To me, some of the best entertainment reading on the Internet can be found in online forums. I also frequently peruse the forums on topics I'm interested in or want to know more about because of the wealth of knowledge usually posted in them by other enthusiasts of the same topic. Think of practically any subject you want to know more about, and you can probably find one or more active discussion forums online full of informative posts. When it comes to popular subjects like sailing, boatbuilding, or kayaking; there are many more forums out there than most of us have time to even find, much less read.
I thought I would share of few of my favorite boating forums with you here. These are the ones I read most frequently. Some I drop by most every day to see what's new, others less often, but all of these have been informative and interesting.
The Wooden Boat Forum Wooden Boat Magazine's forum for wooden boat enthusiasts. This is a very active forum with enough archived material to keep you reading indefinitely. Lots of good threads on boat designs, tools and techniques, and material choices. Most of the members lean to traditional wooden boatbuilding though, and there's a lot of epoxy bashing going on there from time to time. And don't dare mention fiberglass boats to these folks - to them this material is simply "frozen snot." The forum is divided up into these sub forums: Building/Repair, Designs/Plans, People/Places, Resources/Product Search, Misc. Boat Related, The Bilge.
The Sailnet Forums This is one of the most active sailing forums I know of. There's always something new here and lots of long and sometimes intense discussions from knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable sailors. I especially like some of the threads in the Buying a Boat forum, where everybody has got a different opinion as to what constitutes an "offshore" or "bluewater" sailboat. There's lots of bias towards monohulls and bigger boats, but some other points of view as well. Other sub forums at Sailnet I like are: Cruising, Gear and Maintenance, Living Aboard, Sailboat Design and Construction.
Sailfar.net This is a small and relatively new online forum, but full of good discussions by those who are generally interest in the kind of older, smaller sailboats John Vigor writes about in his Twenty Small Sailboats to take you Anywhere. These people on this forum are fixing up older boats and actually taking them cruising. See the sub forums, Routes and Destinations, Boat Discussion, and Sailing Stories.
Cruising World Forums This is another big forum connected with a magazine, Cruising World. Although much of the focus is on larger, more complex boats than I'm interested in, there are still some good threads, especially on destinations. Lots of these forum members are real cruisers and speak from experience. Check out Boats and Gear and Destinations.
Boat Design Forums These forums have some in-depth and technical discussions of boat design, some of them by naval architects or people in training to become one. I occasionally drop by the sub forums Multihulls and Sailboats. In any multihull discussion, Wharram catamarans are sure to come up from time to time, and these forums are no exception.
Living Aboard Forums Lots of discussion regarding boater's rights, legal issues, and boats suitable for living aboard, as well as how people finance their boating lifestyles. As a sailor who has lived aboard in the past, I find some interesting reading here.
Scott Brown's Multihull Forums Great stuff on multihulls with lots of emphasis on Wharram Catamarans and other homebuilt designs. This is probably the best forum resource online for those of us who are building Wharram catamarans. You have to change the settings to show all the older posts to find them, but there are literally hundreds of archived threads on Wharram cats. There are also sub forums on most other popular multihulls, so if more than one hull is your thing, this is your forum. The only downside is that the forum has had technical problems a lot recently and is often down.
The Wharram Forums Probably the most focused discussion of Wharram catamarans anywhere, this one is found on James Wharram's own website. Surprisingly, this forum is not as active as you would think it would be. There are lots of old threads with good info, but new posts only trickle in.
Boatbuilder Central (Bateau2.com) This forum is associated with Jacques Merten's designs and Boatbuilder Central online plans and boatbuilding supplies. Really good stuff on building techniques, as the designs are wood-epoxy composite. There are in depth technical discussions on epoxy use, fairing and fillers, fiberglassing, and priming and painting. You'll also find lots of active builders here posting updates on their projects.
Small Craft Advisor Message Board This one is associated with Small Craft Advisor magazine. The focus here is on small, trailerable sailboats, and the idea of cruising and voyaging in them. There's a lot here for those who like small simple boats.
Sea Kayaker Magazine Online Community Sea Kayaker magazine is the authority on serious sea kayaking. Here you'll find all the experts and the kayakers who are out there paddling all over the world. Lot's of good information here.
Messing About.com B&B Yachts Forum This is another good forum hosted by a designer, Graham Byrnes, of B&B Yachts. Most of his boats are not yachts, however. He is the designer of many small, simple cruisers and daysailors, like the Core Sound 17. On this forum you'll find many builders discussing their projects.
I'm sure I'm leaving out some, but these are the main forums that come to mind and the ones I visit most. In future posts I'll take a look at some specific threads I'd like to comment on and share with readers here. Oh, and if I'm missing some great boat forum you'd care to recommend, be sure and leave a comment here so I can check it out.