Nate Morrison wanted a small, easily managed boat that he could use for fishing and sailing during the day and sleep aboard at night. He spent months looking for an affordable used boat that would fit the bill, but came up empty-handed.
Undeterred, he expanded his search to include plans for a boat he could build for himself. It took him several more months to find plans for a boat that would meet his requirement and not exceed his skills. “I was not a woodworker, or any kind of craftsman, for that matter, so building a boat would be a big deal.” His search came to an end when he found the Schooner 18, designed by Fred Shell of Shell Boats.
Shell describes the 18′ boat as “a luxurious daysailer for two to four, with pretenses of being a basic cruiser for one or two.” The hull has a skeg and a pair of bilge keels, so it sits upright and sails without having to deploy a centerboard or daggerboard. The unstayed masts slip into sleeves in the leg-o’-mutton sails, and the sprit booms are quick to rig and self-vanging. Removing the sprits and rotating the masts to roll up the sails is all it takes to strike them. The Schooner has just three lines to tend to: a single sheet for the foresail and a double sheet for the main. These features met Nate’s requirements for a simple rig. The cabin has a 6’6” sleeping platform that Nate says “works well for one person, but you have to be willing to spoon if there are two of you.”
When Nate taped the plans on the garage wall, he already had a name for the boat he was about to build: BOB, for Boat On a Budget. He was afraid he’d make costly mistakes as he figured out the building process, so he built a trial hull with cheap plywood. He worked out the bugs on a full-sized model when he got everything to fit together properly, he disassembled the trial hull and used the pieces as templates.With his confidence bolstered, he began the glued-lap construction with good plywood.
Nate went shopping for some mahogany for the transom, but at the lumberyard he found a beautiful piece of zebrawood that he “could not live without.” He also prettied up the plywood deck with some vertical-grain Douglas-fir from the deck of a derelict keelboat and trailer he’d been given to salvage.
Nate went the extra mile with his boat’s electrical system. Tucked under the cockpit bench and accessible from the cabin, he has a stereo and amplifier, a solar charge controller, a fuse block, and wiring and controls for a bevy of comforts. Nate’s able to enjoy a stereo and amplifier, LED running lights, speakers that include a subwoofer, a reading light, a cooling fan, and some lighting strips recessed under the deck to give the cockpit a blue glow at night. He modified the rudder to take an electric trolling motor.
BOB was a year in the making. Nate had to stop working for two months following open-heart surgery, and during the time he spent recovering he daydreamed about his boat. “It gave me a reason to get well,” he says.
He now sails BOB on Arizona’s inland waters, including lakes Pleasant, Powell, Roosevelt, and Patagonia. His little schooner is a fishing boat, a rowboat, and a family picnic boat, and, as Nate puts it, the result of “limited skills, limited tools, and unlimited dreams.”
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