Why I “Hate” Boatbuilding

by Michael Storer - Philippines

Not really HATE … but something like.

Every minute that keeps me away from the finished boat is a wasted minute.

So here are some resources that might be useful to you and certainly inform my designwork.

Building boats Fast: storerboatplans.com

This is the big secret behind my design philosophy.

And I’m going to overstate it to make the point.

I hate building boats. I find it intriguing, I might find it an intellectual puzzle, I often enjoy using the skills and working out the best and simplest way to achieve a particular result – but in the end I am really glad that it is over and I can go sailing or rowing or paddling – to get out in the environment.

Beth Sailing Canoe moving right along. ARticle on regular club racing of a yawl rigged canoe - storerboatplans.com

I live for the moment that the boat is there in front of me – complete – or complete enough to use.

So my commitment is getting the boat in the water.

This works very well for my design work too – I try to be a specialist in cutting down the labour content of my designs.

A really important aspect of what I do is that despite cutting down on the necessarily labour I want the boats I design to look beautiful and row, sail or motor rings around most of the opposition.

So these are my thoughts on building boats quickly:-

Plywood – the potential is to “Think Big”

(and not be caught up in trivial detail for either design or repair)

What makes a boat float is its skin Plywood is easily the fastest way to put together the necessary surface area to make a boat. This is a Beth Sailing Canoe. More information

Beth Sailing Canoe Boreal in Columbia BC: storerboatplans.com

As an example, here is what would be a massive repair … done overnight.

Here is the link with details … last week a chap posted that a ply boat had rot in a few places and it was difficult to track.

Think BIG! Remove the whole bottom or side or whatever. Here are the steps of such a quick repair.

Replace hull panels overnight. Fast boat repairs : Storer boat plans

Messing around with the bits takes so much time, but set the router to the ply thickness and get rid of the lot.

Replace hull panels overnight. Fast boat repairs : Storer boat plans

I was taught this method by my Uni sailing friend Alan Downes who built immaculate plywood moth dinghies.

Replace hull panels overnight. Fast boat repairs : Storer boat plans

Boat is like new overnight.

Replace hull panels overnight. Fast boat repairs : Storer boat plans

This is the potential of plywood in building as well as repair.

Instead of fiddling around with little bits, make  plywood carry all the loads and work out minimal ways to get the load into the plywood.

Number of parts and simplicity of parts.

If is the job of the designer to reduce the number of parts involved in the boat. Every piece eliminated is another piece that doesn’t have to be paid for, cut to length, shaped.

There is no need to buy epoxy, varnish or paint for parts that are eliminated from the structure – not only reducing labour, but cutting costs.

Goat island skiff panels. Minimal building of maximally beautiful boats: storer boat plans

But it also needs to be beautiful. So many boats look very similar. Finding another way is rewarding for both the designer and the owners.

The drawing of the Goat Island Skiff components and assembly shows how there are only 10 plywood components required to make up the hull structure. There is little additional framing apart from the timber that is required to join up the panels into a stiff light but strong structure that shows no flex under sailing loads.

Do a search on SUP boards, their internal structure is not a trivial design problem. Foot loading is really hard to design to. Most are overly complicated.

See how the internals of ours compare with the overly complicated internals of many others. This understanding of structure comes from race boats where there is a learning curve of try, fail, try succeed. Which sets a new standard for  lightweight for the next cycle.

But they also need to look good and have a different idea from everything else in the market. This board has stability and speed – fine lines as the water sees a narrow stern pintail until the board tilts, then it becomes a wide flat board for stability. This is the Taal Stand UP Paddleboard, SUP.


We play with light weight all the time. From prototypes, to progressive evaluations of existing boats.

This was a mad project. How light is is possible to build a canoe … 12lbs.

Super light balsa canoe and how to make it: storerboatplans.com

Try balancing a 12lb boat on a windy day by Mt Barker Lake :).

How long does it last? Years with care.

What did we learn?

  1. Glass doesn’t need to be high weight to be effective, it can be very light and still offer very significant protection
  2. Only put glass where you need it – it is much more dense than timber and then you have to add resin as well. People who say “it doesn’t add much weight” haven’t picked up two boats  side by side and thought which one they want to lug 50 yards 🙂
  3. Don’t reduce the thickness of the core material

Reducing weight also reduces the cost of the boat – every pound of the boat requires that dollars be spent. Lighter weights also result in better performance or better fuel economy or better carrying capacity. For example the Goat Island Skiff built of 6mm Gaboon plywood weighs in at 126lbs – lighter for its length than almost any other sailing dinghy including supposedly lightweight racing boats.

One built by my friend Bruce in Maitland, Oz was framed with Paulownia for a hullweight of 105lbs … we are well into hi tech composites with those sorts of weights for a near 16ft boat. Here’s a pic.

Paulownia framed Goat Island Skiff for massive weight savings. Hull around 100lbs. storerboatplans.com

I had some doubts about the paulownia (links) standing up, but the boat is around 7 years old now and with its third owner. Join the Goat group on facebook to follow other developments.

We have lots of fun with lightweighting as do our clients.

Here is a 36lb Eureka canoe built with thinner ply and paulownia timber trim. Around 10 years ago. We are often ahead of the curve. In this case two serious canoeists wondered what they could do. They brought lots of different techniques to the table, but were interested to follow our suggestions of Paulownia, thin ply and much less glass.

How to lightweight a canoe: Eureka lightweight easy to build plywood canoe: storerboatplans.com

Sensible Assembly procedure

Finish the boat BEFORE it is assembled.

Everything on this quick canoe is precoated before assembly.

It is the Quick Canoe which has been built in as little as four hours. I took two weekends which seems about average.

We do something different with the temporary assembly before filleting or glassing specifically for the Quick canoe, but also for the Oz Goose and OzRacer RV.

fast building two quick canoes in france for camping trip down the Loire: storerboatplans.com

It is a funny shaped lump despite the labour savings. … until it is pushed into shape – Next photo!

Plywood DIY canoe looks good on the beach.

For those who love boatbuilding for itself

Now I do understand that some people love boatbuilding – there is nothing wrong with this – they are just as entitled to their natural response as I am.

I’ve helped with that approach too over the years. My first question for  someone who says “I want to build a boat” is “do you want to get on the water or is boatbuilding and the skillset one of the attractions.

Photo from my teaching days in Adelaide. We would leave the builders up to their own devices, but answer questions and sort out problems when they occurred.

Duck Flat boat buidlng school Adelaide Australia. storerboatplans.com

The second group also needs their needs to be met.

It’s always fun talking with people who love what they are doing – even if it’s not something that I get excited about. If the person in really into it I can almost – ALMOST – feel excited about the boatbuilding process. But really I simply have a higher level of excitement about the prospect of a finished boat.

Current Project and how it is informed by the above

Over the past couple of years I have been involved in a design and build project – to make the cheap, fast and capacious Oz Goose into a boat for modest income people in the Philippines and other developing nations.

We have a banner that they can build a family boat for less than the price of an iPhone.

Oz Goose information here

Oz Goose simple quick to build and quick to sail family sailboat. storerboatplans.com

There has been iteration after iteration to make the boats simpler to build each time. Things we have found to be more than strong enough can be  reduced and minor breakages mean the plan is updated with fixes. We have removed about 20 pieces of timber. Unless you want to fillet the whole thing … then there is very little timber in the boat.

fast building 10 Oz Goose sailboats in the Philippines.

You could also use paulownia for framing to pull quite a lot of weight  out of the boat. Existing learning applies to every project.

Anyway, the boats are in the water and are exceeding all expectations – though they sail fastest (up to 15 knots with common speeds in the 12 to 13 range when the wind is right with one adult aboard they also have excellent response and acceleration to gusts in light winds with three adults aboard.

kids learing to sail in an Oz Gooze simple inexpensive sailboat - storer boat plans

And stability for Africa.

Perfect for teaching. Which is another part of what we do.


Because I have more of a commitment to the use of the boat rather than the building – I am careful to make sure the boat is built strongly and also take steps to minimise maintenance – but I don’t care a lot about fine finishing.

I have years of industry  experience of painting and finishing. So I leverage that for the visible parts of my own boats. They will look factory finished, but pry around and you might see a few things under decks or inside buoyancy tanks. The building aspect is meticulous, because that’s where the function of the boat comes from.

As a designer, I (we) have to grapple with this  set of equations. How much simplification is worth it. What can we take away from learnings from raceboats to cruising boats.

But …

… if I could find some way of having a boat immediately – If I could just think of a boat design and snap my fingers then I would.

Goat Island Skiff – Minimum parts, Minimum part area.

REF: www.storerboatplans.com/design/why-i-hate-boatbuilding/


  1. Thank you. That is the best explanation of quick and simple plans and processes that I have heard or read. I will now look at all of your plans in a new more informed way. Thanks again and best wishes.

  2. Hi Jim,

    In the end everyone builds the boat their psychology prepares them for.

    That’s how it works.

    So you see the reason my builds look good and are strong but there may be details hidden that I view as not so important.

    Someone who builds with titebond and paints with water based acrylic paint has a different psychology.

    As does someone who builds a meticulously detailed boat with every component perfectly finished and silky smooth.

    Get them to try and build to each other’s style and it just can’t be done. The detailed guy will build the simplest boat in the world and it will still have every detail finished nicely (I have a lot of respect for this approach by the way).

    And the person who likes to whack the boat together would be frustrated with all the detail, the careful sanding, the sense of proportion in the final roundings of parts – what is best sharpish, what is best rounded.

    Any serious undertaking is subject to psychological necessity.

    We really can’t do anything else but follow our compulsion. It isn’t about capability because we can always get that if our psychology allows it 🙂

    Best wishes

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