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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Couchamarans and Carboats by Matt McGann '00

MIT alums create awesome floating vehicles from which to watch the fireworks.

In my last entry, I left you with this teaser: “I will reveal the #1 place to watch the fireworks in my next entry.” Without further ado…

1. From a homemade floating vehicle on the Charles River.

Enterprising MIT students and alums often will create special boats for the occasion of the July 4th fireworks. Some of my friends have gone the extra mile.

In 1876, MIT alum Nathanael Herreshoff created a revolutionary design for a catamaran. In 2003, Scott Johnston ’02 had another revolutionary idea — the Couchamaran. The Couchamaran is just what it sounds like — a sofa on pontoons.

Couchamaran image courtesy Scott Johnston

This year, Scott, former Admissions Officer Amrys Williams ’02, and a team of MIT alums and other folks embarked on an even more ambitious project: converting a 1967 Chevy Bel Air into a boat.

“Before” image of the ’67 Bel Air courtesy Amrys Williams

Scott doing some welding; image courtesy Amrys Williams

Amrys and Scott, doing some door work; image courtesy Amrys Williams

Unfortunately, the State Police again got involved, and the maiden voyage of the carboat has been delayed. But sail it will.

These projects are the kind of awesomeness that make me glad to be at MIT (not to mention projects like this). For an inspiring and entertaining read, I highly recommend the in-depth stories of both vessels:

The Couchamaran
Converting a 1967 Chevy Bel Air into a boat

p.s. I’ve just been informed that Ben scooped me on this topic by a couple hours. I think he has my office bugged!

9 responses to “Couchamarans and Carboats”

  1. aaron says:


    i can see myself heading the next project already!!

  2. Ben says:

    I can’t believe I scooped McGann! That’s definitely a first! grin

  3. Saad Zaheer says:

    u guys are awesome… the last few entries were really good. MIT rocks!!

  4. dj says:

    That’s amazing!

  5. Mitra says:

    If the 1967 Chevy Bel Air boat were pulled over for speeding, that’d make one hell of a blog entry.

  6. Kiersten says:


    Oh no. He knows about the bugs. raspberry


  7. shazam says:

    Ha! If only.

    Maybe when we complete our paddlewheel propulsion system (next year’s project?) the thing will be super fast. I’d rather we’d have at least been able to launch the thing. Currently we’re trying to figure out how to get the thing to semipermanent storage in NH while our Friendly Neighborhood Towing Operation is busy doing listing design for various theatrical shows… wink

    Ah, man, just looking at those photos from the past few weeks pleases me. I’ll have to take this like a (pre-2004) Sox fan: NEXT YEAR!

    Glad people are excited about it. Even though the Brookline folks asked us to leave, there were a few neighbors who were *really* into the project, which was really nice. Pretty much everyone we talked to was excited about it. And can I put in another plug for the awesome folks at Shaughnessy & Ahern? If you ever need any rigging or heavy lifting done, for all your construction and industrial needs… wink In the end, it was a project more suited to Southie than to Brookline.

    Those of you coming to the Institute in the fall, be sure to hit up Castle Island for clam strips and soft serve. Sullivan’s is the best darn snack bar out there!

  8. shazam says:

    Oh, by the way, if you’re interested in cool MIT-alum car-conversion projects, you should also check out Ehren’s wunderbus, the school bus he converted into a motor home. He’s currently driving it around the country, running a web consulting business out of the back to pay for gas and such. The tales of his travels are really wonderful.