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Lawrence Cheek decided that he had to build a boat. Not just any boat, but a beautiful wooden sailboat. This despite the fact that he barely knew how to sail and that he was the master of so few woodworking skills that it was frightening. The Year of the Boat is a memoir about what when on in that suburban garage—a roiling process of measuring, cutting, gluing and sanding that was punctuated with supreme satisfaction, utter frustration, and plain bewilderment. From figuring out how to actually read a set of marine blueprints to learning the fine art of applying epoxy to getting the mast to stand up straight, this is a captivating adventure into the wilderness of doing it yourself. The author tacks an intelligently digressive route as he touches on such topics as the invention of the retractable keel, the esteemed tradition of garage enterprises (think Hewlett Packard), the Platonic ideal sailboat, the hegemonic rise of fiberglass, and the pleasing shape of a rudder. Building a boat turns out to be the antidote for chronic perfectionism (hence the boat’s name, Far From Perfect).

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