This is a boat that began with a beach trip a family beach trip. Though I enjoy seeing a whole flock of siblings, cousin, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles, there was perhaps a bit too much togetherness. So it occurred to me that what I needed was a sailboat. Load up the cooler with lunch in the morning, cruise up the beach or down the bay a ways, have lunch, and head back for some family time at dinner.

I got home from that trip and started researching a boat purchase and stumbled across some websites about boat plans and building. I found that I was more interested in traditional types of sailboats than newer, faster, more complicated racing sailboats.

I had a few criteria: it needed to be small enough to pull behind a small car, comfortable enough for two to sail for a couple of hours at a stretch, and big enough to sit in rather than on. It also needed to be dry and seaworthy enough to sail in Mobile Bay or the Gulf of Mexico (near shore, of course) in good weather.

I looked at several designs Stevenson Project's Weekender and Skipjack, Bolger's Bobcat and Catfish Beach Cruiser, Ruel Parker's 14 foot sharpie, and Jim's Skat and Vector. For aesthetic reasons, I wanted a centerboard rather than a leeboard.

In the end, I chose Skat for its small size, light weight, and relatively simple construction. I still have second thoughts though the gaff rig seems complicated sometimes, other times a simpler flat-bottom boat with a leeboard (that I might have in the water by now!) seems a better choice.

A little more than a year after deciding I needed a sailboat, I've moved once and changed jobs twice, but I'm still working on Skat. I finally got started last November, a little less than 6 months after the decision. I have the outside of the hull painted, I've carved the tiller, and I've started on the mast and a pair of oars. Still to come are interior paint, framing, and decking, centerboard, rudder, sail, rigging, and a trailer.

You can see in the photos that I built a cradle, tracing and cutting the shape of two of the frames. I almost set it up on concrete deck piers for stability, but I'm glad I decided at the last minute to put it on casters. If I were to do it over, however, I'd make the cradle a bit higher, as I've had to bend quite a bit in taping seams, and I think my lower back would have been happier at a higher working height.

Of course, I've also become afflicted with The Sickness. I'm already looking at plans for a rowboat I've got to have a boat to use on the river or the lake when the wind isn't blowing, and something quiet and cartoppable would be nice. Of course a powerboat would be nice, and a boat that would fit one of those new inexpensive Briggs & Stratton outboards couldn't be that expensive or difficult could it? . .

Tidmarsh Major
Tuscaloosa, Ala.