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Cheap price of secondhand boats including Wharrams, sustainability etc

On Ebay today in the UK there is a Wharram Hinemoa for £2300, with rig, and some equipment.

I've spent more than that over the years on disposable gloves, cleaning equipment, syringes, weighing scales, pumps, filters for extractors and  filter masks, (mostly powered),  hundreds of brushes, foam brushes, rollers, overalls, barrier creams and other skin protection, not to mention chucking lots of epoxy which is past sell- by, and 2 pack paint and varnish where the hardener has gone off once the pack is opened and not fully used. What a waste. It's hard to make the weather or fulltime work fit into a "leisure" activity. It's hard to justify the waste.

The future for self-building must be different to this epoxy-laminate self-build scenario, which depends on a quick build in ideal conditions (not UK!) undercover and with maximum hours worked per square foot of boatshed space per month (note, not max hours per foot of boat). This isn't viable now in pressured land- expensive places like the UK. It's crazy when monohulls and the occasional multi are available for not a lot of money, equipped.

I'd be interested myself in building another boat sometime, but long ago I decided it would be a timber boat through and through, mechanically fixed, built outside under shade/raincover. I've lived in places where they built boats on the beach like this, big and good ones.

Non -ferrous fixings have gone through the roof pricewise, decent timber (ie clear straight-grained planks, not off the side of a quickgrown tree: quarter sawn is unheard of these days, but some Through and Through sawn planks are ok) is expensive and hard to get without waste.

Also I have questioned for a long time the problem of oil-based adhesives/finishes/glass fibre and epoxy.

We need to start again. Using the huge sump of secondhand boats is the best thing in the short term.

Building a timber boat from scrap would be a good project. Catamarans are harder in all respects, because of lightness and because everything has to be done twice...

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Absolutely building a boat only makes sense if you think you want to, however part way in you might start to think differently especially when you see complete boats selling cheap.

Indeed, I bought a couple myself while building otherwise I would have forgotten how to sail....

However, there seems to have been very significant inflation in the last few years of both material prices and space to rent. The optimum larger hull size I would say would be limited to about 25ft long for ease of moving about and housing, after that it gets much more difficult in all respects. Being able to trailer the boat is a huge advantage. I moved my 31ft hulls many times, and built trailers for them, but really they are too long for self-building.  Getting them on and off a trailer singlehanded is quite a game, since they are of course, top-heavy. I know to within an inch or so where the point of balance is on these hulls, that's essential knowledge. The art of moving anything is based on the point of balance. My trade at one point was in large oak structures and I had to move tons of timber regularly on my own with pinchbars, wedges and blocks while making up big frames and fitting them (though I used forklifts/telehandlers (still got one) of course where possible).

Fifty years ago when I first helped my dad complete a 23ft sloop, most private boats were around 23/24 ft.  We built that boat in the garden. I still have the same house, but although there is actually space to lay out a 31 ft catamaran there is no way of getting it out as there are trees inhibiting craneage and those trees are protected by law from alteration.

Now, as the rich have got richer and the poor poorer, and continue to do so, there are plenty of much bigger boats around owned by that sector and the smaller ones are poor cousins  lashed -up sometimes as project boats by the indigent and homeless; there are plenty around and some of them are still very good, like the Ballerina, or Halcyon 23/27. The Ballerina was latterly made famous by Roger D Taylor, advocate of minimal boats, with his epic Mingming voyages (his books are very well written, worth a look).

My impetus for self -building was not price/cost, but because I like making things and can dictate quality. The parameters (cost, environmental  considerations) have moved over the years, and I firmly believe now that there needs to be a readjustment away from the "chemicals" and back to naturally resilient timbers which "go back into the ground", ie which are natural materials not plastic.

I bought a wood some years ago. As luck would have it, I've got a stand of about 200 Douglas Fir in it (it's in Euroland not the UK, I'm not that well-off). Doug Fir is ok, not as good as North American of course, as the rings are much further apart in our trees which grow faster. Also I have a number of huge, clear, (ie no branches lower down) poplar trees, already past their best. Poplar would be a great timber for catamarans were it not known for  rot. As a beam, it has quite good strength characteristics. But most importantly it's very light, and it's a sustainable and quick grower...if only...

Look up paulownia trees they are quick light strong straight and rot resistant, becoming popular in nz and Australia to build boats and surfboards and to replace cedar. Can be as little as 10 years from planting to milling.

Correction, Taylor's boat was a Corribee. That was today's deliberate mistake, as my maths teacher used to say when a problem he demonstrated on the blackboard turned out to have the wrong answer..

Ahoy Fellow Sailors and Adventurers,

     It isn't all about money and time.  Otherwise it would be OK to punch the time clock and pay the bills, what more is there?  I just wasted 2 1/2 weeks building a D4 dinghy that they said could be built in 20 hours.  I've been rowing it around and it works well, I would change the built in flotation under the seats to have more leg room when I am rowing, but I am happy with it.  It weighs 55 lbs and I can launch it from a dock even in my old age.

     It's more satisfying to have made something, then sit in it out on the water, than to buy something and do the same.  The real trick is to design something and build it and sit in it on the water.  I have a friend who builds boats of his own design from time to time.  He does no calculations, it is all by his sense of proportion, his eye, and maybe a model or two.  He is 65 years old and has been in traditional ship building for most of his working life.  He has great satisfaction in doing all those things, although he has not made a lot of money, and now he is old.

     I am putting bottom paint on a 44 foot Wharram and it is hard work.  I will be 70 next year, but by then she'll be in the water.  I also have an 18 foot outrigger canoe that needs a few things to be ready to sail, but the work on the big boat takes longer and takes precedence.  I find smaller boats are much more fun than larger boats, but when you are out at sea, even what you thought was a large boat doesn't feel so large.

     One thing on the money side is payments on a boat loan vs monthly budget to build one.  If you buy a used boat you start out with something that may be usable right away.  A lot of the things on a boat have a short life expectancy, so probably the worst is the electronics and electrical, seawater kills them right away, then you have the bottom, covered in barnacles unless revamped every year or every other year.  U/V damage to the running rigging and sails.  A small boat has small problems and small repair bills.  You can build a small boat very quickly.  If you budget out a monthly stipend for your boat, you can go on for a long time with a build that you can sustain, then you will get into the water.  How long?  How many large Wharrams never get to the water.  I know of several, over the years, large multihull projects that just fizzled after a few years, maybe ten.  If you go to Duckworks and see what people there are making, you see smaller projects.  Wharram also has smaller boats that are popular and good designs.   

     If you have a good skill and are making good money, it might pay to save your money over the time period it would take to build your own boat.  The time you spend choking on sawdust might be better spent on helping your clients and reaping the rewards.  Build your boat fund.  Then go shopping.

     Right now I am in a boatyard that is chock full of boats with uncertain futures.  Some have been damaged, others have owners changing their direction, and we have a guy, I am not kidding, who was an autopsy man, cutting up boats.  We call him "Doc".  Quincy?

     But that is at the low end.  We have also tremendous expenditures to make a repair to continue an adventure or a life style.  I am making a tremendous expenditure in time, not so much money, to continue my adventure and life style.  I love having the opportunity to do so.  If I never got involved with a Wharram catamaran, I would be oblivious to this other life, the old shrimp boats docked down the inlet, the salt marshes, birds and winds, thunderstorms coming from the West, and it's only another stop in the adventure.  

     So, you can get a boat cheap by buying an older monohull or an unfinished project.  Sometimes it might take several builders to get a big boat finally launched.  I was builder #3 and I launched.  Now I am still rebuilding and launching.  So it goes.

     For every unfinished boat project there is someone who started and worked along toward a goal, but if they give up, then the next one can put in their effort and maybe get a launch.  The maintenance starts the day you launch.

     As far as lumber, trees, and all that, my boat started in the California desert, South, no trees.  Everything had to come in from somewhere else.  I used Chinese plywood on my dinghy and a wood expert said one lamination of the plywood was bamboo.  Seems to work OK.  Epoxy does a good job of making things inert if you can coat it well enough.

     The bottom line is that if you need to get on the water, you have to spend some money, take some time, or expend both, to get on the water.  You can sail on other people's boats, which for me has been good the last couple of years, but I've been turning down offers lately to get my own boat in the water right away.  You don't have to build a boat or own a boat to go sailing.

     Now I am tired and have to get some sleep.  I have to paint 5 coats of bottom paint, but not all in one day, it is a sign that I am nearing launching day, hoo hoo.    

There's someone in my yard who designed and built his own (keel) boat in ply about 45 years ago. He spent some time reading up Harison Butler's (he was essentially an amateur also) book "Cruising yachts, design and performance", then drew it up.

When he was about to start building his marriage went west and he had limited resources. So he just reduced the boat size by 25%. That's cutting your cloth....

He took the boat to the Carribean from the UK when he was knocking 80 (and brought her back!)

There seems to be a lot happening re Wharram licensed or otherwise builders at the moment. I think this reflects some of the points I have made above. In the yards I have inhabited, most of the people who eventually manage to get a selfbuild boat into the water are quite old.....

With the increasing gap between the rich and the rest, UK reflects the USA over the last 30 years in that, the top sector can just buy a boat. The idea to selfbuild is changing to renovation/successive owner/builders for the not-rich, the rich just buy and get others to do all the maintenance just like the old days before small boat ownership and building became more possible.

I think that's a shame because people are going away from having real skills themselves, they are becoming part of a system which is essentially destructive because their own creative powers are being leached out of them.

Wharrams cite increasing licensing/regulation as a factor. That needs to be strenuously resisted by NON-COMPLIANCE. Not many accidents are caused by amateurs in the yachting game, it's mostly overpowered boats like overpowered cars. The RYA are a self-profiting monopoly with invested interest in more regulation.

It's practically impossible for the authorities to police offshore boats in the UK for example. With Brexit there will be a new smuggling trade in addition to the huge drug trade that comes in and out of small UK ports via small commercial fishing boats. They can't cope as it is, so the English two fingers is what they should be getting from freedom-loving yachtspeople.

Ian, I think we share many thoughts in common, but I believe there is still a way to self-build a Wharram, do it for a reasonable cost, and in a timely manner. Experience tells me part of the answer lies in a better application of digital technology, to both share information and to educate, and a combination of appropriate technologies to streamline the building process. However, I need to have a long conversation with James and Hanneke, before I'm willing to commit to anything.


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