Any Boat They Can Build, You Can Make Better


When the 28’ Pearson Triton appeared on the market in 1959, a revolution began in the boatbuilding industry. Fiberglass made economical mass production of boats a reality , and helped make sailing – and boat-owning – an activity for everyman. And Everywoman.

For sailors who have never known boats built of anything but fiberglass, the changes in boatbuilding that can be attributed to the prosaic laminate of glass fibers and polyester resin are hard to imagine.

In 1905, the Herreshoff Manufacturing Corn any, the largest and most efficient wooden boat builders ever, built 18 New York 30s over the course of the winter. By way of contrast, Catalina Yachts, one of the largest builders of fiberglass boats, builds about 450 Catalina 30s in a sin l e ear.

In the 25 ears since the Triton turned the industry on its ear, hundreds o thousands of boats of all sizes have been built, and millions of new sailors have been created. Unfortunately, the sheer number of boats built does not necessarily mean that the breed has always improved. Despite improvements, many modern production Boats exhibit a numbing sameness. Your 30-footer is just like your neighbor’s.

But the two of you may not use your boats in the same way. Your neighbor cruises a few weekends a year, and daysails some more. Saturday nights, he invites his friends down for cocktails.

Maybe you like to race, and you do it a lot. Unfortunately, racing our boat is a hassle. The sheet leads to the winches aren’t right. The stern rail gets in the way when you try to sit to weather. Your crew trips all over itself trying to change headsails.

And your wife – or your husband – doesn’t like to go on long cruises because the galley is impossible to use unless the boat is tied up to the dock. Not to mention the cabin table, which folds up like an accordion if you lean on it too hard.

If you look at your boat carefully, chances are that you’ll find a dozen – or a hundred – things that could be made better. Most can be done without special skill, or even special tools. Some may increase both the usefulness and value of your boat far in excess of the amount of effort put into them. All will stamp your boat with the personality of the owner.

No one said that owning a boat would be cheap. But does it really have to cost what you spent last year? Probably not. Chances are that there are things you could do yourself that you had someone else do for you, just because you didn’t know how.

Being a “corn pleat” boat owner means a lot more than getting your boat out of the slip without breaking something , and it means more than winning when you race, or daysailing without fear. It means knowing win at makes your boat tick, and knowing how to fix it when it stops ticking .

Any boat can be a better boat. How about yours?

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here