Jonathan Gornall 2018. How to Build a Boat. London: Simon & Schustter, 312 pp.

Memoir of Jonathan Gornall’s building of a 10 foot clinker dinghy for his daughter. Autobiographical elements include recounting of his 2 unsuccessful attempts to row across the North Atlantic, glimpses of a troubled childhood (unwanted son of a single alcoholic mother), and especially his new relationship and resulting three year old daughter on which he gratuitously projects himself via this “building a boat for his daughter” project. Who doesn’t want one of course.

Quite a nice little summary of clinker boatbuilding is interspersed with the personal memoir, as well as some interesting stuff about early history of clinker boatbuilding (principal pioneers being the Vikings).

This is the kind of easily-read British memoir in which the author regularly makes fun of himself to get an easy laugh. It is hard to believe he is as incompetent as he makes out. But I could be wrong: among many inconsistencies and contradictions perhaps the most glaring is the way the author sings the praises of traditional clinker boats and boatbuilding, compared with modern epoxy & plywood methods and designs. Completely ignoring the fact that his traditional boat, into which his treasured daughter is about to be consigned, will be in constant danger of swamping and sinking. The modern designs are far far safer and would have been preferred in a heartbeat by traditional boatbuilders of earlier eras if they had had the choice.