Every person has a passion. For us, that would be boat building. It is what we enjoy doing for deep work and pleasure.
It takes a painstaking methodical process to create boats from scratch. While it can easily intimidate beginners, once you have passed that initial hurdle, we can assure you that the results are very fulfilling and worth it.
What Do You Call Boat Builders?
There are various levels in the construction of floating vessels. Shipbuilding is generally the term used for constructing ships and other watercraft and, yes, that includes boats. Back in the day, those who devote their time to shipbuilding were called shipwrights. They were also the ones in charge of doing ship repairs.
Later on, as shipbuilding became more complex, those that build floating vessels both for commercial and military purposes, became referred to as naval engineers. However, at its heart, those who specialize in building boats refer to themselves simply as boat builders.
The Science and Art of Boat Building
As with any pursuit, getting into boat building only requires two elements: interest and inspiration. You must have that special connection with the sea. However, beyond that, it will also require, at the very least, expertise in woodworking and carpentry.
You can always refer to online references and tutorials to build your first boat (we recommend starting with a simple rowboat), but we strongly suggest enrolling in a boatbuilding school so that you can learn the fundamentals of watercraft construction, sailing, and seamanship.
Careful Planning and Lofting
Speaking of fundamentals, boat building starts with a process called lofting. It is the method of creating an outline or plan for your boat, not on paper but wood. It will also involve translating the dimensions or scale of your vessel from its original blueprint into real life.
This process requires meticulous attention to detail and can literally determine whether your vessel will sink or float. Things can get even more challenging when constructing bigger crafts and working with a crew.
The Lofting Process
First, your draft will be split into stations (or sections). These stations will be outlined from the blueprint into flexible timbers. It will then be “built” using splines. These are little weights that can hold your outline in place.
Once built, you can then double-check and triple-check measurements. If you’re not careful, haste really will make waste as you might find yourself stripping parts that took months of work just to accommodate corrections later on.
Beyond the Framework
Once lofting is done, you now have a framework to work with. Boatbuilding takes a lot of work. Each project can take several months up to years to complete, depending on your vessel’s size and whether you have a crew or not. It’s not for the faint of heart and definitely not for people who lack the patience.
Build It To Last
If we have one piece of advice to share with beginners is that you must aim to create boats that are built to last. Remember, actual lives can be at stake due to a simple miscalculation. When things go wrong out there, they can spiral down pretty quickly and in a big way. Hence, don’t rush any project for the safety of the people who will board your boat.
The Life of a Boat Builder
Since each project takes time to complete, boat building might not be the profession for you if you need money fast. That’s not to say that boat builders don’t (and can’t) earn a living in this vocation. There is a huge demand for this art, and you can always supplement your main projects with smaller repair tasks along the way.
You can also opt to work at an established boatyard, or as an apprentice with a master boat builder. We actually recommend starting in this path before starting a boatyard of your own. Working as a paid crew (for those with basic sea-going experience) or as a volunteer (for those starting from scratch) will establish essential skills beyond just learning them from a boat building school.
Those who construct floating vessels are known as shipwrights, shipbuilders, naval engineers, but those who specialize in the complex vocation of boat building are simply called boat builders.
Boatbuilding is both a science and an art. It takes a lot of guts, skill, and experience to create watercraft masterpieces that are safe, durable, and beautiful. While you can always try to learn how to build boats on your own, given the ample boat construction resources online, it’s still recommended to go to an actual boat building school to learn the fundamentals of the craft.