Aluminum Boatbuilder Rates in US?

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by GDFL, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. GDFL
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    Location: Guntersville, AL

    GDFL Junior Member

    I am curious if anyone has an idea of the range of rates to be expected in boatyards in the United States for aluminum boats. I'm looking for a generic hourly shop rate that would not include materials, but would include general overhead, etc. The boat would be a 50ish foot very basic aluminum catamaran with basic shapes and developable surfaces. The level of finish would be tanks and drive train, but no interior finish work. Probably looking for just a hull that could be motored away under its own power. This boat will be more like a 35fter on 50ft hulls than an actual 50ft condo. I'm thinking probably 2,000 - 2,500 hours to get it to this level based on what I have seen from others. The yard will likely have to be somewhere in the Southeast US. Any idea of the hourly shop rates?

  2. u4ea32
    Joined: Nov 2005
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    u4ea32 Senior Member

    Two years ago I was assisting on the design of an 85 cruising sailing catamaran. We did explore several different construction methods including aluminum, wood/epoxy/glass, glass/foam/epoxy, glass/honeycomb/epoxy, glass/core/carbon/epoxy, vinyl ester vs epoxy, and so on. We canvased the world, including China, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Africa, Europe, and the USA.

    What we found was that aluminum was more expensive for a given level of finish than any of the composite approaches: you would really need to just want an aluminum boat to justify it. There was no engineering nor economic reason to choose aluminum over any of the composite approaches.

    And one of the surprising discoveries was that, once one made the choice for composite construction, there was effectively zero cost savings for going to developable surfaces.

    Also, we were surprised to discover that the USA builders could be cost competitive with anyone, even with China, when the full cost to delivery was calculated. China and some other nations had lower labor costs, but other costs were higher and, most importantly, more variable (e.g., more budget and schedule risk). New Zealand was the second most competitive location to build, but still not as good (inexpensive and low risk) as the USA. The NZ advantage was improved flexibility: its easier to get a wide range of highly skilled workers, so if you want a complex boat, NZ is probably the best.

    I would strongly suggest that you follow the normal approach, and contact some builders and talk to them. They will give you some insight, always from their point of view of course. Also, I would strongly recommend you visit several yards. Its very instructive to learn what is hard to do, and what is easy to do.
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  3. TollyWally
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Location: Fox Island

    TollyWally Senior Member

    Interesting post David,

    I'd love to see you flesh out your story with more details.
  4. GDFL
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    Location: Guntersville, AL

    GDFL Junior Member

    That is rather interesting. I originally wanted an aluminum power cat for serious passagemaking (tradewind circumnavigation possible) and I was going to do all the work myself. I would be most comfortable with aluminum for several reasons that aren't worth discussing. I came to realize that my homelife will be better off if I could hire out the construction of the hull and only do the fitout myself. If the average shop rate was something in the ballpark of $30/hr and the hull took around 2,000 hours to construct, then that would only be an extra 60k minus all the tools and building site costs. If the rate is closer to $50/hr, then it isn't really feasible. I'm also considering long, narrow mono's similar to idlewild as a possible route. It would be in aluminum as well.
  5. tazmann
    Joined: Aug 2005
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    Location: California

    tazmann Senior Member

    $30 an hour for aluminum, realisticly $60 to $90 for some one with the equipment and they supply the consumables.
  6. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    in 1886 I was freehold with own shop, I charged 36 an hour
    a yard with 6 men, may have 150000 worth of gear , thats a tiny yard, big metal yards may have millions tied up
    Rates in Au would be abt 80
    the amazing thing is, you pay your dentist 400 an hour, your rip off lawyer more, as you do with any other trade
    yet folk(sometimes expect) a man who has trained all his life, and with a shop full of high tech gear, to work for chicken muck? No this is not a go at you, but but but
    I ring my lawyer he charges by the second for advice
    Someone rings me jaws away for hours about his dream and pays zilch
    But slowly it is changing
    I had a quote for a very fine interior from China, 7 dollars hours US
    the best option is to find a very good man who has a great deal of experience to work alongside
    He can cover 3 times the ground of say an engineering shop that has decided it'll branch into boats Boatbuilding is a trade in its own And please remember this, it costs as much to build a shoddy job as an excellent job
    good luck:)
  7. GDFL
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    Location: Guntersville, AL

    GDFL Junior Member

    I understand that it costs what it costs, but I didn't know what that number was. I used to work with several highly skilled and certified welders and none of them made over $15/hr. That's not to say that the experienced boatbuilders should be making that much, but I am pointing out that everyone on staff doesn't necessarily make $50/hr either. I'm sure $30 was way too low of a guess, but I figured that by the time you average the higher wage guys with the floor sweepers and then tack on overhead, then you should be paying less overall per hour than if the shop was only staffed by 80k/yr guys.

    It is a little frustrating to try to find a solution somewhere in between doing it all yourself and commissioning a $700,000 boat. I'm sure the solution is out there. I'll just keep digging. I have a few years before I'm ready to pull the trigger anyway, but I was wanting to get an idea of things so that I can begin making appropriate plans.

  8. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Its all ok mate
    Cats are long winded things to build, would you consider a powerful , fast two chine mono? You could fabricate it all from cut files and then hire someone to weld it together, or:))
  9. GDFL
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    Location: Guntersville, AL

    GDFL Junior Member

    actually, I have also been looking hard at something like that. A 45-50ft version of the Dashew Windhorse built for 2 people would be ideal. I'd love to have a covered aft cockpit, if it could be implemented to still be safe crossing oceans. "Powerful" isn't quite what I'm looking for. Something of an LDL concept that can go just at or above hull speed would suffice since I'd like to cross oceans and need the range to do so.

  10. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    now you are talking, power is essential, for many reasons, and costs little more relatively
    I do not have a chine boat plan, but there are many around
    I am not sure if Van Der Stadt has chine boats, but if they do they have a NAME which always helps with resale
    the biggest thing with many chine boats is the entry, some like the OVNI are so flat they they pound like crazy
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