Amateur Boatbuilding: What if I Make a Mistake?
Small Craft Advisor|November - December 2020
Everyone makes mistakes. If we try new things we will make mistakes, an essential part of the learning experience. It’s nice to learn from mistakes of others, but we learn more lessons and they stick better when they are our own. The more painful the mistake, the stronger the lesson learned.

That’s not to say you should go into a project blindly and learn only from mistakes. We should first research by reading or asking knowledgeable sources, to ensure we enter a new experience with the best chance of success. But even armed with knowledge and experience, there are myriad potential mistakes lying in wait.

I designed the Paper Jet with a building procedure in mind, but soon learned it couldn’t be done and had to backtrack and find another way. I had other backtracks too, but eventually had my boat complete. The backtracking probably added 25 hours to my building time, but I was doing something nobody had done before. I had lessons to learn that could only come from building the prototype, so that I could write building instructions to enable others to build without making those same mistakes.

If I were scared of making mistakes I wouldn’t try new things. I designed and built the first radius chine plywood boat, my own Black Cat, and made mistakes along the way, but was able to recover and move on.

I shrugged off criticisms from the skeptics about the wisdom of my project and its chances of success. The skeptics were of no consequence unless I allowed them to be. They were generally people who had never built anything significant themselves. Typically people who get pleasure from someone else making a mistake don’t achieve much themselves. Disregard those negative people.

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