Messing About in Books:



    18 February 04: When I set out to build a boat, I didn't realize that I also would be building a significant addition to my library collection.

    Here are the books that I purchased and read in the course of making The Weekend Skiff.

     I'v made many links to books, booksellers, publishers, and people mentioned on this page. I had a lot of fun annotating this Boatliography (in 2002).

Boat plan books
  • Bolger, Philip C. Boats with an Open Mind: Seventy-Five Unconventional Designs and Concepts. This is the ultimate plywood boatbuilding dream book. I like Bolger’s designs, and I like his writing style.

  • Butz, Richard. Building the Six-Hour Canoe. [Design of the canoe, Mike O'Brien. Illustrations by John Montague. Lines, plans, drawings by William Bartoo. Tiller Publishing: 1994, 1998.] The canoe plan book came before the skiff plan book (see next entry), and although the canoe is clearly easier to build, the plans are far less clear and helpful that the skiff plans are. I found it helpful to look at this book as a way of seeing into the minds of the designers.

  • Butz, Richard, and Montague, John. Building The Weekend Skiff. [Tiller Publishing: 1997.] Lots of drawings, text, and photos. There are a few miscues and one or two somewhat misleading drawings, but in general the book is a gem.
  • Gardner, John. Wooden Boats to Build and Use. [Mystic Seaport Museum: 1996.] I bought this one while I was still looking about for a design. It is interesting, but optional if you're going to focus on boxy boats of plywood construction. Still, Gardner is an enormously kind and intelligent writer about boatbuilding; you deserve that.

  • Morres, Ted. Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction. [Revised and Expanded. Firefly Books Ltd.: 2000.] This is another one I bought while still casting about for a design to build. Good detail; many photos. Strip-build boats are sheathed on both sides with fiberglass and resin.

  • Jones, Thomas Firth. Boats to Go: 24 Easy-to-Build Boats that Go Fast with Low Power[International Marine: 1996. Originally published as Low-Resistance Boats: 1992.]  I don't like multi-hull boats,by Jones or anyone else, but I do like to read about boat designs and the building of them.

  • Payson, Harold “Dynamite”. Build the Instant Catboat. [Harold H. Payson & Co.: 1997. The hayseed of boatbuilding. That said, he’s also one of the better writers, and someone I would like to meet. He loves what he does, and it shows. And he autographs his books if you buy from him direct.

  • Payson, Harold “Dynamite”. Build the New Instant Boats. [International Marine, 1984.] The sections on materials, tools, and techniques is good; the section on boat plan options is excellent. Lots of scaled-down plans and some photos.

  • Payson, Harold “Dynamite”. How to Build the Gloucester Light Dory. [WoodenBoat Books: 1982.] This book is mostly a curiosity; I don't think I'll be building one, but the many photos and the text offer tips for building boats in general.

Boat trailers
  • Henkel, Steve. Boat Trailers and Tow Vehicles: A User's Guide. [International Marine: 1991.] Old but still good. Everything you want and need to know about boat trailers.
  • Witt, Glen L. How to Build Boat Trailers. [Second Edition. GLEN-L Marine Designs: 1996.] This one gives a sense of the challenges in finding a welder who will follow the plans.

Boatbuilding techniques and tips

  • Bingham, Bruce. The Sailor’s Sketchbook: 76 Do-It-Yourself Projects to Improve Your Sailboat[International Marine: 1983.] This book is long on good drawings; the content is offshore sailboats.

  • Bingham, Fred P. Boat Joinery & Cabinetmaking Simplified. [International Marine: 1993.] The hidden treasure here are the many good drawings of jigs and homebuilt powertools.

  • Buehler, George. Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding. [International Marine: 1991.] The hippie in the boatbuilding woodpile. This is a book about cheap and dependable offshore sailboats, but the tips and tricks, and the mindset, are portable. And he writes well. And in an amusing way.

  • Hill, Thomas J. Ultralight Boatbuilding. [International Marine: 1987.] I found this book to be helpful when I wanted to do something like make some stern knees and a breasthook. Clear text and photos.

Electric boats

    My wife is absolutely dead-set against a gas motor for the Harmonica canal boat/shantyboat that I'm building, so I'm learning about electric options.

  • Brotherton, Miner. The 12-Volt Bible for Boats. [International Marine: 1985.] Old but still of great use.

  • Little, Douglas. Electric Boats: The Handbook of Clean, Quiet Boating. International Marine: 1994. Well-done. Many tables of technical aspects of electric boats. Good photos.

Click on this photo to go to the Links page.There are many links concerning the Erie Canal there. Click here to go offsite to see a full-sized version of the photo above.


Erie Canal

  • __________. The Cruising Guide to the New York State Canal System: Champlain, Erie, Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca. [Northern Cartographic: 2000.]  We use this guide to dream about bike rides on the Erie Canal towpath. We'll use it for trips in the Harmonica, too. Large format (road atlas size). Good amount of information about locks and lift bridges as well as bike paths.

  • Leary, Thomas E., and Sholes, Elizabeth C. Images of America: Buffalo’s Waterfront. [Arcadia Publishing: 1997.] This book, though small, has a wealth of amazing pictures of Buffalo’s waterways. Many of the photos came from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

  • Lourie, Peter. Erie Canal: Canoeing America’s Great Waterway. [Caroline House: 1997.] Text OK; photos a little better.

  • Sheriff, Carol. The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862. [Hill and Wang: 1997.] This is an expanded doctoral dissertation. The writer picks among many subjects, leaving plenty for others to develop. The book by RonaldShaw, listed next, though longer and more traditional, is less interesting. I finished this one, but not Shaw’s.

  • Shaw, Ronald E. Erie Water West: A History of the Erie Canal, 1792-1854. [The University Press Kentucky: 1990.] Everything you want to know about Clinton and the rest of the politicians, done in traditional style with the usual sort of admirable competence. In other words, stiff and boring.

  • Conder, Russell. Handmade Houseboats: Independent Living Afloat. [International Marine: 1992.] One of the few books about the how-to of houseboat building with 55-gallon steel drums and such. Good drawings and text. Covers all the aspects.

  • Hubbard, Harlan. Shantyboat: A River Way of Life. [The University Press of Kentucky: 1953.] As you might be noticing, I read a lot. Most books that I start, I finish, but this one I can't bring myself to finish, because when it’ over, I'll be sad. So I'm about a third of the way along. This one is still in print. Hubbard projects a wonderful persona, and his drawings and woodcuts are amazing. And his wife, Anna ... just lovely. You'll fall in love with her, I'm sure. For a build buff, this one is pure magic.

Enjoying boats

  • Aaronovitch, David. Paddling to Jerusalem: An Aquatic Tour of Our Small Island. [Fourth Estate, London: 2000.] Most folks who write about boats are builders first, and writers second, or third, or worse. Aaronovitch is the opposite – writer first, paddler second, builder not at all.  But he is funny, frequently, and honest. Like the others I'm commenting on here, he present the reader with a persona that satisfies; someone you would enjoy meeting.

  • Hearn, Michael Patrick. The Annotated Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens). [W.W.Norton: 2001.] The first time I read Huckleberry Finn, I was 8 or 9 and in the hospital with a bad case of tonsillitis. I'm a sucker for new editions of the book; I've gotten several. This one is unique in the number of drawings and photos. An excellent buy.

  • Heat-Moon, William Least. River-Horse: Across America by Boat. [Penguin Books: 2001.] William Least Heat-Moon is a writer of considerable skill (Blue Highways), with whom I have a love-hate relationship. I appreciate his skill, and I enjoy his works, but I find myself wondering if I would enjoy meeting him. This book, like Raban’s on the Mississippi, Old Glory (see below) describes the thrills and dangers of boating on big river waters.

  • Raban, Jonathan. Coasting: A Private Voyage. [Simon and Schuster: 1987.] Raban takes a sailing trip around England, in a converted fishing boat. Great stuff.

  • Raban, Jonathan. Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi. [Vintage Departures, Vintage Books: 1998. Originally published by Simon and Schuster, 1981.] Long trip. Lots of weird folks, and some wonderful ones, too.

  • Raban, Jonathan. Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meaning. [Vintage Departures, Vintage Books:1999.] Raban loves boats, and loves to write. This book weaves together stories from early explorers of the waters of the Northwest with a solo trip he makes. Brace yourself for a big surprise at the end. Honest? Very.

  • Ruhlman, Michael. Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard. [Viking: 2001.] This one takes the writing to a new level. Ruhlman has the skills of the best; he makes boatbuilding come alive.

  • Theroux, Paul. The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific. [Ballantine Books: 1992.] I never have like Theroux much as a person, based on the persona he describes and shows in his travel books, but at the same time I have read them all and am waiting for the next one. Go figure. This book has a constant reference to boats.

Knots and other line items

  • Gibson, Charles E. Handbook of Knots & Splices. [Barnes & Noble, Inc.]

  • Jarman, Colin. The Essential Knot Book. [International Marine: 1986.]

  • Smith, Hervy Garrett. The Marlinspike Sailor. [International Marine: 1993.] Wonderful drawings.

Out of Print

  • __________. Build a Boat for Pleasure or Profit. [Popular Mechanics Company: 1941.] This one reminds me of my father's boat books, boat plans, and boatbuilding magazines.

  • Creagh-Osborne, Richard. Dinghy Building. [John de Graff, Inc.: 1977. Revised American Edition.] Cold moulding gives complex curves to plywood boats, but I like the box boats just fine. It looks like a tremendous amount of bother and blather -- unless you can't live without a round bilge.

Sails, sailmaking, rigging, rigs

  • Bolger, Phil. 103 Sailing Rigs: Straight Talk. [Phil Bolger & Friends, Inc.: 1998.] This book gave me many ideas and lots of technical help in designing a sail for the Weekend Skiff.

  • Bradshaw, Todd E. Canoe Rig: The Essence and the Art: Sailpower for Antique and Traditional Canoes. [WoodenBoat Books: 2000.] Bradshaw covers all aspects of making spars, riggings, and sails, and he offers many scale drawings of many difference kinds of sail plans. This book is worth gold to me.

  • Henderson, Richard. Understanding Rigs and Rigging. [Revised Edition. International Marine: 1985, 1991.] High-aspect-ratio bermuda rigs. Who needs 'em.

  • Loan, Derek Van, with Haggerty, Don. The Chinese Sailing Rig: Designing & Building Your Own. [Paradise Cay Publications: 1993.] Fun to read about; not too practical for small sailboats, though. Rivals gaff rigs for complexities.

  • Mantis, William C. The $50 5-Hour Canoe Sail Rig: A Complete Builder/User/Experimenter/Historical Guide and Philosophical Treatise. [Mediterranean Avenue Press: 1999.] This book is fun and has its moments of helpfulness as well. Mantis has tested a lot of variations on his rigs and gives many pointers. Besides, he self-publishes; support him.

  • Marino, Emiliano. The Sailmaker’s Apprentice: A Guide for the Self-Reliant Sailor. Illustrated by Christine Erikson. [International Marine: 2001.] This book, along with Bolger’s and Bradshaw’s, completed my booklist for the self-taught Sail Rigs 101 course that I set out for myself when building and rigging the Weekend Skiff.

  • Walker, Stuart H. A Manual of Sail Trim. [W.W. Norton: 1985.] Bermuda rigs. Next to useless for the direction I chose. Extremely technical. Someone had to write it; glad it wasn't me.

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