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by Daryl Marino - San Antonio, Texas - USA

As a hobby, boatbuilding has its share of quirks. The dreaming, researching, planning, and discussing can eclipse the actual physical building. Building a boat does not rank high in practicality, but few activities have so much allure. Currently, I am beginning to build my first one. The pride of being able to mess about in a unique craft built by your own hands must be one of the best feelings ever.

Five years ago, after reading George Buehler's book Backyard Boatbuilding, I knew I had to build a boat. George has an inspiring can-do attitude. However, he specializes in thirty foot plus ocean going vessels which are beyond my means and patience. Five years, dozens of books, dozens of websites, hundreds of hours of researching (dreaming) later, I can offer some advice on how to narrow down to a suitable project.

The first consideration would be deciding on the purpose of the boat, as this will quickly narrow the choice of plans out there. Home built craft can be designed for any purpose from relaxing in a canoe on a quite pond to blue water racing. How many passengers will influence your choice of plans. A sailboat for one or two will be quite different than one built for six passengers.

This brings us to the size of the boat to build. Yes, building a thirty foot sailboat sounds appealing. However, costs rise exponentially with the size of the boat. Larger engines, more epoxy, larger this, and more of that, will quickly add up. The questions of the builder's skill set, building site, storage site, amount of funds, and how long will the project take to complete all need to be addressed. I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from their dreams, but these factors will all come into play at some point.

As far as plans go, the more modern plans seem the way to go for a first time builder, such as myself, with modest carpentry skills. I love the designs found in any John Gardner book, but they are skimpy on details. Older plans invariably require lofting. Modern CAD designed plans oftentimes do not require lofting, contain more explicit details, and are geared to modern building materials and methods. As a bonus, buying plans from a working designer may allow you get advice from the designer.

Phoenix III

I bought Ross Lillistone's plans for Phoenix III, and the level of detail is amazing. The Phoenix III is my idea of the ultimate boat being attractive, a manageable size, and with the possibilities of rowing, sailing, or an outboard motor. The project is on hold due to the intimidation factors of lapstrake and a rounded hull.


As you read this, I should be well on my way to building my first boat, a Glousterman from Spira Boats. The Glousterman is a fifteen foot, stitch and glue rowing dory with a flat bottom. Choosing something simpler to hone my skills seems prudent, not to mention Glousterman looks fun in its own right. Eventually, I will get around to the Phoenix III.

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