really just the no-frills mid-ship section of a dory, with the transom and pointed bow cut off, and this nine foot version is equally at home floating down a river, fishing on the bay or meandering across a backyard pond with the grandkids.
There are many options to customize the pram, and it can be fitted out as a killer fishing platform, lightweight dinghy or an all-purpose family recreational craft. It rows reasonably well and the smallest of gas or electric motors will push it right along.
Epoxy construction techniques and quality hardwood ply are recommended but the boat can also be built using lesser grades of ply and traditional methods. Ply panels are joined using simple epoxy glued butt-blocks so no exacting woodwork is required and the entire boat can be built of standard eight foot panels. The large interior butt-blocks, structural seats and stringers compensate for the lack of traditional ribs and bulkheads and keep the interior simple and clean. Both ends are identical so the pattern and building process is simplified.
The boat can be made to weigh less than 50 pounds which makes it an easy car-topper that can be launched and retrieved by one person. Extreme duty versions can be beefed up by applying fiberglass cloth, tape or even Kevlar.
With a tough slick graphite covered bottom the boat can also be dragged up and down launch ramps and across parking lots like a sled.
The interior can be arranged to suit and an extra seat can be installed along with extra oarlock positions to allow proper trim with a load. The pram can be equipped with a variety of seating options including fold-down swivel backrests or folding canoe seats. Small bean-bags placed on the bottom of the boat make comfortable stable seating for kids or adults. Build the seats removable and two or more prams will also "nest" together for storage or transport.
Trim wood can be softwood from your local lumberyard or exotic hardwoods.
For our prototype dinghy we bought used canvas firehose, split it lengthwise and brass-tacked it around the sheer for cushioning when tied alongside.
Sacrificial wood rubbing strips also reinforce and protect the bottom for beach landings and launch ramps, and provide directional stability when rowing or motoring.
The simplified pram assembles quickly and without complicated procedures, and makes an ideal first woodworking project. The transoms and a temporary center section are used as a building base to provide support and a convenient building form during construction. A minimum number of tools are required and it can be built with a jigsaw, block plane, screwdriver and a few clamps. Build it with quality materials, maintain it with common sense, and you can give this boat to your grandkids in about as good shape as when it was new.
Building plans include blueprints and a 30 page illustrated step-by-step construction manual. Details include finishing and fitting out ideas, builders tips, material sources and lots of options for customizing.
Paul........I am so glad I was able to contact you. I am a great fan of your stuff, and I have I think, all of your Outdoor Life project articles. I've ordered plans from you in the past and built the Montana Pram. The plans are excellent but I no longer have the boat. I'm currently thinking about building the Camp Pod project then I might tackle the Montana Guideboat.
The Montana Pram plans are great!
our pram on the foredeck of our 35 footer. I learned so much
building the first one and after emailing you I decided to
sell it to my neighbor and built a second lightweight version.
After owning a number of fancy glass dinghies I really appreciate
this lightweight woodie. Its so easy to build and even my
wife can lift it on board.
Are you still building those compartmentalized rowing dories?
I should have bought that prototype you had when we were up
there and I had the chance.
San Diego, CA