Preview: Are You Scared of Your Boat? (Reality Check)

Are you scared of your boat?

After filming hundreds of boatbuilders and craftspeople over the past ten years as they build and repair boats, I’ve been in the unique position of watching their every move for thousands of hours.

Sitting there, sometimes for half a day, just watching, waiting for that one thing to happen that we need to film, I get to experience the energy, minset, confidence and insecurities that each person brings into their relationship with the boat in front of them.

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52 Responses So Far to “Are You Scared of Your Boat? (Reality Check)

  • David and Margaret Tew

    David and Margaret Tew says:

    I not convinced the adage that people learn through their mistakes is really true or even a good way to think about mistakes. I think people learn best by thinking about what they need to do well ahead of time, following through, then reviewing what went well. My two cents anyway.

  • David and Margaret Tew

    David and Margaret Tew says:

    “Am I scared of my boat…” That’s a good question when applied to operating it, too. I’m not ‘scared of the boat’ but do fear for it and need to be more careful not to take things for granted as I get older. That applies especially when sailing in waters I believe I know (too) well. The last trip of the summer, on the day before having the boat hauled, I lost my focus for a bit while maneuvering around lobsterpot buoys and dealing with wind and waves which drove us off our normal course home from a day spent on a favorite offshore island. I only became aware at the last minute with a quick look at the chartplotter of how close I was to running up on a ledge that is poorly marked by Navaids. It reminded me about how most car accidents happen with twenty-five miles of where each of us live, i.e., we think we know all that we need to about the roads, etc., and can relax our concentration. Lesson learned this time but I need to remember to relearn it every year.

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    Robert Sorensen says:

    The above conversation is a couple of years old now and it would appear that the youth of the Oonagh build has run its course, as there are not many comments about its constuction (apart from Fred’s work of genius) as of recent. I will comment anyway, although all y’all have built 2-3 more boats since Oonagh and no longer make mistakes like you once did.

    I have found that the cure to my perfection paralysis is construction rhythm. This probably warrant’s its own column, but you know the feeling when everything is flowing and just going right. The sanding monotony fades, you are in the moment. The smells of fresh wood, the jazz playing in the background, the appearance of perfectly shaped mahogany, the epoxy is the perfect thickness, you have exactly the number of screws you needed…. I could go on, but my wife just kissed me on the forehead and said that dinner is ready and that I should put myself a nice shot of aged bourbon.

    Zen and the Art of Boat Construction.

  • John Hastie

    John Hastie says:

    ‘Mastery through Mistakes’
    A highly valuable & transferable concept well told/ well visualized here…
    AND one I will carry with me in other areas of life and share with the coming generations.

    This will help release future generations from inherited perfectionism and speed the Mastery of any skill with more freedom & joy along the way.

    Much appreciated.

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    Chris Dixon says:

    People who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything.

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    Neil Henderson says:

    My boats have lots of mistakes in them. So I build them upside down – that way the fish are the only ones to see the really bad scarfing and plank edges (my boats are clinker). Must have been a clever guy who thought to build upside down.

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    charles parker says:

    When the sadistic maniac in me came out and I decided to really, no kidding, build a boat I saw a quote from Willits Ansel…”I make mistakes in every boat. The building of the flawless boat is my platonic abstraction never to be achieved.”………
    If the sainted Mr Ansel made mistakes, then so what if I did…From then on I was often confused, sometimes just lost but never scared..When it came to the quirky something or other I was not sure of I had a simple plan of execution… Stop…Go to the place where inspiriation resides, pull out a cold one, enjoy it and then plunge forward… If I screwed up, it was the dang beer anyway… My biggest mistake?…Limber holes are good, no limber holes means more bailing. But there is always a plus side.. Without limber holes you can isolate leaks quicker…

    To paraphrase FDR The only thing we have to fear is the damn price of wood ever increasing… What’s up with that?

    In solidarity with every dreamer who dreamed a dream
    Grab a piece of wood and attach a bunch more to it.
    Charlie Parker
    unmasterful boat builder

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      charles parker says:

      to follow up on building my boat. I always admired the new haven sharpie and they looked somewhat simple to build. I had Ruel Parker’s book (no relation but we did grow up in the same area).a few photos of a sharpie I saw in the reeds around greenwich Ct. and a set of plans from the north carolina maritime museum of a sharpie… my wife had only one request. She had to be able to sit in a beachchair and also room for her best friend to do the same. So… Beam was established-2 chairs, some room for centerboard and some room for side decks. Length was easy. I closed the garage door and leaned over and put a piece of tape on the floor. Then walked to the house side and did the same.. New haven sharpies keel is simply 2 boards in the middle and 2 other boars forward and aft which are attached in between the two middle boards (making the slot for the centerboard.. built it up of 2x8s and drew the outline of the sweep of the bottom on it. Sabersawed it to shape and then added ribs and stuff.. Might be wrong but it worked…The moral of the story is just go and work on your dream…The only one you have to please is yourself (with your wife or husband or significant other”s permission). Go for it.

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    Robert Hileman says:

    Wow! what timing, I was just contemplating what to do with a part that was cut wrong, when I read this and it inspired a solution.
    We always try to do our best when we build something, but I’ll have to admit to making a dingy and using it with success, but referring to it as the 20 ft boat, because it looked best from 20 feet away. Thanks for reminding us that boat building is not a perfect art.

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    Peter Paradis says:

    What a wonderful piece.. I have built several wooden boats. My last was a Stadel cutter .. from plans obtained at wooden boat. We live on the Chesapeake and she is docked behind the house. She was in need of some love this spring and have enjoyed the work. And I found that not being perfect is ok ! The beauty is there. The pride and work done originally still shows and I’m proud to take her out..

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    Steve S - RestHarrow Boatworks says:

    What a GREAT Thread! I retired a few years ago with a dream of building small boats. So far, I’ve built a Nymph double paddle strip built canoe, a cosine wherry stripbuilt (a favorite but needs to be a little smaller), a nut shell pram, A Guillemot Bootlegger Double Kayak, a nutshell pram, and than I FINALLY decided to tackle a bigger challenge – Somes Sound 12 1/2 designed by John Brooks. It was a wonderful challenge. I found OCH years ago (recommended by Geoff Kerr) and became a life member One of the BEST decisions I’ve even made. Geoff has been an inspiration from the beginning (his shop was just a few miles from my Vermont home) The OCH video series of building the Caldonia Yawl was PERFECT timing as I built the Somes Sound. And talk about scared, I loved visiting Geoff at his shop, but I always seemed to have questions which he was more than willing to discuss (hopefully I wasn’t too much of a pain). Other than answers to my questions, his greatest advice to me was “Steve, you just have to put on your big boy pants and do it”! I’ve now moved to Maine, built a new home, and have finally returned to boatbuilding. Current project is transforming a Rosborough 18 into a “sea camper” for overnight trips to one of my favorite destinations – Penobscot Bay.

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      Neil Henderson says:

      I’ve just got my plans for the Somes Sound. Maybe I can build one as well although the coaming scares me a bit!! Really like the comment from Geoff about your troos (Scots for trousers) :-)

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    dennis ward says:

    My older brother once suggested a measure of an ‘expert’ is how he/she responds, recovers, and learns from their mistakes. I finish a boat and I see a thousand mistakes staring back at me, but my friends and neighbors don’t see any. So they say. Since I’m not in the business of building boats, my paycheck is the daily pleasure and satisfaction of building it. Mistakes merely extend my pleasure, and if I’m lucky I’ll learn something. Keep up the good work OCH!

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    David Mitchell says:

    No I am not afraid of my boat, as I don’t actually own one. I havn’t been able to afford one yet. Instead I sail on and help out their owners with their boats maintenance. I actually enjoy the process. I still hope that one day I can afford to buy and sail my own boat. Accompanying that of course will be its maintenance. That doesn’t scare me.

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    Ed Altonji says:

    This was too funny, Steve. You perfectly described how I went about building my skiff. Easily two thirds of the time I just stared at it thinking about whatever I needed to do next. And yes, invariably I made mistakes that were easily remedied. The next one will go much faster … right?

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    Kate Slocum says:

    Your first email on the topic and this comment thread both really resonated with me. When I read the subject line, “are you afraid of your boat?” my subconscious shouted, “yes!”

    I’m a recent graduate of The Landing School Wooden Boat Building program now in my second year doing an Independent study of Norwegian traditional techniques. I had almost no woodworking experience before coming to the school–it was the shape of boats that drew me. As such, getting the shape ‘wrong’ is terrifying. It’s also hard not to compare my work and knowledge base to that of my mentors who have been building as long as I’ve been alive. It’s very helpful to hear other more experienced builders say that mistakes are not something that happens outside the process–but in fact they are the process.

    My co-builder on last year’s boat–a Lowell Town Class sloop featured in your magnificent online boat show earlier this year–had been a house builder and renovator or 20 years when he came to boat school. He was so calm when I made a mistake, for which I was grateful. He said, “it’s not that I haven’t made that mistake–it’s that I’ve already made that mistake”.

    So I guess I want to say thank you for opening this discussion. As another commenter said above–building is like love–both active verbs. It is hard, and messy, and intimate, and scary, and beautiful, and one of the few things in life worth doing no matter how it turns out.

    ~ Kate Slocum

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    Julian Kuffler says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for asking about fear of mistakes. I have been a longtime amateur boatbuilder and slowly getting much better. Two approaches that have helped me the when I make mistakes are; Next time I will do this differently and I love the gap filling properties of epoxy! This frame of mind helps me look forward to the next time I can be messing around with boats.

    I continue to enjoy OCH


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    michael claus says:

    Steve,yes I have been afraid. Failure was always lurking.What I learned was problem solving was the biggest challenge. I would wake up at night tossing and turning wishing I could just sleep. Then I realized some of my best solutions came in those early hours.The lessons learned were not what i expected. My passion for building a boat was fulfilled but the bonus was learning how to overcome obstacles. Life lessons learned at 66yrs. old.I am so grateful.Mike Claus

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    James Root says:


    This could be your wisest note yet.

    I have restored cedar/canvas canoes. Built several skin on frame kayaks. 6 Pygmy kayaks. A nutshell pram. And countless pieces of furniture by hand.

    And now I find my self in the midst of building a Doug Hylan Beach Pea and agonizing over every tiny decision to be made…

    This is a great topic and I’m sure you will get a lot of feedback. This idea of failing and then fixing the mistake is a big one. And one that needs to be embraced.

    You guys at OCH are doing a great job and I have really enjoyed everything you are doing.


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    Robert Boenau says:


    This is excellent and very honest. Most of us professionals have been through all the jitters of anticipating the big next step. We’ve woken up too many nights with an epiphany or new concern. It becomes part of the process. The endless solving of the puzzle or temporary resolution is part of what keeps us engaged on a deep level. It is endlessly humbling as well as satisfying.

    I think there is much benefit to talking openly about the intimidation of it all. As someone who has been involved in high stakes boatbuiding, I can only say that it definitely gets easier emotionally the longer you pursue the quest. It is also easier if you do it for a living as you stay engaged with it every day of every year. It is so much harder picking things up and maintaining clarity as a weekend or sporadic builder. That’s part of why your videos help us all by keeping us in touch with each other’s adventures.

    Bob Boenau
    shop manager, woodworker, and boatbuilder, and weekend dreamer
    Lyman Morse Thomaston

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    Mark Folkerts says:

    Years ago, as an 8 year old kid, I went to a friend’s cottage where there were 2 boats – a brand new fibreglass one and an old cedar strip runabout. I only wanted to ride in the wooden boat, and I’ve been drawn to them ever since. I married into a family with a history of wooden boat building in Hamilton, Ontario.
    21 years ago, I built a little dingy based on the mirror class. I stole some measurements from one at the Toronto boat show, read some books, and managed to turn out a pretty good modified version, which our 5 kids had a riot in. I took early retirement last year, and one of my first thoughts was ” I want to build another boat. This time around, I stumbled upon the Atkins’ designs, and ordered plans for George (which I see glimpses of in a few of the videos!).
    I also came across the Off Centre site, and I don’t think I’ve ever spent better money. I’m anxiously waiting for the covid delayed completion of a new garage/ workshop. In the basement, the assembled frames, keelson,gunnels, garboard planks and other various bits wait to join the strongback that lives temporarily in the barn. The how to videos have been absolutely amazing, and now I sleep a lot better, instead of thoughts of “I wonder how I’ll….”.
    Once this covid mess is over and travel is allowed again, I think my motorcycle will be headed back to the east coast for a visit!
    Thanks for helping to grow this amazing site.

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    Diane Pool says:

    Steve, NEVER apologize for sharing deeply meaningful survival skills. Fear of failure is absolutely universal, though some cultures etch it corrosively at an early stage, making it difficult to recognize how necessary a blessing it is for gaining strengths, such as accepting our vulnerabilities along with increasing joy of new skills.

    As I wrote that last sentence I heard a voice advising to continue with an apology for ‘preaching to the choir’…

    That voice was sent immediately to the corner, not allowed come out until it can say something nice.


    There. Much better.

    with deepest respect,

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    Raymond Vosper says:

    Xperience is spelled that way to acknowledge the number of xpletives involved in learning any trade or skill set! After 50 years of woodworking and boatbuilding, I still heat my shop with xperience on occasion.

    Cheers, Ray Vosper

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    Ken Gummerson says:

    It took me two years to cut the b
    hull of my Chesapeake Light Craft Oxford rowing shell for the skeg. I have 30+ years as an ER doc and intubate and cut anywhere for someone in distress. Remember Perfect is the enemy of good. Here is the multiply mistaken mast of Winsome our Gumdrop yawl.
    Well said.

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    Henry Marciano says:

    Hi Steve:

    I know exactly what you are saying. I’ve been there and done that. In our boat shop at Birchwood Middle School’s
    Marine Tech program (located in North Providence , Rhode Island) I often tell our students that it is ok to make mistakes as
    long as they learn from them and that they are not too costly . . I’ve also learned that getting expert advice tends to lead one further astray.
    Each “expert” offers a different solution to the problem. The only way to really tackle a boat construction problem is to experiment and see
    if one’s solution works or go back to drawing board and try again( basically just do it). After all, the Wright brothers crashed many times in their glider experiments before they
    successfully got their gas powered plane off the ground. Recently, we built an Optimaster 310 sailboat from plans provided by the builder Eduardo Marcondes.
    The plans were written in Portuguese and the measurements were not always provided . Those that were given fluctuated from centimeters, to inches, to no measurements at all.
    My colleague , Richard Torti was flipping out over the lack of measurements and inaccurate blueprints . Given that he is a professional carpenter and blueprint reader, he claimed he couldn’t
    build a boat this way. To make matters worse the translation from Portuguese to English was often confusing and vague. I calmed Rich down ,and told him that many traditional boat builders in the past built boats using no blueprints, and designed and built everything by eye (like the Vikings).

    Often times I used my visionary skills to overcome design problems which made it possible for us to build the boat.
    I also had the students brainstorm solutions. Shortly, I will send you pictures of the completed boat.


    Henry Marciano

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    Kit Laughlin says:

    You wrote:

    “Sorry about the little rant on fear and mistakes, Kit, just thought it might help to shed the myth that professional boatbuilders don’t make mistakes. And the other myth that their boats are flawless.”

    This observation is absolutely spot on Steve, so please never apologise for comments like these! What you describing here is exactly what I have learned from my best friend, who is a genius who can literally make and do anything. He is a welder, carpenter, designer, builder, – like your friend, the list of his skills just seem seems endless.

    The big difference between my friend and myself is that there is literally nothing in the boat world that he is not prepared to tackle – when I had the battery box explosion recently I was looking around to see where I could get some custom heavy duty plastic boxes made and I was talking to him about this and he just looked at me and he said, “Make them yourself!” Five days later, I had three brand-new perfect battery boxes, epoxied and painted, exactly the right size, custom-made for my 48 foot wooden boat, and in the next week, all the wiring done, old batteries out, new batteries in and so on. I thanked him deeply because without that push, I’d probably still be looking for parts.

    The next part of your comment is also, in my view, a critical partner to this mindset, and that is expecting to make mistakes, and simply finding a way around whatever happens, and find solutions which look good in the end. These skills sets are simply not found in someone who only does this kind of work part time, at least until they’ve done it for considerable time. And, they are not “mistakes” – they are just the things that happened and which didn’t take you directly towards the goal you were heading to, so you recalibrated, set a new course, and repeated the process until you got there.

    With the help and encouragement of a number of very skilful friends, over the last year I have redone the steering geometry in Anika-J (so she now turns beautifully at manoeuvering speeds), built her paravane stabilisers, and have done an immense amount of other electrical and mechanical work, none of which I have had any past professional experience in. I could have afforded to pay other people to do all this work, but I would not have what I have now – an intimate connection to nearly every square inch of the boat. I know her systems now and it all started with another friend giving me a push to do something myself (that was the steering geometry job). I have documented all this work to on Trawler Forums and if you’re interested in scanning it here’s the link:

    Thanks so much again for writing that piece and sending it out, Steve, I can tell you it really resonated with me. I look forward to watching the videos too!

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    Russ Grunloh says:

    That is so on-point, Steve!

    If you’re not scared, you don’t know what’s going on.
    Which is how I started my big project some 30 years ago.
    I was rebounding from an illness, full of mojo, and thought Lance Lee and the guys at The Apprenticeshop were my heroes. The Maine Maritime Museum published an account of their building Vernon Languille and made it look oh-so-easy. The Tancook Islanders were whipping these boats out in their sheds in the off-season.
    How hard could it be?
    Pretty funny.

    The things we do for love.

    In that time I’ve met countless amateur builders, all with their own personal interpretations of physics and aesthetics. Dreamers all. Boats are unique in how they contain, embody, and convey our dreams.
    Many of these amateurs got good deals on unfinished projects, because their originators had died, burned out, or just moved on.
    I’ve toured many “Boulevards of Broken Dreams”.
    Talk about a reality check!

    You’re right.
    Boats are hard.
    So is love.
    I wouldn’t want to live without either.

    In the beginning I fought to bend the wood to my will.
    Later, exhausted, I let the wood do most of the talking.
    There have been arguments, of course.
    But also singing.


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    Dennis Buehler says:

    Hi Steve

    Thank you very much for this topic. I have long enjoyed the water, outdoor adventure and modest amount of sailing. Confident in my woodworking background but longed to build my own wooden boat matching my love of tradition and a challenge.

    Finally committed and set off on my first build in 2019 (Arch Davis Penobscot 17) I having a lot of fun but your post really hit home. Anxiety and confidence can come into question when inundated with countless idealistic images, what appear to be rapid results in media and even (sorry to say) some commentary from arrogant folks on support pages found across the internet.

    Please know your site, along with the talents of Eric, Kit, Geoff Kerr and so many you continue to profile at OCH, continues to give me courage and confidence to enjoy the process of learning. Something I am sure will continue with future builds.

    I simply can’t wait to put LeClair in the water (likely in 2022) but until then I’m just enjoying the build and learning a lot. Thank you again for all you and the entire team do at Off Center. It has added a lot of joy and confidence to my build.

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    David Flanders says:

    Hi Steve,
    Your missive reminds me of something
    that I read in Wooden Boat magazine;
    that some of the most beautiful boats
    that the author had seen were built by
    amateurs. He/she said that they (and
    I) would fret over the details much more
    than a pro would, who knew all that
    stuff right off the cuff. It certainly was
    my experience in building my John
    Gardner- designed Swamscott dory.
    I cut and milled all my oak from our land,
    to 5/4, and then took what I wanted to
    my friend’s shop to plane for the
    particular use. It’s all quarter-sawn,
    clearly overbuilt. It’s so much more
    than I could have hoped for.
    Thanks for all your good work,
    David Flanders

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    Robert Beck says:

    It’s the same with master painters. Progress, and wisdom, come through mistakes.

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    Michael Howard says:

    Please allow me to share something that happened this afternoon.
    I was in Sam’s clothing store when another customer, on seeing my Wooden Boat hat, pointed and said through his mask: Oh, this old boat! As this was not the first time someone has recognized the Wooden Boat logo I said, Yes, it is Wooden Boat. Then I laughed and said, Oh you put together This Old House and Wooden Boat to get This Old Boat. I like that!

    As I told my wife what had happened I suddenly had the revelation, Wow, imagine if there was a tv program called, This Old Boat. I immediately imagined some of our top Boat builders joining forces to create a weekly program, sometimes building a new Boat from scratch, sometimes rebuilding an old Boat. Surely, there is a potential audience waiting for such a show, including all those you write about who fear to take the leap into boat building.

    It is one thing to have the idea and quite another to make such a thing happen so I will not be surprised that you or others have already had the idea and for good reasons decided not to act on it. But on the chance that it has not occurred to anyone, or that this incident may stimulate someone to rethink the possibility, I share my story with you.
    Thanks for all the great work you already are doing,

  • Bob Donaldson

    Bob Donaldson says:

    Early on I was getting frustrated with the pace of the videos on the Oonagh dingy and Steve Stone gave me some tough love reflected in this article. Mistakes are embarrassing and frustrating, but recoverable. I learned that lesson the hard way by cutting the daggerboard slot in the wrong place, but the fix was easier than I thought. The biggest problem, as a first-time boatbuilder, is not knowing what I don’t know. It causes a lot of hesitancy, but the more I work on the boat and fix my mistakes, the more I learn about what I still don’t know. Knowing what you don’t know is a big help.

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    Glenn Scott says:

    I was a boat builder 27 years. The only people who don’t make mistakes are people who aren’t doing anything. It’s not about how you mess up. It’s about how you recover.


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      Raymond Vosper says:

      You could write 100 pages on the subject jus to get to the truth of your post.
      Cheers, Ray

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    Scott Haley says:

    Back in the 70s I had the privilege of working on the damaged deck an Alden Malabar III built in 1922. Under one of the deck beam ends was a wooden matchbook acting as a shim to bring the deck beam up to level. It happens to the best!

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    ken vollick says:

    Thanks for moving me off dead center! This article was timely as i have procrastinated on a project for reasons mentioned in the article Im now” Off Center”. Ken Thanks for moving me off dead center! This article was timely as i have procrastinated on a project for reasons mentioned in the article Im now” Off Center”. Ken

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    ken vollick says:

    Thanks for moving me off dead center! This article was timely as i have procrastinated on a project for reasons mentioned in the article Im now” Off Center”. Ken

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    Ross Faneuf says:

    Nice article, Steve. A real liberating moment for me was to go to WoodenBoat school, where several partially complete boats were sitting about. On inspection, I realized that photos in WoodenBoat did not reveal the little errors, misalignments, and other glitches which were apparent enough on the spot. That really helped with my own wooden boat project, in the water since 2000 but of course still not complete.

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    Jack Panter says:

    Hi Steve,

    No need to apologize for the rant about fear. I suppose we all have made mistakes and have had ended up having to make ‘adjustments’ and ‘compromises’ to compensate or correct them.

    Some of the old time builders had an important fixture in their boatbuilding shops. It was called the Moaning Chair. It was where you sat with your head in your hands and wondered how you would fix the mistake.

    The fact that pretty much all the old time designers mention the Moaning Chair in their writings suggests it is an essential feature of a well equipped boat building shop.

    My grandfather built boats….he had three legged stool in his shop. It was where he sat when he claimed to be considering making some ‘adjustments’ to the design.

    Jack Panter

    ….since 1946

  • martin Thomas

    martin Thomas says:

    Your remarks today hit the nail on the head.
    As nice as it is to see the beautiful work of others, it would be interesting to see how others work around problems with their boats, who also have limitation with tools skills and availability of materials.
    OCH is an impressive show
    All the best
    Friendship sloop Lady M

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    Barry Muller says:


    I resemble a person with that issue! I’ve even recognized it as a problem, still haven’t started on my next build, in part of a nagging concern of “messing it up”! Your little rant has pushed me that much closer to starting on my next project – thanks.


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    Kent and Skipper says:

    Howdy Steve

    Well you know what Pete Culler said about this topic? He mused that “boat building was simply about correcting one mistake after the other, with the biggest mistake being to have begun in the first place. But oh what fun!”

    We have some mindful tips that help us and may be of use to others:

    Every little mistake has a story, and every story a mistake.

    Kent and Audrey

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    keith kelley says:

    steve –

    a little rant goes long way to help me face many things…..anther good message comes from a fellow name of Allistair Humphreys in a book he calls the Doorstep Mile…

    so…thank you….sometimes it’s possible to feel all alone in some fear or another and it’s so helpful to find others who have known the same or similar fears.


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    Mike Smith says:

    What an excellent rumination on working paralysis, and it’s cause: Perfectionism! It’s a curse!

    As you point out, perfect boats are not born that way, they are achieved by repairing numerous mistakes. All boats have more than a few of these.
    I guess they don’t call it birthing pains for nothing.

    Yes, learn from your mistakes, they are yours to know and learn from.
    then, as a wise and mature adult, DON’T GO POINT OUT ALL THE REPAIRS to everyone!!!
    No boat is perfect. Just perfectly fine.

    Finally, the wise Chinese Proverb: “Anyone can build a house [or boat], the real challenge is to live in it.”

    Mike Smith
    Napa, CA

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    Bill Saunders says:

    You are so correct. When I attended the NWSWB Tim Lee, who was the lead instructor at the time, told me that the difference between a good boatbuilder and a great one is that the great one knows how to fix his mistakes so no one notices them. Everyone makes mistakes, but knowing how to recover from them and fix them properly is the essence of any kind of building activity. My father was a finish carpenter. He was often called in to fix what others had messed up. Nothing beats experience and knowledge based on getting in and doing the work, and learning from one’s mistakes.

    One other thing that I would also add is that if you have made a mistake, fixed it, and it is still slightly visible, don’t point it out to others in the finished boat. For some reason most people seem obligated to point out such small flaws, when in actual fact it is rare that the average individual will even notice the flaw. Yes, maybe another boatbuilder with a good eye will see it, but why go around pointing out one’s mistakes?

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    Jeff Patrick says:

    Hi Steve,

    What you are saying re professional boatbuilders making mistakes is undoubtedly true. I say undoubtedly here because although I’m not a professional boatbuilder, I have been (pre-retirement) a professional custom furniture maker/fabricator. And I made mistakes aplenty. You know, the most definitive explanations of the difference between a professional and an amateur that I know is: A professional knows how to fix their mistakes.

    So even though I’m not a pro boatbuilder, I’m still not scared of screwing something up. Because I know there will be a fix. I might not know what the fix is, like Eric likely knows. But I’ll figure it out. That’s part of the fun of building stuff one has never done. And it applies to other activities as well. I’m still trying to get really good at baking croissants. I’ve only made them three times and made ….. well, let’s just say I’ve made more than three mistakes. And I’ll undoubtedly make more. I guess I’ll just have to eat those too!

    Take care and keep keeping Off Center Harbor free of weeds!

    Jeff Patrick

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    Pierre Charest says:

    Yes I am scared, unsecured and all the rest.
    This article is so true. And the video of Aroha part 10 sharing how recuperating from problems makes me feel better. So many videos on the perfect boat building do not reflect my reality but this one does.
    Currently building my first boat, a 14 ft Paul Gartside design Skylark. Quite a challenge and steep learning curve.

    In Sainte-Anne-Des-Lacs, Quebec

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    Doug Bullock says:

    Hi Steve

    OMG – did you ever hit a right note with this email and so timely.

    I am making a OCH Skiff and I have never built anything. I watched all the videos 10 times each and I have the plans. BUT – surprise there are no instructions.

    I do take heart from the videos Eric does as he often says, if you don’t have this tool, try this or if you can’t find this material, use this.

    I am making this skiff to row in Fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Toronto in August, I hope I can get it done in time.

    I started in my garage making the molds and strong back. But, now I am moving to my yacht club’s boat yard. Going to be working under a pop up tent, lumber from Home Depot and a few tools. One smart thing I did, at least I hope it turns out that way, I made the strong back in 4 pieces so I can get it in my car and take it to the club.

    When I mention to friends at the club what I am about to do – without an exception – a big smile comes on their face. Some immediately tell me about a small boat they built 20 years ago or just ask a million questions all the time nodding their head. No one thinks I am nuts.

    If you can a chance, could you set up a topic on the forum for “Making OCH Skiff”, love to talk with anyone else who has or is, building one now.

    Cheers and thanks for the email.
    Doug Bullock

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      Lou Kimball says:

      Hi Doug,
      I built the OCH Skiff last year, and am building the Oonagh now. The skiff was my first build, although I’ve done furniture and the like. I would be happy to help in any way I can. I took photos along the way and would be happy to share them as well. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a project more than that build. My email- I live in Harpswell, Me.

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    Sean Scully says:

    My father was a carpenter and his advise to me as a kid, about difference between and average carpenter, and a really good carpenter, A really good one makes mistakes look like they planned it the way it actually turned out.