Tips & tricks

How to calculate the budget for a homebuilt boat?

First way

Take the bill of materials provided by the designer, contact vendors of wood, plywood , epoxy resins, galss fabrics, paints and others items, search for the best prices on the market, and then write down a detailed spreadsheet to have a clear idea of the total cost;

Pay attention: once that you’ve build the hull you’re just one third away form the start and two third form the launch, both in terms of building time and of money spent.

Detail all the “unbuildable items” as precisely as you can : engine, mast and standing rigging, deck gear, sails, system, navigation electronic package. All thes items are really hard (or impossible) to build by yourself; you’ll probably buy them, and they’re quite expensive, so contact riggers, sailmakers, boat chandlers and so on, to have a clear ideas of the involved amount of money ; talking about rig and engines pay attention to the shipping cost from the shop to your yard, it may be a significant fraction of the total purchase;

If your bill of materials misses the systems chapters , you may take a look to similar boats and write down a list of main system elements (same catalogues, as the one provided by Vetus , are a goldmine of information on this subject).

Logistic: where will you build your boat ? Is it free ? Will you pay a form of rent ? Will you spent some money to build a temporary shelter ? Anyway, detail it and put it in your spreadsheet!

Second way

A fast way to have a rough idea is this rule of thumb: take a boat of the same dimension , with similar features, made by a commercial yard ; you’ll probably spend for your homebuilding project one third of the price of the new boat.

Cost vs. Displacement: roughly speaking the cost of a boat, even homebuilt, grows in linear way with the displacement NOT with the length !!! to make an example, if you pass from a 33 footer sailboat to a 41 footer, the amount of money and time involved in building will grow about 70% , almost doubled ! We’re talking about wooden , aluminum or GRP hulls, ultralight hi-tech carbon boats are a complete different subject, that tends to follow somehow different rules.

Read up (and write down): there is a plenty of infos on the web, so let’s try to squeeze every pound of them before starting the building, and while building the boat; it will be useful in order to build a better boat, quicker and in a cheaper way; on the other side, share your progresses with other boatbuilders: it will boost your motivation, even in frustrating times, wich will come sooner or later, and this will help you to cut some corners and avoid some mistakes too.


How to keep your budget low?

Use the time of hull building to search for bargains involving the following areas: deck gear, engine, and (secondary) rigging. This means search both on the web and in the boatyards presents in your area, considering both new and used items. If you’re lucky you can purchase stock deck gear in good shape from scrapped boat.

Make your enterprise an interesting experience to be shared on the web by blogs and social media, and activate a crowfunding platform to raise funds for your boat, like kapipal or similar.

In the first phases search restlessly on the web and on the nearby market for the best prices for plywood , resins and glass fabrics, widen your searches , don’t limit them to few shops in the surroundings; you may save a good amount of money finding slightly better prices for each plywood sheet or for each liter of epoxy resin.


How to chose a project?

This is one of those nasty questions that will become our nightmare since we decide to built a boat; of course there is not a clear answer, or a mathematical algorithm to solve this equation, but we’ll somehow try to unwrap this subject:

Boat “family” : that is to say sailboat or motorboat: normally this the easiest choice, relying on our previous boating experience, very few sailor stay undecided on this point; if you have no boating experience do one, before decide to build a boat, you may got wrapped in the magic of sailing or find it terribly boring, same thing for flying around at 40 knots in a planing motorboat, it may stuck a smile on your face or become your worst nightmare;

Clear goals: how will you use your boat realistically ? I mean you can even imagine yourself at the helm of a screaming fast paced class 40 ocean racer, but the cruel reality is that you have a beloved family and a cat, not a crew of muscled tattoed oceanmates, if you’ll get lucky you’ll pass a month in a year sailing your own boat, you’re definitively not an athlet, you have a medium budget for this project, and no skills in ocean racing; so you’d probably better step back from your dreams and choose a boat you like and that you’ll use for her intented purposes, instead of trying to build a kind of never-ending sailing nighmare that will put at risk both your pocket and your marriage.

Budget: we’ll see in details how to evaluate this: stay on a project that you can effort without changing your life in a desperate fundraising marathon; in my personal opinion it’s by far a better chioce to build a 25 footer well equipped, with a very good wardrobe of new sails, a good new engine, high level deck gear, than build a 35 footer with a rattling and gasping used engine, used sails, struggling to reach your minimum budget to launch the boat and so on.

Building time: this is probably the most difficult aspect to evaluate: we’ll discuss this on a dedicated article, by now just think that building time grows approximately with displacement and NOT with lenght; pay attention to building tecnique: cold molding is a great building tecnique, wich gives probably the best hull that wood and modern materials may obtain, but it’s a building tecnique that emplies an humongous amount of time, wich is a really great concern for a homebuilder who’s aim is to sail his boat, not pass his life building her; building methods like radiuschine or stitch and glue may definitively boost your speed in building the hull.

Skill required for building: you may think this is the most important aspect, but after a dozen years dealing with homebuilders I’d dare to say that this is not exactly true; if we leave apart exotic composites, prepreg carbon, nomex and stuff like this, any “normal” building system may be learned with a quite steep learning curve by a curios person; an important aspect is that you MUST have the chance to contact the designer and have answers in a decent amount of time for every doubt (hey man, you’re building a boat not an IKEA shelf !!!).

The most important: chose a boat that you LOVE : you will dedicate the next months or years to build something really important, and huge, so it is absolutely important that you start this adventure with the highest level of committment; you really have to love the final result of your efforts and the building process, and if you’re not totally passionate on a project, reject it before the purchase, until you find a project wich is 110% what you’ll love to build and sail; and if this not exists (hard but possible), contact a boat designer to check the possibility to develope a custom project taylored to your wishes.