The Budget and the Time

wooden sailboat plans DiY sportboat

In the last months I answered to a wide array of e-mails that were all circling around these two very big chapters for an homebuilder : Time and Budget.

So I decided to think back about my more than fifteen year of career as boat designer for DIY boatbuilders, and I will try to squeeze out several drops of wisdom from both the blatant successes and the mostly silent failures that I witnessed.

  • KISS: Keep It Simple (and ) Sail . Building a boat is a part of the process; the subsequent part is launch her, sail her, improve her, and get back to sailing, and enjoy in both the part of the process, the building and the sailing.

  • The motivational curve exists, even if you cannot believe it , it’s there, hiding in the dark , waiting for every obstacle you will find to lower your commitment on the enterprise; the only difference is how long it will take to pass from enthusiasm to moderate satisfaction to boredom to hating another fu%&in’ weekend of sanding and fairing that sh&%%y boat. For some of us it will take one or two years, for others 4 years or more, but sooner or later the time will come when working on your project will not be a pleasure anymore; the only way to avoid this motivational friction war is to end the process and launch the boat when you still have a positive and enthusiast attitude towards the process. The worst possible scenario is one of those ads that you may find on the web: someone who is selling is half completed boat at the mere plywood and resin price after a decade or more of work, soooooo sad.






  • Assessing the budget : it is a very important to write down a detailed budget before starting the build, sorry, before purchasing the plans; you can use study plans, bill of materials, you can e-mail the designer to discuss the subject; there are a couple of main points to be taken into account:

    • completing the hull will take not more than 50% of the budget : in biggest projects like Petrel 33 this percentage goes down to 35-40 % , so when you assess your hull building budget based on bill of materials, keep in mind this basic point;

    • mast and sails are big pocket-killer items ; don’t underestimate them, get quotations and don’t forget transport costs for the mast ; second hand masts are a risky business, you don’t know their history, and how much they have been stressed, and most of the times they will force you to do modifications on the sailplan too.

    • ask quotations for whatever you think you cannot build by yourself (steel keels and lead bulb for example, altough this last one is feasible as long as you can find where to purchase the lead)

    • keep on board systems simple as you can: if you are involved in a cruising boat project you will need a stove, a fridge, a freshwater system , a toilet, an electric system, a windlass, a serious engine and a fuel system, navigation electronics advices; try to keep all this stuffs simple and working, do not over-complicate things ; you can improve them later, after the launch, once you have a much clearer idea of what you really need on board ;

    • don’t hesitate to change the plan before starting the build if you realize you are tight on budget ; there are few things more frustrating than having the hull completed and struggling to go on with the works because the “big stuffs” are killing our budget . 

    • deck gear: I tend to design very complete deck gear arrangement, somehow racing oriented, I beg your pardon for this; you can easily simplify them , keeping an eye on the pocket and an eye of what you will do with your boat, racing and cruising are different worlds; even in this area, you can improve things later depending on what the first sailing season sailing suggest you. Safety first: if you have a low budget, shape your deck gear to be simple, rugged and effective in rough weather , don’t try to save money undersizing the critical items !

    • Wooden rig: we are offering this option for the smaller sailboat plans as a way to keep the budget under control ; mast is a delicate and tricky thing to build, but at this stage of the process you have been trained by the whole previous boat building work, so it can be done.

    • Logistic: keep in mind that logistic may have a cost, in terms of building a temporary shelter or renting a warehouse or any intermediate solution; try to build your boat as near as you can to where you live, it is by far better to have a not so cheap boatyard ten minutes from your house than a free one 40 minutes away.

    • Logistic AGAIN : plan carefully how to transport your boat from the boatyard to the sea/lake/river where she will be based; this is not an headache for smaller projects but may have a relevant impact for bigger projects.

    • Engine: it has a relevant place in the budget both for bigger sailboat projects and, of course, for motorboats ; try to plan its purchase in time, explore any possible chance to save money not sacrificing the reliability of your engine (pay attention to second hand “super bargains”) , discard second hand old engines out of production or unknown brands in your local boating scene, or you will became crazy the first time you’ll need a spare part. 

Idea 19





  • the Time: this is probably the most difficult task: understand how much time will it take to launch the boat, and make a good estimation of the hours that occurs to reach our milestone. Too many variables can influence the process , from the numbers of builders making the building team, to the working hours that you will pour in the process in a month, to the logistic of the place where you are building your boat (which is EXTREMELY important as I previously wrote); I can only give you several advices:

    • read both the study plans and the building plans with attention, in case of doubt call the designer;

    • take your time to learn: the first time it will take 4 hours to do one single step of the process and it will be a mess, next time it will take two hours and everything will go smooth, and so on. It’ s perfectly normal.

    • Build a good boat, but don’t look for perfection, mostly in fairing-sending-painting area ; the step from a good looking work to perfection is a bloody huge step in terms of working hours, and a good looking boat sails as fine as a perfect looking boat

    • split the building process in smaller steps, give them a time budget and try to stay within this timetable

    • party !!! every milestone has to be properly cheered with family and friends (no, I am not joking, it is a really important thing to keep up motivation and make a winning team)

    • once you are closing to the end of works, set a date for the launch and go straight for it, in 90% of the case you will not end the boat for that time; don’t worry, as long as your boat can float and can be sailed safely, LAUNCH her, enjoy your creation, recharge your motivation batteries, you will have time later to end all that small works that have to be completed.







Good building and good sailing !!!!