I first got my start in boatbuilding back in the autumn of 2012, when I decided to build a simple flat bottom plywood canoe. I had come across a blog of an undergraduate who had built a canoe in his spare time, using some free plans available online. It looked simple enough: buy some plywood, saw out the panels, laminate them together with fiberglass, epoxy-coat and paint the whole thing, and I’d have a little two-person canoe of my own. For a few hundred euros and a perhaps a few weekends of work, it sounded like a great way to get outdoors and on the water. As such things almost inevitably go, it took far longer than expected, longer than said undergrad in the blog. I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist, or maybe I am just slow, but in late 2012 I finally had the canoe finished in any case.
Upon completion, it went straight into a garage unfortunately, but as winter drew to a close in 2013, I didn’t even wait for the ice to melt. As soon as the weather was warm and the ice on the pond by the student dorm was thin, I was out playing icebreaker, and learning to maneuver my canoe. A couple of weeks later, a friend and I went for our first tour with the canoe on a nearby river. Outdoors in the countryside, no phones, no computers, nowhere to rush off to. I knew right away that I had found something which I absolutely loved. Sundays became my canoe days; calm perfect summer days, with a little bit of adventure, and nothing but the passing of the sun by which to tell the time.
Three years on, and while the canoe tours have become less regular, their appeal has become none the weaker. Almost invariably they still comprise some of the best days of any year. As great as they are, the yearning for even greater freedom however, had been kindled much earlier. As early as Jessica Watson’s circumnavigation in 2010-11, I had started reading and learning a little about sailboats and the sea. By the time I started getting my sailing license for lakes and rivers in 2014, I already had my sights firmly set on building a proa for sailing on the North Sea. Through a few matters of circumstance, and constant changes to my own design, I missed my opportunity to start building my proa that year. If I were to do it all again, I’d probably build something smaller first, using plans, to gain some more experience in boatbuilding, and importantly in the actual sailing handling of proas (which I still lack completely), but ultimately I got to where I am anyway. This project has been and will continue to be a lot of hard work, with many long days, but I now find myself in the midst of fulfilling a great dream, in the midst of building my own sailboat, right here, right now.
Now more than ever, is the time to make every day count.