While I was working with John Leyde on this issue’s Reader Built Boat story about building a skiff with his grandsons, I was particularly struck by why he had come up with his plan for the skiff in the first place. As he put it in an email to me: “With winter coming on, I found I was projectless.” There’s no question that building a boat with his grandsons was an inspired idea that would strengthen the family bonds and give the boys something to remember for the rest of their lives. But what surprised me was the sense of anxiety suggested by facing the future projectless. When I write “projectless” on my computer, the word gets a jagged red underline from the spellchecker, and Google won’t turn up a definition for it, but it is, in fact, a word. When I searched for it on the web, I came across the full text of an impenetrable academic treatise on creativity, which had, squirreled away on page 137, this lovely phrase: “the precariousness of projectlessness.” That scholarly affirmation that the impulse to take up projects could be linked to anxiety made me wonder about my own history of filling my time with boatbuilding projects that often go on for months.

With the gunning dory, Dad and I did a lot more sailing than we did with his 27' sloop. Here I'm sailing with my sisters: Ellyn by the main, Laurie by the mizzen.

I do recall that anxiety played a role in building a boat for my father. Not long after I’d built a dory skiff for myself, I convinced him to let me build a gunning dory for him. For several years he had owned and maintained a 27′ Tumlaren sloop, but he didn’t want to split his time between two boats, so he sold it for the sake of the gunning dory. The summer I started building it was the summer I had planned to row and sail the Inside Passage in the skiff I had built, but I was fearful about taking that ambitious voyage. It would be my first solo cruise ever, and I had never done anything but daysailing. Building the gunning dory was an ostensibly face-saving way of backing out of it. I could immerse myself in the gunning dory project and avoid spending an idle summer nagged by thoughts of what I had intended to be doing. (By the time I had finished the gunning dory the following spring, I’d spent enough time sailing my skiff to feel more confident in its abilities and mine and embarked on the Inside Passage adventure.)

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