There was a canal behind the house that I grew up in, literally just a few steps from my backyard. There were catfish, sun perch and mullets in the canal, and my brothers and I spent many, many hours fishing after school, on the weekends, and all summer long.
The other activity the canal was good for was testing our home built boats. The abundance of scrap wood in our blue collar neighborhood, coupled with the childlike enthusiasm and lack of any real skills we brought to the task, guaranteed wet bottoms and stern lectures about drowning from our worried mother after each and every launch. This was a woman constantly terrified that at least two of her five children would never make it to the teenage years, much less adulthood, and with good reason. Not a single one of our boats stayed above water for more than a few minutes.
Despite the dire assurances that you could indeed drown in two inches of water, we all made it to legal age. I probably haven't talked to any of my brothers about boats since I was twelve, but whatever possessed me then to set off into the great unknown upon a vessel of my own making is still alive and well and living in my soul this very day.
There is now a world of boat building knowledge at my fingertips, and I have lusted in my seafaring heart over many a fine craft built in garages and barns all over the planet. There are many websites devoted to building one's own boat, and I have allowed myself to become paralyzed by choice. Do I want a canoe or a sailboat? Do I build something fast and dirty or do I bite the bullet and spend the time and money required to make something that will last?
I suspect that I will start with the down and dirty, something of my own design, for the simple pleasure of putting something in the water that will hopefully last long enough to get in one or two afternoons of fun.
I can see myself pushing off from the beach, waiting for just the right break in the waves while my wife paces nervously, cell phone in hand and finger poised above the "send" button, having already punched in the number for the Coast Guard. Ah, but bad boat building makes strong swimmers, and she need not worry. Down and dirty or built to last, I'll always return to shore.