Saturday, October 09, 2021

on the subject of building a boat...

A Caribbean voice of note, don't forget your flu shot, and a depressing tale of greed...

Back when I visited a boat builders coop in a hanger at the old (as opposed to the NEW) Charles De Gaulle airport to see if they'd allow me to join and build what was to become the first Loose Moose, everyone wanted to see the plans and the big question was: "How long will it take you to build it?"

At my answering "Six months" I was met with silence for about a minute which was then followed by the group bursting into boisterous laughter and a lot of variations of "No one builds a boat in six-months". For instance, Jean had bought a hull and deck for a 12M Meta design and so far he had been toiling on the interior for going on a decade. Another builder, Pascal, was twelve years into his strip planked and cold molded ketch. The rest of the builders in the coop seemed to be on the same sort of timeline where their builds were concerned. You could see that they had adapted to an unhurried boat building experience.

That being the case and the fact that they seemed interested in my strange (spelled sharpie) sailboat design, the ensuing entertainment value of watching me get bogged down by the various aspects of boat building, and that they needed a tenth member for the rent/expenses, they allowed me to join the coop.

The hanger was a pretty good place to build a boat as there was electricity, a room full of stationary tools (jointer/planer, table saw, band saw, shaper, lathe, air compressor, drill press, etc) which saved me a lot of money and, as most of the members only worked sporadically or on weekends and vacations, I pretty much had the place to myself except for one other builder, Jean the Meta guy, so there was very little time wasted waiting to use a machine when needful.

The next step in getting organized to build the boat was joining another cooperative the FIUA (Fédération Internationale l'Unité Amateur) which was a French organization that lobbied for the interests of boat builders/cruisers, helped with legal issues of boat building, and most importantly provided group buying clout that saved us thousands of dollars on pretty much everything we needed for the boat from basic materials (wood/plywood, epoxy, glass fiber) to boat systems (instruments, anchors, rope, winches, engine, pumps, toilet) even including the galley sink!


All in all this combination made for an excellent situation to build a boat quickly. My plan was to put in solid 8-10 hour days until the sucker was finished. Being part of the FIUA allowed me to put together a kit so I had pretty much everything I needed to build the boat without having to spend days shopping for stuff. Since I had a plan that I intended to follow, no time was wasted second guessing the designer or asking folks how to do stuff. All I had to do was just build the boat.

Where most folks have problems building a boat it's not about the amount of work at all. It's more about the amount of time they're not working that's the problem. Now, having worked in a boatyard where I installed interiors in boats, I quickly learned that installing a galley took X amount of labor and there would be hell to pay if the galley took longer than that. The thing is when building or rehabbing a boat, you really need to treat it just like a real job; because it is.

Having set up the build in a way that I could put 95% of my effort into actually building the boat with little or no distractions meant that when I arrived at the hanger at 8 AM I could get nine or ten hours of productive labor every day. 

Better yet, since I worked Monday thru Friday, I kept in work mode and kept to a plan with set goals. I did not waste time getting my head into the game. During the work day I'd have a cup of coffee before getting started, a quick lunch in the afternoon, and a coffee or two in the late afternoon. You know, pretty much like a real job.

My observations on the important points which result in a quick build are:

  • Choosing a design that you can build and refrain from making changes to it. Or, in other words if you want a different boat buy a different plan.
  • Create a kit with all of the materials you need to build the boat as this will save you a large amount of time and money. Building a boat on the installment plan never works to your benefit.
  • Build the plan in your head until you're ready to build in reality. This allows you to avoid "surprises", prioritize work, and develop a plan of action.
  • Avoid distractions. Build the boat. Don't talk about building the boat and ignore anything that gets in the way of finishing your boat.
  • Have a firm goal in terms of when the boat needs to be finished and make that goal a reality.

Of course, there's a lot of other bits I could talk about but I'll do that when I muse on the subject of how I'd set up for building the Argo catamaran.

Oh yeah, on whether or not I launched the finished Loose Moose in six months I'll admit I didn't. It only took a couple of months.

Launch day

Listening to Coverville

So it goes...