MonkeyHow to build your own Tube Raft

For some time I have been wondering on how to build my own raft that is cheap and that can fit in a small car for easy transportation. Researching on the Internet suggested using Styrofoam and plywood which worked out to be little expensive. My target was to make the raft cheap... less than Rs. 1500/- ($30). Then the thought of my kiddie-old-days struck me of using truck tubes while going swimming. And this small idea became the beginning of my great rafting adventures.

First, I started with a drawing board design of the raft using truck tubes and bamboos and e-mailed this design amoung my friends. The majority of them were convinced and excited to join me for rafting.

A trusted old friend and a co-adventurer of mine joined me in picking up the necessary material to build our two person raft.
Items required in building a raft:
1. 2 (used) truck tubes=2
2. A foot pump for inflating the tubes (including a small tool to screw/unscrew air valves of the tube)
3. Bamboos all of (1.5 inches diameter): Length-6.5 feet= 2 pieces
                                                                       Length-3 feet= 4 pieces
4. Cheap coir/fibber ropes= 8 pieces of aprox. length of 4 feet
5. Nylon tape (used in back packs) and buckles. Tape width of 1 inch and length 4.5 feet
    each= 7 pieces

6. Homemade paddles= 2 pieces

Here's what the raft may look like


Making the paddle:

I made a very simple paddle as per the design below:

Just take a cheap wood of dimension 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch and 4 feet in length. Cut scrap plywood in the dimension shown below and nail one end of the wood to the plywood and attach a plumbing 'Tee' to the other end. It will be a good idea to drill one screw through the 'Tee' to attach it firmly to the wood.


Remember, repeat the above for every extra paddle you need to make. Finally, give the paddles a coat of (enamel) paint for water resistance and looks.

Once we got all the material together we have to do nothing but just assemble the raft near a lake. I wouldn't advise you to use this type of raft in rivers as the structure might not be suitable in strong currents/ waves.

How to build your own Tube Kayak

If you want better speed while kayaking here is one possible modification to the above design. In this design we do not need the small pieces of bamboo anymore. Just the long bamboos will do the job. As more friends got interested in my raft I extended the raft and made it in to a kayak for 4 people.

Just inflate the tubes to normal pressure and press the tube in such a way that the round shape changes to an oval shape with no gape in the centre. Use nylon tapes to keep the tube in that shape. You may also use the bamboos in between the nylon tapes to hold all the tubes together making it a long kayak.

kayak  2

Items required to build a (4-person) Kayak:
1. Bamboos all of (1.5 inches diameter): Length-6.5 feet= 4 pieces
2. Used truck tubes=3
3. Nylon tape (the same used in back packs) and buckles. Tape width of 1 inch and length 4.5 feet each= 6 pieces
4. Foot pump for inflating tubes (including a small tool to screw/unscrew the air valves of the tube)
5. Homemade paddles= 4

Fixing a sail to your Tube Raft/Kayak

Sails are a bit tricky business. It should have a strong mast and it get difficult to stabilise the sail in a small boat like a raft or a kayak. For, the people who never stop at anything, here is the design of the sail with a plywood base that can be tied firmly to the bamboos that are holding the tubes together.

Make sure that the top of the sail is tied with strong ropes attached to the both the front and rear of the raft/kayak. This will ensure better stability of the sail.

Another important thing to remember is that the fabric for the sail should be strong enough because this fabric is going to pull the weights of the persons seated on the raft/kayak. And the fabric should definitely be water proof.

I used only one half of the sail for the dry (wet) run and it worked amazingly to the requirement. I used cheap plastic sheet (tarpaulin) available in any hardware stores. Put some more extra holes to pass through a nylon rope through it to secure this sheet with the bamboo mast.

You may have to do some small welding work for convenience... but, is not really necessary unless you want to go sailing every season.

This sail works very well in open lakes. But, I have never tried it out in an ocean. I don't see any reason why it won't work there. I have made major modifications on the sail and the raft (that is beyond the scope of this article) to make it more durable and modular.

Our very first buoyancy test
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The above sail design can be modified to your requirement:

sail square

Our trial run of the tube raft
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Design of the raft with the sail and rudder done in CAD.

You can even work on a foresail and a rudder to have greater thrust and control respectively.

Remember to always wear a helmet, lifejacket or a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) even if you are the best swimmer in town. Be extremely careful with the sail when not secured, as it can dangerously swing around in heavy winds. Have a great rafting/sailing adventure.

(this article is subjected to following disclaimer)