Jim Michalak's Boat Designs
118 E Randall, Lebanon, IL 62254
A page of boat designs and essays.
(1May2015) This issue will look at the cost of boats. The 15 May issue will discuss rudders.
THE BOOK IS OUT!
BOATBUILDING FOR BEGINNERS (AND BEYOND)is out now, written by me and edited by Garth Battista of Breakaway Books. You might find it at your bookstore. If not check it out at the....
ON LINE CATALOG OF MY PLANS...
...which can now be found at Duckworks Magazine. You order with a shopping cart set up and pay with credit cards or by Paypal. Then Duckworks sends me an email about the order and then I send the plans right from me to you.
MESSABOUT NOTICE:THE REND LAKE MESSABOUT WILL TAKE PLACE ON JUNE 12 and 13 AT THE RINGNECK LOOP OF THE NORTH SANDUSKY CAMP GROUND AT REND LAKE IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS. USUALLY THE SANDUSKY CAMP GROUNDS MIGHT BE FULL FOR THAT WEEKEND. BUT SOME OF OUR BOATERS HAVE RESERVED SOME OF THE SITES THERE SO YOU (AND I) MIGHT PASS THAT WAY FIRST SINCE SEVERAL TENTERS CAN SHARE A CAMPSITE. IF NOT, THEN I WOULD TRY THE WAYNE FITZGERRELL STATE CAMPGROUND WHICH IS ON THE MAIN CAUSEWAY LEADING TO SANDUSKY. THEIR WEBSITE SAYS IT IS STRICTLY FIRST COME FIRST SERVE, NO RESERVATIONS ALLOWED. IT IS A VERY QUICK DRIVE FROM THERE TO SANDUSKY. HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!
Steve Lewis at the Rend Lake Messabout in 2007 in his paddle scow fitted with sail rig and plastic noodle stabilizers.
118 E Randall,
Lebanon, IL 62254
Send $1 for info on 20 boats.
(The following essay was written in 1999. It is still very basic but the numbers and costs have changed, no doubt.)
BIG BOATS - WHAT THE SALESMAN FORGOT TO TELL YOU...
Where I live, near St. Louis, there are only a small handful of million dollars boats. But there are a good number of motor yachts in the $300,000 range, usually about 50' long, three stories high, and with twin V8 engines. My advisor on such matters is the Old Insurance Man, or OIM for short. These yachts each come complete with accountant and lawyer, of course, so figuring what one really "costs" can involve a lot of imagination. But the OIM points out that anyway you pay for it, the 300K could be in the bank earning a secure 6% with no worry or effort on your part, so the owner is losing about $18,000 a year there. The OIM says insurance around here typically is about $1500 per year. Slip fees here would be maybe $300 a month for such a boat, could be a lot more in some marinas, so that is another $3600 a year. So without ever leaving the dock or doing any maintenance you are at about $23000 per year you would be out for having the boat, about $65 a day so far. The OIM pointed out one owner who sold his 50 foot $300K boat and got a new 53 foot similar boat for $1.3 million. A better newer boat, no doubt, but it still looks like someone paid a million dollars for a 3 foot boat. The OIM said the man suffered from a medical condition called "Biggest Cock In The Jungle Syndrome".
DOWN AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE...
Boats costing $30,000 are actually pretty common. A deluxe bass fishing boat will be in that range and if you see one going down the highway behind a fancy truck you are looking at $60,000 worth of stuff. Larger inboard runabouts like family skiboats can also be in this range, or more expensive, and you see them all the time. I don't know of any new cabin cruisers with bathroom and microwave that cost less than this, most are a lot more. These boats are usually financed by the dealer like a car except the loan will run for maybe 15 years. Anyway you pay for it the OIM would point out you are losing at least 6% or $1800 a year in potential interest. Insurance might be $150 a year. Slip fee might run $100 to $200 a month around here although you might get by with trailering. So that is about $3800 a year, or about $10 a day whether you use it or not.
DOWN ANOTHER ORDER OF MAGNITUDE...
There are lots and lots of boats out there in the $3000 range. I suppose that might include most used fishing boats and smaller sailboats. (A look at a local dealer showed no new boats for that - the cheapest rig they had was a fine but plain aluminum jonboat, about 14' long, with a new 10 horse four stroke motor, all on a big wheeled galvanized trailer, for $3800.) The usual loss in potential interest would be about $180 a year. Most likely you would trailer a boat like this and slip fees would be no factor. Your home owner's insurance will often cover a smaller boat at no extra charge and you might skip any extra insurance. So the costs here are usually pretty acceptable. I've had boats in this range and my only thought about boating costs are the immediate things like registration of boat and trailer and maybe fuel costs.
Now we're getting to the main subject of the essay: I want to look at the costs of building a plywood boat and explain why they vary so much from builder to builder. When someone asks me "how much will it cost me to build that boat?" I usually don't give an answer anymore. (An even more loaded question is "How many hours will it take me to build that boat?") As an example of the varying costs I'm going to use Harmonica, the featured boat of this issue, even though Phil Bolger would be very quick to point out that it is questionable to spend a lot on a boat that was designed to be cheap. Here is a photo of Harmonica:
Plywood is the main element of this boat and Harmonica needs needs six sheets of 1/4" plywood and four sheets of 3/8" plywood. The cheapest boat would use exterior pine plywood from the lumberyard. I think that plywood costs $12 a 3/8" sheet and 1/4" sheet is not available in pine at my lumberyard. The extra weight in using all 3/8" plywood might be about 80 pounds and this boat could handle that. So that is about $120 worth of cheap plywood.
Perfect plywood per BS1088 turns out to be cheaper than I thought. 1/4" Okoume sells for $69 a sheet and 3/8" for $79 a sheet. So the bill here would be $730. Okoume is said to be quite light in weight. A denser harder perfect plywood might be Khaya which is $95 a 1/4" sheet and $119 a 3/8" sheet for a total of $1046 for Harmonica. Just for this argument let's say the perfect boat builder uses Kyaha for the bottom, four sheets of 3/8", and Okoume for the topsides, six sheets of 1/4", and that all figures to be $890.
There is some framing lumber involved too but I don't really know how much. But as I recall clear lumber costs about three times as much as common lumber. Let's say the cheap boat uses $50 of common lumber and the perfect boat uses $150 in clear lumber.
As for glue, this is a tough one. The cheap builder might get a $10 bag of Weldwood plastic resin glue from Wick's Aircraft and should have enough. Another reasonable choice might be some tubes of waterproof construction glue, let's guess 8 tubes at $3 a tube?? The perfect builder is going to use epoxy and will buy a lot of it because he plans to coat the entire boat and glass the outside. Let's say he gets 5 gallons at $50 a gallon, or $250 worth. (I'll admit I have no idea of what he will really need but it will be more than a gallon and less than ten.) The cheap builder will have to get some epoxy, too, to armor his chines. So he gets one gallon at $50 and has maybe $75 in adhesives in his boat.
As for fiberglass supplies, the cheap builder is only going to armor his chines and bottom seams so he gets by with a $20 roll of glass tape, 50 yards worth. The perfect boat is glassed all outside so he gets his roll of tape plus maybe 20 yards (I'm guessing again) of 6 ounce glass cloth at $5 a yard for a total of $120.
As for fasteners, the cheap boat might use lumberyard galvanized nails and the perfect boat use bronze boat nails. But I would suggest the bronze nails for everyone as they are truely superior and you don't really need that many. Another guess at maybe $15 for the bronze nails to build the whole boat.
OK, now we've got the structure done. Let's paint it. The cheap boat might use a gallon of good latex primer and another gallon of good top paint, about $40 worth. The perfect boat tries premium brushable oil based marine paint at $40 a gallon or $80 total.
There will be other costs in fitting out but I won't get involved with those.
Let's add it up:
Item Cheap Boat Perfect Boat Plywood 120 890 Lumber 50 150 Glue 75 250 FGlass 20 120 Nails 15 15 Paint 40 80 Total $320 $1505
So the premium boat costs almost five times as much as the cheap boat. I may be wrong with my estimates but I can tell you this factor of five is no surprize to me. I've seen it over and over. I might also add that the $320 cheap version is pretty believable to me too. My records show I spent $406 on the hull of my prototype AF4 and it uses similar construction and materials to the Harmonica. I used $20 exterior plywood instead of the pine exterior plywood and think it was worth it in that the quality meant there was no waste and the smooth surface required no paint preparation.
I'd like to also point out that I never really have to steer anyone towards cheap or premium construction. Everyone seems to know from the start exactly which way they want to do it.
IS THERE A MIDDLE GROUND?...
My first little boat was done with premium materials but my second one, the prototype Bolger Jinni, was a lumberyard boat all the way. I wrote to Phil Bolger admitting that and his response was that there were only two ways to build a boat - total cheap all the way or gold plate all the way. Nothing in between made sense.
I don't know if things are quite so simple, though. Fir marine plywood would likely cost midway between the cheap exterior ply and the premium ply and in Harmonica's case you might save a few hundred dollars over the premium boat. Looking at my guesswork it would appear that glassing the exterior costs you maybe $300. I think in some cases it might be worth it. Glassing the exterior is also a lot of extra work but I've seen some fine examples that really held up over the years.
You do have options.
BLOBSTER, SAILBOAT, 16' X 6.5', 750 POUNDS EMPTY
Blobster has a lot of features I like in a boat. Lots of volume for its size, sort of like Micro or Scram Pram. The multichine shape is almost exactly like Scram's but this one does not have a Birdwatcher cabin. It has the more traditional cabin with a raised watertight deck behind. Also it has one feature I would love to have in my personal boats - a step-through bow so that when you beach you can go forward through the cabin and out the front without going into the water or climbing over the bow. The cabin also has a slot top roof.
This shape of boat with multichines has proven good in rough water and with fair speed in spite of its blobular proportions. Blobster has about 600 pounds of water ballast in its belly and should be OK to 90 degrees heel although such depends mostly on weight distribution of the crew, something the designer has little control over. On the other hand, if the crew jumps overboard the boat will be almost assured of righting without their help. Then the problem becomes reboarding. Be prepared!
Sail rig is a large but simple 139 square foot balanced lug on an 18' mast. Mast is stepped off center to allow you to walk upright down the slot top and out the front. Should be rigged in an instant with no one going on deck ever. All very low tech built with common materials but effective.
The prototype Blobster was built by Miles Bore in Australia. He had built several boats prior, including a Micro, and did a great job of it using very nice materials.
Outside and on its trailer for the first time, the likeness to Micro is clear. But you can see it was meant to be much easier to trailer and launch.
Then he used it for a while as a low power motor cruiser while he finished the sail rig. You can see how easy the boat was meant to use from the beach with its step through bow transom.
Then for the rig and off for a sail, shown here with ballast tanks full. Miles reports it sails with no vices so far. No, he hasn't capsized it yet.
Miles got this photo of the inside. The living platform you see is 7' long and 6' wide max and about 42" at its deepest from platform to slot top. With the slot top cabin and step through transom it is a pretty airy home. Maybe not the little cruiser that Micro is but clearly much easier to use in general and a good choice for a daysail when you have but a couple of hours at the lake.
Great job, Miles!
Blobster uses taped seam construction. Five sheets of 1/4" plywood, eleven sheets of 3/8" plywood and one sheet of 1/2" plywood.
Plans for Blobster are $45.
Some of you may know that in addition to the one buck catalog which now contains 20 "done" boats, I offer another catalog of 20 unbuilt prototypes. The buck catalog has on its last page a list and brief description of the boats currently in the Catalog of Prototypes. That catalog also contains some articles that I wrote for Messing About In Boats and Boatbuilder magazines. The Catalog of Prototypes costs $3. The both together amount to 50 pages for $4, an offer you may have seen in Woodenboat ads. Payment must be in US funds. The banks here won't accept anything else. (I've got a little stash of foreign currency that I can admire but not spend.) I'm way too small for credit cards.
I think David Hahn's Out West Picara is the winner of the Picara race. Shown here on its first sail except there was no wind. Hopefully more later. (Not sure if a polytarp sail is suitable for a boat this heavy.
Here is a Musicbox2 out West.
This is Ted Arkey's Jukebox2 down in Sydney. Shown with the "ketchooner" rig, featuring his own polytarp sails, that is shown on the plans. Should have a sailing report soon.
And the Vole in New York is Garth Battista's of www.breakawaybooks.com, printer of my book and Max's old outboard book and many other fine sports books. Beautiful job! Garth is using a small lug rig for sail, not the sharpie sprit sail shown on the plans, so I will continue to carry the design as a prototype boat. But he has used it extensively on his Bahamas trip towed behind his Cormorant. Sort of like having a compact car towed behind an RV.
And a Deansbox seen in Texas:
Another prototype Twister is well along:
And the first D'arcy Bryn is to the point the builder can sit and relax in it and imagine boating. You can follow the builder's progress at http://moffitt1.wordpress.com/ ....
The first Jukebox3 is on the (cold) water. The mast is a bit too short - always make your mast too long. A bit more testing will be nice...
A brave soul has started a Robbsboat. He has a builder's blog at http://tomsrobbsboat.blogspot.com. (OOPS! He found a mistake in the side bevels of bulkhead5, says 20 degrees but should be 10 degrees.) Double layer bottom on...
AN INDEX OF PAST ISSUES
THE WAY BACK ISSUES RETURN!
MANY THANKS TO CANADIAN READER GAETAN JETTE WHO NOT ONLY SAVED THEM FROM THE 1997 BEGINNING BUT ALSO PUT TOGETHER AN EXCELLENT INDEX PAGE TO SORT THEM OUT....
THE WAY BACK ISSUES
15may14, Prismatic Coefficient, Roar2
1Jun14, Roar2 Repair, Piragua
15jun14, Rend Lake 2014, Toto
1jul14, Mast Tabernacles, Musicbox3
15jul14, Sandell Tabernacle, Mikesboat
1aug14, Taped Seams, Cormorant
15aug14, Plywood Butt Joints, Paulsboat
1sep14, Rowing 1, Vireo
15sep14, Rowing 2, Philsboat
1oct14, Guessing Weight, Larsboat
15oct14, SailOK2014, Jonsboat
1nov14, Chine Runners, Piccup Pram
15nov14, Lugsail Rigging, Caprice
1dec14, Sail Area Math, Ladybug
15dec14, Poly Laminates, Sportdory
1jan15, Sharpie Spritsail, OliveOyl
15jan15, Knockdown Recovery, Dockbox
1feb15, Mike Monies, Laguna
15feb15, Cartopping, IMB
1mar15, WeeVee Lessons, Vole
15mar15, Bulkhead Bevels, Frolic2
1apr15, Capsize Lessons, Riverrunner
15apr15, Hollow Spars, Slam Dink
Mother of All Boat Links
The Boatbuilding Community
Kilburn's Power Skiff
Bruce Builds Roar
Rich builds AF2
JB Builds AF4
JB Builds Sportdory
Puddle Duck Website
Brian builds Roar2
Herb builds AF3
Herb builds RB42
Barry Builds Toto
Table of Contents