PocketShip Old Soul by Jeff PerkinsTexan Jeff Perkins might be considered a man of obsessions. A professional aviator with three home-built airplanes to his credit, a few years back he began reading books about sailing and sailing adventures and started to think about building a boat for himself. Now, just 6 years later, he has built four CLC boats, starting with a plans-built PocketShip and Eastport Nesting Pram, followed up by an Oxford Shell and Waterlust Sailing Canoe built from kits.

Jeff had played around with Hobie cats as a kid, but sailing had disappeared from his adult life until he decided to build a boat. Cruising around the internet, he happened upon CLC’s PocketShip and ordered the manual to read through before making a bigger commitment; a month or two later, he dove in and ordered a full set of plans. “The bottom line was that I figured I could build anything. When I got the plans I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I had a few conversations with John Harris. John said, ‘just go with it,’ and I did.”

Fortunate to live near a top-notch specialty lumber dealer in Austin, Jeff was able to source the plywood and lumber locally – although the epoxy, fiberglass, and various other bits came from CLC – and over the next 14 months, his treasured Old Soul took shape in a corner of his hangar.

“I spent quite a lot of time cutting it out, working with all the weird looking curves,” he said, “and I did hand scarfs with a plane.”

From start to launch, Jeff approached the project methodically, in steps. “You can’t look at the overall project,” he said, ”or it will overwhelm you.” He even took a break to use up some of his leftover plywood to build an Eastport Nesting Pram, also from plans. “Sometimes when you’re building something big, you have to take a break and build something small,” he said.

The entire process of building both boats is carefully documented in a series of photographs Jeff has shared in a building blog to the PocketShip forum, to help guide fellow builders. “It was actually a lot like building an airplane, except for thickening the epoxy,” he said.

Building from plans allows for a certain amount of customization. Jeff experimented with different sizes, shapes, and locations for the portlights, varying from the original plans in favor of an oval shape of his own. He cut out dark mockups and moved them around until he found the positions he decided looked best. He put the same attention into the spars, all of which are hollow.

The final result is beautiful – so much so that Jeff stores Old Soul inside his hangar rather than outdoors in the elements – but he loves the boat’s solidity and toughness as well as her performance, and he’s not afraid to sail her, and sail hard.  

Jeff and his daughter, now 23, have been knocking about locally as well as participating regularly in the Florida 120, a rally race for small craft along the Florida panhandle. “It’s a 12-hour drive for us to get there, but we love it,” Jeff said. “It’s been nothing but a lot of fun. It’s one of the best sailing grounds for a small boat.”

Describing one afternoon’s run of 20 miles under the asymmetrical spinnaker on Santa Rosa Sound, he said, “She is not afraid to go.”

Meanwhile, Jeff and his daughter also embraced boatbuilding together, completing an Oxford Shell from a kit as a Christmas gift for his son, a former Texas A&M rowing coach.

Jeff also has recently completed a Waterlust Sailing Canoe and enjoys pedal-boating as well as sailing as much as he relished the building process. “The spars for that one are all hollow, too,” he said, “built out of Sitka spruce salvaged from an old biplane.”

We look forward to seeing photos of the Waterlust, but meanwhile there are plenty of pretty pictures of Old Soul and Two Things, the pram, to enjoy on Jeff's blog.

PocketShip Old Soul by Jeff Perkins