Introducing “Boat Building for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid”

Captain David Ryan, Prince of Grinds, grinding Mon Tiki’s rudders

I can’t think of any way to write this so that it has that life-lesson-cum-riddle feel that I’m so fond of, so I’ll just go straight at it.

Details still to be worked out, but sometime early next year I’ll be teaching boat building classes at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. Maybe the best way to explain the “Boat Building for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid” concept is to show you the pitch I sent them last month:

Subject: Boat Building for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid

Attached is a photo of our just-launch S/V MON TIKI, a 40′ Polynesian-inspired passage-making catamaran. Per US Coast Guard requirements, MON TIKI was built to the ABS Offshore Racing Yacht standard and will enter service next season as a US Coast Guard Inspected Passenger Sailing Vessel with a COI of 49.

I’m telling you this because MON TIKI represents the culmination a journey that I began 15 years ago when I started my first boat, a simple 12 footer that I completed in a weekend. Prior to that I had no boat-building experience and very little woodworking experience. In between I built several other small pulling boats, and a 25 foot schooner, building my knowledge base and skillset.

What I learned on this journey is that the skills and tools learned and honed in the boatyard are readily applicable to home maintenance and improvement. Aside from the boats completed, in the last decade and a half I’ve done tens of thousands of dollars of work on our house, including rebuilding two bathrooms from the studs out, and a complete kitchen remodel.

I believe boat building is an ideal format for becoming confident with tools and materials, and to become confident reasoning out problems and then executing solutions; whether it’s finessing a rolling bevel on a stringer, or finagling a built-in bookshelf in an out-of-square walk-up apartment.

The format is going to be a two-day course in which we’ll transform a few sheets of plywood and a couple of 2x4s into a Bolger Teal, the same boat I started with 15 years ago.

The idea is that even if students never go on to build a passage-maker, or even a rowboat, they’ll leave the class with the knowledge, confidence, and a small satchel of tools that will let them start building their own fixer-upper skill-set and see where that takes them.

Like I said, details still to be sorted out, so look for further announcement sin the this space.

Also, I’ll probably be living on MON TIKI while I’m teaching, so keep your eyes peeled for a Polynesian-style catamaran in Newtown Creek!

I also want to give a shout-out to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry. Pascal, or PEG as he likes to be called PEG is one of those people I follow because he often tweets things that annoy me. PEG suffers from enthusiasm, a malady that often afflicts young men. Mostly I’ve managed to escape its clutches, and I credit that with playing a large part in whatever success I’ve had.

One day PEG twittered something like “This is why I wished I lived in New York City” and the “this” was Skillshare.

On a normal day just the word “share” would be enough to send me into a rage, but that day happened to be opposite day, so instead of flying into a rage and then using that rage to compose an ascerbic but useless blog post, I pretended that I thought Skillshare was as cool as PEG thought it was.

Maybe an hour later the “…for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid” tagline was hatched, along with the bare outline of the course.

So “Boat Building for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid” it is. You’re not stupid, are you? So then lets build a boat together! It will be a lot of fun!


Take this class and you’ll be on your way to being as cool at Joseph Shelter, MON TIKi’s Mennonite artist boat-wright!

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14 thoughts on “Introducing “Boat Building for Dummies Who Aren’t Stupid”

          • Heh.

            I really do wish I could see a way through to able to put the money and effort into a film that would make it something I’d be proud to offer for sale, but right now, the way things are, I just don’t see a way to make it add up.

            My wife and I had a 2 day strategy session trying to figure out where the sweet spot is for us on investment of effort and money so right now I at at this moment, shopping for a higher-end DSLR to make my “advertising media work” look better. (You all understand that everything I write, shoot, edit, post and publish is to promote our sailing business, right?)

            That’s kind of exciting. The last time I bought a professional camera was when I bought the Eclair ACL 16mm cameras the we used to shoot our erotic docs. The last professional still camera I bought was a Fuji GX680 back in 1992.


  1. Sounds fantastic. Are you maintaining an interest-list where we can sign up for updates, or should we just keep eyes peeled on TLOOG?


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