The Wooden Boat Build

Ever woken up with a strong desire to build something? This morning I did and so I did something about it. I’ve always had this strange desire to build a boat. But – what kind of a boat should I build? A ” go fast ” boat that could ride the waves safely and go long distances overnight was my first choice Finally I settled down and ordered the plans for what you now see below.

The boat is now built and I am now ready for more self learning to take place. The next phase of my boat building will be the epoxy and fiberglass phase.

And yes to answer the likely question anyone considering such a project; overall it’s allot harder building a boat than it looks.

The first hurdle I needed to overcome believe it or not was the metric system. The kids dinghy pram plans I finally settled on and ordered arrived from the United Kingdom.

When I saw that everything was in metric I initially just started converting all dimensions given from metric to the US system of feet, inches and 1/8ths.

That didn’t lasted long. An “aha” moment suddenly jumped out at me!

I opened up my Amazon app and ordered a metric tape measurer. Then it was time for the wood/plywood shopping at Home Depot. And then off to Harbor Freight for some missing items like clamps, stainless wire, zip ties and for some reason planing tools.

Eventually the last few remaining items such as a saber saw, blades, sanding discs all needed to be ordered as well.

First I’ll share with you the good, and then some of the bad, and then some of the ugly parts of this boat building project.

For the good parts I’ll start by saying that gathering all of the tools and materials plus the research done tops my list. There is nothing finer than just digging in to some boat building books – also ordered on Amazon plus some binge watching of YouTube videos on subjects such as; boat building, boat kits, boat building methods and still more on boat builds to fire up the desire to start this build.

At first I can easily see why it’s easy to want to bite off way more than one can chew. Like for instance. A small kids boat build takes about the same amount of skills to build as a medium or a large ocean capable boat. Obviously the time and money factor becomes the two major differences. Once that boat building desire takes hold it is easy to spill over from the garage to the yard and possibly even the neighborhood. So Stop! Think! Let your second boat become your real boat. The first should just be your learning boat. That’s because of all of the first new learning curves thrown your way.

The type of build that I did is called stitch and glue. Stitch as in drilling 2mm holes in the wood and tying two pieces together with either bailing wire or zip ties.

You would be amazed at the number of videos available now on YouTube for boat building. Everything you could possibly need to build your own boat is already uploaded.

But, understanding the process involved to get started with your plans in hand takes a considerable amount of time. This is even if they are spelled out for you. Watch a video or look at pictures or better yet purchase a kit of already drawn to size parts or already cut parts – way easier to do on your first build.

There’s been disappointment, joy, and even doubt in this short build so far. My boat plans like I said earlier originated in England where the metric system is alive and well. Originally I tried converting the numbers given into the US system of feet and inches but found it inaccurate on the plan I was using. Operator error I am sure as math is not this builders strong skills.

And after almost tearing it apart and trashing it for firewood, nearly declaring myself a not made for boat building retiree something magical happened.

I told myself I wanted to retrace my steps to find out where I went wrong? Turns out I had the side boards on both sides upside down. The way they were cut with the bow rise up led one to believe that this was the correct way.

And in the end I determined that the plans purchased are usually only a guideline. No instructions provided can make a first build totally clear.

Below is the work in progress kids pram dinghy. And since we found out my grandsons Elliott’s mom is now having a baby sister a stern seat was added.

About twenty five years ago I recall hiring a local carpenter by the name of Thomas to work alongside me as we swapped out all the windows and doors on a fixer upper home.

This guy Thomas told me he only needed to build just one more project before truly calling himself a carpenter. And even though he was a pro carpenter, he felt he lacked just one final project – a boat. Imagine that. The true test of a wood builder is building a boat. I guess I never forgot.

Well, recently on a cold and wet Southern California winter day I sat down to once again reread all of my favorite back issues of Wooden boat magazine going back ten years.

If you are not familiar with this magazine visit for more info. This magazine is designed for the boat builder that needs just a little bit of inspiration.

For example in a 2012 magazine story ” The Pleasures of a Shantyboat”. In this story one could get easily lost in admiring the pictures of a well built simple floating home. A shelter with all of the essentials as a perfect get away from it all.

And then reality kicks in. I don’t have the passion the work space the $$ or the desire to build one of these. My next thought was to build something that can handle rough water and is fast?

I come across the Bartender boat and it takes me on a journey down the Multnomah and the Columbia River and out the river bar to the Pacific Ocean. An area better known as the graveyard of the Pacific.

I now reflect on having crossed the bar not once but twice. Once when taking a Fisher ketch 30′ north as far as Prince Rupert way up the Inside Passage. The second time on my own trawler, a 41′ Defever – this time it was south and down the Pacific to as far as the Sea of Cortez.

So if you’re gonna build a boat then why not start with one that will get used. With at least four grandkids that can certainly benefit from learning some basic water skills I’ve now made my mind up that this will be the first boat that I will build.

Somewhere I read that a couple was watching a Bartender boat from land as it negotiated returning from sea into the Columbia River. The woman then made the comment, “why doesn’t the coast guard keep people from going out in small boats in conditions like these”? A nearby coastguard man replied, “because they’ve got a boat better than what we have.

End of Part I.