In 1991, when Details of Classic Boat Construction first appeared (published by W.W. Norton), I rushed to get a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. Larry Pardey and his wife, Lin, built their cutter, Seraffyn, themselves, the old fashioned way – plank on frame. And what a beautiful job they did on her. What’s more, they’ve lived aboard and cruised extensively for many hard ocean miles. This combination of practical boatbuilding combined with practical voyaging gives Larry a unique and valuable perspective.
The current, slightly revised, edition is very similar to the first edition of the book. It provides one of very finest step-by-step explanations of the hows and the whys of traditional carvel boatbuilding ever published. Extraordinarily clear process photos and line drawings make things plainer still.
I did have reservations about a couple of items. Larry includes lists of the pros and cons of various construction methods and options. I found these lists to be weighted toward traditional techniques. Such traditional techniques are excellent, but I could redo many of the pro-and-con lists quite differently, reaching substantially different conclusions.
The other reservation is that Larry comes out full-bore and guns blazing against the use of modern marine epoxy for virtually any boatbuilding application. Indeed, this — he stated — was one of the reasons he revised and reissued Details of Classic Boat Construction. He provides examples of epoxy failures and lists many epoxy shortcomings. As with his comparative lists, however – strong as his condemnation of epoxy is – I, and the boatbuilders I work with, can’t agree. I have designed several entirely wood-epoxy craft, now many years old. One 42-footer, for instance, has over 10,000 miles on her, 70 percent of them in southern waters, and she’s good as new. Yards like Rybovitch Spencer, Covey Island Boatworks, Van Dam Marine, and many others have built literally hundreds of wood-epoxy vessels, which have proven incredibly tough, long-lived, and maintenance-free.
So, do these two reservations detract seriously from the book as a whole? Not at all. The explanations of plank-on-frame construction are so clear and comprehensive that everyone who owns a traditional wooden boat, is repairing one, or is building one really should have a copy of this book for reference. Even builders of modern wood-epoxy boats will benefit from the superb construction information in Details of Classic Boat Construction – The Hull. I consider it a must-read and hope Larry will go on and write future volumes on the cabin and fitting out.