Friday, November 25, 2011

A SKIFF wind blows the autumn leaves from the trees

For a long time I have had dreams & aspirations of building myself a wooden boat.  I have also had real knowledge of my limitations as a craftsman or carpenter.  The desire to become better at something that I feel limited in has only made me want to build a boat even more.  Well as with most things, baby steps can often be the best way to start.
I have often built my own furniture and done remodel work on my homes, but none of this could be considered in the same class as the craft that is building a wooden boat.  So, I am cheating, kind of.
I have decided to build a 13' rowing skiff in plywood construction.  It is a very simple boat.  Plywood though wood, is also not the same as a plank or solid wood boat.  I chose to build in plywood for two reasons.  The first is that it is wood and simple designs can be found using it.  The second reason is that the boat I want to build will be dry stored, that is it will be wet then dry then wet.  This kind of life can be very hard on a solid wood boat because of the swelling and shrinkage of the wood during it's life in the two different worlds.  I wanted a boat that I could store at home and then transport to the water in the back of my truck, thus saving me the fees of a marina or club.
I have a 2 car garage that is up a steep drive and during the cold and snowy months is often inaccessible in my cars.  It serves much better as a workshop for the house and now as a boatbuilding shop.  Working in there during the winter with the wood stove burning and the cold sneaking in the cracks of the siding is a strangely attractive idea to me.
I have no great illusions that just because I want to be a boat builder that I will be any good at it.  I am pretty sure that I can build myself a decent craft that will keep me afloat upon the water, and in the end I suppose that is enough.
I hope that this project, if it goes well and brings me joy and satisfaction, and most importantly, at the end a little boat to row upon the river and explore it's shores, will be the first of at least a couple of boat building projects.  If someday I should build a boat that is handsome enough to catch the eye of some other romantic fool who has dreams of being out in the water when he could be at home in a chair under a tree, and that dreamer asks me if I might part with the little boat, or build one like it for him, then I suppose I might consider myself a boat builder, but for now, the baby steps all I can manage.  I have decided on a boat design.  No small feat really.  I have put down money for wood to build her with.  I have even begun the process of measuring and then putting down lines and shapes on the wood.  It is a magical moment when the little drawings are recreated in full scale on the floor of the shop and the essence of a boat starts to be sensed hidden in the wood and fasteners and glues and ideas scattered all about the shop.
Autumn seems the right time to start to build a boat.  As the water gets cold and looses some of it's appeal, and as the wind gets blustery to the point of making being upon the water a slightly risky affair, and as more boats are seen propped up on cradles and up on stands, drying out for the winter months, it seems to be just right to be involved in dreaming and planning and carving out, not to far from the warmth of the fire, a little craft of boat of wood.

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