Blog

Musings from a craftsman boat builder.

Some Deals Were Made

     Thirty-five years ago we got a contract to build some flat bottomed skiffs. The job was to take the lines off an old boat that had been built by Cape Cod Shipbuilding in the late forties and build 3 new ones but using plywood. I had to give the Customer a price so I called a friend who had been the manager at CCS at that time. Spaulding Dunbar had to think back, he called and told me that old Charlie would come in on Monday morning and pick the stock and by the end of the week an 11'6" X 4' 2 board skiff with cross planked bottom, three thwarts, keel plank with integrated skeg would go to the paint shop. Well, I figured that if old Charlie could do it in a week with boards, we should be able to do it with plywood in three weeks. The deal was made at $400 each.

The Boy, hard at work. Plane, plane and plane some more.

      I asked my 12 year old son if he would be interested in becoming a boat builder. He said that he didn't think so because there were too many rules at the shop. "Well," I said, ”you have been trying to save up money for a new bicycle and you would get paid $150 each.”  Four hundred and fifty dollars to a 12 year old was, in those days, serious money. Another deal was made.

    The rules that he was complaining about consisted of safety concerns. He was only 18" taller than the table saw and he had to stand on a box to be able to use the band saw. We worked out a game plan. I would do all the table saw work and we would do the first one together. He would have to take notes to remember everything. Another deal was made.

    Then the customer changed the rules. He wanted six boats. He wanted 2 or 3 as soon as possible but could give a little more time for the rest. Another deal was made.

    I had some space in a new section of the shop that would become the office so that is where we set up the skiff division. Two boats could be assembled at the same time. The first three went out in short order and the others at a later date. The customer was happy, the 12 year old had $900 in the bank minus the cost of the bike so he was happy and of course I was happy because the Boy had "DONE GOOD".

    The boats were made with standard marine grade fir plywood. 1/2" bottom and 3/8" sides.( far better quality than you can get today). Stem, transom frame, thwart stringer, thwarts, chine log and gunwale Honduras mahogany. Every thing was assembled with WEST system epoxy which is just as good today as it was 35 years ago.

    Another deal, just in: the original customer has returned and ordered 2 more, slightly larger. The boy, 48, now lives in Washington state and doesn't need a new bicycle. It will be my pleasure to build two more of a great design.