Posted by: Wayne | October 10, 2011

What’s in a Name?

Once upon a time a man and a woman had a crazy idea to build a boat. They had never attempted such a project before, and knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but hopefully it would be good enough to float their family hither and yon on summer adventures. And so they began.

They cut and measured and patterned and cut and glued

and glued again and sanded and recut and reglued because they sanded too much away

and ordered more wood and epoxy because the first batch wasn’t quite enough (Hrmm, how did that happen?) and then cut some more and sanded some more. And when they were done, they had a boat.

They saw gaps in the wood like gaping wounds, not unlike a finger after a nail goes completely through it, and filled them up with epoxy (the gaps, not the finger). “It’s not perfect, but we’ll call it good enough,” they said to each other, looking past the mess. “Paint will cover that just fine.”

They tried to cove inside of the seat bays, which they couldn’t quite reach. So they gooped epoxy on the end of long sticks to attempt extend their arms into the furthest corners. This did nothing to seal the edges, but instead left epoxy stalactites inside the bays, in places impossible to reach to clean off. After they cut new access holes and finished the coving they surveyed the mess. “No one will ever be looking in there,” the man said to his wife. (“That’s good,” she told him. “It’s a bigger disaster than the kids’ rooms!”) And after she vainly tried to reach in and file the epoxy skewers off, she agreed. It’s all coved, and that’s the important thing. That makes it good enough.

The screws left divots where they clamped the deck on, the deck didn’t perfectly match up with the rubrail, and after gluing on the rubrail the boatbuilder realized he had forgotten to leave room for sidestay chainplates.

But at the end of the day as they shared a beer and surveyed the work, they both said, “We’ll build it up, we’ll plane it down, we’ll chisel it out. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be good enough.”

The children wanted to help build the boat, and they handled the sander with such enthusiasm that they almost removed a full ply off the seats in places. “That’s okay,” they were told, “they are still good enough to sit on.”

Despite masking the coamings, some paint seeped up from the deck. “I tried, and it’s not perfect,” the boatbuilder’s wife said as she bemoaned the splotches. “You did fine, dear. It’s good enough,” he said in consolation.

Cutouts for the hatch covers weren’t perfectly round. The bootstripe wasn’t perfectly uniform. There were varnish runs and a green smudge at the top of the (otherwise perfect? Ha!) main mast.

The man and the woman looked at the project and looked at each other, and said, “Well, it’s not perfect, but we’ll call it good enough.” And so, unsaddled with a quest for perfection, they were content.

When all was said and done, it came time to paint a name on the transom. The boatbuilder and his wife didn’t need to think very hard. We’ll call it what we’ve been calling it all along.

Other boats have violin-finishes and impeccable joins, with nary a dollop or smidgen of epoxy in the wrong spot. Other boats might steal hearts and win trophies at local car shows for being the classiest looking vehicle on the lot. Others might be dancing on waves and wind in elven splendor. Ours, while rather imperfect, is simply good enough. And we have already decided that the next boat (whatever and whenever it comes about) will be…

“Even Better.”



  1. That’s awesome… the post is way more than Good Enough, and the boat is way more than most ever try, so while it may be the good ship Good Enough, it’s pretty cool.

  2. oh i so understand this post!! nicely put my friend

  3. Looks like it’s coming along nicely.
    Is it taking longer than you thought?
    I have the John Welsford Sherpa plans and although I’ve made 4 other stitch & glue mouse (~O8:>) boats his boats seem more like “real” boats.
    What does the material list look like on that one?

    • Darrin:

      Yes, the boat is taking a bit longer than we originally expected, but it is also our first boat build. Our wood needed so far has been:
      8 sheets of 6mm ply (2 more than the plans list)
      4 sheets of 9mm
      45 board feet of sassafras (foils, skeg, and rubrails)
      48 board feet of cypress (stringers and framing)
      48 board feet of douglas fir (spars)
      35 board feet of cherry (hardwood for rudder and centercase)

      We had less than a sheet left over from each thickness of ply, used all of the sassafras and cypress, almost all of the douglas fir, and have a good bit of cherry left over.

      We have also used a ton of epoxy (just over 6 gallons) and gobs of wood flour and silica.

      If we were building another Navigator, we would go with much less cherry, and could probably keep epoxy usage to 3-4.5 gallons.

      I hope this helps.

      God bless!

  4. As we all know, the great thing about building our own boat is that we can make it exactly the way we want it. No two Navigators are alike because they are all built to fulfill their builder’s own unique needs and desires. I really enjoy watching your family’s creativity emerge in physical form in your shop. I know you and your family will enjoy many years of grand adventures aboard your Navigator.

  5. if she floats and you enjoy her then yes – good enough!

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