Introduction to Tiny Plywood Boats
Some of you may have noticed that this Variety Act hasn’t been as Preachy lately. Long-form essays take a lot of effort to create. A peak time for that work was while Ironhorse was completely laid up and Mate was away in Europe. Those events aligned with a brief, euphoric, and productive period of hypomania. I had the place to myself to yowl away at all hours writing songs, free of all self-consciousness, with only the cat to offend. I could write early in the morning and late into the night.
Around the same time that Mate got home (about two weeks ago) I was struck with an impulse to design and build a tiny plywood boat. Like so many things in my existence, that drive seems to be a cyclical thing. And this incarnation is thoroughly rooted in my general philosophy.
Not interested in tiny plywood boats? I urge you to expand your perspective just a little, if even for just a moment.
The subject of boats encompasses far more than any of us can imagine, and the boat presents a singularly potent object of contemplation. As the keen philosopher Andy Linn has pointed out –
Boats are the oldest form of manufactured transportation – predating shoes, even. They can be anything from an innertube to the largest moving structures on the face of the earth. There’s a boat design for every purpose ever dreamed of, and some of humanity’s brightest minds have pondered them.Andy Linn – Walking the Docks at the Embarcadero – https://andrewlinn.com/2011/110610_docks/index.htm
There is deep and ancient magic in the boat.
When I was in 4th grade, I told my teacher I want to build a boat. She replied, “boat building is really hard.” Oh, well, I’m 9. If it’s hard, then it’s probably not something I’m THAT interested in. That was it for me and boatbuilding for about 25 years. The thing is, my teacher wasn’t even right.
She wasn’t exactly wrong either – there are plenty of boats out there that do require enormous commitments of time, energy, materials, skills, and special tools to build. But there are other boats that are really quite simple and easy to build. She just didn’t know it.
An Introduction to Tiny Plywood Boats – The Puddle Duck Racer
I didn’t know it either until the day I discovered the Puddle Duck Racer. Shorty Routh, the designer, bills the Puddle Duck as “The Easiest Boat in the World to Build.” And it’s pretty damn simple. By the time I discovered it, I had enough carpentry experience that I wasn’t even looking for the easiest boat to build, I just decided it was time to build a boat. But every option I showed my wife was greeted with a firm “no.” It was only when I arrived at the humble Puddle Duck Racer that she consented. “Oh all right,” she laughed, “you can build that boat!”
Introduction to Tiny Plywood Boats
I built that Puddle Duck Racer. Hull #726. I had the privilege of manifesting into my world a tiny expression of our kind’s first, arguably most significant, and certainly most spiritually fulfilling form of transportation. The beauty of the Puddle Duck Racer is that it offers almost everyone an opportunity to quickly, cheaply, and easily build a boat for themselves, saturated with powerful ‘medicine,’ and offering experiences and memories to treasure for a lifetime. If you have the time, space, tools, inclination, and the right water to use it in, I highly recommend that you build a Puddle Duck Racer.
Don’t let the strange boxy shape fool you. While it doesn’t look like a “boat,” the benefits of designs like this are extensive, compared to the drawbacks. And under the right circumstances, they can offer very sporty performance.
There is no perfect boat. All boats represent compromises. And anyone interested in a boat of any kind needs to have a clear understanding of the compromises they are willing to make, and the ones that are unacceptable.
This new design represents an attempt to renegotiate some of the compromises that are most important to me.