Preview: Boatbuilding: Instruction in the Art of Life—A Guest Blog by Lawrence W. Cheek

I come from El Paso, a godforsaken desert city where no one thinks about boats. After misspending my first 18 years there, I passed the next 25 years in Tucson, where the sole boat story I encountered was an illustration of certifiable lunacy: During a flood of historic proportions, a friend strode to the lip of a monster arroyo a quarter-mile wide, kayak on shoulder—and launched.

After I moved to Seattle in 1996, I could hardly help thinking about boats: I didn’t have one, but they were everywhere. I soon had two life-altering boating experiences. First, I took up sea kayaking. Then in 2001 a travel magazine assigned me to visit the region’s two wooden boat festivals, one on Seattle’s Lake Union and the other inPort Townsend, and see what the fuss was about.

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8 Responses So Far to “Boatbuilding: Instruction in the Art of Life—A Guest Blog by Lawrence W. Cheek

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    Stephan Szymanski says:

    Great story! In the research phase for a while now. Any insight to what kind of vessel Pleiades is?

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    Lannis Morris says:

    Hi Lawrence,
    I loved your story. There is a unique beauty to be discovered in the character of humility. Fear is a debilitating bully that prowls about trying to isolate us and limit the adventurers among us.For various reasons, we trap ourselves in the comparison game, and as a result, we fail to be creative. The best lived life for each of us is not to be as good or better than others, but to be our best for who we are individually. Sounds like you found that in the process.congrats. If we think about it… Average really ain’t that bad. I’d guess you’re probably in the top 10 percent of adventurers and artists in the world, simply from thr standpoint that you build boats. Thanks, Lannis Morris

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    Joseph R. Janutka says:

    Lawrence–Wow, did that ever strike a chord with me. Perfectionism and the resulting paralysis haunt me too. At least you pushed through and built some boats in spite of them, like I have to do one of these days over the rainbow. Procrastination is another affliction I have that I think results from the perfectionism. Thanks for your story. I try to remember what Chief Dan George said in the movie Outlaw Josie Wales: “endeavor to persevere.

  • Richard Greenway

    Richard Greenway says:

    Building engines, boats and great memories!

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    Mike Morgan says:


    I totally get your thoughts on perfection sought vs. results obtained. Some years ago, I had just proudly completed my first Shellback dinghy and was exhibiting it at Seattle’s Lake Union Wooden Boat Show. After several days up on the stands I had that morning put her into the water at the dinghy docks and rigged her up for sailing in the afternoon racing series (as the only Shellback, I wound up racing with the Pelican fleet, with sadly predictable results).

    Anyway, later in the morning I walked back to the boat with my coffee and found a man squatting down beside her on the pier, giving her a good looking over. I stood down the dock a ways, enjoying the coffee and the morning and the fact that he seemed to enjoy just looking at her about as much as I did and then, suddenly, to my shock, I realized that I was looking at Eric Dow. I’d looked at his face and hands and read his words so many times over the slow months of building, and was now just totally mortified, sure that he could surely see every ding and miss and error of trueness or finish that I could see, and probably more besides.

    He stood, asked me if it was my boat, and I stammered out that yes, it was, and that his book had been my main guide in getting her built. When he asked how I’d liked it I told him the truth, that it had been invaluable, but that I’d still had to figure out how to do a lot of the things that I’d wound up doing.

    He nodded at that, said that I’d turned out a really nice-looking boat, and as he turned to leave he sort of smiled and softly muttered something that sounded like “.. th’ hard parts are always in between the pictures ..”.

    I’ve tried to remember that through all of the subsequent projects, but I still agonize over every little failure along the way. Most of those go away on the first sail, though, and don’t come back.

    Thanks for the article, and loved your book also ….

    Mike Morgan

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    Greg Stambaugh says:

    Hi, This a little off track from this blog, but here goes. We have boated on the Illinois River for over 25 years, and have always talked about going to the lake. Lake Michican. Our route will be up the Illinois River to the Cal Sag cut off as our boat is 16′ and need to get under the bridges. We have talked with many people, and most say its big deal. We have been through many locks but our experince with the bridges at Joilet and on up the river are our concern. So if any one has some helpful tips it would be greatly appreciated. Were looking forward to our new home and would like make as safe as possiable. Thanks

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    Tom Haydon. says:

    Love your approach and enjoyed the year of the boat. I turn to it on occasion. I was thrilled to see your boat on the cover of SBA. I have since purchased a zephyr and Melonseed plans.

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    Glenn Holland says:

    Good inspiration to open the door on the beast every day. Read the two pieces in the NY Times.
    Glenn Holland