Boatbuilding for Dummies

How to sand your way to a happier marriage
illustration by Mark Weber


When I told my wife that I wanted to build a boat, she wasn’t totally enthralled with idea.

Her lack of enthusiasm may have been because we already had a boat. It was a neglected 1982 Galaxy bowrider that my father-in-law gave us. In fairness, he did tell us that it would need some work. He was right. Over a period of two frustrating years, the boat literally spent more time at the repair shop than it ever did on water. Some of the best rides we had were courtesy of Sea Tow. In the end, it was the most expensive free boat of all time.

After such a bad experience like that, most logical people would give up on boating. When it comes to boats, however, my wife says I can be somewhat “logic deficient.”

My solution was to get a new boat – one that I could build. Clearly, if I built it myself, it couldn’t break down. More importantly, building a boat would be really cool – much cooler than building something practical.

Seriously, have you ever heard a conversation like this at a dinner party?

PARTY GUEST: Thanks for having us over tonight, Dave. Wow, that is one spectacular blender!

ME: Thanks, I made it myself. It can chop up stuff real fast.

PARTY GUEST: That is awesome. Your life is so much better than mine.

Who wants to go to a party like that? Not me.

So, armed with an unreasonable dose of blind enthusiasm, I ordered some boat plans online and began what I thought would be one-year boat building project.

Upon reaching the two-and-a-half-year mark, I was nowhere close to finishing that thing. It didn’t even look like a boat. It looked like an old bathtub left on the side of the road that provided shelter for homeless raccoons.

Visible progress was slow. For my 40th birthday, I got an industrial-sized roll of 120-grit sandpaper. I used it all.

As the years went on, my wife began to question why I spent all afternoon working on the boat when our house “needed” work. It was at this point I discovered that boat builders not only needed skills in boatbuilding but also in diplomacy. So, after a period of lengthy negotiations, we reached a compromise.

Every few months, I would give a peace offering to the almighty house – a wooden mantle for the fireplace, custom window boxes for the front windows and a cabinet for the TV. A true balance was achieved.

Eventually, five years and numerous home improvement projects later, the boat was done. Victory was mine. More importantly, I never had to do it again. I could check it off the list.

A couple of weeks ago, however, my 7-year-old daughter asked if she could build her own boat – “just a little one,” she said.

In shock, I hesitated. I didn’t say “no” right away, so naturally to her that was a solid “yes.”

Filled with excitement, she asked me what we needed to do first.

“Daddy, do we draw the plans first or buy the wood?” she asked.

“Neither,” I said. “First, we have to buy a sledgehammer. We’ll need it to knock out some more holes in the house so we’ll have a place to hang all the new window boxes.”

David Hardin lives in Wilmington and works at Cape Fear Community College, where he has taken every boat building class in the entire catalog – twice. 


To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, click here.