Saturday, February 21, 2009

Newest Floating Blind

Greetings to all,

I can always remember seeing the ultimate floating blind. I really do mean the ultimate. I was trying to get some beaver pictures in a pond alongside the American river in Sacramento, California with my float tube blind. As I was shooting I noticed a guy show up and launch the coolest floating blind I have ever seen. It looked exactly like a floating log with bark and all. There was a door that popped open in the top of the log like a cockpit of a fighter aircraft. The photographer laid down belly first into the log and shut the lid. There was a knothole shaped opening on the end of the log for the camera lens to poke out of. To top it off there was an electric motor to propel it slowly around the pond. It was really cool. Perfect for an agile, small person not older than twenty five years of age. Believe it or not I don't fit any of those qualifications anymore? In fact I don't think I was ever agile and small. Well.. maybe when I was under twelve years old.

Now more to the point. I have been looking for a small boat that could be used as a photo blind. It would be powered by an electric trolling motor. It would have to be small, stable, and light enough for one person to move around. I have used canoes and kayaks in the past and gotten good results but I didn't feel very comfortable in them. I also happen to own three kayaks and after paddling around for two or three hours I can hardly stand up and walk. At least my kids can still use them. Duck boats looked promising but they were pretty pricey and weren't as stable as I would have liked. I have met a few photographers that love them. They also wouldn't work as well for fishing when I wasn't shooting pictures.

After a lot of searching I finally settled on a very small pontoon boat. Pontoon boats can go into really shallow water. Most of them are lightweight weighing in at around a hundred pounds. They can hold two people and most are rated to carry around 500 pounds. They work for fishing and you can stand up in one without fear of it capsizing. They are a little big for car topping but it is doable.

There were quite a number of models to choose from. I chose the Bass Raider 8 from Pelican. It has a higher freeboard than most models and it had the flattest hull shape for stability. Size wise it is very small. Coming in at one inch less than eight feet. Price wise the Pelican was in the middle of the pack. I ended up buying it online from Wally Mart and they delivered it right to my front door. Prices were competitive from Dicks Sports, Fog Dog and a few other places.

Next on the agenda was to purchase an electric trolling motor for it. I didn't need a lot of power because you need to approach wildlife very,very slowly or they will disappear before your very eyes. So I bought a Minn Kota Endura with a short thirty-six inch shaft and thirty pounds of thrust. If you have the bucks and can spend it go for one of the pricey models that come with a foot controller so that you can shoot photos and steer with your feet! I then purchased a deep cycle 12 volt marine battery for it. With life jackets, a paddle and an air horn the boat was ready to go.

The next step was to build a light weight PVC frame for it. I made one that can be broken down flat into four parts for easy transport. The right and left sides are the first two panels they fit into the cup holders on the sides of the boat. Next the front is snapped to the two side panels with two large caribiner clips. Lastly the top and back drop onto the side panels with four wooden dowels that slip easily into place into PVC "T"s at the four corners on the top. I then took the frame out into the front yard and spray painted it.

After making the frames I covered the top sides and back in a heavy Dacron material that is waterproof. I just used short decking screws and screwed the material right into the PVC. Luckily for the sides I had some material for a blind i no longer use and it already has camera ports and zippers already sewn into them. For the front of the blind I used a a small three sided pop up blind. I added on a small piece of dacron and camo to the bottom of the pop up blind to cover the front hull of the boat.

Following that I bought some camo netting at an Army surplus store. I cut out pieces of camouflage to cover each panel. These i attached using an awl to punch holes in the Dacron and cinching the netting to the panel with black electrical ties. The last and final step was to add a little bit of 3D to break up the square shape of the blind. I did this by adding a variety of green silk plants I got at the Dollar Tree.( Hey, Dollar Tree when are you going to offer me that corporate sponsorship? )

The last step was to find a swiveling office chair on wheels. I put some plywood in the bottom of the boat. That way I can turn around to steer and I can also easily roll around the boat to shoot out of the different shooting portals.

Coming up at a later date I will post some images from my Photo Barge. I've got to come up with a better name than that.

God's blessings to all,