The decision to build your own boat is a big one. Even if the craft you’re constructing is small, the project itself can be quite an undertaking. Excited as you may be, when you set out to build a boat, the chances of making mistakes that can ruin your vessel are much greater than with someone who has some experience under their belt.
Learning from others’ mistakes is an excellent way to prepare yourself and ensure that your endeavor goes smoothly. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that have been known to ruin the boatbuilding projects of novices. Read carefully and you might just save yourself a lot of frustration.
Mistake #1 – Buying Lower-Quality Boat Plans
As a pattern is to sewing, so boat plans are to boatbuilding. In essence, they are the boat. If you choose boat plans that were not expertly created or that have less-than-clear instructions, you’re pretty much doomed from the start.
In addition to plans that are drawn by an expert with naval experience, you’ll want to purchase ones that include step-by-step instructions. If you’re a novice, you will particularly want additional boatbuilding information to accompany your instructions.
Three-dimensional (3-D) computer models are an enormous help because they allow you to rotate, view cut sections, pan, zoom and more. But most importantly is having direct contact with the designer her/himself. If you get stuck, you’ll have a way to receive expert guidance.
Mistake #2 – Planning Ahead
Many boatbuilding projects are abandoned by beginners who have made mistakes early on and had no idea how to correct them. If they had given due diligence to prior planning, they would have known what to look for to avoid the mishap to begin with.
Don’t neglect the planning phase of your project. Taking a moment to mentally walk through everything you will need to do from beginning to end can save you a great deal of time.
Mistake #3 – Not Adequately Equipping Your Workspace
Once you’ve finished mentally reviewing the project, you’ll want to turn your attention to creating and equipping your workspace. Without enough space, the proper tools, the right materials and the correct climate, you’re likely to struggle to complete your undertaking.
Mistake #4 – Neglecting to Use Epoxy as Directed
Epoxy can be temperamental to deal with. If it gets too hot or too cold, it simply won’t function as it should. You’ll be left with joints and seams that don’t adhere to one another, resulting in leaks later on.
Fully read the instruction manual that comes with the epoxy you’ve chosen. Mixing it properly and using it as the manufacturer suggests can be the difference between a boat that floats and one that quickly becomes waterlogged.
Mistake #5 – Underestimating the Cost
As you’re shopping for boat plans, collecting information and planning, don’t forget to calculate the cost involved in building your own boat. The final price will depend on several factors, but, on average, a canoe will likely run about $300 US. A rowboat, perhaps $450 US. A 19-foot pram could cost around $800 US, while a tugboat might run $15,000 US.
Understanding what causes others to fail will give you a head start on success. Rather than jumping straight into boatbuilding, take your time. If you learn from the 5 mistakes listed above, your project will be an enjoyable one that results in a craft you’ll be proud to sail.
Happy boat building,
Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect