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Merwin: Want a Boat? Build Your Own

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January 27, 2010

Merwin: Want a Boat? Build Your Own

By John Merwin

Speaking of winter projects, have you ever considered building your own boat? I thought about that for a long time, researching boat plans on the Internet and measuring my basement door to see if what I might build would fit through it.

My wife was terrified, wondering if some huge project would linger for years unfinished. Then I got lucky and found the home-made skiff shown here. The guy who made it in his garage soon decided he wanted a bigger boat. So I was able to buy this boat very inexpensively (partly because the resale value of owner-built boats is typically very low).

I’ve used this particular 16-foot skiff very happily in fresh- and saltwater for several years now. With a Honda 50 four-stroke, it’ll do 32 miles an hour wide-open while cruising easily at 20-plus all day long. The high bow and lots of freeboard have gotten me safely through rough water more than once and create a nicely curved sheer line that gets lots of compliments at various boat ramps.

The boat, as with most homemades, is just marine plywood and fiberglass. Plywood is cut to a pattern, bent and clamped over some simple molds, then wire-stitched and epoxy-glued along the seams. Then the wire stitching and molds are removed, and you’re left with a more-or-less instant hull. The particular model I have is called a Glen-L Console Skiff. You can learn more about boat-building and various boat plans at Glen-L’s website.

Boat-building is a lot of work. Make no mistake about that. But I’m still very tempted. A drift boat, maybe, or perhaps a small rowing skiff that would fit in the back of my pickup to be used in fishing smaller ponds. It just seems like such a cool thing to do....

Comments (22)

Top Rated
All Comments
from dighunter wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

It really is cool! I built a johnboat out of treated plywood a few years ago. I built it to bowfish the creek near my house (and partially just to see if I could actually do it). It was great fun. Christened (sp?) with a cold miller Light and powered by an old pole vault pole for a push pole, my three friends and I had an absolute blast with it. We weren't throwing any rooster tails, but did shoot a few carp and had great time. I built mine without fiberglass, but was still pretty cheap and it worked like a charm. Try it!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Very nice lines.

A friend and I have both been contemplating building an Au Sable River Boat. Beautiful and functional. Would go with modern materials to lighten it up, though. It'll probably come down to which one of us starts first.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Nice looking boat. Home made gives it its unique character too.
Let me know if you want to sell it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ilikehunting wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i have not built a boat from scratch but i have found two boats on craigslist for very cheap and then restored them. it is a TON of fun not to mention how awesome it is to be able to customize it however you want and then to catch some smallmouth off of it. i would reccomend this to anyone

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbasser wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I have not built a boat but a few years back my dad and I got an 18 foot v-hull bass boat and completely remade the inside because all the plywood was rotted and the carpet was shot. We got to make the layout just like we wanted too and it was really nice1 Lots of fun too though pretty cold sometimes in the garage at night in January.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackdawgz wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Boy Howdy! I love that boat! Everybody knows Hondas are fantastic. You never see a wood or fiberglass boat here because of the rocks and current. But I probably won't live here forever. Gonna save that website!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigbassfisher wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

my uncle is helping us build a 12' jon boat now. we started the week after christmas and still have a lot to do- fiberglass the botttom, rub rails, paint, sand put the seat tops on and probly some more things. its a lot of work but i think it'll be worth it as long as it doesnt sink the first time we try it.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i have always loved seeing things go together, and i have especially always loved woodworking, i had narrowed down my senior project down to two choices, a hawken muzzleloader, or a homemade cedar strip canoe, i chose the muzzleloader, but still hope to make a nice canoe soon, i have a friend who lives in amish country, and builds furniture, and he has built 3 cedar strip canoes, they are beautiful pieces of art, one day i hope to build one that can be treasured for ever.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

nice work! my dad and I build a nice 14' dinghy a few years back out of wood using the stitch and glue method. great craft and a really enjoyable project!

yrs-
Evan!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mutt wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I use to get outdoor life in the mid 90's and they had plans in there for a drift boat and a "6 hour canoe".

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I've been looking for plans for an ausable river boat. I'd love to build a boat and even have all of the tools and woodworking equipment. Just need the no-how and time.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman14 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Thats a great lookin boat! I'm so jealose... I want it! My friend and I built a plywood boat and just finished 3 weeks ago from a kit we bought from a nearby boat supplier. It was hard work but fun, as well.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

MLH/buckhunter -- I once had the good fortune to float the Au Sable with Rusty Gates in his riverboat. What a wonderful and elegant-looking craft; great to fish from! All the while listening to Rusty's quiet mantra coming from the back: "C'mon fish. Play the game." His passing left a big hole in that part of the world.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

John - sounds like that great experience is etched in your mind. Lots of history and tradition in one of these boats.

Paraphrasing another Au Sable angler, Rusty Gates was the best friend the Au Sable ever had. It will not be easy walking into his shop opening day.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Very pretty boat.
I have yet to try boat building, but I've done my share of boat repairing.
My canoe was rescued in a semi crushed state, a buddy fixed the fiberglass and I replaced trim, gunnels and thwarts.
My other boat ( a Sportyak III rowing dingy) I rescued from my recycling center. A previous owner had attempted to put an oversized transom motormount on the stern and busted the thermoplastic. I however know that a thermoplastic boat can be "welded" with a hot butterknife, so I was able to mend the cracks after removing the growth from the stern. I found some second hand oars that fit nicely and it was anchors aweigh. They made a sailing rig for the Sportyak, I may have to fab up some labboards, a rudder and some kind of sailing rig. I think maybe a windsurfing sail might work, it is a very little boat...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

The Glen-L Console skiff is a neat boat. Glen-L has some excellent plans and they give good advice and help in building also. I have a set of Glen-L plans for their Little Hunk Skiff. Have not built it yet.

Also check out Jeff Spira's web site, great and easy plans for drift boats, skiffs and dory's. Good tutorials as well.

http://www.spirainternational.com/hp_caro.html

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i canoed the Rideau Canal in Canada with two guys who have built their own boats, the plans were from "the six hour canoe" they built the boats about 10 years ago, and are still in great shape, as far as i know they never had any water in the boat, i believe the book can be purchased at bares and noble, and it includes the plans, i am probably going to build one this spring, but plan on modifying mine a little bit.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

John,
I've never met Rusty personally but know several guys who fished with him regularly. I backed out of the 2009 hex hatch at Gates Lodge due to work responsibilities and now regret it. The guys enjoyed an evening with Rusty fly tying, swappping stories and they have nothing but the kindest words for the man.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from CatchASteel wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Have you been able to track down any Au Sable river boat plans? I have been looking for almost a year now and have had no luck other than offers to come measure/look at existing boats....I'm really hoping to get a set of plans/instructions

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rmichaels wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Nice looking boat. Have started to look for plans for building a boat. I think those will be a good place to start.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SIR JAMES wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

makes me wish I didn't live in an apartment. :(
I would love to have a boat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie earl wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I'm in the process of make ing a canoe with the stitch and glue method

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from dighunter wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

It really is cool! I built a johnboat out of treated plywood a few years ago. I built it to bowfish the creek near my house (and partially just to see if I could actually do it). It was great fun. Christened (sp?) with a cold miller Light and powered by an old pole vault pole for a push pole, my three friends and I had an absolute blast with it. We weren't throwing any rooster tails, but did shoot a few carp and had great time. I built mine without fiberglass, but was still pretty cheap and it worked like a charm. Try it!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Very nice lines.

A friend and I have both been contemplating building an Au Sable River Boat. Beautiful and functional. Would go with modern materials to lighten it up, though. It'll probably come down to which one of us starts first.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigbassfisher wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

my uncle is helping us build a 12' jon boat now. we started the week after christmas and still have a lot to do- fiberglass the botttom, rub rails, paint, sand put the seat tops on and probly some more things. its a lot of work but i think it'll be worth it as long as it doesnt sink the first time we try it.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Nice looking boat. Home made gives it its unique character too.
Let me know if you want to sell it.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ilikehunting wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i have not built a boat from scratch but i have found two boats on craigslist for very cheap and then restored them. it is a TON of fun not to mention how awesome it is to be able to customize it however you want and then to catch some smallmouth off of it. i would reccomend this to anyone

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbasser wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I have not built a boat but a few years back my dad and I got an 18 foot v-hull bass boat and completely remade the inside because all the plywood was rotted and the carpet was shot. We got to make the layout just like we wanted too and it was really nice1 Lots of fun too though pretty cold sometimes in the garage at night in January.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i have always loved seeing things go together, and i have especially always loved woodworking, i had narrowed down my senior project down to two choices, a hawken muzzleloader, or a homemade cedar strip canoe, i chose the muzzleloader, but still hope to make a nice canoe soon, i have a friend who lives in amish country, and builds furniture, and he has built 3 cedar strip canoes, they are beautiful pieces of art, one day i hope to build one that can be treasured for ever.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

nice work! my dad and I build a nice 14' dinghy a few years back out of wood using the stitch and glue method. great craft and a really enjoyable project!

yrs-
Evan!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mutt wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I use to get outdoor life in the mid 90's and they had plans in there for a drift boat and a "6 hour canoe".

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I've been looking for plans for an ausable river boat. I'd love to build a boat and even have all of the tools and woodworking equipment. Just need the no-how and time.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman14 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Thats a great lookin boat! I'm so jealose... I want it! My friend and I built a plywood boat and just finished 3 weeks ago from a kit we bought from a nearby boat supplier. It was hard work but fun, as well.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

MLH/buckhunter -- I once had the good fortune to float the Au Sable with Rusty Gates in his riverboat. What a wonderful and elegant-looking craft; great to fish from! All the while listening to Rusty's quiet mantra coming from the back: "C'mon fish. Play the game." His passing left a big hole in that part of the world.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

John - sounds like that great experience is etched in your mind. Lots of history and tradition in one of these boats.

Paraphrasing another Au Sable angler, Rusty Gates was the best friend the Au Sable ever had. It will not be easy walking into his shop opening day.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

The Glen-L Console skiff is a neat boat. Glen-L has some excellent plans and they give good advice and help in building also. I have a set of Glen-L plans for their Little Hunk Skiff. Have not built it yet.

Also check out Jeff Spira's web site, great and easy plans for drift boats, skiffs and dory's. Good tutorials as well.

http://www.spirainternational.com/hp_caro.html

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

i canoed the Rideau Canal in Canada with two guys who have built their own boats, the plans were from "the six hour canoe" they built the boats about 10 years ago, and are still in great shape, as far as i know they never had any water in the boat, i believe the book can be purchased at bares and noble, and it includes the plans, i am probably going to build one this spring, but plan on modifying mine a little bit.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

John,
I've never met Rusty personally but know several guys who fished with him regularly. I backed out of the 2009 hex hatch at Gates Lodge due to work responsibilities and now regret it. The guys enjoyed an evening with Rusty fly tying, swappping stories and they have nothing but the kindest words for the man.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackdawgz wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Boy Howdy! I love that boat! Everybody knows Hondas are fantastic. You never see a wood or fiberglass boat here because of the rocks and current. But I probably won't live here forever. Gonna save that website!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Very pretty boat.
I have yet to try boat building, but I've done my share of boat repairing.
My canoe was rescued in a semi crushed state, a buddy fixed the fiberglass and I replaced trim, gunnels and thwarts.
My other boat ( a Sportyak III rowing dingy) I rescued from my recycling center. A previous owner had attempted to put an oversized transom motormount on the stern and busted the thermoplastic. I however know that a thermoplastic boat can be "welded" with a hot butterknife, so I was able to mend the cracks after removing the growth from the stern. I found some second hand oars that fit nicely and it was anchors aweigh. They made a sailing rig for the Sportyak, I may have to fab up some labboards, a rudder and some kind of sailing rig. I think maybe a windsurfing sail might work, it is a very little boat...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CatchASteel wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Have you been able to track down any Au Sable river boat plans? I have been looking for almost a year now and have had no luck other than offers to come measure/look at existing boats....I'm really hoping to get a set of plans/instructions

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rmichaels wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Nice looking boat. Have started to look for plans for building a boat. I think those will be a good place to start.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SIR JAMES wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

makes me wish I didn't live in an apartment. :(
I would love to have a boat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie earl wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I'm in the process of make ing a canoe with the stitch and glue method

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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