One of the many pleasures of building boats is knowing how much fun you can have on the water. The style, design and materials of your boat all play a role in that, but it also comes with responsibilities. Whether you’re building a small boat or planning on sailing the open seas, safety should be your number one priority. Here are five DIY projects that can help you stay safe on the water.
Create proper storage for safety equipment
Safety equipment on a boat is essential for surviving an accident or emergency. Be sure you build in proper storage for safety items like life jackets, first-aid kit, a tool kit, a horn or whistle, flares, a fire extinguisher, a marine VHF radio, an extra dock line or two, and a throwable flotation device. The storage needs to be both secure and easy to access. Devote your next weekend to a storage-building project like:
- Attaching a DIY storage box to the interior of your boat.
- Building drawers under or in stairs on larger boats.
- Installing boat bench seats with storage
Build the Right Size
You need to pay close attention to the size of your boat for safety reasons both during construction and on the water. The Internet is ripe with downloadable plans to build a motorboat, fishing boat, sailboat or any other kind of pleasure craft.
If you are building the boat alone, and plan on also using it alone or with a few guests on board, stick to around 34 feet for a sailboat or a motorboat. If you have help building and want something slightly bigger, it’s easy to go up to about 40 feet. For DIY boats larger than this, be sure you are an experienced craftsman with a few boats already under your belt (and still above water).
Finally, consider the trailering capacity of your car or truck and the space you have in your garage. These are important but often overlooked considerations when building a boat that you can store and transport safely.
Know the safety needs for your lifestyle
No matter what boat you’re floating in—classical or modern, monohull or multihull, a boat made with wood, glass reinforced plastic, steel or aluminum—it’s important you understand your specific safety needs.
First, be sure you are building the right boat for your needs. For instance, how many people will you regularly be boating with? The boat you build must be able to safely carry that capacity. Too many people on board will become a fast safety risk—and one that can be deadly. The materials you use to build the boat can directly impact capacity safety.
Next, what kind of activities will you do on your boat? From fishing to skiing, most boats can multitask, but when it comes to building a safe boat, keep your primary activity in mind. Sleeping is another activity to consider. Not everyone wants or needs a cabin, but if you like to sleep with a roof over your head—or just need respite from the hot sun—some kind of shelter is a good idea. And remember, cabins aren’t just for the big boats! Even boats as small as rowboats can be built with comfortable sleeping quarters.
Stick to the plan (and if you deviate, be sure to get help)
It might be tempting to make major modifications to your boat building plan, but if you aren’t careful—and intentional—your changes could be a danger to yourself and anyone aboard your boat. If you are building a boat based off of a specific plan or kit, be sure to stick to the original plan unless you absolutely need to deviate from it. In that case, for beginner boat builders, consider reaching out to the plan or kit designer to ask about your modification needs. Many of them provide technical support, even for free plans. You may even be able to run your new specs by them and get their feedback.
Use the proper tools properly
For most boat building projects, you’ll need:
- electrical alternative jigsaw
- sturdy scissors
- safety self-protection gears (gloves, glasses, masks, and so on)
- a set of pliers
- several disposable paint brushes
- several disposable rolls for paint roller
- staples and a staple gun
- electrical planer
- clamps (a good amount, small, medium and large)
- some cutters with disposable blades
- battery operated drill/screwdriver and drill bits (one set for wood and one for metal drilling)
- sanders (a random orbit one and a sheet one)
It’s important you not only have the right tools for your building materials, but that you also understand how to use them safely. There are many YouTube videos you can watch to familiarize yourself with various aspects of boat building, power tools and DIY carpentry tutorials.
Building a boat can be a very rewarding challenge. If you make safety a priority, then it won’t become an issue while you build and when you boat.