cover image How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea

How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea

Jonathan Gornall. Scribner, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9939-4

British journalist Gornall beautifully documents the year he spent building a wooden boat for his young daughter. After being an absentee dad to his grown son, the 58-year-old hoped one day to teach his two-year-old to navigate, believing that “the sea is the sworn ally of imagination.” Owning almost no tools and having no woodworking skills, Gornall, living on England’s eastern coast, gave himself a crash course in boatbuilding from books and experts and bought what seemed at first an “utterly indecipherable” schematic plan with the hopes that he could finish the project in a year. Gornall’s prose is amusing, personal, and informative as he weaves in the history of boat building, especially the style first developed by the Vikings that inspired his boat. With self-deprecating humor, Gornall tells of his own failed attempts to row across the Atlantic, including one that he survived “thanks to sheer dumb luck and a great deal of highly motivated thrashing about.” When his boat is finally seaworthy nearly two years after he began the project, Gornall acknowledges he has “created a vessel of a father’s love, a gift to inspire his daughter.” The very same can be said of his book, a testament to hard work and a soft heart. [em](May) [/em]