Boat Guy Builds Mini Mobile McMansion

Guest post by Bryce Brisbin

Having lived aboard a boat for a lot of the last 15 years I knew I liked living in a small space. I once lived in a 26ft sailboat that I could not stand up in. It was all of 25 sq ft in the cabin, I loved it. When I came upon the community of folks that have embraced the Tiny House mantra I knew I had found kindred spirits. It has be a blast over the past 12 months as I have done a deep dive into the idea of building my own Mobile House. I was asked last week who was the person who has given you the most insight into this project. That was an easy question for me to answer, who is the brightest mind, and it is the collective mind of the community. The Tiny House Blog has been a great resource to me but there is no one source, there are hundreds and I have been able to embrace all this knowledge to find ideas, plans, and concepts and to mold an ideal of what I want in My Mini Mobile Cottage. My personal network has joined me in this venture which is a major reason I started my own blog – MyMiniMobileCottageBuildingJourney as a place to record my experience and add to the collective information on building these houses and to inform my friends and relatives of my progress.

I really liked the open floor plan of the Fencl by Tumbleweed Houses. I have attended Jay’s seminar and have his book. What did not fire me up about the Fencl was the way he treated the front of the house and the idea of taking my living space and making part of that a porch. While architecturally it looks cool, it did not meet my needs. I have chosen to make a detachable deck that attaches to the front of the house and using the entire trailer floor as living space. I have to have a U-haul to move the dang thing so I can put my deck structure in there and take advantage of the extra space.

While I have not locked down my plans, I certainly have moved past the planning and acquisition stage to the building stage. I have done this with little or no knowledge of how to build a house. I found a friend with this skill set and he volunteered to help with the project. I chose not to purchase any plans and have crafted my own ideas into a structural plan utilizing his vast experience and understanding of things like load bearing walls. I am confident when I say we are over engineering the structure to make sure it does not fall off the trailer or twist and crumple to the ground as I go around the first corner.

One of the fun aspects of this project has been acquiring materials and learning about things I had never really considered. The Humanure Handbook was a hoot to read and path I wanted to follow for my Mini Mobile Cottage. I found a guy who was selling chunks of a bowling alley and I bought one to use as my kitchen counter. I have decided to go off grid as much as possible while being fully ready to accept AC power from the grid. While when starting this project I had no experience about joining 2×4’s together I do have a lot of experience with 12 volt systems from my boating life. Designing my electrical plan, which included a full solar array, has been a very enjoyable but expensive side project of this journey. Here is my crazy idea of my electrical room.

Since I am running a 1500 watt inverter I wanted the ability to choose what plug strings were going to the inverter and what ones were going to the grid. Flexibility was important and during times of good sun output and would rely more heavily on the solar then the grid or be able to go completely off grid. Thus my flexible power bars strategy. I will be running 400 Amp Hours of batteries to start and two 135 Watt panels. I have no real experience with this so I have relied heavily on books, YouTube videos and the folks at GoGreen Solar and Backwoods Solar as my resource of information and where I acquired my gear. This draws me back to the collective mind and the power of the web. I have been able to engage electricians and solar experts to make sure I am not making crazy or better yet even dangerous decisions. I am excited to see how this all rolls out once I have my Mini Mobile Cottage in its first home site, funny thing is I have no idea where that will be other then on the west side of Portland, OR within biking distance to my job. Sweet, I love the challenge of it all.

15 Comments Boat Guy Builds Mini Mobile McMansion

  1. Gene Wallen

    Consider a hinged deck,floor up, roof down,then you only have to haul poles. I have done this on the side of cabins as long as 20 feet. Build it as light as possible and one person can probably handle it.

    Reply
      1. Gene Wallen

        Search for Gene`s Wildwood Cottage shop in the tinyhouseblog for pictures.If you are not past that already,you could put it on the front and use the tongue to hold up the floor.

        Reply
  2. Alex

    Thank you for sharing, Bryce. I’m also fooling around with the Lusby design and I like your idea with the deck. The outside porch does look nice though there’s definitely something to say about that but what your doing makes total sense.

    Reply
  3. Kevin microhomesteadblog

    I have allways made the sailboat/tiny house connection. Still don’t know weather I will live in one over the other probably both I have a 25 ft catalina (trailerable) now.

    These two camps have a lot to offer each other as space and design relate. Boating has lots of crossover systems and gear that are appropreiate technology for tiny houses. Here is a tour of my boat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3QiGZ3CD6c for some ideas. ;)

    Reply
    1. Bryce

      Kevin,
      Great little video on the boat. I have the boat thing bad. I have the Catalina 30 that lives in Olympia in Saltwater for the Puget Sound and I have a 27 Catalina that lives in the San Francisco Bay area that I use as an apartment when I travel that way. I love being on the water. I was surprised about the size of the Catalina 25 inside, it almost has more room then the 27. The back quarter birth is bigger that’s for sure. Hope that boat see’s the water on more months than not.

      Reply
  4. mc

    Hi Bryce,

    I couldn’t find your email on the blog but please drop me a line. I’m building a TH currently in Portland and I’d love to chat with you about the electrical, etc. I’m kind stumped!

    BTW – I put dormers in the loft and am really glad I did. Something to consider if you haven’t roofed yet.

    Cheers,
    -Matt
    mjcpdx@gmail.com

    Reply
  5. coutch

    8′ X 24′ is more than the room in a 44′ sailboat yet your floor plan has less used sq footage than your 24 Catalina… before you blow it, spend a month or more if you need it and study hard the ins & outs of a sailboat belowdeck… you don’t have a pointy front, curved in side walls, yet you have little room here to live… Study, especially from a quality boatbuilder like SWAN, or Beneteau… time spent now, before you strike another nail will make or break this home…
    Don’t try to build a House” but a machine for living… decor to taste can be added after you design well first!

    Reply
    1. Joe Chipman

      Looks like a great project! Are you going to use foil back foam insulation in floor, foil side up? I hope you plan for at lest 10 12vdc gell cell 100 amp hour batteries, weight placed evenly over axles or in the very rear of trailer to offset weight on tongue of trailer, this what I am doing in my little house on wheels the Hermit DeLuxe. I would also recommend a sine wave inverter runs anything like cell phone chargers and computers without any problems. Your flexible power bars idea is cool, I’m use manual transfer switches in weather proof exterior main grid panel and interior 240vac/120vac panel to transfer between grid and inverter and some outlets grid only like water heater and recessed 1250w electric space heater. Hope to hear more of your project soon. And remember you can never over insulate.

      Reply
  6. TJ

    Great floorplan. Love the website. Just wondering about the trailer. I’m no engineer,but will two 5in. c-channels span 24ft? Would hate to see all of your hard work sagging over the axles. Keep the photos coming.

    Reply
    1. Gene Wallen

      Glue and screw the side walls sheeting and it will probably be OK. Mobil homes are actually cambered up slightly in the rear when they are built.

      Reply
  7. gregor

    On your blog it says you got a complete custom trailer for $600? How on earth did you get it done for $600?? Please, please, tell us how you did this. Was it a used trailer or something?

    By the way the comments feature on your site (Bryce’s)is not working right. It says my openid credentials cannot be verified no matter what I do, so I cannot comment. I recommend turning on anonymous commenting, I do on my blog and it’s good.

    Reply
    1. TJ

      I think Bryce wrote that his trailer cost $600.00 less than a trailer off the lot. Not that it cost $600.00 total. I’m sure the parts/materials alone surpassed that amount. We can dream though.

      Reply
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