Boo Boo the Dinghy
by Mike Saunders 

Mike's hosts two popular Yahoo discussion groups:

This adventure started one day at work when a friend named Jarred had a copy of Woodenboat on his toolbox. I started looking at an almost forgotten art - wooden boat building. As I flipped through the pages and looked at "beauty in wood", I knew that I had to do something myself.

Having been around boats all my life, I was no stranger to what works. My father was a certified OMC mechanic, and had always had a boat. But even though he had built several, I had yet to have the experience.

I wanted to build a cruising sailboat of about 30 feet, but knew that I had to gain experience and also would need a dinghy for that boat. So, to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to embark on a project to build a dinghy.

I downloaded the free plans from for the D4 dinghy. Thanks to Jacques for sharing those with the world. I read all his tutorials and many others on the web and armed with knowledge and enthusiasm, headed out to the local lumber yard.

I decided on ACX ply. Marine grade was not specified by Jacques and I see now that he was correct. It is the grade of epoxy that matters in this type construction. I purchased several sheets of ACX that had no voids in them that I could see, and started laying out the parts for Boo Boo.

I can say at this point that I am glad that I listened to the advice of more than one person online and DID NOT try to make Boo Boo a "perfect" boat. She is beautiful and I have been given nothing but compliments on her from all, but I know that with more time I could have built a boat that looked like it had been squirted out of a mold.

The goals I set in building Boo Boo have been met. I have gained valuable experience in boatbuilding. I have spent my leisure time in a worthwhile pursuit. I have met many new friends on the internet and locally. And last but not least, I have the dinghy for my big boat.

The Launch:

The morning was taken up with running here and there to get last minute things. I had to have PFD's for 2. I had to have rope to tie her off at the dock and onto the truck. I built a simple bunk set and carpeted them. They can ride in the Toyota with the tailgate up when Boo Boo is not being hauled. And I had to make sure the last coat of varnish on the oars I built was dry.

Rachel (the real Boo Boo) got off work at 1:00 PM and we headed up to Lake Jordan, where my friend Jarred has a home and a nice boat dock. Upon arriving he and our mutual friend John met us at driveway. I backed the trusty Toyota down to the waters edge and we slipped Boo Boo off the truck and into the water.

At first we just let her float out and sit there by herself on the end of the bow line. We were talking and backslapping and forgot to take pictures of her sitting in the water by herself. But talking ran its course and the time came to put Boo Boo to the test. I pulled her over to the dock and plopped my large carcass down on the middle seat. Boo Boo never even grunted.

A few seconds later after the oars had been placed in the locks, I pushed off and rowed out into the lake. She tracked wonderfully for a short boat. I was impressed with not only the ease of rowing her, but also who well she did when passing boats and PWC's made wakes. All in all she felt safe. That feeling you get when you trust something. Like an old chair that you feel comfortable in. That was how Boo Boo felt. Like I had known her for years.

All the imaginations while She lay there in construction, wondering how she would row and track, came to life in just a few short moments. I turned her about and headed back in. Oh, I could have rowed a lot longer than I did. But you see, I had to share that feeling that had come over me. I had to let Boo Boo have the privilege of giving pleasure to someone else.

As I gently touched her side to the bumper on the dock, I looked at Jarred, and saw the look in his eyes. He would not ask to take her out, because he was wanting me to have my moment in the sun. But I could see the look. I knew that he was longing to get his hands on the oars. As he held her fast while I climbed out, I said "Jarred, why don't you see how she handles for you?"

Boo Boo did her Job well. For there was a smile that was on Jarred's face, that stayed there even after we left. Sure, he had his SeaDoo and his skiboat to play on. But he had taken the oars of a real boat. One that had not been laid in a mold by uncaring hourly paid hands. But rather a boat that had heart and soul - one that had been built in a backyard.

Boo Boo........


Home | Articles | Books | Columns | Projects | Links | Subscribe | Boat Index