Because my boats have been based on traditional designs all of my projects have required some degree of research. For some it is searching museum collections for appropriate plans, for others I have done field research in places as far-flung as the Orkney Isles of Scotland and rural Japan measuring historic boats and documenting boat building techniques.
In recent years most of my research has focused on traditional boat building in Japan. I have apprenticed since 1996 with five boat builders there, working alongside them and documenting their design secrets and techniques. This work is crucial, as the last generation of boat builders today is now elderly, and almost none have apprentices. Furthermore, the tradition of secrecy in Japanese crafts is very strong, therefore, boat builders leave almost no written records of their designs. Drawings that they do produce often intentionally lack essential information.
One of the most interesting phrases in Japanese crafts is nusumigeikko or "stolen lessons." Most traditional craftsmen can tell stories from their apprenticeships of being forced to "steal" important secrets from their masters. If a teacher was not a family member, very often one's education would be incomplete. The master may have had a need for cheap labor, but he did not need to create a competent competitor.
Without a generation of apprentices the traditions and secrets of Japanese boat building are being lost. I hope to continue to find support for my research and keep documenting the work of these craftsmen. My goal is to interview more boat builders and produce detailed construction drawings of their boats. In this way I hope to preserve this craft; albeit in a way that is a departure from tradition. I have published articles about boat building since the early 1990's. Below is a list of my published work.
The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman's Methods, Kodo Cultural Foundation, Sado Island, Japan, September, 2003. Text in English and Japanese (translated by Chieko Wales.) Illustrated with drawings and photographs with a monograph by Mr. Toshio Sato.
This book is available directly from me for $25US plus shipping.
In Japan it can be found in major bookstores or ordered online at
Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, Floating World Editions, Monroe, Connecticut, USA, 2015.
Author and co-editor of ayubune, an exhibition monograph published by the Mizunoki Museum of Art, Kameoka, Japan, 2014 (English and Japanese).
"Rushton’s Sailing Canoes; A Short but Lively History" SEA DREAM, Yokohama, Japan, No. 20 (in Japanese).
"Japanese High Schoolers Visit a United States Wooden Boat Building Class" (Nihon no Koukousei-tachi Ga Beikoku no Mokuzou Bouto Seisaku Kyoushitsu Wo Houmon), KAZI, Yokohama, Japan, January, 2015 (in Japanese).
Building Sabani An Okinawan Fishing Boat, Village Press, Kyoto, Japan, 2014 (in Japanese).
"Maddy Sue, Restoration of an Iconic Maine Picnic Boat" WoodenBoat, No. 238, May/June, 2014.
"Restoration of the Picnic Boat Maddy Sue" Sea Dreams, KAZI publications, Yokohama, Japan Volume 17, 2013 (in Japanese).
"Japanese Handsaws" WoodenBoat, No. 234, September/October, 2013.
Edited Marukobune, the Traditional Sailing Boats of the Lake Biwa Region by Dr. Kumi Makino, originally published by Yuzankaku, Tokyo, 2008.
"The Stradivarius of Small Boats, the World of the Adirondack Guide Boat" Sea Dreams, KAZI publications, Yokohama, Japan, Volume 13, 2011 (in Japanese).
Sabani; Building The Traditional Okinawan Fishing Boat (Okinawa no Dentouteki Gyosen; Sabani Kenzou Kiroku), published by the Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo, Japan, 2011 (in English and Japanese).
"Ships of the Japanese Coastal Trade" a book chapter in Shipwrights Annual, published by Anova Books, United Kingdom, 2010.
"Bezaisen: Japan's Coastal Sailing Traders" a book chapter in Sailing Into The Past, published by Seaforth Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009.
"A Different Way to Ro" WoodenBoat, No. 192, September/October, 2006
"Centennial of Ticonderoga and the Steamboats of Lake Champlain" Maritime Life and Traditions, No. 32, Fall 2006.
"The Cormorant Fishing Boat" Maritime Life and Traditions, No. 31, Summer 2006.
"A New Replica For Japan" Maritime Life and Traditions, No. 30, Spring, 2006.
"From Master To Apprentice" The Gam, No. 47, Spring, 2005.
"To Build a Bekabune" Maritime Life and Traditions, No. 26, Spring, 2005.
The Tub Boats of Sado Island; A Japanese Craftsman’s Methods (Shokunin no Gihou; Sado no Taraibune), Kodo Cultural Foundation, Sado Island, Japan, September 2003 (in English and Japanese).
"Building the Beka Bune", KAZI, Yokohama, Japan, January, 2000 (in Japanese).
"Tarai Bune" JIAM, the Japan Intercultural Academy of Municipalities (Kokusai Bunka Kenshu), Otsu, Japan, Volume 30, 2001 (in Japanese).
"The Toba Sea-Folk Museum" WoodenBoat, July 2000.
Edited Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain Steamboat, by Richard Strum, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont, 1998.
"The Tarai Bune of Sado Island" Islands, January, 1998.
"Cultural Icons" Hemispheres, the United Airlines in-flight magazine, July 1997.
"Richard Earle Brockway" WoodenBoat, May 1997.
"The Tub Boats of Sado Island" WoodenBoat, January 1997.
"Project Profile" WoodenBoat, March 1996.
"Up the Columbia" Classic Boat, London, March 1995.
"Reenacting Lt. William Broughton's Survey of the Columbia River" the Quarterdeck, Vol. 19 No.1, autumn 1992.
"The Stone Boatyard" WoodenBoat, December 1992.
"The Restoration of Motor Lifeboat 36542" Courier, August, 1992.
"Ultralight Boatbuilding" WoodenBoat, July/August 1991.