2nd-hull-and-bridgedeckI have received numerous enquiries asking where to find plans and how to go about building a boat such as Tokyo Express. Also many people have asked, “What skills are required” to build a boat. “I have no experience” is it possible for me to do it too?

Finding plans is a good question, I shall return to this question below. But first up, to the question “What skills do you require to build a boat”. I don’t believe you need any out of the ordinary skills to build yourself a boat. Except maybe patience and perseverance! Building a boat the size of say a 40ft yacht is certainly not a quick project. There are a lot of hours of often quite laborious work to achieve your goal. But you certainly don’t need an engineering degree to do it.

If you enjoy working with your hands – then I am certain you can learn any skills you don’t have to be able to build a boat. I am writing this for the person that hasn’t perhaps done much building or has experience woodworking and metal working on smaller projects and wondering whether to tackle something much bigger than them selves. It is a big investment in time and money once you start on such a project.

There are many unfinished boat hulls in people’s backyards, sheds or farms that were started and never finished. It IS a big undertaking, so it is sensible to question whether you are up to the task or not before beginning. Building a small boat, maybe 3m long is a good way to get experience using the methods and techniques you will use on a bigger scale later.

I built a 3m dingy out of strip plank cedar and fiberglass, before building Tokyo Express (TE). I even spray painted it with the same paint system I used on TE. The boat was an expensive small boat for what it was, but it gave me invaluable practice before starting with the real thing. You will learn a lot about the process and it will probably answer many questions about yourself –as to whether you feel up to the job or not, before shelling out the big money. I think the main traits needed to build a boat big enough to live on are:-

  • Perseverance and patience
  • Being able to work orderly with attention to detail
  • Enjoy learning – being able to read from plans and having patience to follow/understand instructions.
  • Being inventive and able to think up solutions to problems yourself
  • If you already use hand and power tools / have experience with woodworking or metalworking – then you already know how to build things.
  • Being a perfectionist is NOT required – but an eye for detail and accuracy helps.
  • Being able to work methodically and think steps through before hand, especially when doing the fiberglass work, so you don’t end up in a big mess, is a trait that helps..

Of course any skills you have beyond this are a plus. It is a little bit like the snail and the tortoise. It is the person who is persistent and hangs in there for the duration, plodding away, taking the time to learn any skills he needs along the way and applying them that will reach the goal. If you are working from plans – the dimensions are given so you don’t need to design the boat yourself.

It helps if you have an understanding of the loads etc. when building but is not required. If you follow the plans and build to the specs, mix your epoxy always with the correct ratios and applied in the correct way, etc. then the boat will be as strong as it was designed to be, without you needing engineering knowledge. Boat plans don’t normally tell you how to build. They are just dimensions basically.

An eBook is due for release in February 2018, that also covers this subject and much, much more. There will be information on the website once it is released.

Leave a comment if you have any questions or something to add to this discussion! Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.

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Thanks for reading.

Tim Weston