A Photo & Discussion Forum for Wharram Design Enthusiasts
This is a common question that gets asked by any potential boat builder, and it is never easy to answer. There are so many variables, that it is difficult to pin down a good number. But after several boats, and a new one in progress, I have developed some methods to help you figure it out on your own.
There are four major components one must consider when establishing a baseline for cost estimation for a epoxy/ply boat:
• Plywood and Lumber
• Epoxy, fillers, and fiberglass
• Propulsion (Rig and Engine(s))
Generally speaking, your plywood and lumber are the most expensive of the four components of the total cost to build a basic boat without options/extras.
As an example, the plywood and lumber to for a basic Tiki38 might cost $12,000 (cost to you may vary more or less depending on your personal resourcefulness, the area you live, and total shipping costs.)
From this number we can extrapolate the remainder. The epoxy and fiberglass will amount to approximately 50% of the initial materials cost. The propulsion will amount to 75% of the initial materials cost, and the overhead will be roughly be 50-60%.
This comes out to about $33,000 to $35,000 to build a basic Tiki 38. Most people cannot build one in this price range, usually being closer to $50,000. This difference can almost always be attributed to the prices paid for various items. If you search, you might find that you can save 30% on lumber by purchasing it from a larger source and shipping it to your location rather than purchasing locally. Even though we paid nearly $2,000 in shipping costs for lumber, we saved nearly 5 times that amount over purchasing from more local suppliers.
It also helps to purchase in bulk. There is almost ALWAYS a discount for bulk purchases. This can be applied to lumber/plywood, epoxy, fillers, screws, nails, fiberglass on large rolls, etc. It also can help to avoid large marine stores (West Marine and Defender in the US), and go closer to the source for bulk purchasing. We purchase bulk epoxy at almost half the cost many others spend for West System; and we have found West System to be less desirable than many other brands on the market.
You can also exploit the exchange rates between countries to save huge on some supplies. I have been purchasing sails from South African lofts for nearly 20 years, at what usually amounts to a 70% savings over European or US lofts (who, by the way, have the South African lofts build the sails you purchase anyway. Why not go directly to the source?)
Overhead costs are where a lot of people drop a lot of money on their builds. Your overhead cost include all of the consumable supplies you use to build your boat, as well as tools, shelter, rent, etc. Many people never take this into consideration, but it can be a very significant source of money fleeing your pockets. I have nearly $10,000 just in infrastructure to build, not including all of the tools.
If you have never built before, it will be hard to fathom the quantity of consumable supplies you will go through: gloves (1000 + pairs), brushes (1000+), rollers (200-300), solvents, 10-40 gallons, mixing cups (several hundred +), sand paper (500-1000 sheets), paint, primer, nails, screws, paper towels, rags, clothes, twine, scrap lumber, etc., etc., etc. And this is on top of the tools you will need, break, maintain, and replace.
The list above did not include any options to the basic build. When the add the options, then the total cost increases not only from the cost of the options, but the cost to install them. That marine head requires extra lumber, epoxy, brushes, bolts/screws, paint, gloves, etc. to install. You want to add a hard top, your total layout just went up again since you will need more plywood, epoxy, and consumables to build and install it.
If you want an even more simple way to judge the cost to build, take the total you expect to pay for your lumber and plywood, and multiply it by three if you are frugal and can get great deals, or by four if you just buy what you can find. And this still does not include the cost of any options.
Building a boat costs TIME and that is too often forgotten when tallying up the costs. It took Nev and I three and a half years of our lives over a five year period to build Peace IV and those years were spent working very hard, worrying about the financial costs which were open ended because we were paying rent for the building shed and later for the land where we assembled and finished the boat. During the boat building years, Nev was in pain due to his severe allergic reaction to the epoxy. While we were building, we had no time for socializing, no money to go out with friends, and too often there was no energy to even make love at the end of the day. We were exhausted most of the time and working as fast as we could so we could get back to living on the ocean again.
Nev just needed to build a big catamaran and sail across the ocean. His life would not have been complete unless he did that so I agreed to the plan even though Wharrams had not yet finished the plans for the Tiki 46. We worked with them to develop parts of the boat as we went along and that was interesting and we surely respected their ability, but for five years, we did not sail at all. We worked instead.
Nev became allergic to the epoxy and the medication they gave him made him disagreeable and his pain made him short tempered too. My back ached and after sanding and lifting and holding sheets of ply and mixing glue and making miles and miles of fillets all day, I came back to the canal barge where we were living and made supper while Nev figured out what more supplies we needed to continue working without any interruption. I figured late at night ways to afford the timber bills and the shed rent and later the yard rent where we assembled the boat.
But finally we finished the building and our friends helped us launch the boat and I watched her come alive when she first floated free in the waters of Bristol Floating Harbour over in Britain. In a few weeks we were sailing south and it was autumn and we would not have to face another dark northern winter. The sun set all golden to starboard and the moon rose up silver to port and a pair of dolphin were in silhouette to complete the romantic picture. Back on the sea our love for one another was renewed along with our love of the boat which cut through the water with the most delightful sounds! Gurgling at slower speeds and hissing as she speeded up and finally shhhhh above 12 knots. Our multihull sailing skills developed and those higher speeds gradually increased and became common. We learned she was safe in stormy weather and proved it by sitting pretty in a Force 10 offshore. After that, we had no worries at all.
The time lost to us during the building process was paid back when Peace brought us new friends, and she gave us new adventures which we could share with others because she was so big. Then she brought us nights lying out on deck with stars to dazzle us. There was lots of room to stretch out on deck with friends and talk all day and well into the night, listen to soft music, and just be together with the sea breathing softly while at anchor. I used to think of Peace as a big baby cradled in the arms of Mother Ocean rocking us gently through the night.
I envy whoever buys our boat because they will buy a finished boat, ready for the ocean, without going through the fear of maybe not being able to finish the boat building process. The new owner will just move on board and sail away. Just like that! I hope they will appreciate that we used the finest plywood available - marine grade Okume (Gaboon) ply and mast quality clear or better Douglass Fir. We did exactly our best work because we knew we had the ocean to cross. We set things up for blue water sailing and we were experienced sailors before we built our boat. We spent those years of our TIME building the boat as well as we could. TIME. As we grow older and older, time is finally seen as the precious thing it truly is. Time keeps ticking along and then it is gone.
Now we live on the land and walk down to the water each night to say good night to the river. My eyes go to the horizon and where I know the ocean is beyond the Outer Banks which I cannot even see from here. We sleep in our brick house which I do love, but it does not rock us to sleep.
Enjoy your years sailing free on the sea, my friends. The time is too short and you will too soon be left behind on the beach unable to go where the dolphins dance with the waves and the wind blows sweeping curves in the sails all brilliantly white in the morning sunlight. Enjoy the years of freedom and good health, and let the wind blow you to your lives of adventure and friendship among your brothers and sisters out on the wide waters.
Peace IV is for sale. Details on this website on our page. Or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann and Nev