How To Build A Boat –

A Father, His Daughter,

and The Unsailed Sea, is published in the UK by

Simon & Schuster.

Click here to order

Click here to read an extract

To contact my literary agent, Tim Bates, at Peters Fraser and Dunlop,

click here

Media coverage for How To Build A Boat

Review, The New York Times

May 31, 2019

'It is when he directly addresses Phoebe that Gornall truly sets sail. He explains his quixotic, idiosyncratic, obsessive-compulsive decision to build her a boat with life lessons that are simply beautiful ... After reading “How to Build a Boat” I still don’t know a dinghy from a dory. But as a father I am grateful that a dad has put into words and wood the fathomless love a parent has for a child'

Jonathan Gornall and his book How To Build A Boat features in The Words podcast on epic journeys.

September 25, 2018

"Jonathan Gornall's genial memoir is the story of a transformation and an adventure ... the passages he addresses directly to Phoebe are as tender as the father-daughter letters in Karl Ove Knausgaard's Seasons Quartet ..."

Times Literary Supplement, September 5th, 2018

'For my daughter’s voyage through life I built her a boat': British journalist Jonathan Gornall decided to make something special for his daughter rather than attempt to cross the Atlantic again

Daily Mail, July 27th, 2018

'I lacked time, skills
and tools, but it
made sense: why I
built my daughter
a boat'

The Guardian, July 7, 2018

dad: 'Why I built
a boat for
my daughter'

Daily Telegraph, June 24, 2018

Jonathan Gornall:

‘Phoebe’s boat was

as much of a gift

for me as for her’

The Scotsman, July 16th, 2018

Helen Mark meets writer and ocean rower Jonathan Gornall, who has built a small traditional sailing boat in which he hopes his young daughter will learn to love the sea as he has

BBC Radio 4 Open Country, July 26, 2018

'Why I'm a much better dad at 62 than I was at 26'. Three decades after he first became a father, Jonathan Gornall did it all again. In an honest account, he admits that last time round he was far too selfish

Daily Mail, August 27, 2018

"By the end, this self-described 'soft-handed, deskbound modern man with few tools, limited practical abilities, and an ignominious record of DIY disaster' has achieved something truly remarkable, and possibly moved his reader to tears. If the boat is a gift to Phoebe, this book is another."

Shelf Awareness, April, 2019

‘British journalist Gornall beautifully documents the year he spent building a wooden boat for his young daughter ... [his] prose is amusing, personal, and informative as he weaves in the history of boat building, especially the style first developed by the Vikings that inspired his boat. With self-deprecating humor, Gornall tells of his own failed attempts to row across the Atlantic, including one that he survived “thanks to sheer dumb luck and a great deal of highly motivated thrashing about.” When his boat is finally seaworthy ... Gornall acknowledges he has “created a vessel of a father’s love, a gift to inspire his daughter.” The very same can be said of his book, a testament to hard work and a soft heart.’

Publishers Weekly, December, 2018

‘Freelance journalist Gornall goes to hull and back in his quest to create a boat of simple, timeless beauty. Armed with chutzpah, memories of nautical failures past, and a grasp of few hand tools beyond a computer keyboard, the author
embarked on building one of the most exacting small wooden boats imaginable. Gornall, from England's Shotley Peninsula, scoured the coast for the lumber, plans, and expert guidance he needed to make it happen. A father for the second time in his late 50s, he was determined to build the boat for his 3-year-old daughter. Dismissing "approval from the dull bureaucracy of sound judgment," he persevered; suffering no small amount of angst, abrasions, and contusions, the author presented her with a splendid clinker-built craft in the traditional Nordic style ... hoping his daughter would treasure it one day as much as he ... Gornall lends depth to the story with engaging bits of boat history, recollections of his two aborted attempts to row across the Atlantic Ocean, and a surprisingly compassionate account of growing up with an emotionally distant, alcoholic single mother. But the most touching emotions are the author's fervent, overriding love for his daughter (with the boat as its embodiment) ... Gornall's prose is buoyant and watertight and his book shipshape.’

Kirkus Reviews, February 19, 2019

About me

Jonathan Gornall is a freelance British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK. He specialises in health, a subject on which he has written for the British Medical Journal and the Daily Mail. He also writes on a wide range of topics for The National, an English-language daily newspaper in the UAE, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2012. During that time he lived in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and travelled to many countries in the region, including Iraq, Oman and Qatar. He now lives in East Anglia with his wife and daughter.


Contact me or my agent, Tim Bates, at Peters Fraser and Dunlop, Literary Agents



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