Organization: How To Make Boatbuilding Not Suck

Boats are made of lots and lots of funny precision parts that all look more or less the same but are subtle different.  A bow skeg stringer end accidentally exchanged for a stern skeg stringer end and it’s all over.

The previous build day, in my excitement I threw together the dead simple building form, and assembled it wrong.  The building form is just made of 2x4s nailed together, but the boat members will be screwed and epoxied.  There’s no going back on wood parts epoxied together.  A serious error could mean having to start completely over on that member. 


So the previous build day was a lesson in the need for precision.  Before going further, I created labels for every piece of every member of the hull.  As I ripped pieces and then cut them to length, I stapled my sturdy cardboard labels directly on to the boards.

This way, when it came time to assemble, say, the starboard skeg stringer, I would only have to gather up all the pieces that said SKEG STRGR 1 (top, bottom, fore post, aft post, fore end, aft end) and bring them into the barn for assembly.

I also got a quad-ruled comp book and started taking detailed notes.  All the things you’d normally scribble down on scratch paper as you were calculating angles and measurements and offsets went into the notebook.  All my little sketches of what pieces should look like before I cut them, lists of procedures, materials I needed to get, and a detailed journal of each day of work went into the comp book.

Along with a place in the barnyard to build the boat, Lawrence let us use an unused horse stall in the barn.  This made a perfect build office, a place to layout the plans, organize all our tools, and most importantly keep snacks and beer.

Having the right tool at hand when you need it, is not only convenient
but can be critical during the stressful build process, especially when
you are dealing with epoxy.  We spent time making sure that every tool had its own place.  This also had the benefit of making daily clean up more fun.  It felt good to do a lot of hard work and then have everything all neat and tidy at the end of the day.

Here Kai, one of my co-builders, in a goofy moment, models the first photo for our Little Shantyboat Pinup Calendar.  This also helps make boatbuilding not suck.

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