Absolute beginner here

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by cdubb, May 12, 2012.

  1. cdubb
    Joined: May 2012
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    Location: michigan

    cdubb Junior Member

    Hi all,

    I am seiously contemplating building a sailboat to suit my needs as the harsh reality is that the boats I can afford simply will not be able to the thing i wish to do. I envision a boat of at least 40 foot in length, with a plywood hull to cut cost and maybe even a homemade junk style rig to further cut cost (and since they look bad *** to me). I have read a few boat building books but the one I've taken to heart the most is "Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding by George Buehler for his preaching of a simple, no frills, cost effective vessel, which is what I am looking for. For me appearance and luxury is of the least concern (atleast up til the point it looks unsafe to friends and family I want to have sail with me cause thats no good at all) as is resale value.

    Problem is a have minimal construction experience and very low funds for a project such as this. My experience is mainly working on and driving race cars on dirt tracks, which does't help me much in the way of building a boat.

    I truly think I can pull this off and have alota years of fun on the lakes with a boat of my own construction its just a matter of getting going and having a general idea of what in the hell I am doing:D. The bad thing about books is that I am not a person who learns or retains much by reading, I am a hands on learner. Basically the books give me ideas but I have no freaking clue to how to act upon them is what it boils down to. What I need is a like minded person that I could look over their shoulder or even aid in building a boat even if just for a few hours, just to get me heading in the right direction.

    So my call out to the members of this board is this, If live in the Toledo/Detroit-ish area and are working on a plywood style boat please get ahold of me I would like to observe and maybe get a better grasp on how things are done and if and if my plans are feasible at all. Any other little tips and advice would go along ways, any questions about me or my half baked idea just ask, Ill aid in anyway I can.

    Thanks and Regards,
  2. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    As a person who has been restoring (not building from scratch) for the past 5 years I'll make these observations.

    A 40 footer is HUGE as a DIY project. You need skills in many areas in order to build a boat. You need carpentry skills, design/drafting skills, mechanical, electrical, perhaps fiberglassing skills and skill working with composites. You'll need a place to build the boat. You also need to be able to plan a very complex project that will take years to complete. You need to be a forward thinker, a VERY forward thinker.

    Boat yards are littered with projects left unfinished as builders/restorers ran out of interest, money, or health. The question that begs asking is "why did so many people fail?" My answer is because boat building is a tedious, expensive, long drawn out process.

    Books like Buehler's are fun reading (I read his book as well, years ago) but not very accurate in terms of explaining the effort required to bring a large boat to completion.

    I've built cars over the year's and consider them child's play compared to doing a boat project. With a car you are pretty much assembling parts that you buy from someone else. With a boat you are actually making the parts. A huge difference.

    My advise is to start with something small, like a row boat or a day sailor. If you find that you enjoy working on boat projects great. If you dislike it you won't have wasted too much time, effort and money.

    Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great people (especially on this forum) doing a lot of great things. It's not for everyone though. In the end, either way, you'll understand why boats are so expensive. Engineering, parts and labor!

    It's Saturday morning at 6:40 and the family is asleep. Time for breakfast and a quick cup of coffee. I gotta get out of here. I've got wiring to install down at the boat......

  3. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Location: Southern England

    Tim B Senior Member

    If you find a design you particularly like, and build a model of it. Make it big enough to be useful, but not so big that it'll be a major task. 3 to 4 feet long is probably sensible. The model should be as accurate as possible (some concessions can be made, of course). This will start to give you an idea of how much time and effort the real boat will be at 10 times the size.

    For reference, I have just built a model powerboat, purely for racing (2 feet long, electric powered catamaran). The design was started in July last year, and took around 40 hours. The build was started mid-January and has been completed this morning. I have been spending a few evenings a week (with friends) on it (pretty constantly), and we think it has taken around 350 hours to build and finish.

    So, if the model takes that long (and don't forget that you'll work on average about two evenings of 3 hours per week, and perhaps one day per weekend), how long is it going to take for a full-scale boat?

    As MIA says, this is a massive job. I'm looking at doing a similar build for a 6.5m yacht, but I'm starting to think it'll take more time and money than I have, especially in view of the powerboat.

    Hope this helps,

    Tim B.
  4. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    A "real" 40' boat is not 10 times the size of a 4' boat when volume and weight are considered, it is 1000 times the size. And the model will not have the interior and electrical and plumbing systems a real boat will have. Typical "rule of thumb" is for a cruising boat hull construction is about 10% to 20% of the total time and cost.

    Least expensive way to go boating these days is to start with an older used boat which does not need any major components replaced or major structural repairs.
  5. LP
    Joined: Jul 2005
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    Location: 26 36.9 N, 82 07.3 W

    LP Flying Boatman

    Ditto!:idea: Plus you'll be under way a heck of a lot sooner, too!:cool::cool::cool:
  6. Corley
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    Location: Melbourne, Australia

    Corley epoxy coated

    I agree that a 40' boat is a huge job. Have you done much in the way of sailing to get a feel as to whether it's something you want to do? Joining a yacht club is a really good idea and will surround you with knowledgable people who can assist you with turning your ideas into reality. At the yacht club from which most of our club members sail there are a stack of boats that would be capable of ocean cruising if fitted out correctly sitting on cradles waiting for owners to "get around to fixing them up" I'm sure the situation would be similar in your area. A lot of those owners are looking for an out if you offer to take on the restoration of their boats I reckon they would change hands for a pittance in many cases.
  7. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    George Buehler is pretty fair in his description of boat building, in the opening chapter. Possibly overly optimistic, but he has to keep your attention or the rest of the book is not going to be read.

    This is a classic desire of the novice builder/sailor. They look at boat accommodation drawings and thing they need a 40 to 50 foot monolithic beast, just to satisfy basic needs.

    Cdubb, the best advice you can get and one lightly touched on in Buehler's book is two fold, first is experience aboard a sailboat. Beg, borrow and steal rides on any and all sailboats you can. The easiest way to get some sea time is as crew down at the local sailing club. They'll always be a man or two short and in need of bodies, to fill out a crew on someone's boat.

    The next thing to do is find some part time work at a local marina or builder. Even if you just hang out, you'll quickly gather up all sorts of handy information, from folks that have and are doing what you dream. Lastly, there's no such thing as an economical 40' yacht. Not to build, not to buy, not to own, repair, maintain, etc. Nothing about mid size yachts is inexpensive, regardless of what George's experiences in the 70's might suggest, in his now quarter of a century old book. In fact, the Buehler boats are more costly to build then other methods, simply because you have to "pay for displacement". The displacement or volume of a boat, can be directly related to it's cost, so the massive builds George exposes, are more costly simply because they're ridiculously heavy.

    The best thing you can do right now is buy a small sailboat (22' or less, preferably less) and figure out what you like and don't like. Hell, you may actually hate sailing, but don't know it yet. This is a hell of a lesson to learn during your sea trials, after several years of constructing a 40'er.

    You currently haven't a clue and if you expect a reasonable level of success, you need to find out what you actually want, need and like. Experience is the only path to this end.
  8. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    Building a boat is most certainly not the cheapest way of acquiring a boat.

    There is ALWAYS a boat at the back of a boat yard that no one wants.
  9. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    Buy a used sailboat, many to be had really cheap right now (go ask in the local yard and marinas). Go have fun on it.

    That is far less expensive way to go sailing on your own boat. IT is way cheaper to buy than to build.

    If there are certain features you must have, find a good condition fixer and modify it yourself. You will likely find fixers for free if you look around enough.

    If your desire to to build your own design, you must learn something about sailboat design first. A 40 footer is NOT recommended as a first build. Try a 14' daysailor first. far cheaper to make mistakes on a 14' boat than on a 40 footer.

    List exactly what it is you want in a boat for us to better understand your motivation.
  10. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Uh oh! I built a stretched 45 x 25 as my first build! :)

    Seriously, I could probably have built two medium size houses in the same amount of time it is taking. It is no small commitment. It's about the same commitment as going to college, but there aren't as many keg parties orsorrorities. :(

    I couldn't imagine building a boat without having at least 20 years experience on the water first. I know people do, but that is probably where the 10-20% of your time will be spent on the hull figure comes in. If you already know boats, you only have to learn the intricacies of building hulls and finishing them. I could not imagine having to learn systems, etc, after learning to build, then building. I don't know how people do that. Impressive.

    Also, you will want a lot of sea time so you know the exact boat you are after. Building one you don't like will be cause for suicidal tendencies.

  11. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    I noticed that cdubb has been quiet since his first post.....I suppose that could be good or bad, depending on your point of view.
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