Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

The (Short) Story of the Homemade Dog Island Yacht – Don’t Add a Jib Yet!


So many great titles came into mind for this post. Some of the others are:

  • Redneck Regatta
  • Junkyard Shipyard
  • Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Next Gilligan….

(…you will want to hang in to the end for the picture.)

Background. When one spends time where we relax, at Dog Island, FL– there aren’t many tourist attractions to keep one busy. We don’t have any stores, restaurants, golf courses, or putt putt facilities. We don’t have anything at all, really. We have sand, salt water, rust, four-wheelers for transportation, and sometimes electricity. If we want to fix or build something, we hope to have the supplies and tools needed on the property because otherwise, it’s not getting fixed or built without a half-day trip to the mainland.

Well this week, we had a lot of wind and rain, so my father-in-law and I have the same affliction of need-some-motion-itis. We needed something to do. Under the house we happened to have an old but still good set of inflatable pontoons. (It was the remains of a Coleman personal paddle boat– our original idea was you could paddle yourself offshore into deep water to fish for giant fish, then paddle home without using an ounce of diesel fuel. Only a few problems there, not the least of which being that paddling out into 3-5′ seas at 2 knots, in a 6′ inflatable lawn chair, didn’t work out so often.)

Anyway, back to the project at hand. The idea that came upon us was to build a homemade sailboat from these pontoons and using only the supplies we had at the house.

The top motivation was the typical, yet simple, island project motivation: Why not!?

The plans in our imagination called for a mini Hobie Cat of sorts.   We had all the necessary supplies that one needs to build a homemade redneck Hobie Cat of course:

  • PVC pipe (because who wouldn’t want extremely flexible/bendable plastic pipe holding up their sails?)
  • blue tarps
  • bungee chords
  • rope
  • tie wraps (3 different sizes, of course)
  • wood
  • screws
  • and of course… duct tape.

The project in total consumed about 8-10 man hours. We built a rudder, a seat, a mast, a sail, a boom and some rigging to hold it all together. Pretty simple.  In first hour of the project, while rigging up the sail to the mast (yes with tie wraps), it occurred to me that our second tarp cold be used to add a jib!  What’s better than a homemade sailing yacht with one sail, but a homemade sailing yacht with TWO sails!?   All we needed to do was… and then… and then we could… and then…

My father-in-law called me out on this one: “Hello!? We don’t even have a boat assembled yet– don’t be adding any jibs to it!”

Stepping back.

It is often said that you know you’re in a conversation with an entrepreneur when at the beginning of the conversation you mention an idea for a new business, in the second sentence he describes how it will grow, be funded, win customers, the third sentence is how big it will become and who will acquire it, and by the fourth sentence, he has already sold it and is evaluating what to do with all of the money.

So here I am adding a jib to your Junkyard Yacht before it has even touched the water.  It’s a nice reminder to think about the jib, but relax.  Build what’s in front of you. Make it work. Make it work really, really well… and after you’ve proven that it can float and you can control it. Then add a jib.

And yes– the project was a success-ish. Here’s the photo prove it!

Redneck homeade sailboat

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