Unanswered Questions from a newbie...

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Invert, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. Invert
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Invert Junior Member

    Hey folks, I'm new here, and very excited to be a part of this community!

    No matter how hard I look, I can't seem to find many working examples of Ted Brewer's wooden sailers. I see a few of his metal sailers from the 80's here and there for sale, but no good information on how they perform.

    The reason for such interest is because my friends and I (about four of us in total) were considering doing a backyard build for one of Brewer's designs ("Black Velvet II" or "Time of Wonder"). From what I can tell, he is the most competent in describing his plans and what to expect. We've also looked at plans from George Buehler, Dudley Dix, Paul Riccelli and Graham Radford. So far, Brewer has given us the most interest as his plans seem right, (semi)affordable, and seaworthy.

    My friends and I were looking to build a boat and within 5 years be ready for a Transatlantic trip. My question to all of the enthusiasts here is: What do you think of Ted Brewer's designs? Are they generally good, or are there parts lacking? Is looking to build a 60 foot wooden sailer in the backyard a ridiculously stupid idea?

    Also, I hope this isn't a duplicate to any other threads, but what are the laws in general regarding anchoring? Are there any places to anchor for free with no time limit (within reason)? Apparently there's a law that prohibits anchoring within 200 meters off the coast of many countries unless in a Marina, etc?

    Obviously, as four young boatbuilders, we won't be raking in loads of cash, so money is of the most importance here. From what I can gather, mooring can be quite the expensive ordeal, so in order to cut down on costs, we would like to anchor somewhere else. I'm sure we'd need to be out of the way of shipping lanes and marina traffic, but are there any restrictions for how long you can anchor, where the best places are to anchor (for free or near free)? I'm not too worried about getting a good mooring or having quick access to the docks, but we just want to pull in somewhere and be able to see the city for a week or two and travel.

    Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated, and thanks for your time!

    Paul
     
  2. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    With all due respect, Paul, depending on three other guys to help see this through is not realistic. I would advise you to have some adventures in small sailboats by yourself or with one trusted friend, and work your way up to the big dreams by small degrees.
    See if the four of you could build a dinghy together----- you'll see.
     
  3. Invert
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    Invert Junior Member

    Thanks for the reply Alan.

    I can see how one would be skeptical of our commitment to this project, but let me assure you, we've been talking about this for the last 4 years, and since we've finally come to a place in our lives where we can now actually do it, I don't see what would stop us. We started dreaming big, of course, but reality checks in every now and again, and as we started diving into it, we noticed our aspirations were too many and big. After many talks with Ted Brewer himself, we've settled on something that is not only doable, but quite simple in comparison with what we had dreamed of before.

    Its definitely sound advice to build a smaller boat first, which we might do to see how we can work together in this type of setting. Perhaps while we're waiting for plans and startup money, we'll throw together a dinghy.

    Thanks again for your help!
    Paul
     
  4. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    What is being suggested is start small and work up... Start with the ships dingy....
     
  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Lets say you build "Tree of Life" (a spectacular yacht BTW) for the conservative sum of $30 per pound of displacement. This is just short of 4 million dollars. If you have these resources, you don't need our opinions, though sailing lessons would be a wise investment. The stock plans price of 6K is extremely reasonable and a custom design of this scale, would be several times this amount.

    Traveler III is over 2 million dollars, at the very reasonable price of $30 per pound. In fact, if you can bring these yachts in for less then $30 per pound of displacement, I'll happily hire you to build every yacht I can sell.
     
  6. Invert
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    Invert Junior Member

    Thanks for your reply, Paul.
    Would it really cost that much? Ted was under the impression that materials for something like Traveller III would come in at about $400,000, plus $35,000 for sails. Since we'd be doing all the construction ourselves, labor won't be figured at all.
     
  7. daiquiri
    Joined: May 2004
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    I feel truly embarassed to contradict a man like Ted Brewer, but $400,000 sounds very optimistic for a yacht of that size. What materials have been included in that cost, and what are the exclusions?

    Second thing, yor labor also has a cost. You'll discover it as soon as the first troubles and glitches arrive during the construction (prepare to see lots of them, since this is your first boat). And you will start pricing it even more when you arrive to the finishing stage, where every detail count. And believe me, you can't immagine how many tiny details you will have to deal with before you can claim that the yacht is finished.
    There will be days when you will regret ever coming up with that idea, it will be only up to you guys to keep your will and enthusiasm strong enough to overcome everything and move on. ;)

    I think, very honestly, that this project is too big for someone who has never built a wooden boat before. At this scale, every error will cost you a big money. And with your level of experience the errors are guaranteed.
    You should start with small boats first, as others have said before. You need to learn basics of boatbuilding first, and then you have to refine your skills up to the point when you'll become capable of buildong a 61 ft yacht.
     
  8. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    Accepting $400K as unquestioned gospel, you have to figure in facilities, tools/tooling, insurance, cost of borrowing, subcontractors and professionals where required. Although labor is "free", the time spent working on your boat is lost income working on other projects. No matter how you want to rationalize it, labor isn't free - even your own. Most of the time your own labor is the most expensive, as you have to do many tasks more than once and inefficiently. A pro can get done in a day what takes a newbie days to a week. Pros often buy materials and supplies better as well.

    If you are thinking of working part time and after hours, extend your schedule by a couple years or (much) more. If this is a group of four younger boat builders, you have to count on one or two of you getting involved in relationships which will cause changes to the four year plan. Life has a way of screwing up the best laid plans. Along with this possibility, assume there will be at least one or two interpersonal conflicts that will happen.

    No one gets involved in boat building & restoration to make huge profits, so I would surmise PAR's estimates to be fair - perhaps allowing him enough profit to keep the doors open, but not get rich.

    --
    Bill
     
  9. kroberts
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    kroberts Senior Member

    I can attest to Bill's statements, and several of the others too.

    I'm in no way a professional builder. I've built a few things (not boats yet) and have found that there are several things that cause the cost to creep up.

    One thing is I seem to collect huge amounts of tools. I buy a tool thinking I MIGHT use that to build my current project. Some of those tools have never been used, and others really were overkill for the project or didn't work out nearly as well as I had hoped. And some were more than I was hoping to spend, but I should have bought a better one anyway.

    When you figure building your first project, figure that it will take 2-4 times as long as a professional would take, and cost 1.5-3 times as much, even if you don't count your hours. And that it will perform slightly better than half as well as it should. You might be better than that, but if you are it will hopefully be good news rather than bad.

    The thing is, you always try to second-guess the designer, and you either build too heavy, or build some other design because of an idea you had, and then wind up replacing it later because your idea was stupid.

    Ask me how I know.

    IMO, you should first build a dinghy just to find out if you can build one per plan, and see what the actual cost is like compared to what was projected. And so you can learn to sail without running your 60 foot yacht aground or capsizing it.

    On top of all that, you need to consider ownership. When it all comes down to a finished yacht, you need a clear title. Those three guys are going to be not so interested if you expect them to work on your yacht and you expect to be the captain.
     
  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Partnerships do work, but only if they are well defined and the members can adhere to the agreement. Often they can't and roles get changes during the process, but I've seen them work over the long haul so it's possible.

    I don't think my $30 per pound of displacement figure is very far off the mark. If anyone can suggest a better number, let them speak up. Even if we arbitrarily change the per pound cost to say $20, which I feel is just too low, for several reasons, the 59.5 ton "Tree of Life" comes in at a dainty 2.6 million and the "Traveler" a measly 1.4 million.
     
  11. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    I can tell from experience that a total cost of materials here in Italy (a pretty costly country) for a one-off steel motor boat in a 40 ft range is about 17-20 Euros/kg ($10-$12 per pound).
    The per-tonne cost rises linearily with displacement, and for a 60 ft it would be something around 35-38 Euros/kg (about $21-$23 per pound).
    So your figures appear correct to me, from a point of view of a steel boatbuilder.
    I would be very curious to know how much would it change if the same boat was made of wood. I don't have that data.

    I think Apex1 could be able to give a more precise figure, since he is (or has been) constructing wooden boats in a 60ft range (if I'm not wrong).
     
  12. Invert
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    Invert Junior Member

    Good advice

    I have to again thank all of you for the sound advice. After all, I am a newbie, and these questions arise not out of sheer arrogance per se, but more from naïveté. In order for me to get the most information, I find I tend to play devil's advocate from time to time, as it usually leads to very engaging conversation.

    I'm glad to find out what to expect, as I've not fully considered all facets of boatbuilding, it's good to hear from people who have the experiences -- good and bad.

    Thanks for bringing up the idea of title and ownership. I was reading elsewhere on some forums that States allow for backyard builders by supplying you with a MIC and HIN during the registration process? But I also read that some people were considering registering their boat somewhere like New Hampshire -- no titles, no taxes, etc. Is that even a possibility, or would they try to catch you in some legal mumbo-jumbo? I know from my years of traveling across the country, many private bus owners (or RV owners) could legally register their vehicle in Montana because they had no taxes, even though they live in South Dakota. Since boats would be subject to interstate commerce laws, I don't see why you couldn't shop around for the best deal. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    As for working in a partnership. I do have some concerns about this, as we've never undertaken a project of this scope together. But we've all worked together on other construction projects, and seem to get along fine. These aren't just buddies of mine, they are my three closest friends, and we're all in agreement that doing something like this would be difficult, yes, but achievable.

    As for tooling, my father was a professional contractor for 25 years, he did remodeling, building, framing, plumbing, you name it. And he did it to excellence. Having him on board (as he is seeming to get as excited as me to build a boat) would be very valuable, not only for his tools, but mostly his experience.

    We're figuring on taking a few years for completion, anyways, and thats not because of the size of the boat (45ft), I think with constant work, we'd be able to finish within a year and a half. I figured in time to troubleshoot and take our time, so (hopefully) errors total to a negligent amount.

    As for getting experience, I've already been talking with my friends about the advice from before, starting with a dinghy, which could become the dinghy for our big boat. This was an excellent idea, and it will give us some opportunity to get experience with strip planking construction, as well as steam-bending (which the boat doesn't call for, it's strip planked on a bulkhead frame), but will just give me the experience anyway, as I've always wanted to do steam-bending. I feel that I'm already pretty well prepared to undertake a project like this and the more I read certainly confirms that.
     
  13. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Others might lead you in other directions, but I know a couple guys who built hovercraft (which are registered as boats) and registered them in other states to get around tax laws and such.

    Yes, any place which has licensing for boats will have provision for homebuilt boats.

    There are some points of fact that you will want to be aware of no matter what you decide to do.

    First, there is an up-surge in boat theft everywhere. People steal a boat, and then register it as a homebuilt. Many states, and more all the time, automatically flag a homebuilt boat as suspect and they require an inspection by an official of some sort, different officials depending on the state of registration and other circumstances.

    Second, the laws are changing fairly rapidly toward more restriction and/or more checks to prevent theft and other things which are Evil according to the state -- like tax evasion. When I started my current hovercraft, there were no laws in my state (Illinois) beyond a basic few. Since then, they require an inspection, and they require that you prove you have paid taxes on all the materials before they will issue a license. This means original recepts for everything, they will not accept copies. Since I have very few receipts, I will have to either contact the places I got the stuff from to get them re-issued (not likely) or I will have to pay an additional 7.25% sales tax directly to the state. Again, this is all before they will issue a license.

    For boats the size you intend to make, there are probably other additional facts that I didn't run into.

    Because of all of that, you will want to keep records of every part you bought, all the materials and who worked how many hours on it and for what recompense. If there is a falling out between you guys, the courts will try to determine ownership based on whatever information you guys have. If/when the tax laws change wherever you intend to register the boat, you will be prepared.

    Another thing is that the less accurate the registration is on the boat, the more likely something nasty will come up when you come under scrutiny for some reason. For example, if that falling out happens (hope it doesn't) or if one of you gets married and then divorced, the courts will look at all related assets, and will find out that none of you live in the state of registration, and may decide to go after all of you for tax evasion. Or, if somebody does move there, they may decide that since it's registered in that state and only one guy lives there, that makes his claim more significant. I don't know, I'm not a lawyer.

    If it was me, I'd set up a limited liability corporation (LLC) that owns the boat. You and your friends can start out by investing in the corporation, and they can either sell out or buy in, or others can join up as conditions change. It also keeps track of who owns how much, and protects you from the divorce or estrangement issues.

    In some states, a partnership exposes all the partners to vulnerability of any one of them. My father was a partner in a tool rental place for a while. He invested money and tools, and suddenly the partner declared bankruptcy which means all the tools vanished and so did most of my father's assets, both in the partnership and out of it, to pay for the debt of what had been one of my father's best friends up until then. The partner didn't bother to tell him he was even in trouble, one day everything was fine and then the next day my father finds out that he lost most of his liquid assets.

    No matter what, you'd better find out what the laws are in your state for any type of partnership, and what risks that partnership exposes you to. Nobody likes to think of their best friends as risks, but life changes and people change with it. And nobody is ever quite what you thought, no matter how close you are to them.

    The incorporation would be a few hundred bucks and some paper to write up by-laws. Most of the by-laws can be made from boiler plate forms that any appropriate lawyer would have on his computer, and you can add whatever you all agree to.
     
  14. kroberts
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Sorry for the double post, but there's another thing you should consider.

    It's possible that having an inspection at points throughout the build process are required, and that even if optional those inspections could reduce your insurance costs. I know this is the case in some places, particularly Canada with regards to insurance. You'll have to talk to the pros here on that.

    Anyway, that inspection might make it harder to disguise the state of registration later.
     

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

    A vessel of this class would usually consider federal registration, rather then state, particularly if expecting to make crossings.

    A LLC is a good idea as would a few other options, depending on the ultimate goals of the vessel.

    Invert, you keep bouncing around in regard to boat length. You've just listed 45', Tree of Life is ~70', while Traveler III is 61'. The differences between yachts of these lengths, literally can mean double the hull volume and you are directly paying for this volume, in building costs. For example Tree of Life is just about twice the size of Traveler III, even though she's only 8' 6" longer on deck. This is a function of a nasty little physical law called mechanical simitude. In other words, be careful what you wish for, you just might have to pay for it.
     
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