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By Bob Trygg - Duluth, Minnesota - USA

A Lifetime Hobby of Building Boats


It was the spring of 1949, and a 11yr. old boy just had to find a way to build a boat, no, a sailboat. I was that kid and can even at this time remember it as if it were today. Growing up on the shores of Bay De Noc on Lake Michigan told me that having a sailboat was not just a dream but a necessity.

After saving a few dollars I went to the local lumber yard to buy the material I would need to build my dream. Thinking that the owner of the lumber yard would probably tell me that I couldn't build a boat as it would be "TOO DANGEROUS" I elected to tell him that I was going to build some book shelves for my mother.

Back then the lumber yard would deliver the purchased material to your home. When the owner of the yard was delivering the material I hid inside the house worrying about being caught in a lie about what the material was going to be used for. After the delivery, I heard the owner say to my mother, "so your son is going to build you some book shelves", to which she said, "no, he's going to build a boat". I knew then that I would probably have to avoid going back to that yard, but I had my material.

Having no plans did not deter me from starting on my dream boat. Having read hundreds of old "Mechanics Illustrated" magazines, I had a pretty good idea of homebuilt sailboats, so with my limited material I began the project. The boat that took shape was, to me, beautiful and by current ideas looked a bit like a PDR sailboat. To my grandfather, who watched the build process, it apparently did not look quite as good as it did to me, for he referred to it as a "Mud Box", which he would have used to mix cement in. My thought at the time was that he just didn't appreciate the great qualities of a sailboat.

It was not long before I had pretty well completed the basic boat, with seats, leeboard, rudder and mast step. After completing the painting I began to worry about whether it would leak or not and devised a method that consisted of filling the hull full of water using the garden hose. A method, that again had my grandfather, questioning my wisdom and him asking if the water wasn't supposed to be on the outside and not in the boat. He also told me that it must be fairly strong as the pressure within the boat, something I came to learn later, was tremendous. The good thing was that there were no major leaks or at least none that could not be tolerated and taken care of with a bailing can.

A small sapling from the woods near home provided the mast and with the donation of an old bed sheet from my mother, for the sail, I finally had the boat of my dreams. Sailing turned out to be strictly a ride downwind and a long paddle back but I was very happy with the little boat and spent many pleasant times using it that summer.

After a year or two my thoughts turned to other things such as cars, girls, jobs and finishing school. This was followed with a stint in the air force, marriage, two children and a career with General Electric in medical electronics. At this point in my life I found my thoughts returning to those dreams of sailboats that began with the little homemade boat of my youth.

Now after all these years and 29 homebuilt boats later I look back with wonder at how all this started, with that little boat that gave me as much satisfaction as any that have followed it. I guess with boat building we are all kids at heart, trying our best to relive those wonderful dreams of yesteryear.

I would have liked to show you a picture of the little boat, but alas I have none to share, as the taking of pictures was not a priority at that time. What I will show are pictures of some of the 29 different boats built and sailed for thousands of miles over the past years that all have their roots in that first little boat from 1949.

Norm Cross 24' Trimaran
John Hanna 33' Tahiti Ketch
Ian Farrier Trailertri 680 Trimaran
Steve Redmond 20' Elver
George Whisstock 17'6" Trailer Sailer
John Marples 10' Trimaran
Glen-L 18' Bo-Jest Powerboat
John Welsford 14' Tread Lightly
Berkkley Eastman 10' Perfect 10 Tugboat

I still have designs that swirl around in my head to this day, but I know that none will be as memorable as that first little boat I built in 1949. To the youngsters of today I say, If you want a hobby that can truly last a lifetime, "Go Build Your Own Boat".

Bob Trygg Duluth, Minnesota

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