Bayside Boatshop  

By Ross Lillistone - Esk, Queensland - Australia


Building Your Own Boat

click for bio

In these days of over regulation and elimination of risk, building your own boat is one of the few remaining areas of practical self-expression. It seems to me that more and more, people are searching for some escape from the shackles of the consumer society, and the desire to build a boat is a stream which runs deep within the soul of many individuals. I say individuals, because the boatbuilding public is made up of some of the most individual of people. Everybody wants something just a bit different.

Why the desire to build a boat is so strong in the victim is difficult to determine, but if the spark is there, it is just about impossible to dodge. To paraphrase the late Arthur Ransome (of Swallows and Amazons fame), “The desire to build a boat starts as a single cloud on the horizon, but before long it grows to cover the entire sky”.

click to enlarge

– but for us in our tiny craft, it was a great trip, filled with mild adventure, healthy exercise, and a hint of danger.

When you finally give in to the urge to build a boat, invest some time and some money in reading the right books. I’ve seen so many instances of people spending time, effort, and money traveling down the wrong path, just because they didn’t have the proper advice. Just like the time spent sharpening tools, time spent reading the right books is time saved. Not only is it time saved, but it is money saved as well.

Although building your own boat requires dedication, it is a source of great pleasure when done properly. Even though I build boats for a living, I still get up early to have a look at the results of the previous day’s gluing, cutting, painting etc. The excitement has never left me. But if you are building or renovating your own boat, the pleasure is magnified many times.

To quote the Atkins, father and son, “Working for a living or profit is seldom a continuous pleasure; it is something that must be done; therefore there is compulsion behind it. And, wherever there is compulsion one’s freedom of will is restricted. A living must be made and so we all accept work as an ingrained duty. Somehow painting one’s own boat, tending one’s own cow, doing one’s own chores are pleasurable pastimes – but attempt the same occupations for a neighbor or boss for pay and, presto, pleasure quickly turns into work.

And so I would like to remind prospective builders of Sprite, or any other boat, not to feel duty-bound to complete the building at any particular time; rather just put the little skiff together when the urge to add another plank or two persists and the needed recreation sweeps away all thoughts of work. In this spirit how spare time will fly and, by the same token, how easily and quickly the boat will be completed!” (from Volume 38 of Motor Boating’s Ideal series – The Hearst Corporation, New York).

When you build your boat, do it the way old Billy and John Atkin suggest – take your time and do it properly. Quick-and-Dirty boats just don’t return long term satisfaction, whereas a properly built boat will display the love that the builder has put into the job, and if she is built of good quality wood, well painted, she will age with a grace that a manufactured article can never match.

Supply of components for home building of boats can be a problem for some. Avoid the temptation of accepting a second-rate building material (for example exterior ply instead of properly stamped AS/NZ2272 or BS1088 Marine Plywood). Any money you save on buying low grade materials will be lost many times over in the resulting boat. Look at the advertisers in this magazine – you will find may fine suppliers dotted around Australia. If you can’t locate what you need locally, try which is the Boat Builder’s Supply section of the great Duckworks in Texas. They have an increasing line of excellent components at really good prices.

Summer is approaching, and I’m looking forward to more sailing and less work. We are restoring my old Iain Oughtred designed MacGregor sailing canoe. She is so light that there is no excuse not to be on the water frequently. I remember a trip I did in her a couple of years ago – down Moreton Bay from Cleveland to the mouth of the Logan River, and then back via the bay islands such as Russell, Macleay and Coochiemudlo. It would have been routine (maybe even boring) in a large power boat – but for us in our tiny craft, it was a great trip, filled with mild adventure, healthy exercise, and a hint of danger. Twelve hours of satisfaction and fun for the cost of a packet of peanuts! You can do it too…

More columns by Ross Lillistone