Build or Renovate?

Why Build a Boat?

For many, it is a means for investing time and effort, and restricted $$$, to obtain substantially more boat than would be available by purchase only.

This is often driven by the dream of participation in boating/marine activities on a scale not otherwise available. However, there are people who derive their satisfaction through the construction process, rather than the eventual operation.

Type of Boat

A wide selection here, ranging from world cruising to trailing or cartopping to a local waterway.

Try Before You Build 

A recommendation, for those seeking to move into an area of boating outside their experience. Participate with friends, or try to buy a “low key” boat within the area of interest, that can be re-sold as a commodity, without a large cost of the short term ownership. Lack of experience in your target field of boating can lead you to investing a lot of time and money into a boat building project, and then finding that you should have chosen a different boat to build.

What Do You Need?

  • Trade skills, or skilled handy man with a track record of completing projects that they have started. These will relate to the intended material/construction technique.
  • Tools (mostly hand/power) to support the intended material/construction technique.
  • Ability to read drawings.
  • Site and facilities, including transport access for the moving and launch of the completed boat. Steel boats can be built in the open; most others require at least some shelter or a building.
  • Money to support the different stages of construction. The earlier part of a boat building project (mainly hull construction) places heavy demands on the builder’s time, and low demands on purchase of materials, equipment and support facilities. Over the latter stages of construction, there are extensive demands on money for items such as machinery, rig, outfit items, etc, with relatively low calls on labour to fit and install them. Many a boat building project has ground to a halt at this stage.
  • Boat builder’s time. This is rarely a major issue, for something that is an enthusiasm. However, many a project has been drawn out by activities taking longer than anticipated, and by changing circumstances that restrict the time that the builder can put into the project.
  • Skills development. In many cases the major boat plan suppliers offer significant “how to” documentation and support. See individual boat plan supplier pages in the Major Boat Plan and Kit Supplier section. It could be worth seeking out this support documentation from suppliers other than the supplier of the builder’s chosen design. Web forums on plan supplier and general sites can be of value, as are books.
  •  Mentors.  Boat builders should cultivate contact with other boat builders, and others involved in the various skill bases involved. It can be very good value to bring in a skilled person on a short term contract on a needs basis, both to deal with the immediate issue and to boost the builder’s knowledge base.

Boat Renovation

The major renovation of an existing boat meets many of the objectives of building a new boat. It also calls on similar skills, commitments and resources. Often the decision to removate a boat will be driven by an emotional commitment to a particular vessel.

The building term “renovation” is used here as inclusive of major restorations/reconstructions to bring a boat substantially (or as near as practicable) to its original configuration, alterations to generate a new configuration.

A number of the boats selected to illustrate construction techniques have been the subject of extensive renovations/restorations. These can be to near “as originally built” restorations in materials and techniques to extensive use of modern materials and techniques whilst retaining the configuration and (much of) the character of the original vessel. THERA  illustrated in Planked Timber – Carvel Planked is an example of this.

Questions and Comments

Where possible, please post your questions and comments under the most appropriate technique. I may move postings to what I regard as as a more appropriate area. Your postings will be most welcome.

The blog pages for each individual technique are under Techniques – Blogs in the menu structure. There are cross links between each technique page and its corresponding blog page.


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