Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Decision to Build a Boat

"The desire to build a boat is one of those that cannot be resisted. It begins as a little cloud on a serene horizon. It ends by covering the whole sky, so that you can think of nothing else. You must build to regain your freedom." 
-Arthur Ransome, 1923

If your goal is to sail the world on a limited budget (in my case, very limited), it really makes no sense to build a boat yourself. The materials for the bare hull are often far more expensive than a turn-key secondhand boat. Most would-be backyard boat builders don't want believe this-- they think, "Well, those people must be using expensive, exotic hardwoods for their boat. I'm going to build mine to workboat standards." or "I can buy un-milled lumber and do the milling myself" or some variety of, "Well, I'm different." I know people think this because I thought it, and I've heard it from many armchair boat builders. I now know that it is not true-- I got some amazing deals on materials, found salvaged hardware on eBay, I'm using roofing tar as my bedding compound, galvanized iron fastenings, and white porch paint to finish her off. Luna is not just a workboat, she is a down home workboat. And I have still spent way more than I would have on a used boat. In fact, had I purchased a used boat, I might already be out on the water like these awesome folks. Sometimes in life you have to do what you want, even if it doesn't make sense.

I really just wanted to build a wooden boat. I knew it was impractical, nonsensical, and that I didn't have the skills or know-how, but I was taken by the romance and beauty of wooden boat building. Funny enough, I've found you don't need to know much about wooden boats to begin building one. Lucky for me, I came across George Buehler's designs and book. This guy is really extraordinary. He's pared down the beautifully complex combination of art and science of boat building for those of us who just want a safe boat to go to sea in. No treatises on hydrodynamic theory, no hand waving, no boat building mysticism. Just practical, lay instructions on how to build a boat. Simple. 

down home boat building fun
(17 bucks on Amazon)

Granted, due to my lack of experience, I will be churning out a vessel more akin to a swamp boat than a fine New England yacht, but I'd be willing to bet the Clampetts had a heckuva lot more fun than the Vanderbilts.
Lastly, this documentary perfectly captures the essence of wooden boat building (click below to watch it for free!):

"Building Charlotte"-- A beautiful documentary about the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, an extraordinary boatyard located on Martha's Vineyard.