I was pleased to see the insert in the July/August 2006, Issue #191 of WoodenBoat: “Getting Started in Boats.” It is a step-by-step manual for building an attractive little skiff aimed at the novice boat-builder. Kudos to WoodenBoat for jumping on this opportunity to expand the proverbial pie and bring more folks aboard the wooden boat world. Even better was that they created a nice web site with a builders forum. I think this will be an important step – connecting people who are working on the project with each other. Camaraderie, shared advice, shared celebrations – all are nice inputs on top of a well-thought publication.
Interestingly, I guess there has been some discussion about the choice of design. It is not a slam-dunk: cross-planking on the bottom, changing stem bevels, and a stem-bent keel. Many felt this was too complex for the first-time builder. The editors recently explained, in the current issue’s editorial, they liked it in that someone who mastered the tasks need to build this boat could take on most any second project. I like that thinking, but I am afraid I don’t agree. I was struck by these aspects of the design when I first saw it and I fear the analogy is that of getting into shape: people decide to get back into shape, they go out for a long, hard run or whatever, they get hurt, and they stop exercising again. Mission failed. I worry that could happen here – that people will get excited but get bogged down and not complete the project. That is the worst outcome – they will feel poorly about themselves and will be more likely to distance themselves from our world. Good ideas and fair points, gang, but I think we need to start smaller.