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First-time Builders

I've been asked several times by newcomers to sailing, 'Do you think I can build a boat? Perhaps one like the W17?' … to which I might reply with three questions of my own:

Three YES replies can go a long way to answering the first question positively and here's why.

[*you may well have your own word for this, but in some countries, to 'whittle wood' is to shape or shave it with a sharp knife.]

First, building a trimaran is different from building a monohull. With the latter, one first has to accurately shape building frames and then set them up on a solid base structure to start planking or sheeting the large main hull. Very often, the building frames are just that, and they will be scrapped after use.    Only after the hull is finished and turned over, does one get into making and fitting the small parts and sometimes that can seem to go on for ever!

By comparison, you more typically need a kit of small parts BEFORE you start to build or assemble three trimaran hulls, but once those parts are made, the assembly can go quite fast and once done, there is then generally less to do to get yourself afloat.

But if you once enjoyed building simple things with wood, you'll certainly enjoy to make all the small parts that you'll need. A number of small bulkheads and frames will be for starters, but these will mostly stay in place so the building effort is not wasted.   Then other things follow, like the daggerboard case, webs for the crossbeams and the lightweight stem pieces and similar small parts. None of these are difficult to make, so if you patiently follow the detailed plans, you'll likely enjoy the non-stressful aspect of making these small parts. Even first time builders who originally saw this as 'a task', purely a means to an end and perhaps their only way to get the boat they wanted, end up by actually enjoying the work and process SO much that they frequently end up building another one!  This is shown by how few 'one-time builders', actually end up building only ONE boat ;-)   The fascination and satisfaction of seeing a new boat come alive day-by-day, certainly hooked me, from my first modest effort at 12, to my most recent as an octogenarian, with about 20 in between ;)

So to start with, you just have to be patient and take enjoyment from what is basically, just simple woodworking.   In the case of the W17, all the details and warnings are well noted in the Manual and many first-time builders have proven the instructions do work .. some not even finding it necessary to ask a single question, although I am totally ready to step in and help if you're stuck or fail to understand something.   

Take these deck pads for example. They are simply-shaped pieces of ply that form the interface between the ama and cross beams (akas) with the pear shaped pieces also serving as a finishing surface for the forward beam fairing. A lot of these small pieces, like the ama stem pieces shown above, can be drawn or traced from the plans and make a pleasurable afternoon of 'whittling wood' into something interesting, rewarding and ultimately useful. While a few of these pieces are best shaped with a small tool like a spokeshave**(see below), in the case of the W17, the bulkhead outlines are all straight-line cuts, so very easy and fast to create.   Bit by bit, all the required parts are made and prepared and then finally, they can be assembled quite easily, rather like those kits of your youth. The hulls then quickly take shape with much personal satisfaction.    If you go to my list of Construction Methods and select the ABC system, you will see how easy the W17 hulls are to assemble.

As a beginner, it's also recommended to choose a design where an experienced builder (ideally the designer) is accessible to answer questions, so that you have support when it's needed. Sadly, there are some good but old designs still available but only sold through an agent who is unable to offer real technical support. For experienced builders that may not be an issue, but for those just starting out, it can be.

So YES, there's a good chance that you CAN do this and I doubt you'll ever regret the effort. For the W17, early builders are claiming that my support service has been first class and I work hard to keep it that way. Sure, you may experience a few hiccups along the way, but not to worry.   With wood and epoxy, almost everything can be put right if you know how and I'm offering to be here to help you do just that. Good luck with whatever you choose to build …...... JUST DO IT ;)       

mike waters 2010-2019


** In case a reader is not familiar with a SPOKESHAVE, it's a lightweight hand tool for shaping rounded parts and with a little practice, will neatly round off almost any part you need. Used with two hands one on a handle at each end, they come in a variety of styles and sizes with either a flat or curved base. The flat one is the one I use by far the most and having first discovered this tool when I was 12 years old, it's now clearly my favorite of all tools! I personally prefer the light, simple models without the screw blade adjustment and own two Stanley #64 models that I would never part with. A highly satisfying tool to own and use, even if the W17 can be built without one because most edges are straight.     Some use them pulling towards you but I've always preferred to push away. Every boatbuilder should have one.    They'll soon encourage the artistry in you. ;-)

Available from $10 to $100, with a used but excellent Stanley #64 selling through eBay for only $20–$30.

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