This is probably the most frequent question we receive from our prospective clients. It is quite a tricky question to be replied with a certain degree of precision, since the factors involved in the total cost of building may vary drastically from one construction to another. We know cases of differences as large as 50% from one boat to another of the same design, both built by amateurs. A builder who uses his own shed, has a well equipped workshop supplied with the proper tools to accomplish the job, working alone, or with the assistance of his family or friends, and surveys meticulously the prices of raw materials and equipments, will spend considerably less than another builder who does not have the same facilities or attitudes.
Another factor of difficult comparison is what one considers the cost of building, considering the different possibilities of sophistication and installation aboard. It is unfair to compare a Spartan electronic installation, where a VHF, a hand held GPS, and a compass are the only instruments to be installed, with another yacht of the same design with radar, chart plotter, 22" monitor with digital television, etc. This difficulty of comparison applies to all other systems aboard.
strongly advise that the potential builders prepare their own cost surveys before they start their constructions. We provide the necessary information in our site for each stock plan for a preliminary cost survey, which should be adapted to local prices, including raw materials, cost of services and equipment.
This is another issue that we don't feel confident to answer, considering the diversity of factors which influence the time of construction. Personal skills, working conditions and previous experience are important factors that can make enormous difference between two builders constructing the same design.
The key factor to be considered is the pleasure the challenge of building a dream boat represents. If you are building for your own usage, it is not so important if the cost of your work isn't accounted in the final cost of the boat. Only in case you want to sell her later, this cost should be added to the boat's price.
It happens too often that an amateur construction extends for longer periods than expected. In most cases, however, the reason for that is the convenience of the builder in expending a monthly amount compatible with his/her budget.
Most our clients who had managed to complete the construction of one of our models had never built a boat before. Their lack of experience, however, did not deter them from producing high quality boats, in many cases with a standard of finishing superior to the average professional built yachts. Two reasons contribute to this: The very understandable natural pride of the amateur who is building a boat for himself as a great achievement, and the fact that he/she does not need to obtain savings in the choice of materials and equipments in order to keep the construction within an attractive profit margin , neither is he concerned if a specific operation requires a longer time to be accomplished than would be accepted by a commercially built yacht.
On the other hand we do our best to assist our clients, providing them with easy to understand detailed information, which will take him/her from scratch to the finished boat. What really counts is the disposition of the builder to bond him/her with the permanent intention of keeping the higher standard he/she can afford.
You should not attempt to make radical changes in the design specifications. Stock plans are generally very well detailed and the specifications are strictly related to that design. Major alterations represent loosing the information meticulously gathered during the development of the project with serious risk of a bad result. Sometimes it is more complicated to perform an alteration than to start from scratch. However, minor changes intended to suit the preferences of the builder may be performed. If there is any doubt about the adequacy of an intended alteration, we advise our clients to consult us before accomplishing the modification. If our office is committed to perform the intended alterations, we will charge design fees for our services, charging in an hourly base for our work. If the alterations intended are of small magnitude, not affecting the structural plan or systems specifications, these changes may be made by the builder, preferably consulting us about the intended changes.
We do our best to provide clear explanations in our building manuals together with simple to understand illustrations, shown either in the plans or in the building manuals, instructing how to build our stock plans for amateur construction. (We consider adequate for amateur construction only the non-metallic boats smaller than 36 feet, L.O.A. These aren't absolute limitations for the amateur, but simply a general rule based on actual experience.) We chose the most accessible building methods for the layman to specify our plans for amateur construction. All of them are within the reach of the begginer and the right choice for one of the methods adopted by our office should be based on personal preference. If one potential builder is acquainted with fiberglass lamination and understands composite structures, single skin or sandwich construction are the best choices. If, however, the preference is for working with wood, our plans specified for strip-planking or cold molded lamination should be preferred. Those who are acquainted with glass reinforced composite construction but are also familiar with wooden construction, the so-called ply-glass boat building method, (marine plywood sheathed with fiberglass wetted in epoxy resin), or the wooden core sandwich building method are recommended.
One aspect that should not be neglected when opting for one method or another is the fact that no matter the choice, all boats require some type of regular maintenance and eventual repair. Then the type of construction chosen is directly related to the type of maintenance required, and a good affinity with the building process is welcome, if this maintenance is supposed to be performed by the owner.
In spite of the generally accepted idea that steel yachts are the strongest, boats built with other materials, depending on their scantlings, can be as strong as steel yachts. Excessive strength may constitute a handicap and should be avoided. If a boat is excessively dimensioned, the unnecessary strength represents extra weight, and this, besides representing extra cost, may also be a reason for concern, since heavy boats are slow, maneuver poorly, and depending on the centre of gravity vertical position, may have its stability decreased.
It is important that a boat be resistant enough to stand the punishment of the worst bad weather, and this is the goal when defining the scantlings in our designs. A good example of this is the Cape Horn 35 Utopia; This yacht was in Saint Martin during the passage of hurricane Louis, one of the fiercest ever in the West Indies. Among a fleet of more than nine hundred yachts, Utopya, then called Guruça, was one of the less than one hundred survivors of the tragedy. Later, already belonging to a new owner, this boat went for a round the world trip. When in Thailand, Utopya was hit when at anchor by the tsunami that devastated that country. Later in the trip she collided with a whale which bent her 20mm stainless steel propeller strut, and even though Utopya managed to complete the voyage unassisted, under sail only.
The study plans consist of three to four sheets of the full set of plans that constitute the whole project. They include the sail plan, when the boat in case is a sail boat, the general arrangement plan, the deck plan and the construction plan, where it is shown the list of materials employed in the construction. With these plans in hand it is possible to obtain an approximate cost of the construction. However most of this data is already published in our site, so there is not necessarily the need for the acquisition of these preliminary plans. Even so, many amateurs prefer to order the study plans before acquiring the project, most probably to be acquainted with the way we display the information contained in the plans. If you already chose which design you intend to build, it is not necessary to order the study plans first, since all the data contained in the study plan are part of the stock plan.