How not to start a project…or…



  • How not to start a project…or…

from this…


to this……

I like boats. I’m not sure about sailing, but I do like boats. With this momentous realisation out in the open a foolhardy decision was made. I work in steel. Why not spend my spare time building a 40 foot long displacement motor yacht? In steel. For those of you still with me so far, I will drop a few hints as to the underlying stupidity of this question.

I run a small fabrication company. I have a house that is slowly (emphasis on slowly) being re-built. I am pretty well penniless following an amicable, but expensive, divorce. With my new wife I have inherited a teenage stepdaughter. Have you seen the flaws in my plan yet? No time and no money. Still, that didn’t stop me doing some extensive research and, combined with a never-to-be repeated sale by Bruce Roberts, I spent a sum of money that I haven’t got on a set of plans and cutting lists on CD for a 41 foot long trawler yacht. Spending days just gazing in awe at the pictures and plans filled me with wonder. This was a thing of beauty. Being “in the trade”, I phoned a few of my local steel suppliers and costed up price and delivery. Still reeling from the total, I rationalised that I could buy the plate bit-by-bit and so spread the cost over the build programme. Looking good so far.

Then came the dark dawn of realisation. I worked out the amount of “free time” that I had, removed the time required for the necessities of life such as sleeping, eating and interacting with other humans, divided the man hours estimated for completion of said project, and divided this by the amount of hours available. The total time to complete “the project” suddenly loomed in front of me on the calculator. No. That can’t be right! Re-calculate and improve matters by removing socialisation from the equation. Nope. Still can’t be right. How can one smallish boat take twenty years to complete?

I am 40 years old this year. I sank into the depths of despair. No amount of loving encouragement from my spouse, nor alcohol, could help me.

That’s not strictly true. I managed to achieve a state of inebriation so severe that I came up with a solution to “the problem”! Why not put “the project” on hold and gain some experience by building a smaller boat first? Hah! Why didn’t I do that first? So back to the research and the door of Mr Bruce Roberts for a set of plans for a 26 foot sailing boat. The switch to sailing came about when I realised just how much it would cost me to re-furbish the large Volvo Penta diesel that I had acquired (free fortunately) for “the project”. The wind is free, after all, I reasoned with my now very cynical wife. The plans were duly despatched by a somewhat quizzical Bruce Roberts.

Having been deprived of starting “the project”, I fell ravenously upon the plans when they arrived. A quick re-calculation of time and money gave hope for success.
Until doubt paid me a visit. I may be a “metal worker” by trade, but what do I know about boat building? If it were easy, surely everyone would be building boats? There would be boats being built everywhere you look. In every garage and shed for miles around there would be activity and there would be boats, lots of boats. Doubt is a powerful thing. I crumbled under its relentless pressure. I was a failure. I couldn’t possibly hope to build a boat. I was a loser.

Salvation came from a mysterious source. Whilst in a moment of lucidity, I was idly reading Bruce Roberts excellent book on building “metal” boats, but instead of skipping through the chapter on Aluminium, I read it.
How did I go from this to “Duckworks” I hear you ask? Logical progression really. Bruce describes how you can use simple woodworking power tools to fabricate Aluminium. I have these tools. If you remember at the beginning of these ramblings, I said I was re-building the house? Well, being poor, I have been doing almost all the jobs myself including all the woodwork, flooring and roofwork. So I have a fine collection of tools, both power and hand. Then the final piece of self-analysis hit home. I hate steel. I work with it and I have come to loathe it.
Hallelujah, I am saved!

Jon Bull - Saved!

Now comes the fun bit. What shall I build? More research revealed a huge number of beautiful boats all lovingly built in the finest wood. Fantastic! I have, however, actually learned from experience. Ignore the almost irresistible pull of the 30-foot plus beauties and start small. How small? Well, I have cut and stitched together an 8-foot dinghy that I found for free on the pages of this very “magazine”, cutely named “Dinghbat” or somesuch.

Tonight I’m going to tape up the inner seams, and this weekend I’m going to do the outer. And the best bit is I can spend not much more than a couple of hours working on the little beauty, progress nicely, and still have time to see my wife.

Is there a downside? You bet your life there is! I have five nephews as well as my stepdaughter and guess what? They all want the boat when it is finished. I am now laying aside sheets of best ¼ inch plywood to start on 5 “mouse boats”..or is that “Mice boat”?

Yours, from a workshop covered in sawdust and happy as a pig in muck……