What are my chances for success?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by CatBuilder, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm a new member, but a long time sailor (over 20 years).

    I've always purchased boats because the costs were right. This time, I am building, though cost is a crucial factor again. Looking at all the plans out there, I don't see anything I like, except the Chris White Atlantic 42 (catamaran). The plans are $10K and I don't want to put that kind of money into a plan. Also, it's a little bit high tech, as I'd like to have the boat as low maintenance and low tech as possible with cheaper rigging (Wharram style, etc...)


    I thought I'd put my general boat-handy skills, experience and technical background to good use by designing my own catamaran.

    My "credentials" are:

    *Masters in Physics
    *20 years of boat ownership of several types
    *Former CAD software developer (I wrote CAD programs in C++ the 90's)
    *Won awards for work performed on various spacecraft while working at NASA. These spacecraft are currently still in space.
    *Good qualitative understanding of what various hull shapes do in real life conditions
    *Cruised the North Atlantic and Caribbean extensively

    I am just beginning here. I have the basic skills to do all of the structural analysis, materials strength, etc..., but it's certainly an uphill battle since some of the lingo in the boat designing world is different.

    I'm primarily concerned with hull form, rigging/displacement, windage, structural integrity and correct building methods. Interior styling (and exterior styling) are not important to me. I will fit out the interior as I see fit, with the most simple/spartan systems and furnishings. My concern is to design and build a good hull.

    So what do you think the chances are of a person with my background of being able to pull off a safe, seaworthy hull design?
  2. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    there are people with 1% of your abilty, credentials out there that somehow do just that
    look on this board for a man called Billy Doc, he also is has background similar to yours, write to him. He designed a yacht from scratch
    If you can not find him, write to me I will give you his email address
  3. wardd
    Joined: Apr 2009
    Posts: 897
    Likes: 37, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 442
    Location: usa

    wardd Senior Member

    make it airtight and you'll be ok and don't forget the heat shield
  4. nero
    Joined: Aug 2003
    Posts: 624
    Likes: 13, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 112
    Location: Marseille, France / Illinois, US

    nero Senior Member

    You could do it! Will be interesting to see what your design turns out like.
  5. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
    Posts: 3,731
    Likes: 122, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1404
    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    It ain't rocket science. Get it?
    A friend of mine built a Chris White 40 ft Tri a few years ago. He bought the plans and spent about 100k on the build. You can do it too. The problem is the plans however. You don't want to spend 10k and I don't blame you. But you are going to build a 200k plus value boat. You could buy a used boat and pay a lot less than two years of labor and 100k, but you want that design.
    How else will you do it?
  6. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    see Nero here, he will sell you great plans for half that: and gee he is building one too
  7. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
    Posts: 1,097
    Likes: 248, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 512
    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    I was new to this group a few years ago. Rather than build new I decided to restore an older powerboat (1973 Silverton 25'). I believe that restortation is in many ways more difficult than building new as you don't have the disassembly issues and you don't have to correct for the original builders errors.

    Certainly you have the intellect. Intellect though, is only a part of the issue here. I think that you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you can persevere with a capital P. Building a boat sounds like fun and it can be, but it is also work. It helps to be diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), have a tolerant wife/family, have time (retired is prefered), be physically fit (building is very strenuous at times), have deep pockets (your project, done right will cost much more than you think) and lastly have the determination to see the project through.

    Only you will know weather you have what it takes. As others have noted skill and intelligence will take you part of the way. Dogged determination (did I mention OCD?) is of equal or greater importance.
  8. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Thank you for all the replies. I'm happy to hear nobody came on and said, "you can't possibly do this, you idiot!" :)

    I am pretty well aware of what goes into the build (and somewhat aware of what goes into the design) of a boat. I have set aside 2 years, full time to work on the project. I am long on time and short on cash, so building actually makes more sense to me than buying used and/or restoring (which I've done close to half a dozen times already).

    I mean don't get me wrong - if there were a cat hull out there that was selling for the price of materials or slightly above that, I would buy that in a second and refit. However, there isn't such a cat out there on the market.

    Good points, Alan White. You're right. How else will I do it? There is no other way.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Whoosh, as well as the contacts.

    I'm middle aged (real middle age according to average lifespan), have a small source of income and some savings. I am in very good shape having been out on the water all these years and I'm very particular about things (OCD). I don't see building a boat as fun at all. It's hard, grueling, tortuous work! ha ha Sorry... I wouldn't be a hobby builder... I like to use the boats, but large refit projects are never fun. To me, they are something you just have to do in order to afford a good boat. This new build is basically the same thing, albeit on a much larger scale.

    Well, again, thanks for all the replies and words of advice.

    I'm still kicking around ideas and just getting started here. Thinking about designs, features, various build techniques and longevity of the hull (I need it to last approx 90 years, since my wife is only just turning 30. I'd like it to last until the end of her life if she chooses to remain living aboard for that amount of time. A lot to consider...
  9. nero
    Joined: Aug 2003
    Posts: 624
    Likes: 13, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 112
    Location: Marseille, France / Illinois, US

    nero Senior Member

    Depending on what build method you use, It could take a lot longer than 2 years of build time.

    You can have my plans for free. Well that is they are Open Source, free to use, modify, but must make them free to others. Down side is they are not complete. I have yet to do/hire the engineering on the main beams. (Want to practice for your design?)

    Your welcome to come see my project in IL. I am short on time, short on money, and not to tall too boot!

  10. Willallison
    Joined: Oct 2001
    Posts: 3,590
    Likes: 130, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 2369
    Location: Australia

    Willallison Senior Member

    I agree, your boat will almost certainly take more than 2 years to build - there are a number of others around here who have built their own boats, ask them how long it took....
    In fact, as you have little boat design experience, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you spend almost that long on the design phase!
    I would also suggest that unless you are absolutely certain that you will 'enjoy the journey', then the project is doomed to failure. The internet is littered with ads for pet projects that never got finished.
    I'm not one to enjoy throwing cold water on someone's enthusiasm, but a dose of realistic experience is often a necessary evil.
    Oh - and a good set of plans will be the best investment you make.....
  11. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 199, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    What sort of hands-on mechanical abilities do you have? Do you have a place to build this? Any tools? Any help?

    What materials would the boat be built in? Metal wood, glass?

    Are any of your "credentials" barterable to Chris White for a discount on the plans?

    Along with OCD, you might also be a masochist. ;) It's going to cost you way more to build than to buy used, and take way more time, especially with the OCD/perfectionist slant. It seems there could hardly be a better time to buy a used boat. If you were to spend say 2 years building a boat and end up broke or in debt with a boat you might not like after all, OR perhaps you might spend 1 year working your regular job to pay for a used boat you were able to take out for a weekend or two to see if it was what you might want, and then be ready to go with money in the bank.

    To tell the truth, in answer to the question, I don't think your chances of success are good.
  12. tom28571
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,474
    Likes: 117, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1728
    Location: Oriental, NC

    tom28571 Senior Member


    You seem focused on what you want in a boat and are willing to do the dog work as well as the good stuff to get you to your goal. Like Nero, I think two years is optimistic. When you do your own, or even a large part of the design work, that will progress along with the building and take time that would be spent in the actual building if you bought a good set of plans.

    Having gone through much the same process from a similar background, I have some experience on designing and building one's own boat. You can trade time for money all along the way. While I would not call the building of a boat fun, it certainly can be enjoyed from the beginning to the launch and beyond. The part you are now working on is also very enjoyable as you further refine what you want against what is possible or practical for your circumstance. One objection is neglect for the boat interior. That is half of the whole and will be just as important to your satisfaction with the end result. Oh, and don't build an ugly boat. There are damn few handsome cruising cats out there. Make yours one of them.

    You will not be able to do this without a firm grounding in the basics of the physical factors that govern how boats work, or don't work. With your background, I'd say that you already know that.

    Edited to add that Will chimed in while my slow fingers were typing. He is currently in the final stages of doing what you are just starting on. He Began by investing time and energy in taking a good course in boat design and is now about to launch his first large design. I'm sure there are many others here who have also gone through this or similar routes.
  13. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 199, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    Those chances are good. The chances that it will look good are not so good.

    You haven't looked. Don't lock yourself in to statements like 'there isn't such a cat'. My friend just 3 months ago sold a Bruce Roberts (??) designed cat he built himself and sailed down the Erie canal to here in Georgia, then to Europe and back, then to Cuba and then Belieze and then all the way back here. Medical problems caused it to sit here for 2+ years at the dock at $260 a month. He got way less than what was invested in it. Visit marinas, ask the dockmaster which boats have been abandoned, (usually because owners couldn't afford the dock fees) and how much they would sell it for, then lowball. They can easily get title, they don't want them as they don't want the liability if it sinks and they'd rather have money coming in for the dock space. You have the time, take a road trip and look.

    I'm not trying to discourage you from anything, I'm trying to aim you towards being realistic. Living on a boat past the age of 60 can be a chore, but expecting your wife to live on a boat until she is 120 years old is ridiculous. 30 + 90 = 120.

    I know it's a simple mistake on your part, but doing that on your design or anywhere in your whole planning scheme could be disastrous. Sure you can build a boat, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Spend a day surfing not about boats or designs, but about peoples experiences doing what you want to do, build your own boat and live on it forever. Like I said, I'm not trying to discourage you from doing what you want to do, just encouraging you to be realistic. Good luck!
  14. GDFL
    Joined: Mar 2009
    Posts: 14
    Likes: 1, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 28
    Location: Guntersville, AL

    GDFL Junior Member

    I think that you can certainly do it. I am of somewhat similar credentials and age and I have started along a similar path. I'll be stretching my project out much longer, so things are a bit different. I have about 2 more years to finish the design before I start building. I'm designing a very efficient aluminum power cat with a focus more towards ease of build than sexy looks. I have contacted a very well known yacht designer that is willing to review my design and direct changes as necessary. He said that as long as he doesn't have to make any real drawings, the cost should not exceed about a couple grand. It'll be more along the lines of an attorney billing against a fairly modest retainer.

    I am following my approach for mostly the same reasons that you are. The boat I want doesn't exist (I've spent plenty of time looking) and even if it did, I couldn't afford it. There's something to be said about having a boat exactly how you want it and that's what I'm aiming for. Good luck to you and please keep us posted along the way.

  15. Eric Sponberg
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,013
    Likes: 225, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2917
    Location: On board Corroboree

    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    Have you tried Searunner Multihulls? They have various designs up to 55' that may suit your budget better.

    Another is Dick Newick, Newick Nautical Design:

Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.