This guide will help you to get a booming raft city in no time at all.
Right now the game is still in development (and is quite new) so there are not many resources.
In your inventory there are three sections. The first two are items that are used to make other items, build production buildings. Without these your city will not be able to grow.
However, they are not as important as the third section, as each person needs to eat. The 4 food items are ranked for nutrition, as a piece of kelp will not go very far to feed anyone, but a piece of bread can last quite a bit. Beer is also listed, as it is one of the only ways to raise the happiness of your people. As the game is quite intuitive about how to make each item just by hovering over the icon in the inventory, I will not cover the entire chain.
First Builds and Managing Population
The build menu is all unlocked when you begin playing, and it can look daunting. The two builds you will need first are the fishing spot and the scavenger. The scavengers will provide you with some raw metal, but more importantly with wood. Fishing spots are one of your first sources of food, and I personally strive for having 1 fishing spot per 4 people early game.
At this point you may be running low on resources, so I recommend moving your city about to pick up crates, gather resources from nodes, and to find survivors. While my impulse at first was to go help every single one i found, that's a really good way to starve and die, so make sure your food production can keep up.
Make sure you are able to balance how many people are working in production buildings and how many transportation jobs (crate carrying) there are, while maintaining about 10-30% of your population usually free so that you are able to have enough people to row when you need to move your city (Important when you encounter storms).
Events and Interaction with Other Vessels
Storms and Pirates are the biggest outside threat to your city.
Storms will display a pop up warning of a storm, sometimes with a pre-warning such as dark clouds sighted. When you do get a popup warning, look around as far as you can in each direction until you spot red arrows. This is the direction of the storm, and if you are in the way, you often have enough time (if you have kept enough people uncommitted to jobs) to just row to the side.
Pirates also may show up in your first couple of days, or not for weeks. There are two ways you can deal with them when they board your ship, one is to just let them take stuff, the other is to fight.
To let the pirates take stuff while doing minimal damage and having minimal casualties, give the pirates the shortest route to your storage. While this may seem like a cowardly thing, staying alive is more important then bravery.
However, you may want to fight, and having a guard house and other guard buildings is a good way to put up a decent fight. It is totally possible to defend your city with no casualties, and with nothing taken, but it requires planning of guard builds, and sometimes a ring of bridges around the city with only one connection to the center.
Other vessels such as trade ships, rafts, trading posts and survivor rafts can be encountered, each having different options. Trade ships are ships with a large inventory, and are good for getting rid of excess materials to trade for things you cant make yet. Survivor rafts you should check if you can support more people, and if so let them join. Trading posts are quite different from trading ships, in that they are a fixed location, and you can provoke them. This is not recommended if you like trading, because word will get out. Be careful not to crash into them either, (or do if you don't like trading and want a tiny bit of resources). Other rafts are also good to trade with, but you can also sometimes recruit people, or invade them.