I have an older 16x48 Tatman driftboat that doesn't get as much use. I am considering converting into a whitewater dory. I am interested in hearing other folks experiences with converting their boats. What worked for you and what didn't. How much of the interior did you deck out? What are some things you would do differently if you did it again.
I have a half-decked 16x48, standard side, Don Hill that works well for me. I use it in Oregon and Washington for day trips, 2-7 day trips with two people. The front fly deck is decked over and from the oarsman seat back. The middle is still open. I have a large kitchen box that I use for additional floatation, storage, front seat when needed.
I think overall, a 16x48 is a little small for a fully decked boat, however, I know other folks have done it successfully.
I used 3/8" plywood for the decks and 1/4" plywood for the vertical bulkheads, fir 1x3 material for the interior frame up. Be sure the space between the current ribs and side / bottom of your boat is sealed water tight or your compartments will leak. This site as well as other forums have all kinds of ideas for hatches, hinges, latches, decks, etc.
Below is a link to a big boat I built awhile back:
When designing the height of the decks off the floor and the hatch size, be sure to consider the stuff you actually want to fit in them first. I went to multiple small 20-30 quart coolers, 4 gallon square plastic buckets for dry food, 2.5 gallon water jugs, etc. These smaller camping accessories also helped my ailing back!
Go for it! About 3 years ago I bought a 16' Don Hill High Sides that needed some restoration. I restored the outside and then decked it over. Ran it down Westwater last fall at about 5k, and down Cat last weekend at about 17.5. I love it! It does not haul a lot of gear (to the chagrin of my friends in the rafts) but it was a blast to row. I can't believe how well it flowed over the waves and laterals. I wish I could head back down soon.
In order to fit a largish (75 quart?) cooler I had to move the oarsman's seat back, and the oarlocks back about 8" from their original placement. I was worried about it, but after a few trips think it works fine.
I recall getting a negative comment (on a forum) about the "raft" style oarlocks, but given the raised seating position of the decked-over boat, and the narrow width, I didn't see another feasible alternative. Without them I'd have a difficult time getting them out of the water on bigger more turbulent water.
Originally, I had planned to build some mounts for the spar oars, and have them both on one side. But, it seems difficult to fit them on one side, and strapping one to the gunwale on each side works well.
I put in a 1100 GPM bilge pump for the front foot well. It worked okay, but kind of wish I'd gone bigger. I might look again at adding some gravity fed drains. The oarsman's footwell has a gravity drain.
The front and rear hatches are raised (shoebox) and are incredibly tight. I was worried about water leakage into the flush hatches (in the white part of the boat), but only the front hatch and the cooler hatch (just in front of the oarsman's foot well) take on a little water in big water -- not a big deal. I'm in the process of decking over another drift boat and plan to use raised hatches exclusively -- they are easier to build, and I like the looks (and I never sleep on my boat).
Not sure I have the oarsman's seat dialed. I originally stuck down a neoprene kayak seat that was formed like one's backside, but the position wasn't right and I kept wanting to slide back and hit the rear hatch. The blue throw cushion works okay (forgot about it on Cat, so I guess it worked), but may try one of the foam kayak blocks that you can custom mold.
I put in a section of PVC pipe mounted vertically from the floor to just through the deck for an umbrella stand. Added a footman's loop to tie the umbrella down to, and a cap for when the umbrella isn't installed -- it works well.