Column - Choosing a Plan


by Bill Prater

Choosing a Plan

To the bystander (wife, friends), choosing a boat to build seems like a simple process. In fact, I’ve even heard some make silly statements like “How hard can it be? Just choose!”

Well! That just shows how little they know about our love (addiction?). You can’t “just choose”. Choosing one boat means that you exclude so many others, and after all, every boat has its strong points and fans, even if the only fan is only the guy who designed her.

Take my dilemna, for example. I want to build a boat. I enjoy building boats. And the one that I have is too little. By the time I get my lady, cooler, dog, all the sailing gear, the radio and the little things that one absolutely has to have, my poor 14-foot sharpie is down to the gunwales and there isn’t room to swing a cat. A larger boat is needed.

So I decided that I should look at what the boat is intended to do. I want to sail on the local lakes, in a boat big enough to be safe when thunderstorms come up, with enough room for the entourage, maybe even a friend or two. Simple enough. Maybe a 18-20 foot trailer-sailor? That seems like a good idea.

But, wait. The in-laws live in Florida, on a canal with a dock. It’s a great place to sail! I’d love to take the boat down there. If I’m going to build something, it ought to be big enough to take them out. They are older, so it needs to be pretty stable. Maybe a 24 to 26 footer.

I’d also like to make the Great East Coast Circumnavigation one of these days. You know, start in St. Louis, down the Mississippi, across to Florida, up the ICW to New York, the Hudson to the Great Lakes, back down to St. Louis. If you are going to spend that much time on a boat, you need some more room. I’m not a huge fan of powerboats, but you have to admit they have lots more living space than a sailboat. There are several nice cruiser designs, easy on fuel with good accommodations. Maybe something in the 33-35 foot range?

But, I love sailing. What do you do to stay entertained on a powerboat? Maybe I should build a motor-sailer, so I can get the best of both worlds. Have you seen those big pilothouses? They’re classy!

Boy, a 30+-footer is a big project. It’s going to take a long time, lots and lots of hard work. I don’t think I want to wait that long. And where would I keep it?

Maybe I should build a little boat that I could throw in the truck and carry to the water. I wouldn’t have to keep up a trailer, and they say that the smaller the boat is, the more you’ll use it. And how often do I really take someone with me? See how hard this is?

Anyone got plans for a 20 foot sailboat, that can stretch to 35 feet, with a strong yet economical diesel engine, that folds up into a one-sheet dinghy?