One of the most sensually satisfying things I’ve ever done was building a seventeen-foot sailing boat out of oak and spruce, plywood and glue, bronze screws and canvas. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the aromatic sawdust. After eight months of part-time, loving labor, launch day was almost an anticlimax. It floated, I climbed aboard, hoisted sail, and glided off across the lake.
No surprise there; I had purchased plans from an accomplished New Zealand naval architect, Richard Hartley, and followed them diligently. What is more surprising is that I later built another boat which also floated. This one was nearly forty feet long and was constructed from steel and cement. Yes, you read that correctly. Its hull was a one-inch thick sandwich of steel and cement. I was not at all surprised when, on launch day, it not only floated but floated exactly to its waterline which I had already painted in bright red on the hull.
Why wasn’t I surprised? Because I had purchased plans from a designer in Vancouver who was a recognized expert in ferro-cement boats and I had followed all details diligently. What percentage of the boats and ships that are built by large shipyards or by serious amateurs float? Actually, about one hundred percent.