Years ago, just after I started building my own boat, I was reading someone else's boat building blog and I wondered that they could spend two years building the same kit I was building. Now, after three and a half years, mine is almost done.

I started building my sailboat in January of 2017 from a Chesapeake Light Craft boat kit. A lot has happened along the way, most of which hasn't gotten blogged.

We've moved states:

And added a crew member:

and the boat has waited patiently in its partial state. But finally, this spring, I varnished the wood, sent off the registration, and as of this last weekend, started on the rigging. Sunday I raised the sail for the first time, although the rigging is still a mess.

This was an amazing moment that my skill is not up to describing. I had a minor revelation that I could actually finish the boat. I'm not sure I even knew that I'd stopped believing I could.

So this week I need to straighten out the rigging, order some gear, and just generally finish up. But the hull is complete, and the rigging is started, and the boat project is finally, finally coming to an end. If I'm really lucky, I'll go sailing for Father's day, which is apparently the only nice day this week.



When I started this project, I estimated about a year and a half at the outside to finish it. Had I started it in a garage instead of in the house, I might have had a shot at that, but the whole "can't let the kids breathe paint and varnish fumes" kinda threw me for a loop. I was able to get the hull painted outside, but having to wait for the weather to cooperate made it tough, and I never even started the varnish.


One of the things I've learned from software projects is that getting started is often the hardest part. When I can leave a task ready to start the next step, with the next step as clear as possible, everything is much easier. Once the boat was outside, progress was painful. I kept the boat chained to a tree in the yard, so any work first required moving the hull to the saw horses, which was never a super motivating way to start.

With the boat, I often found that wandering into the shop was not enough. Getting going has always been a problem for me, although one that I've solved to some extent recently. Still, even on things I want to do, I need a clear idea what I'm doing and an easy way in to get started. Having a garage in the new house has allowed me to have the boat ready to go when I am, which has made progress vastly easier.

Technical Challenges

There were a few actual boat tasks that I found to be difficult, usually things that I'd never done before. Fiberglass was the single most difficult for me. I was intimidated by epoxy at first, but on a stitch and glue boat you do so much that it didn't take long to get comfortable with it. The fiberglass, on the other hand, you do in two short, intense bursts (at least with this boat). You can't stop in the middle and come back to it, and I did a fair bit of work that day before starting on the fiberglass itself. That made the first round of fiberglass (the inside of the hull) especially challenging for me. The outside of the hull went a bit better, but even so, it was difficult to get the glass smooth with no bubbles under the epoxy.

Sanding was another area that caused me some issues. I'd sanded before, but not to the extent that boat building requires.

I don't know who originated the remark, "boatbuilding is 95 percent sanding," but he was right on.
- from here

I had two main problems when sanding. One was not getting things smooth enough before putting epoxy over top, then sanding through the epoxy trying to get it smooth, and two was edges. I never did really get the hang of sanding an edge without going through the epoxy. I think part of the trick is to get it nice and smooth and rounded before the epoxy coat. Still, I got through it.

Finally, when it came time to varnish, I was again intimidated. I read a lot of things about trying to get smooth, clear varnish. Ultimately it took me a long time to get started, and I didn't get as smooth of a varnish layer as I would have liked. But I got it done and it looks good, at least from a distance.

Final thoughts

This was a fun project, but I'm glad it's at the end. There are definitely some more boats I'd consider building (several from the CLC catalog) but I'm content now to try this one out. When I got to the end I was surprisingly unprepared to sail it. I got into a mindset that I'd never actually finish, and that made it hard to plan for the end.

But the end is nigh!

And now I have this.