construction plan opinions needed for my proposed boat project

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by blsmith29651, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. blsmith29651
    Joined: Oct 2013
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    blsmith29651 Junior Member

    Hello everyone, my name is Larry. I'm 60 years old, recently retired and I want to build a sail boat to enjoy with my first grandson who will turn one in January of 2014. While this will be my first boat, I am not new to building things. Probably the most similar type of build is my current hotrod. It is built on a modified 1967 VW pan with a power conversion to a Harley Davidson engine. I could not find a body I liked, so I built my own. It is fiberglass over rigid foam, kind of like a surfboard. I used 3 layers of 1.5 oz. matt to encapsulate the foam board using polyester resin. I have done all the fabrication. I am pretty sure this is similar to the process of building a boat. While I don't consider myself an expert, I think I have worked with fiberglass enough to take on a boat project. Now on to the boat.

    I originally thought the construction would cost between $3000 - $4000, but after looking at some of the Glen-L projects I'm thinking it may cost twice that. I don't want to say money is no object, but the project will be spread over several years so I should be able to afford it. I am hoping to have the boat functional by the time my grandson is 5 years old, so that gives me just over four years for the project. I have an excellent shop and plenty of space for the construction. My main concern is that I have a rare muscle disease that impacts the amount of time I can work. The progress of the disease is unpredictable, but I have two grown sons nearby who can help me when needed. Now, the all important details.

    I want to build a miniature tall ship. I realize, you probably just thought, "Oh, great, another one of those guys," but I am serious and if the consensus here is that I can do this & afford it, then I will build it. One of my other hobbies is writing, so I intend to write a book as I go along for my grandson, but also for anyone who might be interested one day. I can do the writing when my muscles won't let me work on the project.
    I would like the boat to accommodate 2-3 adults & 2-3 children say between the ages of 5-10. I believe the appropriate size boat would be in the 14'-16' length. Oh, and the lake I live on has an 18' max length limit so I cannot go over that.
    I am considering building the boat like my hotrod, with fiberglass over some type of foam. With the hotrod, I made a basic wooden skeleton then filled in the open areas with foam and filed & sanded to shape. Once shaped, I covered it with fiberglass. For the boat, I would be interested to know which is better, epoxy or polyester. I used 1.5 oz. matt for the hotrod and I know you can't use matt with epoxy because of the binding agent used in the matt. So, I would like to know what material, how many layers and either epoxy or polyester?
    The boat plans get a little tricky. I have a great set of wooden model plans, but I don't know if they count as a functional set of plans. To add to that, it looks like when scaling the boat, at 16' length the boat would be just a touch over 3' wide. I would like to make it wider for stability. I can alter the plans, but have no idea what that would do to the characteristics of the boat. I'm not looking for a sleek, fast, efficient sail boat, as I understand it, a square rigger can be none of those, but I would like it to be stable for safety's sake. I have read here that using an existing boat is cheaper and I'm all for that, but I can't really find anything that closely resembles an old square rigger that is wider in the front and narrow at the back, kind of like a rain drop. Any boat suggestions would be welcome, or if I should get a boat designer suggestions/recommendations would also be welcome. The few I have tried to contact never return my calls or email. Also, is that expensive?
    Last, but not least I guess is I plan on auxiliary propulsion in the form of an electric motor. I think probably one of the fishing boat trolling motors would work, but there are other options as well. I think if I could get this boat to the point where I could just putt, putt around the lake with the electric I would consider it a success. Actual sails would be a bonus.

    To sum it up, what do you all think? Is this a doable project? Is 4 years a reasonable amount of time for construction? How about the cost, $3000 - $8000 reasonable? Design architect, good idea, estimated cost for a project like this? I really appreciate your input in helping me make a decision about this project.
  2. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    alan white Senior Member

    To downsize a ship requires some design changes. When things get smaller they have more skin friction vs volume due to the physics of scaling. It means you would have to change both the rig and the hull shape to end up with a boat that actually functions properly.
    Therefore, an accurate design is out of the question and you will need to widen the hull, flatten its bottom, and increase the height of the rig enough to end up with enough sail area.
    Because the boat is small, crew weight placement during sailing helps tremendously in providing stability also. This means you wouldn't want to go much bigger thsan you suggested as a bigger boat won't respond as well to crew placement.
    The hull and rig probably could be copied or salvaged from an existing design that can be made to look like a tall ship as much as possible and the rig would have to be positioned to allow for the crew's head height and simplified quite a bit.
    Frankly, it's not an easy project to design compared to similar normal boats. It's far easier to build a scaled-down version of a non-sailing ship. The sails add a huge challenge if the boat's to appear anywhere near accurate in appearance. A powered "small ship" would look pretty real if wider in comparison.
  3. bpw
    Joined: May 2012
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    bpw Senior Member

    While a "pirate" ship might be kinda neat for a couple days, I bet you will get a lot more enjoyment out of a proper boat that will sail well.

    Have you considered building something like one of the classic herroshoff day-sailors, beautiful, fun to sail, and forgiving for youngsters when the grand kids get old enough to take it out on there own. A boat that may be kept for the grand kids of your grand kids.
    1 person likes this.
  4. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    BPW is right. A "tall ship" would be fun for a few days. At the end of the first few days of euphoria, reality is sure to set in. You will discover that square riggers are not versatile sailing boats. Sure Columbus and Magellan managed with them but their voyages took them only where the prevailing winds would allow.

    In all of this you are making the noble but flawed grandfatherly assumption that the little guy will have some interest in a sail boat. He is more likely to be interested in World Of Warcraft or some other electronic gaming thing. I do hope that he will take up sailing, with a passion. Don't bet on it.

    If you delve into the Phil Bolger designs, you can find a small "Pirate" boat that is an easy build, it will sail decently while looking quite salty. It is not a square rigger. WIthout the easily removeable sail, it will make a good fishing or picnic boat. Thus it will have value beyond the fantasy of pirate plundering.
  5. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

  6. Skyak
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Skyak Senior Member

    Welcome BLSMITH,

    It is certainly possible to build a replica sailboat under 18ft for under $8000 in less than four years... it is also quite possible to blunder past those limits and have the whole experience be regrettable. My most similar experience was in restoring a cold molded mahogany sailboat with my father for the purpose of sailing with him and my nieces and nephew which cause me to give the following recommendations.

    1 Work in a medium you enjoy because there will be far more hours in the build than in sailing. Personally I don't like polyester, epoxy is not fun but very useful, and wood I find challenging and enjoyable. Spending any effort to make a classic wooden ship replica in fiberglass and foam seams bogus and miserable to me. A polyester and styrofoam fiberglass shop will be toxic and itchy -not the kind of place for generational bonding like a wood shop would be. Do you think grandma will put up with 4 years of polystyrene stink and fiberglass shards?

    2 Be honest with yourself about the function of the craft. What will the crew really be? Will three adults and three children want to go out in this boat often? It sounds more like a parade float -used for an hour each year.

    These days I won't make anything that can not be quickly and easily rigged, launched, and sailed by one because that is most often the case -then others join me. If you are building a tall ship replica just for your grandchild, consider that, like clothing, they will quickly out grow it. By the time they reach 12 they don't want to be see in some baby thing. The boat you describe seams to have 'looks like' as it's primary function -is it really what the projected crew want's to be seen in? And honestly, who is looking at you out in the water? Does the model you have in mind scale to the size you need? Or does the rigging interfere with oversize crew?

    Personally, I would favor making something classically functional and authentic that the next generation would look forward to using on their own. Like an heirloom being passed down.

    3 The faster the build, the less the chance of failure.
  7. blsmith29651
    Joined: Oct 2013
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    blsmith29651 Junior Member

    The "too big" one is excellent! I want to thank you all for your comments and suggestions. As to my wife dealing with the fiberglass shop, my current hotrod will reach the 6th year of construction this December so she is used to it although, she does complain. I love the idea about the shop time bonding, but I will be unable to do much in the shop long before my grandkids will be interested. That I will have to leave to my boys. In that regard, is sailing very difficult physically? I hadn't really thought about the fact I might not be able to do it. Keep the ideas coming, I really appreciate your insight.
  8. dskira

    dskira Previous Member

    Could you post a picture of your Hot Rod, I will love to see it.
  9. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Petros Senior Member

    sounds like a fun project, you should be able to complete it faster than 4 years I would expect, even with limited work sessions.

    I highly suggest two things:

    1. go with wood, it costs less, much more pleasent to work with and will look appropriate for your intended goal. You can completely encase it in fiberglass/epoxy to protect the wood work, and put a clear finish on it.

    2. find a design of the size and shape you like with a traditional gaff rig sloop or even a yawl, buy the plans and build the hull and sail plan as specified. Use the synthetic sails and rigging designed to look like hemp and cotton. Decorate and trim out the above waterline parts of the boat to look like your pirate ship, just watch out for weight build-up. Than you will have a boat that sails nice, is low maintenance, looks great, but will behave like a modern sailboat rather than a clumsy and slow square rigger than will be difficult to manage and will not allow you to tack up wind.

    good luck. keep us posted.
  10. blsmith29651
    Joined: Oct 2013
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    blsmith29651 Junior Member

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  11. blsmith29651
    Joined: Oct 2013
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    blsmith29651 Junior Member

    Interesting about wood being less expensive, I was going under the assumption it would be more and that it would also require more upkeep. I also kind of thought it would be more difficult to build. As far as the look goes, I was figuring I would use wood veneer to get that old, wooden look. I even saw a post here about veneering fiberglass.
  12. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I see you retained the beams up front, so how did you handle the shocks? Is that Evo bolted to a swing axle?
  13. dskira

    dskira Previous Member

    Very cool, nice shape, thank you
  14. rwatson
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    rwatson Senior Member

    Well, $8000 OR an NA - take your pick !

    Most qualified NA's would consider $4000 a minimum to do a boat plan this size, especially on a boat with unusual configuration.

  15. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Your best course of action is to find a set of plans with roughly the dimensions you'd like (your SOR suggests you'll need a bigger boat) and have a custom sail plan and topside designed for it.

    As mentioned, you'll need to just forget about a square rigged little ship, if you expect easy launching, recovery and operation. You might be able to fly a "captain's hanky" on the right design, which will some what offer the look. You'll need every inch of a fat 16' boat to carry 3 adults and 3 kids, particularly if cluttered up with multiple masts and a square course.

    You also would be cheaper and faster to "doctor up" an existing sailboat, to look like what you want. Slapping on a forecastle and poop and installing a ketch or schooner rig, would make a salty little craft. Of course you'll need a sympathetic designer to work with you, especially on your budget.
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