Sunday, May 06, 2007


I come to the readership seeking advice, guidance and sanity. If you don't have any of the latter perhaps you could borrow some from a passing SWMBO? They're usually very good at cutting to the bones of the matter, often to the woodworker's misfortune... It's like this:

We were just finishing up lunch and I was wondering whether to exert myself to go to a very local car boot sale that has probably the most picturesque location you'll ever see, when the doorbell went. T'was Peter, the next-door neighbour - very nice fellow, ex-pro boat builder of the traditional variety but now earning his crust doing "process engineering", whatever that may be. He has, he says, a proposition for me.


Apparently four or five years ago, while he was still working at the local shipyard (well technically one of the local shipyards - not talking building the Titanic here, of course, but in this case luxury yachts, repairing the lifeboat etc. The other one does refits for ferries, RFA vessels, all sorts). Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, well he'd bought these plans for a boat, made up the moulds to build it on, and then life had intervened and nothing further had happened. Now I diagnose a serious case of a man missing the work he enjoyed and wanting to get back to it even if just as a hobby, but yet again I digress. Trouble is while he has the plans, the moulds and the desire to have the boat, he doesn't have the space in which to build it. Which is where I come in.

In short, do I fancy collaborating on building it - he (presumably - we haven't gone into detail) provides the materials and I provide the space and get to build a boat (which is quite near the top of my "One day I want to..." list) with someone who knows what they're doing. Anyway, here are the plans, have a look and see if you fancy it and you might find it interesting even if you don't want to do it. I say calmly I'll have a look, make positive noises etc and somehow manage to restrain myself from doing a dance out of sheer excitement.


It's an Iain Oughtred design - the Acorn 12 skiff. Strictly the rowing option - no sail. Just as well 'cos with the sail it's all too reminiscent of Swallow or Amazon and then I'd be a helpless babbling idiot up to my neck in a childhood fantasy - on a par with someone who always said they wanted to be an astronaut when they were 8 now being invited to the International Space Station and then required to make a rational decision about whether to go...

So I'm trying to stay rational. I think it could be done in the workshop - and still be got out of the door. The Maxi could be a problem though. And it's a heck of an opportunity - I was resigned to waiting for a mid-life crisis before I even seriously considered anything on the "One day I want to..." list. On the other hand it'd essentially turn the workshop into a boat shed and nothing else - all other woodworking bar the smallest stuff would be curtailed with a great boat sitting in the middle of it. And for how long? I daresay we all know someone, or someone who knows someone, that has a project-that-never-ends story. But perhaps the biggest thing is am I actually capable of making something with someone else? I'm very much a me, myself and I kinda woodworker - all self-taught etc etc. You can't get half-way through a boat on your premises and find the owner can't bear to work with you any more.

So some sane, rational, considered opinions please, folks. Do we proceed to a cautious affirmative stage subject to details? In short - Noah or No Noah?


  1. Oh my, of course: do it...but I think you already know I would be in the Noah camp!

    I also think some stragizing is in order before final commitment. An idea of time frame, plotting its eventual birth out the door, his realistic time commitment--and yours. Too, is there enough work-around-it room for things which will come up for you, too. Perhaps that is solvable with simple rearranging, perhaps not.

    My only real reservation would be that you would be enabling this person to recapture a perhaps romantic part of his past. That can work out well or not so well for him and by extension, you.

    But yeah, it would be an opportunity to be a great learning experience for you [I'm jealous of that]. I think you would need to choose to be open to new ways and methods--but strong enough to argue your own when it seems "right" too.

    Take care, Mike

  2. I would hesitate to block up the workshop with a piece that may Take Some Time. Do either of you have the space to erect a temporary structure (scaffolding and tarp maybe)in which the vessel could be built?

    I know/have known several people who were/are building boats, and have even done some serious repair work on a boat that I used to own, and it's amazing how many of these projects seem to stall at some point, often for years. Even when work continues it seems to take far longer than anyone could have reason to expect.

    So yes, join in, but find another venue.

  3. NOAH! You'll kick yourself if you don't do it. But you do need to get a proper handle on the logistics.

    Good luck.

  4. Hi Alf,

    Take the next step of talking through the details. How motivated is he? Has he thought it through? What initial setup or preparation in the shop would be necessary? Then think construction: What is the initial staging of materials? Is there enough staging area for the materials? Has he got the money for everything he needs (ask this outright)? Has he got the time (ask this outright too)?

    If you keep coming up with 'yes' answers--yes he's motivated, yes he has the money, yes he has the time, yes he has thought it through--then go for it. There are some opportunities in life that come around just once.

    One final thing: You wouldn't start this job unless there were a way to get the boat out of the shop once it is built. That means--if something goes way wrong-- you can get the boat out of the shop unfinished also. So you have a Plan B.

    Have a long talk, or a few of them, and if you keep getting to yes, then the answer is yes.


  5. The devil is indeed in the detail - some of it I'd thought of and some of it I most definitely hadn't, so many thanks to you all. There are actually quite a lot of arguments against doing it and being one of nature's cowards I'm not sure I'm risk-taker enough. Ah well, I shall mull further.

  6. In short - Noah. And don't forget to keep us posted.

    My father commandeered the dining room many years ago (mirror dingy), french windows were removed before the boat could get out, oh and the garden gate.


  7. Al, don't be an idiot and miss this- I agree with all the above comments, but quite seriously these can be worked out with a bit of time, planning and compromise.

    If you don't try you don't get.

    Don't miss the boat on this one! ;~)


  8. If it were me, I'd jump at the opportunity to build a boat, but then I have several unfinished projects already (mostly home improvement kind of stuff) so what's another. I think if your neighbor is motiviated to do it and you both have the time then go for it. You may want to plan with him when you will work on it though. Just because he has the time and you have the time does not necessarily mean that your time and his time are the same time, eh?

  9. Do not walk away!

    As the old adage goes, "The best two days of my life were the day I got my boat, and the day I sold my boat."

    Jeff S.

  10. About ten years ago I had a chance to help build a wood and canvas canoe, and it still ranks as one of the great experiences of my life. A wooden boat, made with your own hands ... well, tis something very special. More practically, wooden boat building skills, while certainly akin to furniture making skills, are different. Boats don't have too many straight lines, and the world of battens, fair curves, spiling and of course, the whiskey plank is (at least to me) endlessly fascinating. Besides, you live on a island, so by definition, your choice is clear.

  11. all ayes, save one nay, thus far...

    but of course you've already decided you're going to do it, just afraid of losing the shop to other projects... just figure out the plan, and take us along for the ride!

  12. Woman, do it.

    It will be an experience you'll never forget, the boat will be your pride and joy even if you don't own it. (Make sure you are allowed to row it.)

    You will learn a special kind of woodworking in a privileged way with a teacher like that.

    (My boat, a Penobscot 14, took 3 years, built alone after a course and built outside, the latter not to be recommended). I can send some pictures if you want.

    Two people must be able to keep each other motivated. Your audience will support you.

    Make room, create room but do it.

    Alf, good luck.

    Jos Helmer, Alkmaar-NL

  13. By the way:
    The boat in this course in Enkhuizen-NL was an Acorn, built in 9 days with 7 participants and a teacher.
    The boat was not finished though, just 1 seat and not fitted out.

    We all had a test row and were very proud.


    Jos Helmer.

  14. Seems a very tempting proposition but sometimes, Alf, the idea is more attractive than the reality........


    Paul Chapman

  15. You obviously think this is a good opportunity and it may be, but you should also consider what happens when it goes wrong. With the best intentions unforseen events can change what is best, so negotiate a way you can withdraw at a latter date. For instance, what happens to the half finished boat etc.

    If you do this up front, you minimise the risk, you are happy if you succeed, and you have little grief if you don't.


  16. Hi Alf,

    You mentioned you would like to hear from the SWMBO side....Mine says 'no way'. SWMBO's are so bottom line.



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