[SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: If you like this kind of writing style, feel free to visit my blog, Tristram Shandy in the 21st Century, www.tristramshandy21st.blogspot.com.  If you do NOT like my style, do NOT visit the blog! I want no harm to come to you!  NOTE May 2011 -- I have been a little lazy at that blog: my apologies -- it had something to do with living life rather than writing about it :-) ; but I will be getting back to it.  --wt]

Life sucks sometimes, and you have many choices, among them drinking, television, and taking long walks at night among decayed buildings. But you know better; me too. How about spending drinking money on wood, television time on building a sailboat in a bedroom, and keeping the long walks amoung decaying buildings as a useful reminder of Mortality and the Clock?

After losing everything in a divorce except some books and some tools, and having to keep my small sailboat two hours drive away, I decided to make life better actively. You can do it too, and probably better, because I know you have more skills than I do. First, two preliminary steps:

Step A -- Create a project that is somewhat unusual. Coffee tables, bookcases, etc., will not work when life sucks. Imagination and promise of adventure are stronger cures for almost anything.

Step B (see second photo of toolbox/bench if I edited this step properly)-- Build a bench-toolbox of dimensions ~12 inches x 12 inches x 4 feet (standard lumber). The door to access tools is on the side so that you do not disturb your ass if you are sitting on the bench or the workpieces if you are working them on the bench. This is your world, this compact box will hold all the tools needed to build almost anything except the Space Shuttle. Any larger tools are merely conveniences, not really needed for your project-without-workshop. (most used tools were electric drill, electric jigsaw, hand plane (jackplane), wood chisel, wood file, Japanese crosscut saw , hammer, tapemeasure, compass-scribe, sandpaper, screwdrivers, and vacuum cleaner....you are working in your living space after all!).

Add a side vise and a hold-down vise -- both are the pure poetry of the third and fourth hands. Humanity has always desired more hands. The Japanese use their feet as hands when woodworking. The Eskimo (Inuit, Nunamiut) use their teeth. I use the hold-down vise and side vise. Write a poem about them; they will be great friends:

Steel hands on soft wood,
incorporating contradictions as they should--
how can the hard-harsh fail to dent
the soft-smooth low-friction meant
for ...

OK, I have no time for good poetry now, but you get the idea. The bench is endlessly useful for people working without proper workshops. I built most of my sailing outrigger canoe (proa) in a spare bedroom of an apartment, and parts of it in my living room, and many pieces of that on this bench, where I could listen to music, eat, and meditate over the project.

If I had a one-bedroom apartment, I could have done the project in there no problem (sleep on floor on futon, roll mattress aside, cover with dust-sheet!). The wheels hardly seen at left bottom of the toolbox/bench let me drag it around after I tilted it up by the handle (they contact the floor only when the box is tilted). Lay a cheap carpet under it to protect your landlord's property.

Get a low stool to sit on while at work. The one pictured here was once used to sit near the bathtub as I bathed my infant children. I suggest that you too have a small, useful stool, filled with beautiful memories and ready to be filled with more. But you *can* sit on it, too.

Step 1: Build your boat in two pieces

The two pieces (in this case, 7 feet long each) will let you get the boat in and out of the apartment and store it in the corner or in a large closet or corner of a room. The project started briefly in the basement of my first apartment, and I can attest I carried the proto-hulls out and up through twisty apartment stairs. Each piece was very heavy (80 pounds each at end of project) because I designed foolishly, but I am a weak 48 year old English professor, and if I can do it, you can do it.

The hulls will bolt together at their flat "transom/bulkheads" to create a 14 foot skinny outrigger canoe hull. The outrigger float seen to the left was a crazy attempt (ceased at the moment of completion, sort of like mediocre sex) at a somewhat native concept of a neutral buoyancy ama (float) but not a good idea for a solo sailor on a small boat (scaling a design up or down changes the physics of its behavior -- or rather...well, everybody seems to know physics on this site, so you know what I mean).

You see rub-strips on the bottom of the hulls. I adzed off the bow rub strips later because they were way overdone and the planling is very thick anyway, but you do need to protect the edges of plywood from being exposed. I now recommend thin-but-tough rub-strips built up with layers of fiberglass or even gobs of chopped fibgerglas plopped on in epoxy and later faired. Using graphite-epoxy from waterline down is also better than painting, I think (slippery tough coating but still has UV protection from the graphite).

The two hull pieces stand up on their flat ends and look like the wondrous towering architecture of fantasy. Sit 15 feet away, drink the relaxing beverage of your choice, and let the mind go where it will.

I used marine plywood nailed to heavy lumber with bronze ringnails sealed with polysulfide rubber-goo. You can do it better than this (read books on plywood boat building) and thereby make the hulls lighter. A skin-on-frame design may also be good (coated ballistic nylon skin is very tough), or strip build if you have the patience (I didn't). Or buid flatter parts with plywood, and the rounded botton with strip-technique, perhaps best of all, and faster/cheaper than all-strip-building.

Important note -- I had no plans -- the boat went from brain-to-wood with a few scrap-paper sketches in between. You must do this too; the Cure will not work, otherwise.
I want to thank you for both our article and your &quot;Bloody First Day&quot; writing. I got Gary Dierking's book, and your writing has convinced me to go #1 with his simplest design, use a tacking rig at first, go out on a not too windy day, and take a competent friend with me till I learn the boat. The tendency is to want the hottest boat first. Experience and and my limited wisdom tell me to go with what will be the most likely to give me fun and let me learn how to sail a new kind of boat!<br> You are an entertaining author. Obviously you chose the right profession. I would imagine you inspire and entertain your students.<br>
<p>(sorry for late response, did not see this) I hope you chose a Dierking design and tried it out! </p>
Hi Wade,<br>I did indeed go with the Wa'apa design and finished the hulls but haven't gotten the boat in the water. While I'm &quot;semi retired&quot; I seem to have more going on than ever. I am an artist metalsmith and just finished an intense teaching and am pooped! But i am going for wood to make my mast and leeboard and rudder Monday and then my boat is done! At 67 I haven't really sailed since I was about 24, and I sailed a small homemade boat across Lake Superior and had a great adventure and near death experience! I hope your life is going well!
<p>That's great! And I am glad that retirement is stimulating -- too many people have nothing when they retire, clearly not your problem. I hope you enjoy the canoe; it is a solid design.</p>
Nice Job! The comment about guys with powerboats and Humvee's made me laugh. <br><br><br>
<p>(sorry for late reply, didn't see your comment) A scene continually witnessed at boat ramps.</p>
Wow. this is like straight out of Gilligans Island. The Professor would be so proud!!!! I actually really mean that as a compliment so i hope your not insulted. <br>i think you could sleep easy knowing that should you ever find yourself on a deserted island that you could get yourself back to civilization. <br> <br>NICE JOB!!!!!!! <br>
<p>(sorry for late reply, didn't see your comment) I was always thinking that Tom Hanks could have done a better job on his escape raft (in that movie whose name I forget).</p>
I felt the same way as you when I built my pumpkinseed kyak ! So I put it on the Instructable site. It is so light and easy to transport too. The original design was meant to fold flat, but I opted for rigid internal ribs. I screwed them in place. Saves time and is much safer on the lake. I had it collapse and sink one time! So I fixed that problem. I also added insulating foam, sprayed into the bow and stern section from 1 can of spray foam. I quick and inexpensive way to avoid the Titanic syndrome. Love your story for each step. I can relate, I have had a similar experience. But now found the right woman who is an Angel and has saved me from many vices that could have put me in a very small place for a very long time! Canoeing, woodworking, Leathercrafting, knifemaking, Organic Gardening, a 19 year old daughter (college sophomore) and running this Ranch (home) and much more, keep me active, healthy and happy. Keep up the good work. I'm rooting for you! Seek Peace. Triumphman.
<p>(sorry for late reply, didn't see your comment) I have since heard several other stories like ours, the most recent from a student, a former soldier, looking for a purpose, and he visited a fellow soldier at his Amish home (the guy was on his outside-Amish-pilgrimage) and witnessed the hand-crafts of the Amish family he stayed with for a while. So he found a craft -- bow making from scratch, all materials gotten from the woods -- that worked for him. </p>
Your awesome. Way to inspire a dude to do scrap-boat on their day off!
<p>My father as a depression-era starving Italian with his cousin built boats from boards discarded by the factories. I must have been thinking of them when I started that project. (sorry for late reply, didn't see your comment)</p>
The best piece I ever read here. <br>I liked your style, and the side comments on life, boats, and everything. Or, perhaps I felt that I have met a man of my age, and I knew what you are talking about, a rock in the sea, treating wounds with wisdom and humor, and riding above them and the waves of troubles. <br>-.
<p>Thank you! </p><p>And I want to tack on an apology to the others I did not respond to for the last 3 years -- I thought Instructables mailed me about all comments made, which I try to respond to, but for some reason I never saw notices about these comments in my e-mail and have not logged in a lot to check. </p>
<p>hey man, digging the idea, but whats the weight of it? im thinking about biking cross country (with my own little bicycle camper, when its complete), and this would make a great addition to my &quot;bag 'o' tricks&quot;.</p>
<p>Hi -- That boat was very crude (it had a plank for a keel and used douglas fir plywood, and etc.) and way heavy for what it was. I would never build one that way again, if I could help it. </p><p>If you truly want to tow a small boat on a bicycle, I would make the boat into the trailer itself to save weight. It would be the form of a kayak, perhaps. Length must be thought about. The shortest boat is lightest of course, but short boats are less stable and less efficient than longer. Usually minimum length for paddle/row boats is 14 feet if the users plan to go any distance at a useful speed vs calories, but of course there are shorter boats for various purposes that work out OK. (see more below). </p><p>You could put your stuff in it, sleep in it (maybe) and tow it -- without the added weight of a trailer frame. The axle for the wheels would go through the bottom of the boat but be encapsulated so the hull could never leak once the axle and wheels were removed for water. This mode would offer the lightest weight for the most versatility. </p><p>I would build this contraption out of carbon fiber or carbon and kevlar if you have the money -- strongest and lightest structure possible for something to be towed by bike. If money is an issue, then good marine plywood (good maRINE PLYWOOD wood is light and strong, such as okuome), strengthened here and there with fiberglass cloth and epoxy, or carbon in selected areas. This is of course a design challenge (exciting!) and you would need to read up on kyak building methods.</p><p>There is a man famous in the small adventure-boating world, Matt Layden, who specializes in small innovative sail boats and kayaks. In one around-Florida sailing/paddling event he used a tiny 9 foot sailboat (you have to travel almost 1200 miles, sailing the coast, paddling rivers, and at one spot getting your boat over 40 miles of roads on your own) -- you should check out his designs. His boat &quot;Elusion&quot; is a paddle/sailboat with a small cabin he could sleep inside. It is 9 feet long and about 3.5 feet wide. He could bolt wheels to the sides to tow it over the roads for that 40 miles. He also used an 8 foot pram &quot;Sandflea&quot; he could sleep inside. You should research such boats and methods of light construction (many books and internet sources are out there). Good luck with you adventure!</p>
An excellent read - I find your path to dealing with life-lessons far more valuable than how to build a two-piece triangular boat. It's been a few years, I hope the Cure has continued!
Thanks. The Cure is continually operational!
Glad u found fun in the sailboat. Iv been trying to find a way to learn to sail for a bit. We apparently look at the same ocean as im a ct-er too.
I hope I see you out there sometime. I usually push off from New Haven's Lighthouse Point city ramp.
ya im a bit closer to RI. Im considering giving my kayak sails at the moment
Is this boat seaworthy? Can i take it out on the coast of Southern California and fish with it? More importantly, anyone think i could sail to Catalina Island and back?
Complex answer required. A sailor's skill and luck provides a lot of seaworthiness. That being said, I would say no. This boat can be taken out a few miles off the coast, sure. If you installed good watertight chambers, then it can survive a knockdown. If you are in good physical shape and have some skills, you can right this boat from a 180 degree capsize with some effort. But it will never be seaworthy like a commercial monohull sailboat, with self-draining cockpit and a ballasted keel or centercoard making the boat self-righting. My newer outrigger is a better boat, but In salt water I wear a serious lifevest packing a strobe light, a flare gun, and a Spot locator beacon, and the boat carries more flares and a VHF with GPS-DSC distress call. My friend sitting with me here me now has sailed out to Catalina and tells me there can be serious chop out there. I would want a much longer sailing canoe for that, at least 18-20 feet.
Wade - I hope in the ensuing time since you posted this that you have still been experiencing the wonders of sailing! Fantastic instructable - puts me in mind of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' - not so much a 'how-to' but rather a 'why-to'. Thanks.<br /> <br /> Suggestion re. trailer - make a small, road-&nbsp;wheeled cradle to fit the centre section. Rather than taking the halves apart, hinge them at the gunwale level between the two centre bulkheads. When you fold it in half, with the cradle attached to the downward hull, you have a long, thin, box-trailer.<br /> <br /> Thanks again for your humour and insight. Keep well :-)
I built a second outrigger that improved on the first. See my most recent instructable about that, and some Youtube footage of it sailing. Now that I own a small house with garage, I am able to keep this boat on a good trailer, but my quest to build a 24 foot sailing outrigger will again bring me back to a sectional boat, Gary Dierking's Wa'Apa canoe, and the last 8 feet of it will probably be hinged so that I can fit it in my garage. Thanks for your kind words!
&nbsp;I read the first day with crab claw. Excellent!...perhaps I should be working instead of dreaming about finishing the sail rig for my canoe...Oh well, it's almost summer and my students are slacking anyway...<br /> <br /> What made you decide to use a crab claw? Was it merely the allure of the pacific proa? Is shunting awkward? I'm considering using a lateen or leg of mutton, but have considered the crab claw.<br />
The crabclaw sail and more importantly the &quot;crane rig&quot; of a shunting crabclaw relfected my desire to experience a different way of sailing that some Polynesians invented -- a very nonwestern mode of changing a sailboat direction. The mode is suited to the materials and sailing mission (if you will) of the Pacific outrigger or &quot;proa.&quot; There is a good Wikipedia essay on the proa.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> This rig does have some advantages, though for making frequent tacks especially in a narrow body of water, the extra time taken for a shunt (contra a tack) is not useful.&nbsp; In larger rigs, shutning a crabclaw is best done witgh at least two experienced crew. The large heavy rigs of traditional Micronesian proas for instance really require three experienced crew to make the practise safe in rougher conditions, so you see its problem for the solo sailor.&nbsp; My next outrigger went back to the western style rig you see in my mewest instructable.
&nbsp;Thanks for the response. Here in the western part of Texas, our lakes are fairly narrow. They are rivers or creeks dammed up in canyons. I was considering a shunting rig for my canoe, but I couldn't get past the idea of having to shunt very frequently due to the sizes and shapes of the local lakes.&nbsp;<br /> <br />
sailors aren't the only ones to find peace in a boat, I row and paddle and find both of them as rewarding even if they require more effort. Of course most of my paddling is done withing 30' feet of the beach on a surf kayak, so it isn't relaxing as much as exhilirating mixed with moments of terror.
Yes, some of the best adventures can be had not much further than 30 feet to a mile from the coastline.&nbsp; Look at Matt Layden's tiny live-aboard boats for example (the Enigma, Paradox, Sand Flea, and his newest Elusion -- go to <a href="http://www.duckworksmagazine.com" rel="nofollow">www.duckworksmagazine.com</a>) or the Everglades Challenge race (<a href="http://www.watertribe.com" rel="nofollow">www.watertribe.com</a>) .&nbsp; Or Tim Anderson's sailing canoe adventures (<a href="http://www.robot.mit.edu" rel="nofollow">www.robot.mit.edu</a>).&nbsp;&nbsp; All possible on small-ish budgets!&nbsp;
&quot;Create a project that is somewhat unusual. Coffee tables, bookcases, etc., will not work when life sucks&quot; &nbsp;<br /> <br /> Hilarious!&nbsp; There's nothing like a large, &quot;inappropriate&quot; indoor project for hitting the big red Reset button on a ruined domestic space.&nbsp; And the boat looks awesome. &nbsp;&nbsp; <br />
It's my personal philosophy, but I think it might be generally applicable!
Wade, I enjoyed your instructable very much.&nbsp; You're a gifted writer, I hope you finish that novel as I'd love to read it....this wonderful world is waiting!
Thanks. I'll be working on the writing and a new boat this summer.
Wow...you have a beautiful writing style and the project itself is absolutely incredible. I'm VERY tempted to attempt this now...after my next project haha<br />
I'm glad you liked it.&nbsp; Break-apart boats can be made much better than this first attempt at mine, though the cheapest and most reliable connection is indeed the simple bolts.&nbsp; Advice. Build the hull in one piece first, install the transom/bulkheads, then saw the hull in half . Or buy Gary Dierking's book &quot;Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes&quot; or plans for the Wa'Apa sailing canoe (in three 8 foot section, or take out the middle section for a 16 footer). That is your best bet.
&nbsp;I've never heard an outrigger called an &quot;ama&quot;.
'Ama' is the standard term for the &quot;outrigger float&quot; part, among outrigger groupies and technogeeks. The main hull is often called a &quot;vaka.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp; The cross-beams are &quot;aka/akas.&quot;&nbsp; All from some group-processed conception of some Polynesian words.&nbsp;
I would still like to know how Jethro on NCIS gets his boats out of the basement!&nbsp; If anyone knows please post it.&nbsp; BTW...Great Article!<br />
It's not as difficult as you might think to get a boat out of a basement.<br /> <br /> 1. Determine how&nbsp; large the opening needs to be to get the boat out.<br /> <br /> 2. Assess the basement and its configuration in relation to the street side of the house.<br /> <br /> 3. If the wall closest to the street will allow an opening large enough then you would first shore up the floor and wall from the inside.<br /> <br /> 4. The next and most important part of the process is to excavate a ramp down to the basement wall that was shored up.<br /> <br /> 5. Last you would cut an opening in the basement wall and pull the boat out and up the ramp.<br /> <br /> Pretty simple.<br />
<p>Jetho gets his boats out in little pieces then burns the pieces in his backyard!</p>
he has built the boat a few times. he does not get the boat out he is just building it as a hobby.
The flat bottom&nbsp; makes it look like a narrow version of a bateau.&nbsp; Cool design.<br />
I have read the intro and am inspired!!&nbsp; Thanks for doing&nbsp;such a big positive great instructable in midst of other stuff!
That is the greatest escape vehicle I've yet seen! Excellent job and thanks so much for sharing.
Your article was so right on, especially with the philosophical musings that tend to accompany such unique endeavors, particularly when undertaken alone. I spent many years creating various "homebuilt" projects in apartment kitchens and living rooms, furtively vacuuming up sawdust before nosy landlords became aware of my activities. For some reason, building a boat - any boat - endows one with an aura of adventurous rebellion, a devil-may-care rebuttal to the mundane, and a sense of smug satisfaction not to be had from building shelves or garden planters. I am currently blessed to have a garage large enough to build a 10' lapstrake wherry, and find my refuge in that project. Thanks so much for your article.
I hope you publish and instructible about it. Yes, nothing like boats, airplanes, and rockets for inspirational projects!
I laughed so hard I became oxygen deprived. My stomach convulsed so much I must have completed the equivalent of 300 situps in as many seconds, and herniated my diaphram in the process. In short, this 'journal nautical' was inexhaustively - unrelentingly - hysterical. You deserve a storybook award for this.
Thanks. I have a sabbatical this fall to get work done on some writing projects, one of them a humorous self-deprecatory nautical autobiography to be titled _In Search of Tim Severin_, perhaps you'd like it if I finish it ;-) 30 pages written so far. You might also enjoy My Bloody First Day with a Crabclaw, posted online on Proafile Magazine. In Search of Tim Severin will be a little like that. -- Wade
Comment to myself: this is the best use for an SUV that I can think of. I wouldn't ordinary own such a fuel-inefficient vehicle but my sister gave me this her old truck when I was down and out (and my fuel efficient Saturn was burning lots of oil); thanks Sis! However, I put its 18 mile per gallon to good use during sailing season, and had fun in some major blizzards besides. The proa as built was/is rather too heavy and clumsy for carrying on a car roofrack, though I think the hull parts would squeeze into a compact stationwagon, and the rig and ama/akas could easily go on the roof. But I suggest you build a lighter version that *would* go on a car rooftop. If you can store/build the canoe in some other place besides your bedroom, build the hull in one piece. Anything up to 18 feet long is roof-top-able, like any standard canoe or kayak. Build in 1/4 inch plywood with reasonable scantlings, strip-building, or skin-on-frame, the main hull ought to come in from 70 to 125 pounds in the 14-to-18 foot lengths. Skin-on-frame is a desirable method to explore for this craft!<br/>

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Bio: If you read blogs, come vist mine: www.tristramshandy21st. blogspot.com where right now I am posting chapters of my humorous and philosophical nonfiction, "In ... More »
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