Surf Barge

By: Kevin Fish

Basic description of what has been built:
• 3 Pontoons, each consisting of 6 barrels. Each barrel displaces 210 litres of water giving me total displacement of 3  600 kgs. In other words I can park a Land Rover on it.
• It is 6.0 metres long X 3.6 metres wide.
• Materials used are wood, fibreglass, millions of screws and plastic drums.
• Equipped with a 25 HP Mariner outboard.

Simon Fish is my cousin, and despite my family’s reputation in the South African surf community, I only took the step up from body boarding to surfing in December last year. It took me 35 years and I classify myself as a kook – but a stoked one none the less. It’s a blessing that I have learned to surf at this stage in life.

I live on the Yellows River, East Coast, East London. In March this year, East London received some heavy rains over a full moon period resulting in flooding on the river. My little boat was flooded and basically dispatched herself to heaven. I am someone who borders on having ADHD and as such, I like to have a project that keeps my mind occupied on those days when the wind refuses to blow off shore. After the flooding, I decided that this year’s project would be to build a surf barge. Whilst we are able to drive to the beach, driving is boring and barges are fun! They are also versatile – I can use it to take my family down river to Yellows beach and all go surfing, it would enable us to load all our boards, surf all day, come back to a braai on the river, beers would be cold, we can sleep on it, fish on it, tie hammocks up, find shade, I am even making a toilet for the ladies. Hmmm… the missus and I skinny dipping after dark? As I said, a lot of dreaming has been involved.

Chatting to my mate Luke overseas, I bragged that the whole thing would take me six weeks and cost no more than R30 000. He gleefully agreed that this would be a grand plan and offered to help me finance the project as he would have equal share in it when he returns to South Africa. Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had never fibre-glassed anything in my life and hadn’t built a deck in a few year. My bill of quantities was way off. Initially I estimated that we would need 20 litres of resin and 20 litres of flow coat. Maybe 2 000 stainless screws.

As things stand we have outlaid in excess of R 85 000, the barge has taken six months and is still not finished although she is almost at a level of being functional.  We have used over 150 litres of resin, 40 litres of flow coat and who knows how many screws. Without an electric screw driver, angle grinder, router/dremel, this whole project would not have been possible.

She was christened on 07 November to celebrate my birthday with 18 people on board. After all of this, I have now received a degree in how to get itchy, been through so many overalls and gloves that I care not think back to. There is flow coat everywhere in my house and car but it’s still been a cool project even if it has totally dominated my life. Everyone keeps asking what I am going to do next year when this project is finished… the obvious answer is I am going to use the friggen barge to go surfing!

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