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Thread: Plan to build a 40+ ft sloop, but never build a boat before...

  1. #1
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    Jan 2003
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    Question

    I hope to build a sloop, 40 to 50 ft OAL someday. The thing is, I never did build a boat before. [img]redface.gif[/img]

    Is it possible to learn boatbuilding with books and then proceed with a project like this, or the only thing I'll end up doing is a bunch of wood, screw and nails that looks like a sloop, and nothing more?

    Must I have to be the apprentice of some boatbuilding master for 10+ years to actually ever gain the necessary skills to accomplish something like that?

    (Let's say I have the plans of a sloop like the one on the bottom of page 37 of February's issue of Woodenboat magazine.)

    Is this too much of a dream to ever come true?

  2. #2
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    Post

    Many have done what you propose, with successful results. I even ran across a web site for a couple of women with no prior experience who were well on their way welding up a Bruce Roberts steel sloop. Boat building isn't rocket science. But success here requires the same skills as success in the rest of your life- persistence, a positive expectation, the willingness to learn new things, admit when you're wrong, etc.

    I'm sure you'll find lots of help here, or at least opinions! Decide to make it happen, and it will! Good luck!

  3. #3
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    You can accomplish what you have the health, drive, persistence, care, and resources to do.

    That's a good size boat to start with, but it's been done before.

    Read How to Build a Wooden Boat by Bud MacIntosh, Boatbuilding by Howard Chappelle, and Stewart's book, the precise title of which escapes me, but which is for sale by WoodenBoat on this website. You might read some of the Pardey's books, too. That should get you started. When you're tired of reading, build yourself a dinghy or some furniture during your spare time, just to accumulate some tools and wood-working experience.

    Don't start the big project if you can't push through to a successful conclusion. No one else on this planet but you will know the answer to that.

    Whatever you decide, and whatever you do, good luck, fair winds, and following seas.

    Alan

    [ 02-13-2003, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

  4. #4
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    You might inquire about the cost and building time. Those are often the limiting factors. A 50' boat fills a 60-70' shop.

    While many people have set out to build and good sized boat and been successful, others have failed.

    You will not learn to build good boats from books. The books will give you the technique, but will not give you the judgment:

    How uniform do the gaps in planking need to be?
    How tight should your joints fit?
    Is it important to ...?

    In the worse case you waste some time and some money. You still have a good time.

  5. #5

    Post

    Taking SOME time to apprentice is a good idea. Depends on your level of woodworking skill and so on. It's your dream... YOU determine it's outcome.

  6. #6
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    Feb 2000
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    If you have the plans for your dream boat, build a model of her, maybe to a scale of 1" to the foot. Build the model exactly like the full size boat would be built. When you are done with that, you will know whether or not you want to tackle the full size one, and you will have learned what you need to know along the way. On the other hand, if this doesn't work out, remember it will be a lot easier to throw a half-built 40" botched model in the garbage can, than it will to have a 40 FOOT monstrosity broken up and hauled out of your yard.

  7. #7
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    Short story.
    A neighbor of mine built his first boat, a 28-foot Colonial schooner drawn by Chapelle. Really brilliant craftsmanship. But there was a glitch. Chapelle, or someone, got something wrong and the thing floated high. Eight years of labor to a finished product and my neighbor had to hire someone to fix the problem.
    You can read some about it here
    http://camden.villagesoup.com/opinio...m?StoryID=1543
    So, yeah, go built the best boat you can fall in love with. Just be sure the plans are good

  8. #8
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    Read the article in WB (last spring sometime) about the Winfield Lash, a 45' homebuilt schooner; it's inspirational. He hired out the hull itself to the aforementioned Lash and it took him 17 years after that to finish her. I met the builder in Rockland last summer and he was most encouraging that the rest of us neophytes should follow our dreams too.

    -leif

  9. #9
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    how about an easy question ?? .

    There is a lot to consider , would hiring a boat builder to build and oversee your work be an option ?? , that is if you have a shop and they supply the tool's ?? .
    I thought I read somewhere that some of the boat building school's will build your boat , you can take the course and learn at the same time . Myself , I would do this full time till the hull was in the water and not attempt it on a part time basis .

    My ex used to say " life happen's , while we are busy making plan's .
    If you want something done ?? <br /> Ask a busy man

  10. #10
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    Take a look at: http://www.rutuonline.com/

    Glen Ashmore is building a 45' Cutter. He is using modern techniques for wooden boat building, strip construction, epoxy and vacume bagging.

    You will get to appreciate what it takes to get involved in a project of that magnatude. I've been following his site for most of it's existance.

    He has really taken on some incredible tasks...

  11. #11
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    Build the tender first, something like a Nutshell Pram that takes a bit more work than the Elegant Punt I recommended in a different thread.

    That would get your feet wet. It would also give you a small idea of how long things take. It will outlast your initial rush of enthusiasm, and allow more long-term thinking to dominate.

    If you're still full of enthusiasm for the 40-footer after the Nutshell is launched, you are indeed going to be a boatbuilder.

    Also, I think the idea of an overseer dropping by once a week is a very good one. It'll sure save you from making wrong turns.

  12. #12
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    You sound impatient to get started on the 40'. Call me a heretic, but you may want to examine your motives. Is it because you've succumbed to a primal impulse? ie, the cavemen who started hacking away a log, into order to cross the water? Or is it because you're interested in getting away from it all? Mortgage payments, spouse, dull job etc. Or is it because you want to learn a new skill, work with your hands, do something that turns its back on the modern world, and really really understand your boat

    All of these impulses are valid, life-affirming etc, but they don't necessarily need you to build a 40'. There may be lots of ways to get on the water, or learn a skill etc, without a huge, risky project:

    1) if you're interested in learning boat building, start with something smaller SVP! There's many abandoned projects lying around, and it tinges amateur boat builders with a certain crackpot aura.
    2) if you're interested in sailing away, you can get away cheaper and faster by selling everything and buying something secondhand.
    3) If you're still interested in combining these objectives, you could probably build, or get build a steel boat, or buy a bare hull and finish it yourself. (A relative of mine did that, they sail regularly across the Atlantic now.) Designers like Bruce Roberts and Ted Brewer will sell you a kit that can be welded together by a reasonably adept amateur. Also faster and cheaper.
    4) If you really really want a nice wooden boat, maybe start with something smaller, like a Folkboat or an Ostkust, ie around 25', that can be had much cheaper. (There's an Ostkust up our way for $7500, and a Folkboat for $10,000, both in good condition.) Just maintaining a wooden boat is a lot of work -- a 40' is like a small ship, and I shudder to think of the amount of paint and varnish required, not to mention moorage and haulout fees.

    Not to dissuade you from wooden boat building, on the contrary, I wouldn't care for anything else. It's just that dreams are a lot of hard work.

  13. #13
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    Just out of curiosity, P.Y., Has God been talking to you about any upcoming storms or worse?
    Imagination is more important than knowledge - Einstein <a href=\"http://www.pbase.com/dr_dichro\" target=\"_blank\">http://www.pbase.com/dr_dichro</a>

  14. #14
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    I had the same urge,many years ago. I gave in to it, and the boat, an S&S yawl, is just turning 33 years in age. Wonderful experience all the way.
    BUT ... ask yourself the key questions.
    Do you have a place to build it-- indoors? I didn't, and thus had to put up a temporary pole barn with plastic drop curtain sides, so I could work during the winter. Cost me couple of months to put up that throw-away work shed.
    Do you have the time? My boat took all of my spare time, evenings, weekends, vacation, for over six years. Estimate 6000 hours.
    Do you have the stick-to-it energy? What you will need more than anything is patience.
    Do you have any help? I did -- a 12-year old son who stuck with me through all six years. At age 18 he had become a respectable finish boat carpenter.
    Skills? Matls? You can pick those up on the way.
    The books mentioned in earlier posts --Stewart, Pardey, Macintosh -- are excellent guides.
    I first built the tender, using mostly
    the same techniques as would later be needed on the big boat --round bottom, steam bent frames, etc. That way my son and I learned the rudiments. As they say, make your mistakes on a small scale.
    Big boat is strip planked, edge nailed and glued. That's an option you may want to consider, as the pieces are small and easy for one man to handle, mistakes are easy to correct, and the result is a watertight hull with no caulking (a black art). I would stay away from sheet plywood or steel, as the pieces are harder to manhandle working alone. Another alternate, wood composite with veneers put down with plastic staples (vacuum bagging would be an option but requires some helpers: the stapled veneers you can put down alone). As for an all glass boat, I reject that out of personal bias: I like to work with wood,
    not goo.
    Cost? It will be cheaper but far from free. My boat came in at about 1/3 the cost of having a yard build her, or about the same cost as going out and buying a well-used but still sound equivalent. The question is not how much you will save, but how you want to spend the next six years. Good luck with it.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2003
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    Québec, Qué., Canada
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    Thumbs up

    Well since you brought it up John, there's that little voice in my head that tells me to do stuff...but wait...isn't that everyone else's case? [img]tongue.gif[/img]

    Thanks everyone for the feedback. I knew it was a big project, but I didn't know if it had been done before, or if it was at least possible! (for a neophyte like me, I mean)

    But the question as now turned into "How big?"

    (Carlsboats gave some answers while I was writting those questions. I am posting them anyway so anyone can fill in the gaps.)

    Does anyone have an idea of:
    - The cost of material to build it?
    - The labour hours needed?
    - The cost and labour hours to maintain it afterward?
    I am not asking for a quotation here, the point is to pull my head out of the clouds, if that's where it is. If I have succumbed to a primal impulse this will surely help to bring a touch of realism into it!

    P.Y.

  16. #16
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    P.Y. - A forty footer would be nice - but I couldn't afford the maintainance and yard fees and hauling, etc. So I'm building this:



    I can build it in my garage, and store it there in the winter.
    The designer's info says 1000 hours but some here have taken much longer. Cost should be around $10,000
    Good luck,

    Steven

  17. #17
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    Sep 2000
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    Eustis, FL, USA
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    Boat building on this grand a scale, thru completion, by a first timer, is the exception, not the rule. As with raising kids, this will not be instant gratification, but a gentle progress forward towards the goal of finishing before she divorces you. In fact, many a fine relationship has been torn apart by a project like this. It's best to have your partner if not a willing hammer swinger a fine supporter after a good long sit in the moaning chair kind of day.

    Yes, it can be done, though the odds aren't real good in finishing it. This is only because of the lack of experience, but it still can be done. Building the tender or a model is a great idea, as it will get your feet wet and determine what skills you'll need to learn, job out or just get better at.

    Setup a plan starting with the obvious stuff, place to build, materials, cost management and scheduling, wifely input and see how your ducks line up. You may find, and I hope you do, that the excitement is still building deep inside you, and the time, cost, schedule, materials and site issues haven't scared you off.

    You already know this will take lots of all of the above. Talk with the designer about home construction and get his feelings. Pick a design, and get the plans in hand for a look see. Some designs and designers are better then others for home building and you'll need this help for a project like this. These are some of those ducks you'll need to have lined up. Old and new friends that have the skills and experience you'll be using if only to pick their brains when you get stuck.

    The day will arrive and you'll loft her up, setup shop and lay the keel. Keep plugging, you'll get it done. This is the key, keeping at it. Steady hacking away until all that remains is your dream and loads of scrap lumber.

    Go for it, YOU CAN DO IT . . . though I would strongly recommend a smaller project for completion sake for a first time project. There are a number of wonderful designs intended as "the first boat" project and completion of this would give you the confidence to move up to a larger craft. You may find, after building a Vacationer for example, that you'll only need a 30'er not the 40+'er after all. You may also find that you don't ever want to have to do anything like this again.

    I suspect you're well bitten and will be at this for the rest of your life. Once this kind of thing takes hold, it doesn't go away. It uses up more and more of your daydreaming time, until you can dream of little else. Once you build, you'll build again, or improve what you've got, or hack out the old stuff and do it better or make repairs, but better this time or more convenient this time (you'll find many excuses for butchering good wood for a boats sake)

    Good Luck,

  18. #18
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    Dec 1999
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    I have built a successful cold-molded 36' sloop (Ceol Mor). We've sailed her the last 3 summers, though more work remains. Most of her building was in a 40'x18' plastic-covered shed; she now has a more permanent shed. 21 years to launch, around 9000 hours of work. Don't contemplate doing this unless you know (or strongly suspect) that you'll enjoy the process as much as you will having the boat. If the boat itself is the main goal, in this size, then look seriously into having some of the work done by others (or buy a decent used boat).

    For me, the process was a whole lot of fun; Ceol Mor would have been done sooner except that I spent most of my vacations sailing or the like rather than in the boatshed; this is also a good idea if you have a marriage you would like to preserve [img]smile.gif[/img]

    The amount of labor goes up exponentially with size; very roughly, in 'larger' boats 32' and up, with the displacement - but also varies according to construction technique.

  19. #19

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    On the length of building boats, yah, there's that.

    I've been building building a 12' plywood dinghy for 3 years (only been putting in about 4 hours a week though.). If I had been building it just to go sailing, it would have been firewood long ago. But as I built it, I found that I liked the process of building it, and even (this may sound crazy) almost regretted the day it would be launched; I'm already looking at the next boat to build, a 33 foot cat ketch. Yeah, it'll take a real long time (especially since I'll be in college), but I actually enjoy the process of building the boat.

    If you're building a boat like that, first time, be sure that you're going to savor the building, otherwise you're boat'll be headed for the stove in short order.

    However this is, caveat emptor, advice from a novice, so take it with a pound or so of salt.

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