Musings from a craftsman boat builder.

So you think that you want to be a boatbuilder?

So you think that you want to be a boatbuilder?  Well, in my opinion, boatbuilding is a wonderful profession but a terrible business.  It is true that I have been able to get by financially, sort of, and in the end have ended up with a little more equity than if I had just worked for someone else.  However, the dollars per hour were never very good. Would I do it all again?

YES. but with a few changes.  I guess the reason comes down to “ The Project”   The challenge to transform thoughts and concepts and dreams into something real,The Project, has been most rewarding.

Many kids, mostly boys, have enjoyed building model boats and airplanes. Most grow out of it others become engineers and some become builders. Education is based on the need to know this or that. It is a tangled web of many paths that often interact. 

        “The Project”.  I arrived on Cape Cod in the spring of 1969 and was lucky enough to land a job at a little cabinet shop. I have always liked to work diligently. The owner of the shop was very happy to explain things and was a great teacher but after a few months he had to admit that I was like a sponge soaking up any and all information that was available. We did learn some things together.

    Cape Cod is, of course, surrounded by water and there are many little harbors and bays.  I soon realized that I needed a boat. Just how many boats I would think that I needed over the years has yet to manifest itself.  In any case I announced one Monday  morning that I had to build a boat. As luck would have it we had a copy of Howard Chappells boatbuilding book. The book had some plans and after some thought we selected a typical flat bottomed skiff. Then some problems surfaced. The design was a 12 foot design  but the lumber yard could only provide 10' plywood on short notice and since we figured that the ply would be stronger we used 5/8” thickness rather than the ¾” pine specified. We modified the shape to fit the materials just as if we knew what we were doing. Three evening sessions later we had a boat... sort of. We launched it without paint to get a water line and by the weekend the first row took place.  Well, The McLaughlin skiff was born. She floated and got me out on the water and the education and the  fun, in hindsight, it was worth it. But she was really pretty bad. After a summer of adventures, like trying to row through Woods Hole channel against the current I finally took her back to the shop and leaned her up against the back wall  figuring that was the best place to end her days. But one day a friend showed up questioning my decision. He wanted a skiff.” Well if you want her she is yours, I said but she doesn't come back here.” But, a couple of years later while driving down my driveway I noticed a strange pile of brush partly hidden by a white pine tree. There she was, come back to haunt me. After 45 years she, or what is left of her, is still sitting in the woods and I have to smile when remembering where I was then and where I have come to, now.

    The moral of the story is: If you think that you want to build a boat, by all means go ahead, but you might want to ask some questions and do some research before you just jump in.