I work as a naval architect designing high-speed naval craft in an office where the engineers and the most senior naval architect all have the same credo: Never own a boat you can’t carry. Given my career, I felt it was my duty to build a boat with my son and daughter. I considered designing the boat—I certainly have the technical skills—but thinking I could get the design spot-on on the first try seemed hubristic, so it just made sense to go with a proven design. The Chester Yawl fulfilled many prerequisites and needs.My home in Norfolk, Virginia, is just 250 yards from the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, so I usually hand-launch my boats from the beach. I also have two teenagers, so I need boats big enough to include them on my outings; my rule is to own only boats that I can launch with a dolly, so we needed a boat in the 150-lb range.Length would be limited to 15′—my garage is 19′ x 19′, and we’d need room to walk around the boat while building it—and a rowing boat would be the best addition to the fleet. I already have two small sailboats and didn’t need a third; and I didn’t want a canoe because its paddlers are facing the same direction, not ideal for conversation. With a rowboat, I could take to the oars and chat with a passenger sitting in the stern. The boat had to be able to handle some waves—the southern end of Chesapeake Bay can quickly turn into a mess of 1′ to 2′ waves when the wind picks up. I wanted an aesthetically pleasing boat with some built-in flotation and the ability to self-rescue if needed. I also wanted an interesting project, not, for example, a single-chine hull we could throw together in a single weekend. And finally, it had to have an aesthetically pleasing, classic shape—I wanted an heirloom, not a workboat.

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