Building My First Wooden Boat
One of the most memorable acts of my childhood was building my first boat. I had visions of sailing the little skiff across the foggy Maine harbor, chasing seals and dodging lobster buoys. My grandfather drove me to Friendship, home of the Friendship Sloop, to get the plans for a little sailing skiff that was easy enough for a 12 year old boy to build (with a little guidance of course) in the barn.
The smell of the freshly cut wood drying in the kiln at the lumber yard was intoxicating. I remember choosing every plank with care the way a gourmet chef would choose his produce; eyeing for straightness, smelling the oaky aroma and stroking the roughness of the hewn wood.
School had just started and this was to be my winter project. The winters are long in Maine and it seemed a lifetime until spring when I would launch my craft for the first time. Every day on my way home from school I would stop off at the boatyard and talk to the builders in hopes of picking up a few old timer tricks. The old salts were always happy to gab and instruct as long as a sanding block was in my hand.
Many hours of sanding, cutting and drilling paid off in the end. Not a single power tool was used on my bold little craft.
After an eternity to a child the day came when I popped open the first can of varnish. It sounded like the celebration of a champagne cork releasing. The final steps had begun. Each day began with a light sanding before school and ended with a microscopic layer of varnish applied before supper until she sat shining on her blocks like a life-size trophy.
I had to choose when to launch. I knew my impatience would urge me to splashing her too soon so I vowed that she would go in the water the day the bearded iris bulbs popped their first green fingers through the earth along the white picket gate leading to my house.
It was on a Sunday morning when I went to fetch the paper from the box that I noticed the leaf protruding from the ground. I ran to the house shouting incoherently to my mother while stuffing toast in mouth, putting on my oilskins and urging my grandfather up from his chair.
We loaded the “Gypsea” into the back of the pickup and headed down the short dirt path to the wharf. Gently we loaded her into the water along with a thermos of hot chocolate, a life jacket and my big black Newfoundland, Gypsy. Together we made our maiden voyage across the harbor no less gratified than Columbus or Vespucci on their maiden voyages.
Summer is about over once again and it is time for winter projects to be planned. Building a boat large or small is a great way to spend the winter. Alone, or even better with a child, it will be a memorable and satisfying experience.
There is a free eBook on wooden boat building below. It is over 250 pages and well worth the read. Get it by filling out the simple email form. You can get Boat Building Plans at New Boat Plans that are great and really inexpensive.