Picture of Make Life Better with a Sailboat-in-a-Closet
1, tool chest bench.jpg
2, two pieces unpainted.jpg
3, painted boat in room.jpg
4, ama, front.jpg
5, proa packed in suv.jpg
Aug 05 New haven harbor.jpg
[SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: If you like this kind of writing style, feel free to visit my blog, Tristram Shandy in the 21st Century,  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 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.

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Mastros1 year ago
The best piece I ever read here.
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.
Todd Gehris3 years ago
Nice Job! The comment about guys with powerboats and Humvee's made me laugh.

dimtick3 years ago
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.
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.

NICE JOB!!!!!!!
triumphman3 years ago
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.
Your awesome. Way to inspire a dude to do scrap-boat on their day off!
Steelsmith13 years ago
I want to thank you for both our article and your "Bloody First Day" 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!
You are an entertaining author. Obviously you chose the right profession. I would imagine you inspire and entertain your students.
svensv4 years ago
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!
Wade Tarzia (author)  svensv4 years ago
Thanks. The Cure is continually operational!
zigzagchris4 years ago
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.
Wade Tarzia (author)  zigzagchris4 years ago
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
emedina944 years ago
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?
Wade Tarzia (author)  emedina944 years ago
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.
fatcharlie5 years ago
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.

Suggestion re. trailer - make a small, road- 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.

Thanks again for your humour and insight. Keep well :-)
Wade Tarzia (author)  fatcharlie5 years ago
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!
DAG10305 years ago
 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...

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.
Wade Tarzia (author)  DAG10305 years ago
The crabclaw sail and more importantly the "crane rig" 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 "proa." There is a good Wikipedia essay on the proa. 

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.  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.  My next outrigger went back to the western style rig you see in my mewest instructable.
 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. 

rowerwet5 years ago
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.
Wade Tarzia (author)  rowerwet5 years ago
Yes, some of the best adventures can be had not much further than 30 feet to a mile from the coastline.  Look at Matt Layden's tiny live-aboard boats for example (the Enigma, Paradox, Sand Flea, and his newest Elusion -- go to or the Everglades Challenge race ( .  Or Tim Anderson's sailing canoe adventures (   All possible on small-ish budgets! 
bentm5 years ago
"Create a project that is somewhat unusual. Coffee tables, bookcases, etc., will not work when life sucks"  

Hilarious!  There's nothing like a large, "inappropriate" indoor project for hitting the big red Reset button on a ruined domestic space.  And the boat looks awesome.   
Wade Tarzia (author)  bentm5 years ago
It's my personal philosophy, but I think it might be generally applicable!
Peebie35 years ago
Wade, I enjoyed your instructable very much.  You're a gifted writer, I hope you finish that novel as I'd love to read it....this wonderful world is waiting!
Wade Tarzia (author)  Peebie35 years ago
Thanks. I'll be working on the writing and a new boat this summer.
Gksarmy5 years ago 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
Wade Tarzia (author)  Gksarmy5 years ago
I'm glad you liked it.  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.  Advice. Build the hull in one piece first, install the transom/bulkheads, then saw the hull in half . Or buy Gary Dierking's book "Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes" 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.
woodNfish5 years ago
 I've never heard an outrigger called an "ama".
Wade Tarzia (author)  woodNfish5 years ago
'Ama' is the standard term for the "outrigger float" part, among outrigger groupies and technogeeks. The main hull is often called a "vaka."   The cross-beams are "aka/akas."  All from some group-processed conception of some Polynesian words. 
abe6025 years ago
I would still like to know how Jethro on NCIS gets his boats out of the basement!  If anyone knows please post it.  BTW...Great Article!
It's not as difficult as you might think to get a boat out of a basement.

1. Determine how  large the opening needs to be to get the boat out.

2. Assess the basement and its configuration in relation to the street side of the house.

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.

4. The next and most important part of the process is to excavate a ramp down to the basement wall that was shored up.

5. Last you would cut an opening in the basement wall and pull the boat out and up the ramp.

Pretty simple.

Jetho gets his boats out in little pieces then burns the pieces in his backyard!

e.tingle abe6025 years ago
he has built the boat a few times. he does not get the boat out he is just building it as a hobby.
blodefood5 years ago
The flat bottom  makes it look like a narrow version of a bateau.  Cool design.
katmckee5 years ago
I have read the intro and am inspired!!  Thanks for doing such a big positive great instructable in midst of other stuff!
bigdeee5 years ago
That is the greatest escape vehicle I've yet seen! Excellent job and thanks so much for sharing.
smp106 years ago
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.
Wade Tarzia (author)  smp105 years ago
I hope you publish and instructible about it. Yes, nothing like boats, airplanes, and rockets for inspirational projects!
jtharkness6 years ago
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.
Wade Tarzia (author)  jtharkness6 years ago
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
Wade Tarzia (author) 8 years ago
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!
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