Super hand but 1st time boat builder - which sailboat

Hi Everyone,
I'm new here and am thinking about my first boat build and would greatly appreciate some guidance. I've sailed and kayaked on and off for my whole life - I'm a sprightly 56. I'm certified to bareboat charter 34' boats, or under - that was 10 years ago and I'm keen to get back on the water more regularly. I'm a handy (amateur) woodworker and I feel I could handle any of the builds I've seen here at CLC. I'm good with prep and a quick learner.

I have two questions I hope someone can help me with. I want an open boat that my partner, my son (14) and I could trailer and do some cruising/camping in. We're about to move back to California and might even do some coastal exploration/camping. I've got a dream to get a Norseboat, but it's not cheap and I'd rather build something than buy right now.

First question: Which boat? I've looked at the Northeaster Dory, the Skerry and Skerry Raid, the Guider even (too big job from the looks of it). My son and I have dreams of doing the race to Alaska from Port Townsend, Washington. For my 60th birthday.

Second question: build time? I realize this is like asking 'how long is a piece of string?' but I've seen videos where students get a good jump on the completion of the hull in a week-long class, and other posts about 8 months of weekends to completion.

Anyhow, sorry for the newbie questions, but I'm very excited to get going on a build. Have a lovely day.



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RE: Super hand but 1st time boat builder - which sailboat

   Sorry. Typo. I meant to write 'super handy' in the subject, not 'super hand'. :)

RE: Super hand but 1st time boat builder - which sailboat


   I'd recommend the Northeaster Dory.  I just finished mine.  I think the time estimates you mention are accurate.  I did do the class, which is wholly unnecessary, but REALLY fun and would be worthwhile with either your partner (which I did) or with your son.

The trick, like any substantial project, is progress continually, no matter how slight.  Don't fall prey to perfectionism, it WILL be beautiful, it WILL get tons of attention and you WILL enjoy using her as much or more than the build.

I like the idea of the higher boom on the Skerry, but for an expected payload of three, I would think the Dory is better suited.  While I've only had mine out once, it was sailing and with 3 adults and did really well, very comfortable.

RE: Super hand but 1st time boat builder - which sailboat

I think "tools" above is on the right track.  Northeaster Dory would likely suit your purposes.  If you really mean to use her as a beach cruiser, have a look at John Harris' thoughtful piece on some modifications which might be useful that way without going whole hog into something like the Guider or Southwester Dory.

Modifying a Northeaster Dory for Camp-Cruising (

A handy person such as yourself wouldn't likely be much intimidated by the extra joinerwork involved with that.

My experience with the lug rig on our Passagemaker would lead me to recommend that wholeheartedly for your NE Dory.  We chose that for our PMD because we meant to use her as a rowboat much of the time, but she's proven herself to be an exceptionally good sailer.  Doug Fowler's sails are splendid, and he has a good understanding of how to make a good balanced lug work.

Here's another of John's fine pieces, this one regarding lug sails:

Lug Rigs for Small Sailboats (

I wish you all joy of your adventures!


RE: Super hand but 1st time boat builder - which sailboat

   I just finished a Rhode Runner - honestly, wrote DONE! in my build log book today, after 4 months/400 hours of work, all inclusive of finishing, wiring, motor installation, etc..  I definitely agree with the "make steady progress" part of building.  I have a 50 hr./week job, but there is rarely a day in the past four months that I didn't log 2 hours on the boat.  Most weekends it was both days, with 8 hrs. or more per day.  I do get obsessed during a build.

I've also built a NE Dory and 2 kayaks over the past 6 years.  Use them all quite  bit.  I also have a lifetime experience with sailboats - cruising and racing, everything from a sailboard to living on a 42 ft. ketch over the past years since growing up on a lake in Michigam (I'm 62).  And experience with small powerboats and big Navy submarines.  Anyway...

The NE dory will suffice for sailing with 3, cruising with two, but you'd be overcrowded cruising with 3 and gear.  It is a very seaworthy boat, but the freeboard is low when heeled.  I've installed "side seats" (see various options on this forum) with floatation under them (as well as a seat in the bow with floatation under it, plus the standard per-design seat floatation).  Even so, I've tested it and concluded there is no way (without much more floatation well-strapped low in the boat) that you'd be ble to self-recover from a capsize in any waves over 1-2 feet.  So, I love the boat, but would never go into even semi-open ocean waters with it.

The Skerry is much smaller, but otherwise a very similar boat.  The Skerry Raid is more seaworthy.  You'd feel better being out in ocean waves in it, but no room for more than 2 with gear, at best.

I think that leaves you with the Southwest Dory or the Guider.  I can't speak for how well the SW it would recover if capsized, but doesn have more built-in floatation due to the motorized design standard.

If you are realy thinking about going to Alaska I think you need the Guider.  That is what it was designed for - but even then it didn't make it even with a very experience hand at the tiller.  You can find a write up of that adventure somewhere on this website, I think.

Bottom line, to be safe you either need to scale back your aspirations or scale up your boat selection options.

Whatever you do, you'll be happy with CLC quality and support.  Enjoy the build!



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