Determining the dimensions of the boat


Wooden fishing boats were not built from drawings but were built ‘by eye’ to the requirements of the skipper. The skipper would order “a boat that looks like the barge ‘Adriana’ but one that can carry more cargo”. She could not have a wider beam so she was built slightly higher. The dimensions required were written down and acted as the starting point for building a new mussel boat (scow).


When a wooden fishing boat has to be restored there are usually no build drawings available because by far the majority of wooden boats were built ‘by eye’. The original dimensions to which the boat was built cannot therefore be traced. This means that in such a situation the boat builder had to determine the dimensions of the boat himself, through approximation, whereby the boat builder would proceed as follows:

  • To determine the original dimensions of an old wooden boat that has to be restored, the boat builder first examines whether descriptions or photographs of the boat have been preserved. The boat builder gathers as much archive material as possible in order to discover as much as he can about the original dimensions of the boat.

  • The boat builder then examines the boat very carefully. An old wooden boat weakens and sags. The boat loses its coherence because of the weak timber, as a result of which its shape and dimensions increasingly start to deviate from those of the original vessel. Over time repairs are usually undertaken and wooden parts are replaced. The boat owner wanted to keep the boat but was too destitute for a proper repair and the main purpose became to “stay afloat". With such repairs, the correct shape, albeit it with pain in the heart, was of secondary importance. The boat builder maps out what repairs were performed where and how these may have had an impact on the shape and dimensions of the boat.

  • After completing the archive research and reading the clues from the old boat, the boat builder then determines the dimensional deviations compared to the (most likely) original dimensions. These dimensions are noted down as the starting point for the restoration of the wooden fishing boat (image 1).
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Tools Required

  • Paper
  • Pencil

Materials Required

  • Archive material