Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cutting Boatbuilding Costs

I recently had a situation that comes up on a fairly regular basis, often enough to be worthwhile writing about it. It varies but the core message is the same; "Your plans are too expensive, I don't want to pay so much for a few sheets of paper". I end up having to justify the price of my product to someone who is expecting a cheap deal and it has never resulted in a satisfactory closing.

When considering building a boat for yourself, or having one built by a professional, please bear in mind that you want to build a good and safe boat, one of which you will be proud and hope to own for a long time.

~ The plans are not simply a few sheets of paper, the paper is only the medium used to deliver a tremendous amount of information. When the plans are supplied in digital form by email, the negative feeling of the customer may be aggravated because even the paper has disappeared from the package that is supplied. The value of the plans is in the information, not in the paper. You can buy a pile of paper at your local stationers but they cannot sell you the information that you need to build a quality boat.
DS15 sportboat built by amateur Jim Foot in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photo Glen Meyburgh.
~ A quality boat design is the result of many, many hours of work, work that has been done by someone who has spent the time, taken the trouble and paid out a lot of money to get the training and experience needed to do a good job of designing that boat. A 40ft boat can take 500 to 1000 hours to draw accurate and high quality detailing. That is what you are paying for in the price of the plans.

~ If you have chosen wisely, you are also buying the accumulated experience and knowledge of someone who has learned, through thousands of miles and decades of boating, what makes a good boat, one that can be built by an amateur, with efficient use of materials, a boat that looks good, moves through the water efficiently and will give you great joy to launch and voyage.

Beautifully-built Cape Henry 21, by Dean Ivancic of Porec, Croatia
~ We all expect to be paid a reasonable wage for our working hours. The person buying the plans expects to be paid for his labour, why would he wish less for any person who is supplying a service to him? If we cannot get a worthwhile price for our work then we must abandon that work and move into another field of employment. I design boats for a living because I love doing so. I retrained myself from another profession that was not as enjoyable but would have given me much higher income. That doesn't make boat design a hobby nor a pastime that needn't pay a satisfactory wage.

~ If you want to pay a low price for a product then you must expect to receive a product of low value. That is the mindset that has resulted in our shops now being overrun with junk products from cheap manufacturers in the East, mostly not worth the price that is paid and not properly fulfilling the purpose for which they were bought. The purchase ends up being a bad investment purely due to hunting a low price.
Didi 38 cruiser/racer built by amateur Stas Pechenkin of Irkutsk, Russia
~ There are places in a boatbuilding project that money can be saved or the dollars can be stretched a bit further. But you have to be judicious in choosing the places to save money. You will be spending a boatload of money to build a large boat and you need that money to be well-spent, a good investment. All of that money will go into buying materials and equipment to go into and onto what is shown on the drawings. The drawings themselves are likely to cost 2-3% of the total cost of the project. If you buy your plans based on price rather than on the quality of the design, you may save yourself 50% of the plan price, which is only 1-1.5% of the total cost. That is a very small saving but it can have a massive effect on the quality and value of the boat that you build. If a particular boat or construction method really appeals to you then you have good reason to buy that design. Changing to another design that doesn't really do what you want but costs less is really not a good reason for the change. Even if you get the plans for free, if they are for the wrong boat then you will be wasting your time and money to even start the project.

~ You can save money on the expensive shiny bits, then upgrade later when more funds are available. It will irreparably harm your boating experience if you build the wrong design but it will be done no harm if you buy good used winches and other hardware at a large saving. Make sure that the used hardware that you buy is to the required specification and in good order, that it has a useful life ahead of it. In a few years, when available funds permit, you can replace with new and sell the used items to another builder who is in a similar position to what you were.
Dix 43 Pilot built by amateur Dennis Wagner of Empangeni, South Africa.
~ Beware though, if you are tempted to buy used that very costly item, the sailing rig. If you find a used rig that you think is suitable for your boat, please first run the dimensions, mast section, rigging diameters and configuration past your designer for advice. A mast that you might think suitable may really be totally unsuitable for your boat for a host of reasons linked primarily to strength, which might cause it to fall down on deck in a tangle of bits. Something else to take into account is that the insurance industry generally applies a service life to the rig and expecting much beyond that may prove to be foolhardy. The service life is generally 5 years for sails, 10 years for rigging and 20 years for spars. If the items that you are considering exceed these ages then they may not be worth buying, should be examined very carefully or maybe even dropped from consideration.

Few people who build their own boats have endless funds. We all want to get the best deals on our purchases. We need to spend judiciously within the limited budgets that we do have available. Part of spending judiciously is to save money where it won't hurt the overall project.

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