Boat Building Business opinion

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by daniep, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. Wynand N
    Joined: Oct 2004
    Posts: 1,260
    Likes: 148, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 1806
    Location: South Africa

    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder

    If I may chime in....

    Although Im retired from boatbuilding now for a few years, I still notice what goes on in my part of the country.
    Catamarans are the buzz word of boating for the last few years and many a builder have sprung up and earned their keep that way. Having said that, many more had gone broke.
    My country with its poor exchange rate to the world currencies is a haven for boatbuilding and export. One builder here built famous brand of cats for export and supplied the charter industry big time over the years and a couple of years ago I heard through the grapevine things were getting tight and production greatly reduced and stand to be corrected. Others had closed down.

    However, back to the OP's concerns. As an old boat builder, my only advice to you if you get started regardless of how you go about is this; Remember, your first client is your most important ever. It is here where you will make your mark in the industry. It is all about goodwill and word by mouth gospel.
    A poster made the statement elsewhere above why would someone buy a 300,000 - 400,000 dollar boat from you rather than from a well known builder / brand? Again, its all about goodwill....

    But why do you want to sink money in boatbuilding and no pun intended:?:
  2. daniep
    Joined: Jun 2016
    Posts: 0
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Australia

    daniep New Member

    Here is the answer to your question about why I want to start this business.
    I have always been mesmerized by the water and being on it. Currently I am fortunate enough to live in a marina and get to look at the yachts every day. One day I was standing with my wife and she said she would be open to taking a year off and go sailing. I was really happy with this statement and started research. When looking at the prices to buy a cat that suits a family of 5, I was shocked. I won't be able to buy one of those awesome cats at the moment.
    This logically lead me to looking at building my own. During the time spent looking into this, I just knew that I need to build a boat. As more time progressed and the research got more involved. Looking at different designs, material, construction methods, equipment, specifications and standards; just got me going and it still hasn't gone away yet. My career started in the mining industry, mineral processing and now oil&gas. I have not found something that ignites my passion like this business idea. There is a belief in myself that gives me the confidence to tackle this and make it work. I am good with my hands, have good organizational skills and am used to working to strict laws and specifications.

    Many of you have given me so many warnings. These are noted and I am working through those to ensure I can address all of these should I choose to continue along this journey.

    There are also many great ideas worth considering and possibly incorporating. I believe I can bring value to the industry. The decision to be made is where this value will be. The idea of finding a gap or niche that can be carved out seems inviting and promising.

    Once again thanks to all of those taking the time to post on this thread.
  3. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 15,934
    Likes: 1,286, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Industrial processes, like the ones you are familiar with, started small and became larger. For example, mines were small holes in the ground and evolved into miles long tunnels. Build a small sailboat, say 20-22 feet, and it will give you an idea of what is involved. Most amateurs will take a few years to finish a boat that size. If you take it as a business investment, work at it full time and keep records of time and materials. Maybe you will see that there is a profit, or maybe that it makes no economic sense. However, unless you actually build something it is only theory. At least with a small boat you will not lose all the money you own in the venture.
  4. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 199, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    This is the antithesis of why to build boats. You start a boat building business and you'll never go near the water, you'll be in the shop. You start a boat building business and it will be years and probably decades before you'll ever be able to take a month off, much less a year.

    You also have 3 young kids?

    What boat building skills do you have? What tools, money and facilities?

    You can't do this on your own and partnerships notoriously don't work. If it's a legitimate business with accounting and taxes and stuff, check out how much unemployement, workers compensation and liability/injury insurance cost. Regulatory fees, rent, utilities etc. Forget liability insurance on the boats, if you can even find someone to sell it to you, it is astronomical. As are the fees lawyers will charge to defend you against any actual or imaginary claims. Your personal liability can last as long as the boat does, regardless of whether or not your enterprise was a success or if your company even still exists.
  5. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    it is not logical to want to build a boat to save money. You my friend suffer from a happy delusion, ignoring simple facts.

    Did you some how think that those very high and unaffordable prices were because the builders were getting fat rich off of their customers? There are really big profit margins hidden in those prices? That all of the personal experiance here on this forum, and other factual evidence, that almost all boat builders go broke, is some how separate from the cost of building a boat vs. the retail price? The reason they cost that much is because if they charge less, they go out of business (and many go out of business even when they do not charge less).

    It will not cost you less to build your own, you may save on labor (if your time is worth nothing). There have been a few that saved up the money, quit their jobs and took 4-5 years to build a boat, and than use if for a charter business. A few do okay with that, but most of them loose everything, including their families. Do not do it.

    So far you have not offered any reason that you have something different to offer than the existing boat builders. Is there some reason people will pay you more for your boats than the established builders?

    If your goal is to go sailing for a year or so, DO NOT START A BUSINESS, of any type. It will take you from your wife and children, and even if successful, you will not be able to take large amounts of time off to go sailing. I have started two businesses, the first one went disastrously bad, and caused a lot financial and worse, emotional damage. fortunately we did not have children yet, you do. It is a very dangerous thing you contemplate. My current buisness I have ran for 25 years, I have only been able to take a few weeks, at most, off at a time. It costs me income to not be at my business.

    One thing you can do is find a used and neglected, but sound, boat of the size you need, buy it and refurbish it. Take it on a few short, week or two trips, than once sorted out go sailing for a year. After you get back, than reconsider your desire to build boats for others. Hopefully it will pass.

    And BTW, there is no way to build or buy a boat large enough for 5 inexpensively. Buying a good used boat is far less costly, but still not inexpensive. You might get lucky and find a really distressed sale, minor damage, strange color, divorced or the owner is facing failing health and needs to sell quickly.

    There are those that have made money who have bought boats to resell, ones that were in decent shape and only needed comedic up grades and repairs. But that can go bad fast as well. But it takes much less investment in time and money to know if you can make a living reselling boats.

    Find a way to go sailing for a year without too much hardship, enjoy your children now as they grow. Once you have done that, and your children are a bit older and ready to go their own way, than consider the business idea. For now, get more experiance with boats.

    Build a sailing dingy large enough for four, you can get it done in 3 to 6 months. It will teach you a lot about boat building, and give you something to practice. Keep it simple and small enough to store in your back yard. Have fun with it, and keep your eyes open for the ocean going sailboat within your budget.

    It will be extremely rare for someone like you, with no experiance in the industry, to actually make a profit building a large, costly, low margin item like a sailboat. Ten times more likely it will wreck your life, your health, your marriage, and your family. Yes, it can happen to you. It has to me, and many on this forum.

    Love your wife and children, approach this in a way that will not bring harm to yourself or any of them. Find a way to work towards your dream of sailing away for a year that is realistic and practical. Put the boat building business on the back burner for now.
    1 person likes this.
  6. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
    Posts: 1,374
    Likes: 56, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 746
    Location: Vancouver

    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    I haven't noticed hours mentioned.

    About ten years ago I looked into building a 52" power cat,using the Duflex panels and I think it was around just under 8000 man hours.
    So one person it would be 10 hours a day-every day- for 2 years and 2 months.
    Kelsall's system could get it done a bit quicker I'd imagine.

    So I bought a nice used 5 year old 50' power boat for much less than the price of building,just in materials,renting a place,launching,engines,electrical etc etc.
    If I included my time as being valuable,it was a tiny fraction the price of building.

    So the rhetorical question is:what is your time worth?
  7. pdwiley
    Joined: Jun 2008
    Posts: 1,004
    Likes: 86, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 933
    Location: Hobart

    pdwiley Senior Member

    Build a dinghy and get it out of your system.

    If you think you can build a new boat big enough to go cruising with a family of 5 cheaper than you can buy one used, you are dreaming. It can't be done.

    I've been down this road..... my nice new boat should be launched before long, and it's been many years in the doing.

  8. brian eiland
    Joined: Jun 2002
    Posts: 4,965
    Likes: 188, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 1903
    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

    I would suggest you try to contact the fellows that were building this very excellent kit design boat in Australia, until the real downturn in the boating business worlwide. They could likely offer advice, and maybe some tooling they developed.

    Solitary Island 12m

    Wait a little bit and I will find some links on this forum to the vessel as I was in contact with them about a possible few mods.

    Here is a PDF doc I saved before they closed down their website

    Attached Files:

  9. brian eiland
    Joined: Jun 2002
    Posts: 4,965
    Likes: 188, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 1903
    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

    a few links

  10. brian eiland
    Joined: Jun 2002
    Posts: 4,965
    Likes: 188, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 1903
    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

    4 years ago...
  11. brian eiland
    Joined: Jun 2002
    Posts: 4,965
    Likes: 188, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 1903
    Location: St Augustine Fl, Thailand

    brian eiland Senior Member

    Smart flat panel building

    ...just ran across this...

  12. Skyak
    Joined: Jul 2012
    Posts: 1,405
    Likes: 114, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 152
    Location: United States

    Skyak Senior Member

    there is a guy on another thread that currently builds boats and is looking for new markets. I think you might have market knowledge to share with him and he may have build cost information that would be of interest to you.
  13. waikikin
    Joined: Jan 2006
    Posts: 2,424
    Likes: 172, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 871
    Location: Australia

    waikikin Senior Member

    I'd disagree with the offshore build approach especially at the start up stage, besides building and selling within your own territory is backing ones own country the offshore approach is absolutely fraught with another set of QC and management issues.
    As a start up the OP may be much better served by starting small & really learning the dynamics of vessel construction, there's opportunity just at the tender level to offer high end and functional vessels for his target market to prove the design skills etc..... this can become part of the "big cat" package down the track if they possess the mettle for this industry- at worst they'll end up with a sweet little boat. Another parallel approach would be in setting up as a specialist broker in the market.
    I could offer premises, tooling as others can.... currently some tooling and premises offered at low cost on gumtree...
  14. Skyak
    Joined: Jul 2012
    Posts: 1,405
    Likes: 114, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 152
    Location: United States

    Skyak Senior Member

    To be clear, there is no plan for offshore production. There is a suggestion that he talk to an experienced boat builder that likely has dramatically lower costs and is hungry. What I expect to result is a mutual realization of -"WOW! this will not be easy!" The OP knows capitalism and local demand, the guy on the other thread likely knows the worlds lowest production cost.

    The question to be answered -will your new business get crushed by foreign competition? I asked what the OP brought to the biz -he said labor, I want him to know what's out there.

    I think a specialized brokerage is a much better idea than production. What I had in mind is an outfit that surveys and lists a boat -not just as is, but rehabbed to new owner specs. The boat equivalent of house flippers, but the investment is not done until the new owner commits.

  15. Landlubber
    Joined: Jun 2007
    Posts: 2,640
    Likes: 124, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1802
    Location: Brisbane

    Landlubber Senior Member

    Daniep, Hey mate, I am a shipwright working around Manly Qld, I know personally a very good fella that may help you with your venture here. Send me a note on private for details if interested. Ta John
Similar Threads
  1. Hive_Zach
  2. wet feet
  3. comfisherman
  4. Squidly-Diddly
  5. Corley
  6. Wynand N
  7. Siddiq Khan
  8. doitmyself
  9. vinay_chari
  10. westkyle
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.