Discussion of market for small sailboats referencing Talman Menemsha 24 and Katama 25

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Stephen Ditmore, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    This classified appears in the current issue of Professional BoatBuilder Magazine:

    MOLDS FOR BUILDING THE MENEMSHA 24′ 2″, and Katama 24′ 8″ sailboats, designed by Robert Baker and built by Talman Yacht Company in Warren, RI in the 1960s–1980s. We have all the molds, which are still usable but need cleaning. Help save these molds of beautifully designed boats. They are free to someone or a business interested in building them.
    [I've omitted the contact info until I can determine whether the contact wants his phone & email on the internet. If you want to obtain the contact info and have trouble accessing Professional BoatBuilder you can private message me or email me from my website and I'll be happy to share it with you.]

    There's discussion of the Menemsha with photos here:
    http://www.byyb.org/forum/index.php?topic=1834.0

    There's been a good bit of interest in "spirit of tradition" boats lately, and I'm interested in starting a boat company in some form. So I wonder - is building these boats a winning business proposition? Who's the likely market, and how big do you suppose it is? Do these boats need to be updated in some way? Should the rigs be traditional or modern? Are they under 8'-6" beam, and is it important they be legally trailerable (w/o wide load permit)? Should there be multiple versions offered, or should they be built as one-designs? Should they be given teak or faux-teak decks? At what price point could they be competitive? Does anyone have photos of the Katama or know how Menemsha and Katama differ from each other? Is there a location with skilled boat builders where these could be built at low cost? Would use of epoxy resin and a full engineering review of laminate schedules be worthwhile? Who's the competition?

    Obviously I'm posting this knowing someone could beat me to making the decision to go forward and picking up the molds. Whoever ends up with these molds, I'm interested in exploring whether there's a role for me in developing and marketing these boats, and I hope you'll consider how we might partner to everyone's benefit.

    At the BYYB thread there's mention of bending plywood to a similar hull shape. Shapely conic development of plywood and other sheet materials, and unwrapping to accurate flat panels for stitch & glue (a.k.a tape-seam or "liquid joinery") or metal construction is something I'm very interested in as a designer. If you're interested in a plywood version of one of these designs or have your own ideas that could be realized in this way, I'm interested in hearing from you.

    More broadly, I'm looking to spur discussion of the small sailboat market. What are people looking for? Who are you and what are you looking for? If I were to put up a questionnaire, where should I post it and what should I be asking? Are people looking for retro or modern? Mono or multi? Cruising or racing?

    I'm posting this under sailboats because I'm more passionate about sailboats and other non-motorized craft than about powerboats. But if someone wants to start or direct attention to a related thread, including one that discusses the powerboat market and market research, please feel free.
     
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  2. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    Another company with a nice product and a nicely developed brand identity and marketing materials is Ninja (I reference specifically the Ninja Spider). They're offering their molds, and probably some contacts and marketing materials, for sale. The company is located in South Africa with partners in Europe.

    Clearly this is a very different boat from the Menemsha. Which is the better business proposition and why? What are the characteristics of the demographic for each?
     
  3. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    Don't do it!

    Stephen for Gods sake DON"T start a boat company now. I have no doubt you'll do an excellent job but the world economy and the US economy are on a precipice that could result in very serious economic distress for the US and world. And I'm not just talking about the so-called "fiscal" cliff.
    ----
    If you go forward make sure you get as much information as is availabe for your target market and do a much more comprehensive than "normal" business plan.
    ---
    Suggestion: pay him his hourly rate and talk to Eric Sponberg -he is not only a great designer but a very wise man who is in touch with the business side.
     
  4. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    Well the car industry came back, and I think some types of boats will, too. But there will be winners and losers. I wanted to do this 3 years ago; didn't because of the economy. But I can't win or lose if I'm not in the game, now can I?

    What I need to do is stop spending time on irrelevant stuff in these forums and focus my thinking.

    My thoughts on economic policy are in the "off topic" section of my website. I'm interested in other people's ideas, so if someone wants to propose a more appropriate place to have that discussion...

    If anyone out there is interested in saving a great Greek company in trouble: Shelman Plywood.
     
  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

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    Lovely classic, but reality must set in at some point. The sailboat market is less than 10% of the pleasure boat market. Classic designs likely in the 10% range of this, so ultimately presentation to 1% of the pleasure boat market isn't what I'd call an especially favorable nitch, particularly in the current economic environment.

    Agreed, Shelman (Hadjilucas) has offered some nice panels over the years. What's their problem, other then surviving the absolutely dismal economic situation over there. Personally, I don't see a way out for the country as a whole, let alone many of their companies. I think it's just a matter of time, which they've staved off in recent months with legislation, but I still think the inevitable will occur, unless Germany is willing to accept some inflation (print more money) for breathing room, which isn't their business model thus far.

    I disagree and think it's a good time to start up a business, but you have to have fairly deep pockets and you'd better be well organized and positioned within the market. It's a good time because everything is cheaper and easier to find. It's easier to find skilled labor, get deals on materials and setup vendors. Of course, you have to have the "depth" to survive long enough and the logical way is with a broad market base, which typically excludes sailboats. Simply put, a modernized redo of the classic picnic boat, maybe an "in the spirit of" type of thing, would have much broader appeal, then a high end 20% - 25% of the sailboat market multi hull or classic, couldn't plane to save it's butt, yet pretty thing.

    Stephen, this is where you hire folks and establish content for focus groups and research teams, so you can figure out what to aim at. You can do it alone or with some friends, but the learning curve is expensive.
     
  6. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    I agree that some form of market research is in order. Not sure the idea of a focus group is the right one, though, unless there's a way to pull from the niche demographic that buys sailboats, and a big part of the work is just figuring out what that is.

    A boat that's been a surprise success on a small scale is this odd little design, SCAMP. Who'da thunk? It's tough to take the guesswork out of this.

    I see you have some nice designs posted, PAR. Which have drawn the most interest? Thank you very much for your input. As I re-read your post I see you've already offered some valuable thoughts, and I appreciate it.
     
  7. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    A few ideas:

    1.) I think market targeting is better than market research. Proper placement of ads should do wonders. 'Small Craft Adviser' is a good magazine to advertise under 30 sailboats. Be mindful of draft requirements, if there are any and market only in regions where the boat can sail successfully and be kept for a reasonable cost

    2.) Offer hull and deck kits, so those who can't quite afford the completed boat can be in the game. SCAMP is was first offered as just plans, then a kit. And now there is talk of putting them into production.

    3.) Don't expect to sell a lot of them. At least not right away. This means very small production crew (you and you) and the lowest cost production facilities you can get.

    4.) Try to find boat lovers as investors, so you can avoid debt as much as possible.

    5.) Ask yourself if you would like one of these boats for yourself. You will be dedicating a large portion of your life to them, so they better be something you really believe in.

    6.) Offer a day sailing version and a cruising version to double your odds.
     
  8. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    Perhaps market them in another region other than the EAST COAST.

    Perhaps a market other than the US.
     
  9. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    I'm seeing this as a bit of an American type, but I could be wrong. Over here "Euro" styling is synonymous with architectural/contemporary. What're things like over there in Spain, Michael? A number of top designers are there, and the Valencia America's Cup gave an impression of affluence. Now I hear real estate in Spain is available at bargain prices, and unemployment is sky-high. Do you think the Med will continue to be a major market for boats? Does it make any sense to export from the US to Europe? It seems like a lot of boat building for that market is in Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Abu Dhabi these days.

    I may sour on the idea of building Menemshas myself if the beam is more than the trailerable maximum (sans wide load permit) of 8'-6". I'm trying to obtain that number now. Is that number, or a different one, a factor in other countries?

    If I'm not going to build Menemshas, other thoughts on what the market is looking for? Will hydrofoiling America's Cup catamarans change the market? What about developments in shorthanded offshore racing in light of the attention it gets in France? Is interest in traditional boats limited to older folk? Do those interested in traditional designs want wood or fiberglass?
     
  10. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

    The peak of new pleasure boat production in the US was in 1988, it has declined every year since then. In 2011 there were 4300 new sailboats over 20' built in the US, under 20' was another 2000 boats.......tiny market.

    The scamp is successful (numbers?) as plans or kit parts sold. If it was marketed as a complete boat at $15k do you really think there would be any interest?

    The recent start-up sales success in small sailboats that I think of is the Flying Tiger built in China. First they built a community clamoring for the product, by using an on-line forum. Then they introduced at an unsustainable lost leader price (initial sales via deposit increases confidence). They eventually delivered about 100-120 boats, most at a lot higher cost than the original buy-in....then the builder went bankrupt.....

    A small multi-hull is one of the few places where something doesn't already exist....because of rapid development. Kits, where all labour is done by the CNC machine, are easily duplicated. Experienced people will buy performance, the inexperienced will buy sexy and modern.
     
  11. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

  12. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    The western Mediterranean is not well suited to small sailing boats. If I went sailing today as soon as I cleared the harbour I would be in 2 meter waves....then the wind would die.

    Powerboats that can take advantage of a windless days are very poplular.

    Sailors who might appreciate a classic daysailor live in Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland...the baltic sea....lakes and sail in protected waters like the Ijsselmeer.

    As a Boatbuilding business plan a good place tobe is ultra high quality small boats. As yacht owners mature into yachts , they first purchase the 30 footer, then the custom 40 footer, then the custom 100 footer built by Huisman. When they get tired of it all they downsize into something exclusive, stored on a trailor under a shed , something spontaneous to take the grandchildren out for the day.

    I just had a client sell his 30 meter, SailBoat of the Year, and purchase a custom built Hinckly style 30ft picnic boat. One million euros .

    Good place to be.
     
  13. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    Thanks Tad and Michael. That doesn't leave me rushing to take delivery of these molds (I do have some other ideas I want to pursue). But if Tad's right about the beam I don't consider the idea completely off the table. To be frank I think it would take someone who sees this thread being enthusiastic about the boat and contacting me.

    Do you think trailer-sailors in general are going out of style in favor of small, car-top-able boats?
    Do you think a high-end buyer who's trading down is interested in combining sail and power (some form of motorsailer) or interested in paddle sports or rowing?
    What sort of vehicle does a wealthy European use to tow a 30' trailerable?
    Is a high-end buyer who's trading down is inclined to go multihull?
     
  14. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    I just spoke with builder Peter Chase: http://www.caperosierboatshop.com/. The molds are there in Harborside, Maine, near Blue Hill. It's one set of 3 molds; "Katama" is "Menemsha" with more bow overhang. The molds were modified, so they are now "Katama" molds. The trunk cabin mold is male, so the gelcoat is on the interior of finished trunk cabins. Peter confirms the beam of the boat is 8'-0", and suggests building a bright-finished cold molded boat from the molds should be possible.

    Peter is now building small wood dinghies - no more fiberglass. He'll have to destroy the "Katama" molds if someone does not claim them pretty soon. If you're a nautical historian who wants to take the lines and preserve the design you should contact Peter (though perhaps plans have been preserved and can be had at the link supplied by Tad).
     

  15. tunnels

    tunnels Previous Member

    Live for now and dont dwell in the past !!

    This is why the boating industry world wide never progresses ! PEOPLE KEEP RECYCLING old moulds !!!! they need to be chopped up and dispossed of .all mould should have a limited life span and thats it .
    It makes way for newer better boats . Yes i know it takes a lot of work to make and develop moulds but get rid of as in chopping them to little pieces and dump them . Learn from the older designs and look after the older boats dream and fall out of bed but this is 2012 and 2013 is just around the corner :eek::mad::(.
     
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