Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Would Anyone Build a Boat?

Why would anyone build a boat? What kind of question is that for a boat designer to ask? I ask it because there are so many people who ask it in all seriousness. They ask it because they really can't understand why anybody would build a boat instead of buying one. There are so many boats out there that are available and can be acquired with so much less effort, new boats, good used boats, boats that have been damaged in weather events, tired boats that can be rejuvenated and almost dead boats that can be resuscitated.

There is no single answer to that question, there are many reasons why people build boats for themselves and each builder no doubt has a bunch of these reasons rolled up inside whatever it is that drives him to build his boat.

A reason that is common to all of the builders is passion. They have a passion to create a boat, to create something that would never have existed were it not for them and their desire to do this. Having been there myself many times, I can attest to the fantastic feelings that flood through when we first put that new boat into the water and then to give it life by hoisting sail or opening the throttle for the first time. If you think about how wonderful you felt when you first used a new boat that you had bought, doing the same in a boat that you have created with your own hands intensifies those feelings in ways that can't be described.
Petr Muzik built his Shearwater 39 then circumnavigated in his 70's.
It is that passion that also drives many of the decisions that are made during the build project. It drives them to do quality work because they want to feel pride in the final product. They want their creation to show well when seen by others, to be seen as a thing of beauty. Those who have never thought to build a boat themselves look at it and say "Wow, did you build that?".

Financial restraints are behind many amateur boatbuilding projects. If you need or want a new (as in not pre-owned) boat that costs double the money that you can afford to put into it, then the only route to get it is to build it yourself. I have never calculated ahead of my boatbuilding projects how much they are going to cost. Each time I have just dived right in and started, then kept going to the end. That was when I found out what the total cost was and was able to compare with what it would have cost me to buy an equivalent new pop-out production boat. Each time the cost of my fully-equipped boat was around 45% of the cost of a base-package for a production boat of similar size and concept.

Those who don't get it say "It cost you a lot more, you haven't priced in your labour hours, which must be priced at your professional rate of pay". No, we don't price our labour into the project and no, we should not price it at the rate that we receive in our paying jobs, whatever they may be. The project serves as a hobby, as recreation that helps us to recover from a tough week working for someone else. It helps to keep us motivated and able to take on the world. The alternative of working very extended hours at our paying jobs to generate the funds to pay someone else to build our boat brings with it a risk of getting burned out in the process.
Andrew Morkel built his Argie 15. Now he and his family are learning to sail in it.
Many people who build big boats for long distance cruising want to build it themselves to give them confidence in the strength of the boat. They know that they will be sailing their boat on very remote waters, far from rescue services and possibly with their beloved family aboard. The safety of all depends on the quality of the build and they don't want to leave that to people whom they don't know. They have vested interest in doing everything in the best manner possible, so they want to do it themselves. In the process they garner the side benefit of knowing intimately how the boat works, where all of the important parts are, how to get to every seacock or filter in a hurry when dictated by some emergency that may develop onboard. They know exactly how to repair everything onboard because they installed it in the first place. They are likely to lay out all aspects in a very sensible and logical manner because they will have to maintain it themselves. At sea in a storm is not the best time to be trying to track down plumbing or electrical faults in systems that are overly obscure because the person who installed them before the hull liners or lockers were installed didn't consider the problems of working on them in the completed boat.

Others build their own boats because they want something different,  a boat that will stand out from the crowd on marinas, at sea and in distant anchorages. They add personal styling features to fit their own characters and they choose joinery detailing such as is not available from production boatbuilders.
Sergey Federov built his Hout Bay 33 to a very high standard.
Some people choose to build a boat purely for the hobby benefit. They enjoy the build more than using the boat, so the project will be drawn out interminably. They produce exceptional quality in the process but will probably sell the boat when completed or soon after.

It has been said many times that the happiest days of a boatowner's life are when he buys and when he sells the boat. The exception to that cliche is the boatowner who has built his boat himself. There is so much of the builder wrapped up in that boat, in the form of blood, sweat and tears, to say nothing of chunks of skin and body hair, that he and the boat have an affinity and  intimacy that is unknown to those who buy their boats. I have felt very sad when selling each of the boats that I have built, far from the happiest days of my life.

It has also been said many times that boatbuilding is a disease and when you have had it, you will experience periodic relapses. I have to agree with this one, I have had numerous relapses. I can't say that I have suffered relapses, as would apply to most diseases, I have enjoyed those relapses too much to convince my wife that I have suffered in any way. And this is the way that most amateur boatbuilders feel. Visit any of the many boat shows that cater for amateur boatbuilders and you will see for yourself how much they love what they do and just how much passion they build into their projects.

To see our range of designs, for amateur or professional boatbuilding, please go to http://dixdesign.com.