The Long Way: Boat Building with Jay Nelson

Ventura, California
May 2021 | Words from Jay Nelson | Photos by @kanoazimmerman and @yewview | Video by @tylerboydmanson | Produced by Field Scout

Klean Kanteen and Subaru are proud to present the film "The Long Way" alongside artist Jay Nelson. This film chronicles the journey and the team it takes to build a boat, capturing the pure joy of hitting the open water for the first time. We hope you enjoy watching this journey take shape as much as we did.

The California coast has been discovered many times. Most of the coastline has been claimed, and although a lot has been saved from development, it can be hard to still find wilderness. The best we can hope for is to find the places that are less accessible by land. This is where my interest in boats come in. Boats open up the coastline and provide access to these remote areas.

I always wanted to build a boat and it felt like the missing link in my work. About 2 years ago Kanoa Zimmerman and I started looking at buying and customizing an existing boat. We spent the better part of year learning about what kind of boat we wanted, eventually we made our way to Jeff Hull. Jeff is a friend and boat builder working in Ventura and builds boats specifically designed for California waters.

After hearing our story, Jeff suggested that instead of customizing an existing boat we should build the exact boat we want from the ground up and he would teach us as we went. Jeff has an intuitive sense for shaping the bottom contours of a boat from years of studying hydrodynamics and hull design. We spent the next year building a 17' boat, starting in Jeff’s backyard with a stack of marine plywood.

Handmade boats are an incredible amount of work. If you add up the labor it would be on the same scale as building a small house. If I started thinking about every step I would get overwhelmed, so instead I would break the steps up into the different parts: the hull, the pilot house, fairing, the painting and rigging.

The best way to learn is to work with people you really admire. - Jay Nelson

To me the most laborious and skillful part of boat building is fairing. Fairing is where you build up layers of polyester resin filling low spots and sanding back down to flatten the panels of the boat. There’s no way to get good at faring without spending a lot of time doing it, because it’s really hard to tell how you did until you spray on the primer paint. In the end almost, every worker at Jeff Hull Fiberglass’s boatyard came in at some point to lend a hand or give advice, particularly in the fairing stages. Often, I would look around the Jeff’s boat yard and be reminded that my project was the smallest, which again put into perspective the incredible amount of work that goes into a handmade boat.

About Jay

An artist living in San Francisco, Jay has a strong interest in architectural form and how people interact with creations in the outside world. A painter, woodworker, and surfer, Jay is inspired by his travels and adventures. Jay would be the lead influencer and primary

Cutting plywood
Building a boat hull
My klean companion
Homemade boat on the road

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