Shoestring Shipyard – Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions (in no particular order):
1) What is the top speed of the boat design I’m considering?
2) What is the weight of the hull?
3) How much will the boat hold?
4) Can I use building materials other than specified and what will it cost?
5) How long will it take me to build the boat?
6) What is the freeboard of the boat?
7) How will the boat handle in various sea conditions – will it pound?
8) What are the performance specifications?
9) Can I use an outboard larger than specified?
10) Can this boat capsize?
I receive inquiries every week that usually include most if not all the above questions; regardless of the design the person is interested in building. My answer is in essay form because my response involves most of the above topics. That is to say that to explain one is to explain all as they are all integral to each other for the most part (one explanation covers all so to speak).
Most people are familiar with boat shows that feature a wide variety of production boats on display. Every company hands out color brochures with pretty pictures and all kinds of measurements, specifications, performance data, and such. This is how all the boat manufacturers try to distinguish their boat model and compare it with the competition. We as consumers have grown to expect such data that we can use to make educated decisions as to which vessel to choose for our individual needs.
Manufacturers of boats can usually provide stock data for any model boat they offer. This is because the boats in question are production vessels which are produced in great numbers with exacting specifications in materials, craftsmanship, finishes, and other hull materials. The boats have been exhaustively tested and evaluated, and each hull off the production line will be the same in its characteristics as the next one. All of the data does not change in general.
Things are much different when you purchase boat plans for a vessel you are going to build yourself. The above questions can be easily answered for a production boat but for boats that are built by various individuals, the same questions become quite subjective. This isn’t just a grey area, it’s more like a black hole. Every single boat that is built by various individuals making their own choices as to materials, trim, outfitting hardware, finishes, etc. are all different, and all such choices make significant differences in performance data, measurements, weight, etc of the hull.
Usually, my first answer to most of the above questions is: I don’t know. Then I follow up with the explanation that I’m providing here. My stock designs for backyard builders offered through the Shoestring Shipyard Web Site are all fairly small vessels. As such, almost any change will have a direct and significant change on virtually every specification I could possibly think of listing. For example: One builder may wish to build with marine grade Okoume plywood which can be from 20% to 25% lighter than marine grade Fir plywood (and much more expensive). Another builder will opt for the strength (and higher cost) of White Oak for the structural components such as stem and main frames while another builder will build from significantly lighter Eastern Spruce. These examples show a vast difference in hull weight from one boat to another – both being the same model boat built by two different builders. The performance characteristics are obviously going to be different. The lighter boat will hold more payload, and typically be faster. How much so? Once again, I don’t know. Why? Well, one builder may decide to sheath the entire hull in epoxy and fiberglass cloth which once again will add significant weight to the hull. The other builder may just glass tape the seams and simply paint the hull because the boat is stored on a trailer rather than on a mooring. Cost is another question: How much do you want to spend? It’s up to you. You choose the materials so you determine what you will spend. Some people scrounge around and others pay top dollar, and others are just good shoppers. It does pay to shop but the amount people spend does not really average out to give you a quote. Some people can build for next to nothing and others spend a fortune – and then there is everything in between. The materials you choose alone can provide a broad spectrum as to what you may actually spend.
What else can have a direct effect on weight and performance? What motor has been chosen? One might use a heavy 4-stroke outboard and another may use a lightweight 2-stroke and therefore there is another big difference even though both motors may have the same horsepower rating.
For those wishing to use larger horsepower motors other than the max specified: Don’t do it. These days, the maximum specified HP rating is determined by a formula specified by the US Coast Guard. Use a larger one and you may receive a Federal citation.
What about boat handling and can the hull capsize? Most flat bottomed boats have a bad rap with respect to pounding. Of course a flat bottomed boat will pound in steep choppy seas if the boat is propelled by an outboard and the operator goes too fast for sea conditions. Try backing off the throttle and the problem seems to go away like magic. This is called seamanship. Seamanship can be taught to a small degree, however there is no substitute for at-sea experience in a variety of boat types and in all types of weather and sea conditions. The more one goes to sea, the more experience one gets. As far as hulls capsizing and or sinking, or anything else: Yes, of course any of these things can happen depending on weather and sea conditions and the skipper’s level of seamanship skills. Re-read this paragraph. If you wind up treading water because of stupidity (trying to sail through a category 5 hurricane when you could have stayed in port), please don’t blame the boat designer.
As far as time is concerned when building the boat, it varies quite a bit. The boat plans I offer have been designed such that they can be built with simple hand tools that one usually has around the house for home maintenance and repair. The boat building period will speed up quite a bit though with a collection of power tools. There is also the factor of wood working experience. The more the better. Everyone is different and times to build will vary quite a bit.
It usually takes longer to sand, prime, paint, and apply other finishes than it does to build the hull. How long will this be? I don’t know. If you are building a work boat and are just slapping some paint on the hull for protection purposes, the finish time may take only a couple of hours. If you are building a shrine to the great boat building God with lots of bright work, and an expensive yacht like finish, it will take you ages.
Do you have any other questions? Think about how individual builders may have an effect upon the outcome before you send me an email. If you re-read the above several paragraphs, you’ll probably have your answer. Now I hope that you can understand why there are not exhaustive lists of all kinds of data on my Web Site for each of my boat designs like boat production companies have for their boat models. It is you, the individual boat builder who gets to make all the decisions that will directly relate to the final look, weight, measurements, and performance data for your boat. You decide to add side decks or applying fiberglass to the hull, types of wood, paint finishes, etc. You decide how you will be outfitting your boat with fishing gear or whatever. You know how big you and your crew are – I certainly don’t.
These are all good things though. Why? You are building your own boat the way you wish to build it, and you are making all the decisions. The final result is a boat that is custom built and a reflection of you, the individual. Your own personality will shine through and the boat is a work of art that is a piece of you. I as the designer will have only provided you with a basic guide. You as the builder can say with pride that this is your boat and you built it yourself. You get to put in features that you only wished some of the production boats had.
I may not be able to provide you with specific answers to the above questions, but I hope that I’ve enlightened you as to why this is not possible.