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Why build a boat, instead of buying one ?

"The desire to build a boat ... begins as a little cloud on a serene horizon. It ends by covering the whole sky so that you can think of nothing else." Arthur Ransome


"If you want to build a boat, you will know the answer" an amateur builder once said. And he's right I think..... I thought I knew the answer but I needed also some support to accept it. So, on the F-boat Forum I published the next scream:

Is there someone who can chance my mind ? One of these days I will order the plans for the F36.

The resulting discussion from the F-boat forum:

Yes, I'll help. You need an intervention program. In general, it is better to get a job at MacDonalds after hours and buy a boat, than to build one. You will save money and a lot of headaches and you will be sailing 8 years earlier. Unless you love building things and you need something to occupy all of your waking hours....don't build a boat. Certainly don't do it if you think you're going to save money. You won't. Only do it if you have lots of room next to your house, a VERY understanding girlfriend or wife, and a lot of time on your hands......oh yeah, a complete machine shop, knowledge of composite engineering, and a love of dust also helps. Oh, I forgot to add......since you live in the Netherlands. A large place INDOORS. I've experienced your weather. Call or write anytime when you are being so foolish and I'll help talk you out of it again!
Mike Leneman.

Have you considered the resale value of a home built boat compared to a factory built boat? Please don't be insulted for what I'm going to say, but besides the years it takes to build, if you screw up in the building process, such as too heavy, weather or lee helm, physical appearance, too slow, etc, you will end up with a boat no one will want to buy, and some day you will want to sell. I know someone who fell into that trap and that's exactly what happened. He ended up selling the boat for less than the price of the materials to build.

I'm always amazed though at the enthusiasm of a new or potential builder (I was exactly the same way), we all start out thinking we can just knock it out in a couple of years and save a lot of money in the process. We tend to ignore what other builders experience. The reality though is it is a major project and it effects every part of your life. I have a very understanding wife (critical) and boss (less so) but with a growing son life tends to get in the way. Two years quickly becomes six. $15k in material cost is a distance memory. In the end I will have a great boat (hopefully at a competitive weight), boat building skills and lots of building stories, but given that I could buy a used F-24mkI for less than the cost of building, and could have been sailing I would say the only reason to build is because you really want to build a boat. If it about sailing or money or time or something else try and find a used boat (if available in your area), you can modify it to your!
Mike Wright.

I'm not that pessimistic really, I was just having fun and warning people that it's not as easy or cheap as you initially think. I can't help building. It's in my blood I guess, and long before I finish one project I have another in mind. I like the Farrier design and if I were to build one, I'd definitely choose the F-9R. BUT, and it's a big but.......you have to like building, or else it's not worth it. Good luck to all you builders out there.
Mike Leneman.

Agreed! I have been building or repairing and sailing since I was in high school and just sold my Gougeon 26' this week, have two strip planked Guillemot sea kayaks 1/2 laid up w/ my son age 15 (he's doomed too), and a Tornado Cat in my barn to be repaired. All my friends (I've lost all but two) build boats as well. You definitely must intrinsically love to build them or you will hate the project and lose your mind. To begin just to save money is folly. We don't like building boats more than using them....we like them equally. One aspect about living in Northern Michigan is: Here one has more opportunity to build in a year than one can sail.
Mike Winkler.

Well guys, all I can say is, no, I'm not only building for the money, I enjoy building. I just finished laminating water-tight bulk-heads in my kayak, (also to test materials) and while I was at it I couldn't help getting at the seams and fixing some weak spots in the bottom. I thought it was great fun, especially using the quality materials Ian also prescribes for his boats. I guess I am hooked on building to some degree.

I agree that however beautiful my F-boat will be to me, it will always be a 'home-built'. There's just one other aspect, even though I estimate it will take eight to ten years from now before I can sail her, That will then be that, no towering mortgage demanding a high resale value. The plain fact is that to me the experience counts, I know there will be ups and downs, and maybe things won't work out, but: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I have also considered building a smaller design, but I figured that only saves substantial money near the end of the project, by which time I expect to be able to afford the difference. Besides, I always tend to take on more than I initially think I can handle, I guess I just need a challenge. Plan 'B' is actually buying a used, smaller F-boat, that should give me 90% of the satisfaction, a lot sooner, but it just won't be my boat unless it has my blood, sweat and tears. Besides, that would require a trip to the bank manager, and I'd rather be my own slave than someone else's.

And guys, I really appreciate all the concerns and kind advice, you really are a great bunch! Good luck, building, sailing and what not,

Australian experience is no use to you in terms of costs, so I will offer two observations: 1. If you are using epoxy, be very careful to avoid developing the allergy. To have to give up halfway thru building would be expensive and heartbreaking. 2. Consider hiring a professional painter if your spraygun skills are not 100%. First impressions are important for pride of ownership and resale value: the external finish is critical. If the fairing is not perfect, consider semi-gloss finish. Consider hiring a graphic artist for stripes etc. Good luck: a well executed F-9A is a friendlier vessel than an F-31: at risk of sounding fey, they seem to take up some of their builder's personality. Or maybe Western Red Cedar is just nicer than foam. Best of luck and regards,
John Reddell.

Building your own boat is definitely not for everyone, and a production boat easily represents the best value for most and should always be the first choice where possible. The only exceptions are as follows:

1. A production version is not available (F-82, F-9AX, F-36 and F-41)

2. A production version is unaffordable but you have plenty of time, the inclination, and (most importantly) a supportive family and/or friends.

3. Local conditions, exchange rates, taxes, or duty make a production version unavailable or too expensive

4. You just like building things and the challenge of doing it right, or differently.

5. A production version does not offer the features you want. For example one can build a truly radical boat such as an all carbon F-9R/F-31R, and one such F-9R just took overall line honors in the 2000 Australian Offshore Multihull Championships (AMOC), even though one of the smallest competitors, and using a short 41' mast (required for passing under a low bridge).

In the case of larger boats such as the F-41 and F-36, the 'one off' home built or custom built boat can actually be superior and sometimes even offer better value than similar production versions. Tooling costs can make lower volume large production boats very expensive, plus the options can be limited (no choice of daggerboard or centerboard for instance as in the F-36/F-41). Production boats also have to drag around many hundreds of pounds of heavy gelcoat, something that can be avoided on a 'one off' boat (paint being much lighter). They can also have many compromises in order to suit everyone, such as more freeboard/cabin height for taller sailors, resulting in unnecessary weight and windage for the average sailor. The main disadvantages are the amount of labour and application required to do it all yourself.

I actually took plans off the market in 1996, to leave (and encourage) the production boat as the only choice, but another unannounced reason at the time was to eliminate problems being caused by one or two custom builders claiming they could build an F-9 cheaper than Corsair's equivalent F-31. This is impossible and a couple of owners got caught by more expensive sub-standard or unfinished boats, even after I strongly advised them not to go this way. A custom built boat of around 32' or less just cannot compete in price with a true production boat of reasonable volume, and the only way to obtain a smaller boat at a lower cost is to build most of it yourself.

However, ending plan availability was not good for Australia and New Zealand, where the imported production version was very expensive, and it could have killed off my designs in their birthplace. There also arose a danger of a black market in used plans, so I made the plans available again for Australian and NZ builders only, who also tend to build their own boats more often than most. But others soon found out about it and so they were made generally available again.

But, if you don't like building and don't really think you can put in the time required, then don't start, and buy a production or used boat instead. The building of any boat can become a nightmare if one is not suited, and some projects have even ended in divorce. However, some can build a boat very easily (one Australian builder built an F-9A including its trailer in around 1800 hours, then built an F-82R (inc. beams) in 1600 hours or so, and is soon to start on an F-9R. Most of us, however, can't achieve this sort of work rate (myself included) and just take too long over little things. I've seen builders take a year part time to build a float, which should only take a few weekends. My record is two days flat for a Trailertri 680 float (unpainted), but that sort of effort can be hard to sustain.

I've now personally built five or six 'one off trimarans', around five production boats, and then supervised the construction of the first 190 F-27s, so have a good perspective on what the differences are. I always swore 'never again' after every 'one off' boat, but I still frequently find myself thinking about building again, as one can then get it exactly how one wants, and without some of the limitations or drawbacks that are present with production boats, such as exterior hull join flanges. Taking a cold shower usually ends such thoughts, but it has been requiring a colder and colder shower lately.

The other solution, if time and skills are limited, is to boost things along by hiring labor when needed for the major items such as hulls, or for the unpleasant things such as fairing or painting. I personally don't regard hulls as hard, but would definitely hire help for the fairing and painting if there is a next time. Frontrunner fabric saves a lot of interior sanding. The F-36 hulls can also now be purchased at different stages from a New Zealand custom builder, and this will help cut time considerably.

Another aspect, particularly with the trimaran, is that one can start with just a float, and if this is found difficult, or takes too long, then the project can be ended then and sold on to someone else, keeping any losses minimal.
Ian Farrier.

Hello F-boaters, thanks for all your interesting reply's.

Mike, if someone asked me about building his own boat, my reply would be most the same as yours. Unfortunately, I am not completely inexperienced. Long ago at high school I earned my pocket-money with building and selling polyester kayaks. In 1981-1984 I made a 24 ft. wooden monohull. What I learned from that was that I am able to build a boat, that it is very time-consuming, that every reasonable thinking person find me crazy, that it gives a tremendous satisfaction when finished and all over goose-flesh while close reaching in a fresh wind and nothing cracked. It took so long because I had 3x half a year of other more important activities. And it was a beauty, complete finished with the West-System. I made the yacht see-going and explored lots of foreign coasts. But with the growing experience at sea the boat became too small. In the meantime I rebuild our home and garage, especially with the idea to build the next boat in the now much bigger garage. But things worked out differently. I got married (with very special marry settlements about boating and sailing) and children came in. I do have a very understanding wife, but all in good times. After a very bad and wet sailing trip to the Shetland's I went definitely searching for a bigger boat ..... and lost my heart in a beautiful classic 36 ft. longkeel aluminum sloop ....... and sold my home build boat after 12 years for twice the money I have ever spend on it.

Why is this man with his beautiful classic blue-ocean yacht thinking about a trimaran? Well, he is definitely bored of sailing from A to B with a maximum of 7 kn. and still using the diesel for about half the time. He took his wife on a trial trip with the Trimax Trimaran and she said, while sitting at the helm with 17 kn. boatspeed, yes, this is what I want, and wow, it stays upright.

Dennis, since the home-build virus is coming up again I cannot ignore the superb building plans of Ian Farrier. His documentation, plans and knowledge gives the best possible chance in ending with a super Trimaran. The Trimax is an eye-catching design from Peter Bosgraaf. They started a production line at Riga in Letland. Nevertheless I think it is still a bit too experimental and the Trimax will cost an awful lot of money, even in the bare hull version. And that is another reason to build myself. I do not want to make any concessions in quality and equipment but also do not want to spend say $ 250.000 for a hobby. Off course home-building will save money but buying a used boat is definitely cheaper. However, modifying and fitting out to my demands will probably end in a costly project. Some bad factory details can be difficult to improve and will get on my nerves. And Dennis, in relation to your knowledge of composite engineering, hereby you are invited to put that into practice (after my go-no-go problem is solved).

Gary, I don't know if you are on the list, but you didn't scare me with your almost finished F36 floats. They are a beauty.

Nevertheless, building a F36 is a huge project. I am still in doubt about the possibilities in building fast. My idea about fast is a maximum of 3 years. Without any doubt I won't do the fairing and painting by myself. In this way it is quite helpful that among other things I am a manager of a painting business. Yes, that is a time-consuming job. But building a boat is a good way to work off the daily stress and split the energy. 

Building fast is building in smaller projects. I will divide the project in a lot of small parts. Start them and complete them. In Ian's studybook he warns for day dreaming, and I know exactly what he means.

Ian, I have already taken several cold showers but it didn't help either.

So at the end of all, all you guys didn't help me much, on the contrary. I know now that the home-building-syndrome?is an illness, isn't it Mike, and probably located somewhere between the ears.

Help again! .... is there a psych on the list ?              Happy sailing.
Henny van Oortmarssen.

Sounds like you are qualified to do the task, and you obviously have no illusions about the commitment to complete. The way we look at it is since we enjoy the planning, scheming, and actual construction, we are truly enjoying the boat already and deriving this pleasure twice a week, rain or shine, winter or summer. In a way (which will seem onvoluted to the non-building persuasion) we already get more time involved with boating than many do in-season. We also have other actual sailing options.

As we have chosen to work together on the two boats we also are getting a social experience while maintaining our friendship. We have many friends/acquainences from the area (and one from Antarctica) who make themselves available for the big lay-ups: hull stripping, beam laminating, etc. We only invite them for the fun projects and thereby have up to a half a dozen eager helpers who will show up for a Saturday afternoon of slapping down epoxy and glass. It will be well worth your while to enroll others in your dream as they are a great source of energy and motivation when the project looms overwhelmingly. We have tapped: brothers and sisters, children, my wife, Tom's girlfriends (limitless supply), yacht club members, sailing crew, other local amateur builders that we also help, and interested patients of mine. Don't underestimate the number of men and women that would like to be involved in an exciting and important project that they would never attempt themselves. To garner and maintain this support however one has to be a good project manager and plan the work so it can be successful, teach players the skills and monitor the task so things when wrong do not get out of control; praise, thank, and encourage them and help make it a positive experience.

Some people obviously cannot pull this off successfully and perhaps that is where the tradition of the hermit perfectionist boatbuilder originates. We manage this by choosing only the processes that can be shepherded over by the two of us, being very familiar with the steps so we have our act together, and the ability to accept "good workmanship" and not demand perfection. Again, the realistic choice of what projects on which we utilize volunteers is key. I think you will be a successful F-boat builder. I have built several boats and Tom is an engineer, we both continually marvel at the accuracy and detail of Ian's plans. They are a joy to build from and contain only a couple of "irksome" (Ian's word) manoeuvres and head scratchers.
Mike Winkler.

O.K., I tried my best, but since you are determined to feed your addiction, please feel free to e-mail me at anytime if you need some help or advise. I'll be in the Bahamas for the next 5 weeks with my F-31 (after I drive 5,000 kms) but then I'll be around to finish my 32' powercat. Good luck......I'll be in Europe within the next few years, maybe I'll drop by and check your progress. Cheers,
Mike Leneman.

Sounds like you know what you are getting into, I'm sure you will enjoy the project as much as I have. I am guilty of spending too much time dreaming, I've been known to fall asleep in the boat listening to a baseball game after a long day of building. Maybe that is one of the neat things about having it in the garage and readily accessible. Currently it is at another shop as we are moving and as such I don't get as much time to just sit in it and think thru the next job. My 7 year old son is guilty too, his favorite game is to turn all the lights off except a shop light in the boat and play space ship. I think he will be warped for life. I'm looking forward to that first sail though, I've seen the expression on the face of two other builders the first time you turn the motor off, sheet in and take off. Based on the look on their faces there is probably very little else in life that compares to the satisfaction of sailing a well designed boat that you built with your own hands. !

If you have any questions about building drop me a note off line.
Mike Wright.

It is important to develop a good positive mental attitude and systematic approach when building a boat, and a good method is to build all the smaller and boring bits before one starts on the larger hulls etc. Thus when enthusiasm starts to wane, while finishing the hulls, all the associated bits are done and one at least does not have to stop to do these, which can create the feeling that no progress is being made. Instead it seems to go quicker.

Also start by building rough/fast and then finishing neat. Too many go the other way, with the float interiors (that are never seen) taking forever, and looking like furniture, while the final exterior work ends up being rushed and looking bad. Don't spend too much time on hidden areas, and avoid excessive sanding by using flat or textured paint wherever possible to hide any unfairness.

It also helps to set targets, plan it out and then work hard to get them done in the time allotted, or quicker. You have to compete with yourself, to keep motivated. It is too easy to just sit and day dream about the finished boat, but in this case it will likely never be finished.

Building a boat is not for everyone, and is definitely not something that can be done in a few weekends/months. But a boat building project can be better than sitting down doing nothing or watching TV on nights and weekends. One can keep fit, while building up what can become quite an asset (provided the general workmanship is good, quality materials are used, and the final exterior finish is done well).
Ian Farrier.

Better than this I can't explain it. Thank you all very much for your contribution.



" It is when you are riding out your first gale in a boat you have built yourself that you wonder about some of the doubtful workmanship that went into her.
John Guzzwell, Trekka Round the World