To Build or Have Built ...

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by Tzuriel, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. Tzuriel
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    Tzuriel Junior Member

    ... is basically my question.

    Hey all,

    Sorry to have to post a question like this in a forum of real boat builders but ... I've been wanting to build a steel radius chine Bruce Roberts Voyager 542 for a while now and almost did 8 years ago (the 532 back then) but the "professionals" keep talking me out of it because of the huge failure rate of these projects. 8 years later I find that I still have to do it, but I'm running into the same problem. I don't take the advice of those with experience lightly. I continue to regret not having gone forward with it.

    If I were to build it, is there really that much of a difference in the quality of the boat as opposed to having someone else build the hull for me. I'm a software developer, but I've always been able to catch on quickly to new skills in the garage. I took some welding classes when I almost built it a while back and did OK, but I'm wondering, let's say I turn out to be an excellent welder ... as I see it, it's all in the learning and research of the next step and attention to detail, right? I do projects all the time at work that I've never done before that I've committed to and are way over my head and in the end, work out fine (I know, it's not a boat!). Now, having said that, will there still be a huge difference in quality to what a small shipyard could do after years of experience.

    This question is killing me!!! The quality is very important to me.
  2. Gilbert
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    Gilbert Senior Member

    Amatuer builders can do as good work as professionals and in some cases better. I am not trying to criticize the pros. The amatuer does not have to worry about the number of hours he puts in unless he actually wants to finish the project and use it. He can work on it til it satisfies whatever standard he desires. Your skills do have to be on a par in order for this to be true.
    Is this a 54 foot boat you are talking about? If so it could take you most of 8 years if you work on it full time. You could probably build a 30 footer in a year or so and a 40 footer in three years. Give it some thought.
  3. Crag Cay
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    Crag Cay Senior Member

    This is the nub of the issue. Do you want a sailing boat, or do you want a project to while away your remaining years on this planet?

    A 52 foot boat is huge - in fact for both the building time and cost, it is more than twice as big as a 40 footer. The above times are pretty accurate, although I reckon more like 1-2 years for a 30ft, 3-4 for a 40ft and 8 plus for a 53ft. And this is full time work for a guy doing it for the first time, having to work things out as you go, and not having as as much tooling as a decent yard.

    So if you actually want a boat, then you need to look at where you get the best progress for your money. I think if you get all the steel work done professionally, including all cutouts for ports and thru-hulls, all stainless rails and fitting, everywhere blasted and epoxy primed, engine sat on its beds, and the hull 'dried in' by fitting temporary covers to all the openings, you are then ready for all the labour intensive (expensive!) work from then on. I even think it's worth having the professional yard fit the rough 'sub sole' (floor) inside so you have a flat level surface to start working on and from.

    After that you may still want to get sub contractors in for various jobs. The local zoo might even lend you some monkeys to help with the fairing.

    There are loads of yards that can do this stage of the construction for you, so your control over quality is in choosing the right yard, having a completely thought through set of quality plans, and agreeing with your builder what your 'quality criteria' are before hand. Lots of metal yards are run by guys with a flair for metal, but who get completely 'lost' when it comes to fitting out.

    There will be guys along to tell you they built 80ft full keel schooners in under a year of only weekends while studying for a law degree and raising four kids singlehandedly. But I could show you ten times that where the back of the uncompleted hull is seriously rotting away before the front is even built.
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    A boat is simply a big pile of man hours. The question is weather its better to work at what you're good at really hard , and hire help.

    A method would be to have the hull parts ALL pre cut , assemble the strong back and then just hire 4 welders. By working on both sides at the same time , longer welds can be made with out distortion.

    An interior should be first roughed in 1/4 ply and CRUISED for a year to find all the flaws.

    Then its time for a vacation in a low cost (Central America) spot to replace the interior with fine stuff.

    Do you're own wiring (aircraft or sub techniques) and plumbing.

    Its still 10,000 hours of work +++ but at least not all your work.

    Forget yards with their 40% markup for "overhead" IF you have a place to build for a few years.

    Materials 30% , Labor 40%, Overhead 40% , is the usual breakdown.

  5. Wynand N
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder

    I beg to differ from Fred on his breakdown of costs. When I was still building steel boats for a living, I could hardly afforded luxuries:confused:

    On a bare hull, deck and bulkhead, gross profit was about 38% and from this you still had to pay the so called overheads, and the nett before taxes about 22%.
    On a sail-a-way version my markup (handling fees) on taxed invoices for materials, equipment etc was 15% over and above the bare hull & deck price, and the owner had access to these figures. Labour for fitting out was charged on a cost plus 25% and this had to take care of the overheads as well.
    Clearly not a business at the time to get rich with, and some guys were even cheaper to get a slice of the cake.

    As for time to build a 54 footer - we use to put together a Dix 57ft hull and deck (radius chined) in about 9 working weeks - shot blasted and epoxy prime coated.
  6. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Hello Wynand

    How many man hours in that 9 weeks? I'm just curious.

  7. Tzuriel
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    Tzuriel Junior Member

    I'm curious as well about the Dix 57 which I was looking into, but thought it too big and expensive. Though it is very sleek looking. That's my only gripe about the 542, it has a lot of freeboard. I'm hoping to offset the aesthetics of a high freeboard somehow when I get to planning the superstructure.

    Anyways, the plans from the designer for the BR542 say 1 person + helper in 750 hours for the 54'. I'm trying to set a goal of 1 year for one person to finish out the shell. Just 20 hours a week on weekends is 1040 hours and I can put in many more during the week so I hope about 1200 hours is reasonable.
  8. Wynand N
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder


    Usually per boat built I allocated 1 x boilermaker with an apprentice, 3 x workers and a welder. Sometimes I would gave a helping hand if their were problems which were rare using old Dudley's plans.
    We worked a 9 hours day week, Monday to Friday and one Saturday per month - you do the calculation.

    I attach some photo's of the Dix57 - one where we turned the hull, and one after she was moved out of the way with deck installed.

    BTW, the Dix 65 took us three months to the same state of completion.

    Attached Files:

  9. Wynand N
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder


    Typical Bruce Roberts marketing ploy and perhaps the very reason so many of his boats get abandoned during the construction stage.....:eek:

    Bear in mind that we spent about 2800 full time man hours on the D57. The boilermaker and myself qualified and experienced boilermakers, even the apprentice quite capable. We have had all the facilities at hand, lofting tables for framing, plate rolls, guillotine, yard crane etc and used Mig CO2 welding process which is many times faster than normal arc welding, done by a qualified welder.

    Sorry to be a prophet of doom, but your estimate is way off for an owner builder, even thought the boat is only a 54ft.
  10. Tzuriel
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    Tzuriel Junior Member

    Thanks for your replies.

    Let me mention, the 1200 hours that I put down was assuming the materials were pre-cut and pre-rolled. Off the top of my head, I don't recall if the 750 BR has listed is w/ pre-cut or not. I'll look at that again. I was planning on buying the cutting files and taking them to a supplier.

    So knowing this, does 1200 still down unrealistic?
  11. yago
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    yago __

    Tzuriel, if want to know the number of hours to see if you can do in a given time, forget it.

    An amateurs build is counted in YEARS anyway, and whatever the number of hours you will put in, project time depends on many other things that do not enter into the calculation of the hours.

    To begin with, unlike a professional builder, your project lives next to your life which comes first and which has to support your building prokject if you want to finish it at all. A professional has one priority, that is to build boats, and all the rest takes second place. An amateur has to maintain his job and careeer, his family, his social network first, and any disturbacy in his lafe will set the boat back.

    Then the organization, preparing, shopping, setting up, organizing of cranes, blasters , waiting for deliveries etc... This takes almost as much of your project time as the actual manual labour, you dont count these hours, but they still are not available for building time. Hell, you are already investing several weeks here just THINKING about it ;)

    Wynand's numbers of hours are realistic, and as a lone amateur without experience you will not be able to beat that, on the contrary. And thats just for the shell - after that it gets much, much slower...

    If you want to have a rough idea, here is my calculation:
    start with a base time of say 3 years for a 35 footer and 6 years for a 50 footer.

    Then look at yourself , your sitúation and your own experience with other projects. If you have proven yourself that you are a fast efficient worker on large projects, for example if you have re-built a house in half the time it took your friend, if you have shelter and a equipment, a permanent help, suppliers nearby and all the cash easily when you need it, and if you can invest 60 hours a week month after month without interruption into organizing, shopping and building you can deduct 30 % of the time.

    If you dont have any of these, add at least 60 %.

    My advice: don't build as big as you tink you can squeeze into a given timeframe (it won't fit anyway) but build as small as you absolutely need for your cruising project. The difference will give you years of sailing more, and entirely for free including a nice restaurant dinner in every harbour you touch, just from the difference in cash and building time ;)
  12. Gilbert
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    Gilbert Senior Member

    Just want to add here that I don't think anyone here is telling you not to build a boat for yourself.
    I do think we are suggesting you reconsider how large your boat needs to be and think about scaling back to suit your actual requirements. It could mean the difference between the boat project being a very enjoyable experience and one that seems more like a trial than fun.
    I will mention that there is a Bruce Roberts steel ketch locally here that is about 55'. It has not gone anywhere in several years. I have not asked the owner why, but I think he has lost interest in using the boat.
  13. Tzuriel
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    Tzuriel Junior Member

    Well, I thought yago's reply was well put. I know 54' is a big boat for one to build single-handed, but for the 50's that I've seen in the water, that's when they don't seem all that big and the interior layout of this boat suits me perfectly for a live-aboard and I have very close friends that would really enjoy the idea.

    The only reason I'm looking to build one myself is because I can do something I really think I will enjoy and I know I can do it right, but I don't want to take 8 years. I will know I can confirm the quality of construction with my own eyes. I've always seen when you have someone else do something for you, they're only main concern is that it gets done on time so they can get paid. Shortcuts are very attractive in doing something that won't show up in a project for many years later. I've looked at used boats, and the majority look like they were home-built, even ones I've seen from ship yards, no rounded corners on the superstructure, boxy, this should have been done better during building, etc... (even if they are following the designers and customers ideas, there are some things that just scream amateur).

    I think beauty is all in the details.

    If I knew I could "finish" it in 5 years max, then it's a no brainer for me. I'm just trying to get a reality check here. I'm not married and don't have a lot of the tie-downs other people have. Just finishing the shell would be a major confidence builder in a reasonable amount of time.
  14. Man Overboard
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    Man Overboard Tom Fugate


    I second Yago’s comments. I certainly understand the desire to want to build a quality boat. Years ago I set out to build my own home; a large timber frame home. I figured it would take three years to complete. I did all the work myself. Dug the basement, laid the foundation, pounded every nail. I spent much time on the interior, making it just right. Hardwood floors, beautiful built in cabinets, granite counter tops, tile roof; it all takes a lot of TIME! The beam work alone took me an entire year. Granted, it is just exquisite, but a professional would have had the beams cut and set in about 2 months, with the house completed in less than a year. It took me 10 years to get it done, for all of the same reasons that Yago has suggested. I would strongly suggest listening to the professionals as to how much time to alot as an amateur builder. I think their estimates are very accurate. As a frame of reference, I have a friend who is just completing his boat; a 55 foot fiberglass sail boat (15 foot beam). He bought a bare hull, other than that he has done all the work himself; good quality work, it looks real nice. It has taken him 15 years. He is now 70. I am certainly not trying to discourage you. Nevertheless, don’t let the emotional fervor of perusing a dream blind you to the cost of pursuit.
    I am in the process of planning a 60 footer. A couple of things I have learned from past long term projects: First, start with more money; SAVE. You may say ‘that’s hard to do’ maybe so, however building a boat is harder. Second hire as much help as possible. There are plenty of mundane tasks that can be turned over to someone else in the interest of completing the job sooner. Third, ascertain whether or not you really like long term complicated building projects. I for one, love the challenge. You need to love the project as much as the boat, or the dream will become nothing more than an illusion.

  15. longliner45
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    longliner45 Senior Member

    I know a guy here in ohio who has started a steel hull ,,dont know what kind but it is a north west pacific type hull ,,looks like my spencer but 2 times larger about 52 ft, if you were interested I could contact him . the hull is complete and would have to be moved ,,,so many guys have dreams ,,then run out of gas,sad on the other hand some of us fight tooth and nail to finish,,maybe thats the way to go ,,most of the hard work done and all..longliner
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