If I were a boatbuilder

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by rayaldridge, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. rayaldridge
    Joined: Jun 2006
    Posts: 581
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    Location: USA

    rayaldridge Senior Member

    Just a quick note to let you know that I've published a new piece on Slider's blog. It's mainly just a speculation on what kind of simple wooden boat a person might be able to build at a small profit, given the current realities of the market.

    I'm definitely not planning to open a boat shop, but I'm considering such a boat for my next design project. Apparently, designing boats is approximately as addictive as crack, but has the advantage that it's not against the law yet. Anyway, I think it will be a small cartoppable catamaran, with an emphasis on traditional beauty. I know, I know-- I swore I'd never open another can of varnish... but times change.

    I'm setting off on a short singlehanded cruise tomorrow afternoon, so I won't be around to defend the idea for a few days... but the time alone may give me a chance to come to my senses. Or not.


  2. daiquiri
    Joined: May 2004
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    Location: Italy (Garda Lake) and Croatia (Istria)

    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    Nice post at that site. :)

    Yeah, it's a hard world and hard times for people who want to make their living with boatbuilding.
    You can't go for fiberglass because you just can't beat the quality/price ratio of modern industrial boatbuilders. It is valid for sailboats as much as it is for powerboats.

    You can go for wood but it has to be special project, IMHO... I don't think the market today really wants cheap, simple, stitch-and-glue boxes. If someone wants that, he will certainly not ask you to build it for him. He will probably buy the plans from one of many web sites dealing with that stuff and will build it on his/her own.
    I think that the only real niche that can give you the possibility to survive today on such a small-scale boatbuilding is the one of high-quality (maybe even luxury) boats.
    Like you said, it has to look great and also to feel great under your fingers when you touch it. Apart from seaworthiness considerations, which are obvious.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the economy is being taken to the extremes and the resulting social hierarchy has extremized too.
    The so called middle class, which is the one that many years ago could afford medium-small boats you are talking about in your article, is dangerously shrinking. What keeps growing is the low-income class and the wealthy (up to incredibly wealthy) class. The first one is out of boatbuilding business considerations (because they have other things to think about than sailing around), and the second one doesn't want anything else but the excellence. Here in Italy the majority of boatbuilders have started the (at least) 16+ meters (52+ ft) production lines, because that is what is requested by the market. Those who still haven't, will do it. The 12 m (39 ft) models are becoming the entry-level.

    And the lack of young people that you have noticed today's in boating world is IMHO directly related to the above economic considerations. They are most hardly hit by economy based on high mobility, low wages and general economic uncertainity. So you'll have to get used to grey beards on board, I guess... ;)
  3. Brent Swain
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Location: British Columbia

    Brent Swain Member

    I do OK designing and building for owners in their own backyard using origami steel construction. The trick is living aboard your own boat and thus drastically reducing the amount of money you need to make. When not working, stay out of town, where the livin is easy.

  4. daiquiri
    Joined: May 2004
    Posts: 5,373
    Likes: 252, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 3380
    Location: Italy (Garda Lake) and Croatia (Istria)

    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    I saw your work Brent, and was amazed by the complexity of forms that can be created easily with origami construction method.

    But I guess that you live aboard your own boat because you like it and feel better doing so, not because you need to use... tricks, right? ;)
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