My boat building experience started a few years back when I built a 16 foot cabin motorboat. It was my first boat and a huge project for my skills and budget. It took me 2 years to build and I only sailed it once. Although I had to donate the boat to a sailing club that had all necessary infrastructure to operate and maintain the boat, it was a fantastic experience building it. So here they are, the 4 most important criteria to think of when choosing your first boat

1. Size does matter!

so make sure you have a good answer to the following questions:

– where will I store/dock the boat and what are the annual costs
– how will I be able to transport it? do i need a boat trailer? in most countries you need to register your trailer, pay taxes and insurances
– do I have enough space to build it? typically you would require double the space a finished boat would take. Heavy boats need a crane system in your garage to lift it up and turn it over

2. Sail or engine power?

But why do I need to choose? can’t I have both? Well, not really! A sailboat is designed for sailing in the wind; her shape and design are meant to reduce lateral drag and optimize speed under sail. A powerboat is build to slide on water, thus reducing drag, fuel consumption and significantly increasing speed.

Sail Pros: great sailing satisfaction, free transportation, enjoy the nature in a silent manner, great for lakes, seas and large rivers or channels, environmental friendly

Sail Negatives: if there is not enough wind you will need a small engine or you need to row, hardly impossible to navigate under sail on narrow channels, strong streams or dense canopy

Engine Pros: fast, limited sailing effort,

Engine Negatives: fuel dependency, loud, expensive, pollutant. For the risk of engine fail, many boat owners take a second, much smaller engine with them

3. Building method

Depending on the building method you choose it can be fun and engaging or painful and full of stress. Make sure you chose the method that best fits your skill level and tools. Here is a list of most commonly used building methods:

– stitch and glue: ply panels are stitched together, then fiberglass taped and glued with epoxy resin. It is ideal for beginners, low complexity, low risk of failure, no sophisticated tools needed, fast, ideal for lightweight crafts


– Ply over frame: plywood is glued to a frame jig. moderate complexity, ideal for heavy boats, takes longer than stitch and glue because of the framing jig


– Strip Plank: strips of wood glued together on a temporary jig. moderate complexity, takes much longer than the previous methods but the finished boat looks great.


– Carvel and Clinker Build: individual plans are fastened to a complex frame set. Requires high skills, expensive materials and carpenter tools


4. Time to build

Usually it takes almost twice as you would have expected to completely finish the boat. Finishing the hull goes pretty fast and you might be tempted to believe that you are almost done but this stage usually takes less than half of the total building time. The rest goes into fitting her out, painting and varnishing.

If you are in a hurry and want to sail your boat fast but still consider build it yourself you can purchase boat kits. These kits contain all pre-cut plywood pieces saving you a lot of time on lofting, cutting and adjusting and you also get all needed materials so you don’t need to spend time sourcing them individually.