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Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard Paperback – April 30, 2002


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Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard + Schooner: Building a Wooden Boat on Martha's Vineyard + Charlotte: A Wooden Boat Story
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014200121X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001219
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) provides an insightful look at the life and work of legendary master boatbuilders Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon, whose boatyard on Martha's Vineyard is the site of the most innovative work happening today. Ruhlman tells the men's stories through the boats that they construct, so a long chapter on building the 65-foot-long schooner Rebecca for a newly boat-struck buyer turns into an exploration of the unique connection between the rich people who buy boats and the working-class people who make them, as well as the slow and detailed work that goes into building a boat by hand. Ruhlman's discovery of the "extraordinary integrity" of Benjamin and Gannon's work, as well as "a parallel integrity in these boatwrights' lives," becomes "urgently important" to him "because this work and this kind of person [are] vanishing from our midst." Ruhlman is "not afraid to claim that the wooden boat is both ancient and great, that it connects us to the life that has gone before and that it's fully worthy of a life engaged in its construction." His ability to simply tell the boatbuilders story, making connections between boats and life, gives this sharply observed book its pleasures. (May)Forecast: Ruhlman, who has written extensively for the New York Times, should garner some attention, especially given the acclaim of his previous book and his author tour. The book's attention to manual labor, craft and the lives of men should interest readers of the more intelligent men's magazines.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Wooden Boats describes in loving detail how these vessels are made. . . . Mr. Ruhlman consistently comes through with touching lyricism." The Wall Street Journal

"Ruhlman's deft blending of boatbuilding description and seagoing lore will satisfy even the fussiest of wooden-boat enthusiasts." WoodenBoat magazine

More About the Author

Michael Ruhlman is the author of more than twenty non-fiction and cooking related works, including the bestselling "The Soul of a Chef," "The French Laundry Cookbook" with Thomas Keller, Charcuterie and Ruhlman's Twenty, which won both James Beard and IACP awards. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, Donna, who is the photographer on his most recent cookbooks.

Customer Reviews

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Quite well done, with a strong sense of a story being told.
David P
If you are interested in building a wooden boat of just the idea of it, another great read is Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard, which I just finished.
Terry MacDonald
I feel that no words I write could possibly do justice to this book.
Derek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Terry MacDonald on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
Ruhlman brings all his skills of observation, description, and writing craft to Wooden Boat. I grew up around sailboats, in fact, the first boat mentioned is the restoration of an Alden Malabar Senior, which is the kind of sailboat my grandfather owned 1957-1968. I really likes this book, as it is not so much about boat construction but about the people within the boat building culture.

In a clear and elegant voice, he illustrates that what you make is who you are and vice versa. In this modern age of disposable things, its beautiful to discover people whose dedication to a craft defies the norm. If you are interested in building a wooden boat of just the idea of it, another great read is Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard, which I just finished.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David P on October 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Wooden Boats" reminded me of similar extended narratives by Tracy Kidder (think of "House" or "Soul of a New Machine"). Quite well done, with a strong sense of a story being told.
Ruhlman comes to the topic with no experience in boat construction, or even boating for that matter, but gets to the heart of why some people become obsessed with these projects. (This is a book about wooden boats, but this kind of obsession is certainly not limited to nautical pastimes. Read Rebuilding the Indian for a similar story involving two wheels instead of a hull.)
Although the characters in this book spend an awful lot of time denigrating "plastic" boats, their enthusiasm for boat construction and traditional methods is hard to resist. What these throwback builders are creating are "plank on frame" craft, vessels sculpted out of traditional materials with every part unique and handmade, boats that will (according to their proponents and backed up by history) far outlive their builders.
As a sailor I found this book inspiring. Maybe someday.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Boutte on January 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a wooden boat enthusiast and long time woodworker, I read Michael Ruhlman's book with enthusiasm. I found it to be a wonderful piece of work that portrays woodworking, and boat building in particular, as dying arts that are not art for arts sake, but an art with an end result in mind. The boatyard in question is the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway of Martha's Vineyard. This yard has been doing excellent work for quite some time and has aided in the renaissance of wooden boats that has largely been inspired by WoodenBoat magazine. Mr. Ruhlman does an excellent job of portraying the daily life of a boatyard, as well as a thorough history of G&B. The main thrust of the book however, is the now unconvential perspective that G&B has on their work and the world, which is to build something beautiful that will last for generations, and is ultimately perfectly suited for its task. In the end, I found myself wanting to quit my job and hire on with G&B. I'm still not sure I won't do that.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By busmun on January 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle,"In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard" sums it up. It's the lifestyle of the boatwrights at this small boatyard on Martha's Vineyard that stand out.They build 60' plank on frame schooners w/ century old techniques. The two owners of the yard learned boatbuilding by sailing around the world in their youth and being allowed to work on their own boats at various boatyards in exchange for their labor on boatwork in progress at the yard. The writing is elegant and clear, a series of profiles about people living what they believe. How the rich and famous are humbled in the prescence of those who design and build boats that will outlast everyone involved.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Derek on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book Wooden Boats is a non-fiction story set in Martha's Vineyard and about two shipwrights and their business. Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin strive to find the perfect design for a ship and try the boat built as smoothly and traditionally as possible. Michael Ruhlman writes, "They were still being made here the old-fashioned way- by craftsmen in small yards." Regarding the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway. Jon Wilson is quoted in the book commenting that Nat Benjamin is, " one of the best designers and purest builders in the country." Wilson also says, " Gannon and Benjamin are real sailors: they know firsthand the kinds of pressures the sea puts on a boat and build their boats according to that." It is always a challenge because ninety percent of the boat is made of wood. The only things that aren't wood are the brass fittings and technical devices. Working with wood makes the process long and tedious. The shipwrights build the hull by a plank on frame method that is tedious and difficult. Each plank has to be specially cut and fit to its place on the hull. They have to be extremely accurate to avoid gaps between planks. They build two boats over the course of the book. The first, Rebecca, is a sleek schooner built for Dan Adams who is a boat struck man who has trouble financially funding the project. The other is for Jonathan Edwards. Elisa Lee, a shorter boat similar to a lobster boat with two sails and a motor. Besides these two boats they also indirectly follow the building and repair of other ships.

One part I vividly remember is when Elisa Lee is finished and the author vividly describes the launching ceremony. Then Elisa is lowered into the water and she floats.
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