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"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."


"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."

"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. A father for the second time in his late 50s, he was determined to build the boat for his 3-year-old daughter ... 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."

"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 ..."

"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."

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