To buy plans, or to design..

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by MantaRay, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. MantaRay
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    MantaRay Junior Member

    I am very new to boat design/building and I am planning on building my own boat (thinking 44' disp motor yacht) when I have the funds to do so. To use plans was the plan all along but I am restricted to the boat within the plans. I would like the versatility to design my own boat. Designing my own may cost me more time, money and effort but I will gain more knowledge, versatility and pride. Of course a first-timer builder should follow plans but I am wondering, has anyone built their own first boat from their own design?

    If there is a handful of builders who build their first yacht (again, thinking around 40' power) what did it take and what advice would you give?

    I will likely use plans but there is always that desire to get studying, learning to design my own from scratch.
  2. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    The first boat of any series is always a sort of unknown. Once you start using it, you will find a number of issues and things to correct, or the ones you wish you had done completely differently, but then it will be too late...
    If those turn out to be minor things which can be sorted out during the first dry-docking for maintenance, then you'll have had a cheap lesson. If you discover that you have a critical structural weakness, or a stability problem when underway or in following seas, then it can be a very costly lesson.

    A good designer of stock plans will have fixed many of these problems over the time, based on clients' feedback, so he can save you a lots of headaches, or perhaps heartaches. Yes, you will not be able to say "yeah, I designed it" but, believe me, the fact that YOU have built it (even if based on another person's design) will gain you enough admiration around for the next 10 years. ;) Building a boat is much, much, much, much tougher task then designing it.

    So, at the end and imo, it all depends on how deep is your pocket and how much money you're willing to risk. ;)

  3. John Perry
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    John Perry Senior Member

    I designed the first boat I built, launched in 1978, but it was a very much smaller boat than you are considering. It worked out really well and we are still sailing that same boat. We spent about 3 months living on board last summer and we are now thinking about where we might sail this summer. When I designed the boat I had little knowledge of sailing but I had recently completed a degree course in mechanical engineering which helped. The maths involved in such things as calculating the bouyancy of a boat is trivial compared to some of the maths one has to understand for an engineering degree. If you dont have a technical background you would probably need to do a bit of reading, but that should not discourage you, boat designing is partly engineering and partly an artform .

    I dont see why building to your own design should take longer than building to someone elses. I found the opposite since when it came to the building I didnt need to spend time interpreting drawings, I already had a very clear idea in my head as to how it was to fit together. Also no reason it should cost more if its your own design, but it will cost a lot either way! If saving money is your concern you should buy a second hand boat, these days good ones are available for much less than the cost of the materials to build one.

    44 foot is a huge project for a home build, regardless of whether it is designed by you or by someone else. Home building a boat of that size, power or sail, can take a big chunk of someones life, and quite a few such projects never get finished. There are exceptions though, a few people seem to be exceptionally productive. There was an 80 foot traditional wooden boat built near where I live last year, start to finish in 12 months. Not a one person project, there were several people involved, but amazing even so.

    Building space is a limiting factor for many home builders. You need a lot of space, preferably indoors, for a 44 foot boat. If you have to rent that space for the duration of a protracted project it will add a lot to your costs.

    Good luck anyway, I think there is a satisfaction to be gained from both designing and making something.
  4. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    Self-designed boat usually has no resale value...
  5. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I am educated as an engineer, and have a professional license, but have never done boat design professionally (only structural details). I have built some 19 or so small boats, most of my own design (usually altering or borrowing from existing designs). These were all small and inexpensive to build kayaks or sailing dingys, many of my experiments have turned out to be a mistake that I learned from and made changes on the next one. but I like the building and experimenting as much as I like using them.

    I have over 30 years experience as an engineer in various industries, I have a large library of both marine engineering and Yacht design books, and over 40 years of building small boats. If I was to consider what you are doing, I would not design my own boat, it is far too large a task and far too risky cost wise, even for someone like me.

    though it sounds like you are like me, and get a lot of satisfaction from doing your own design. This is what I would do, and what I would recommend for you: work up a detailed list of what you want in your motor yacht, with perhaps some overall layout drawings, and find a local navel architect with a good reputation that is willing to work with you on developing your concept. He or she should have the knowledge and experience to stop you from making any big mistakes, let him/her do their job of designing the hull, the details and the design from your input. You will be money ahead and get something that will perform well and likely have a good resale value, and will save you from some very costly mistakes.

    It will put you on the water faster as well, and very likely at much less cost, and it will also be an asset. That is money in the bank, and you will learn a lot from an expert along the way.
  6. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Designing ones own 44 footer is a fools errand. As Petros has so wisely advised, you will be time, money, and ultimate satisfaction ahead by working with a professional NA.

    If you have an unconquerable urge to design and build your own boat, then by all means build a sailing dinghy, 14 feet or so. That will give you some valuable experience with the design, build, and usefulness of the the finished product. After that, consult with a reputable pro for the design of the big boat.

    Neither Petros or I presume to be designers of big boats so we do not have anything to sell. Just long term experience, the better with which to advise aspiring boatmen.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    Another option that I would consider is to buy some stock plans of a well proven design in the size you want. Work up an interior layout to your liking, with or without the designers input (preferably with it). Than build the hull and structure per the plans and incorporate your own accommodations for the deck and cabin arrangements. this would save a lot of design costs and still get you a safe and good performing hull.
  8. groper
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    groper Senior Member

    Im half way through building my self designed boat, the threads are here;

    Part of the design discussion here;

    Then the building thread here;

    So far all i can tell you is that the design and build has gone well thus far... i cant tell you how it performs, nor how long it will last as it hasnt hit the water yet... But so far all the weight estimates are looking good and as per the original design.

    What advice i can offer is that its very doable provided your good at research. All the information you need is available, you just need to know how to find it. The design took me a very long time, i think i spent the best part of 6 months on it... Some decent software made my life alot easier, im not sure i would have finished the design without it - probably not, i would have ended up working with a designer to get what i wanted. Being able to model in 3d to see how it was going to look aethetically, and export cutting files to CNC router automated the entire lofting process and saved me countless hours in the beginning of the build, removed most of the doubt i had and gave the confidence to proceed.

    The engineering is the hardest part of the design. You need to define the loads and so far the only methods are published in the class society rules. Most of these require payment to access, however they can be viewed free of charge here;;jsessionid=w9d7uw3k57yu

    Sifting through these and then doing the calculations is very time consuming, and then you still have the doubt in your mind if you get it right because there is so many parts to it, many of them requiring summing together etc its easy to leave something out. So i cross referenced my findings with other very similar boats scantlings to make sure i was in the ballpark - again this gave me confidence knowing that other successful designs were build this way. Alternatively, you could simply reverse engineer a successful boat that has the "basic bones" of what your after, without changing any of the major structural components, just the fitout etc...

    Its a big job, if your light on money, then i guess its worth the effort... if you have a generous budget, then i dont think its worth the time involved to design it, i would simply pay for it next time if i could afford it.
  9. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

    You ought to practice on a dozen smaller builds first. So get a job at a boat builder and learn the trade. Take courses from boat building schools. An engineering degree makes a lot of sense. A ridiculous number of cruisers are engineers. There are a few simple boats this size that are not unreasonable. Say a sharpie, but no standing head room and a 14 hp motor. The real issue of a typical 44' powerboat is all the systems integration required. You're talking 2-300K in fitout for a typical 44' You will probably spend more for materials than a stock builder spends on material, labor, and marketing combined.

    So what you really need to tell us is are you thinking about a 44' sharpie or a 44' Krogan. About 2 orders of magnitude difference in effort.

    Another concern is depreciation. You basically have to figure about 10-15% depreciation starting when you order the stuff. By the time it's half built, you may be losing (or spending) 10K a year just keeping up with the aging process. You'll also be paying for the space to build it in. So basically, you have the full cost of ownership to deal with for several years before it is even launched. You could easily piss away 100K on stuff that is nowhere to be seen on launch day.
  10. Dirteater
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    Dirteater Senior Member

    I'm gonna suggest both in a way, (as an option.)
    now please forgive me as I am very much a novice compared to pretty
    much everyone here. but here's my thoughts ... It seems to me that you already have many ideas regarding what you would like to see on/with your boat. So go ahead and design it!:D When I started thinking about what I wanted in/with my rowboat I was excited and I turned into something like Richard Dryfuss in "Close encounters of the third kind" :D, It took me about 6 months before I was happy with my ideas. But I am no designer/engineer by any means. so I sent my ideas to a professional designer/engineer. who then agreed to help me and work with my sketches. His expertise and experience were obvious from the start. In the end.. I built exactly what I wanted and when I put her in the water I was a very happy camper. so maybe you too could benefit from the best of both opportunities. I guess my point is here, after the build, you want to know it will be wonderful when you put her in the water. your build is a big one, we wish you every success. :cool:
  11. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    try some proven plans like the larger hartleys. great boats as displacement or planning hulls. thousands built over the years. well built they have better resale than most ply boats.

    Attached Files:

  12. MantaRay
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    MantaRay Junior Member

    Thank you all for your replies - exactly the feedback I was hoping for! Each post has given me a different perspective of looking at this problem.

    The situation regarding a building space and materials will fortunately not be very costly for me and is one of the main motivations behind why I am building a yacht (and an ambitious one at that). The ambition to build a 40'ish motor comes from looking at a few plans that are available including for example, the Mirage from Glen-L and even the A.W. Hudemann (bit bigger than 40') from George Buehler's book. However, I do agree that working on multiple smaller boats before is wise in both terms of design and build. Then if I feel I need it, I will consult a professional, which is fortunate in my case as I have a good friend who is a boat designer/builder (currently away at the moment).

    Before I think more about this I still have a lot of book reading to do, which will eventually give me a more educated decision of what to do next. I am currently chewing on Backyard Boat Building (George Buehler) after reading All About Power Boats (Roger Marshall). I have The Elements Of Boat Strength (Dave Gerr) in the post on the way to my doorstep. More importantly I am ordering the following books today; Boat Building (Howard Chapelle), Boat Building Manual (Robert Steward) and 50 Wooden Boats (Wooden Boat Magazine). If there are any of books you would recommend for me at this stage of my journey, I would be grateful.

    Thanks again for the insight and advise everyone!
  13. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    If you plan on designing the boat, books on this subject are necessary. Buehler's methods will cost a lot more then what he says in his book, unless you have access to reclaimed material, which often aren't the best. Simply put, you pay for every pound you put into a boat's structure, so George's design, which weigh twice as much as everyone elses, naturally cost more.

    Designing your own takes a lot, basically an engineering degree worth of studying, so it's usually best to purchase plans.
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    You will want a copy of Mid Sized Power Boats , David H Pascoe.

    He will quickly get rid of boat design with out a TEAM of engineers and decades of experience required tio actually construct a worthwhile boat.

    If you are pushing the envelope , a 60 ft cat under 10,000 lbs with solar and D cells for a 30K cruise, I understand the requirement for a new design.

    What you want has never been done before , so you get to lead the world.

    However for a displacement motor yacht the used market is awash with boats priced below what you can purchase the GRP resin for.

    For the most seaworthy boat I would look at an older Hatteras or Bertram Convertible , bigger deck house than a Sport Fish.The deep V is the best ocean ride at speed.

    These boats frequently go out when the displacement hulls are tied up .

    They are not "that" inefficient as displacement boats as they spend large hours daily in that mode.

    The construction is excellent and the deep V will allow you to operate in 4 ft chop where the displacement boat will be really uncomfortable .

    The huge fuel tanks will assure an extreme range at displacement speeds.

    IF you want to engineer, a larger rudder for low speeds would be a fine project , if you don't like the std steering at 7K.

    Just another opinion.

  15. nzboy
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    nzboy Senior Member

    I guess anyone saying they want to design and build a big boat are going to be shot down .I find it amusing that many designers only custom design and when a client comes they advise them of a trusted hull design which probably is not their design and personalise it a bit for the customer. Most of the cheap plans were in vogue when there was plenty of clear wood available and also high quality ply. I have looked at a few epoxy wood designs but its more about epoxy than wood Designing a boat is more about copying a hull shape you like, adapting building methods (just like most designers are doing for bread and butter)Many designs are not proven simply because none have been built. Many people dismiss George Buehler but a quick look around you find many older plank on frame boats have been sanded down and a layer of ply cold moulded and then glassed and they are back in business for another 20 years Much the same as Georges method, I guess its an affront to modern day methods
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