How I came to build my first boat

In the summer of 2010 while aimlessly surfing the internet I stumbled upon a couple of blogs about some folks who were building boats in their garages/backyards out of plywood and I was intrigued. So I started searching in earnest and I kept coming across references to “The easiest boat in the world to build”. This was how I discovered the PD Racer. The more I read the more I liked. The boat looked simple, and the idea and the community behind the boat looked like a lot fun. So I dug around a bit more and became convinced that I not only wanted to build this boat but that I NEEDED to build this boat.

I took stock of my tools. I have a jig saw, a circular saw, a drill, a sander, a hand plane, a hammer, a screwdriver, and level. I looked at the free design on and thought to myself “I could do this.” However the budget for a boat building project was (and is) tight. No problem, everything I need I should be able to get from the local big box hardware store, I know ‘cause it says so in right in the description of the boat. At this point I have no real carpenter skills, no budget, and no plan. Again I turned to the internet and began searching for images of Ducks and was struck by how simple and how elaborate some of the boats were. I joined the Duck yahoo group just before it closed. I lurked. I lurked a lot, trying to get a feel for what others were building and how they were building them. I printed pictures of other ducks that caught my eye with some feature or other I thought I would like to try on a boat of my own. I talked to my 10 year son and while he wasn’t really excited about building a boat he was interested. “Can we fish from it?” he asked. I told him I thought we could and his interest level rose from a ‘sure’ to a ‘cool’. Good enough for me. So for Christmas I asked everyone to forgo giving me a ‘real’ gift and please, please, please give me gift cards to my local big box hardware store… cause I’m going to build a sailboat.

Christmas came and so did a fistful of gift cards! Now it’s more than just talk, I have a real starting budget and I needed building plans. Never having built a boat I was nervous. I looked around and saw that there were a few free plans online and that there were plans for sale too. Some of those commercial plans had/have big followings and lots of recommendations from successful builders. I decided to go with the Puddle Duck motto though, “cheap, creative, and fun on the water.” I would design my own boat, and it was going to be as fun to design as it would be to build and sail, and what could be cheaper than free plans?

I bought a three ring binder and printed out the free plans from and from I printed out a sail math essay by Jim Michalak. I also pulled down an article about foils and one for mast making, and put them all in the binder to study. I took all of those pictures I printed of other Ducks and pulled out the ideas I liked best and drew up my own set of plans. They aren’t revolutionary or really all that original, but they are mine and that is exciting.

plans for water dancer puddle duck racer

I stopped lurking in the discussion groups and started asking questions. I was welcomed in warmly and even though I was asking things that had probably been asked many times before I received a lot of answers and encouragement. With the help and urging of fellow Duckers all around the country I took my binder, my dream, and my fist full of gift cards to the local big box store and came home with pile of wood, a few tubes of glue, a bag of spring clamps (on sale for a $1 each!), and big smile.

Next time: an explanation of what we were thinking when we designed the boat the way we did, choosing our materials, and actually getting started.