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It all Started at the Library One Day

a story written by Dale Ruth dldlnala@pgonline.com

Dec. 06, 1999

     The library was jammed packed with kids including my own. I knew finding a quiet spot just for myself was going to be a challenging task indeed. My luck, however, was holding out. In the "Adult Reference" section tucked away deep in a semi-secluded corner behind stacks of shelved books was a small table with a pile of previously looked over books on top.  Nothing unusual about that. While scanning through the pile of unshelved books ( curious to see what other people were reading ) I happened to come across one of the most amazing do-it-yourself books I have ever read - Harold H. " Dynamite " Payson's " Instant Boats ".
     I just couldn't seem to put it down so I checked it out for further home study. Then it happened. I practically became obsessed, especially when I discovered that he had written another, even more amazing book titled " Build the New Instant Boats". After reading these
two wonderful books and a few others I knew right then and there that turning back was no longer an option. For years I had always dreamed about building my very own boat but unfortunately I never really seriously took the initiative to actually go out and learn how.
dale3.jpg (16002 bytes) An erroneous perception had me thinking that to build even a small boat would involve many complex procedures and it would, in all likelihood, still exceed my capabilities. Besides, to successfully build a safe, fully functional boat surely this would require not only years of boatbuilding experience but it
would also include having a shop that is equipped with a battery of heavy duty, highly sophisticated woodworking machinery and countless hours of devoted attention to detail which for me would probably amount to being nothing more than an expensive and frustrating effort, regardless - and so I conveniently continued to think that this was so. 
Then along came Mr. Payson's books which instantly reversed everything I had come to believe that I couldn't possibly do. It was full steam ahead from there on. I'm reminded now of a quote I once heard and should have adhered to......" Knowledge, combined with the ability to believe in yourself, is like a kind of fuel, it needs the motor of understanding to convert it into power "- source unknown.
     Armed with this knowledge and boosted confidence, I went ahead and built my very first boat - " The Elegant Punt ", a classic fit-and-fasten design of Phil Bolger's drawing board. I can attest to the fact that his boats do indeed perform the way they are designed to ( at least the ones I've had the pleasure of building ). My very first attempt and success at building a boat and trying my hand at sailing - it just couldn't get any better than that!  There is really nothing more exciting and thrilling than during that very first moment when the wind fills the sail and "poof " away you go, sailing effortlessly across the water with unabated freedom.  I may never experience what a "magic carpet" ride 
is like, but sailing for the first time in a boat you built yourself certainly comes the closest.  I do, however, confess that it was a little frightening at first. I knew of no one off hand with sailing experience to properly teach me the ropes.  I had no choice but to rely solely on what I had read in Mr. Payson's books.  Mistakes were expected and made and yes there were even some down right embarrassing moments as well
dale5.jpg (15091 bytes) ( an unexpected curious crowd had gathered on the shore to witness my failure or success which made me even more nervous ) but in spite of all that I managed to get the hang of it in no time at all - I was actually sailing and in a boat I built myself. A moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.  
My next project , after regrettably selling my Punt, was the " The Amazing Pointy Skiff ". I desperately needed a bigger boat that could safely accommodate a family of four for

those weekend picnic adventures at our local lakes and has ample storage  capacity for all my gear on those fishing extravaganzas - this boat was ideally suited for it's intended purpose and much more. Mount a small gas or electric trolling motor on her transom or just row for the sheer fun of it and you will be simply "Amazed"! By the time I built my fourth Pointy Skiff it had incorporated some building techniques borrowed from the Tack and Tape varieties - such things as no chine logs, butt straps and bulkhead framing - it all worked very well. I highly recommend the Pointy Skiff as a starting project for any first-time wanna-be boatbuilder but above all do stay within the "fit and fasten" methods and guidelines as outlined in Mr. Payson's books and in no time at all you should be on the water enjoying all the finer things in life.

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Still suffering from "sellers remorse" of my Punt and deeply missing the thrill of sailing altogether especially on days that were beautifully warm and breezy, I finally decided that enough was enough. I put on the tool pouch, rolled up my sleeves and built a 14ft. sailboat called " June Bug ". Another marvelous design from the drawing board of Mr. Bolger. This particular craft is a sailor's delight - lightweight and a surprisingly fast performer.  Two can row her at the same time and she offers
dale1.jpg (17716 bytes) excellent stability and plenty of room to just stretch out and relax even on days when the wind is calm. She does indeed perform quite well under sail, oar and motor power. I once got caught in almost catastrophic wind conditions that practically scared the pants off me as I thought for sure the spar was either going to snap in half or worse I was going to capsize.
Instead my rudder blade broke off and I was forced to drop the sheet and let the wind take the sail where it may. I managed to painstakingly row her safely back to shore but that will be an experience I'll never ever forget - that's for sure! I have also used her extensively for fishing and she has proven to be quite popular for many of our outdoor family recreational activities. " June Bug " certainly has my stamp of approval. Unfortunately, I ended up selling her as well. My wife accuses me of selling my boats for the simple reason that now I have a legitimate excuse for building another boat. She is absolutely right of course, but I have never openly admitted it until now. " Happiness is building your own boat and another and another and....... well, you die-hard boat builders know exactly where I'm coming from. Happy boatbuilding to all.

Dale Ruth


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