If you want to know how to build a boat you've come to the right place, because that's what we did, learning as we went. She's called Alacazam, and you can see her in action in the picture above, charging through the Caribbean Sea off Montserrat. And we're going to take you through the entire sailboat construction process...
Of course you don't have to start from scratch as we did; there are a few other boat building options available that could save time and maybe cash too.
Whichever option you choose it's a very good idea to think the whole project through from beginning to end, as nothing can cause more disruption and additional cost than changing your mind halfway through a boat construction project.
It's an inescapable fact that cost and size are closely related, but not in a linear fashion as you might assume. If you double the length of the boat you're likely to increase the costs by a factor of four; and not just the build costs, but owning and operating costs too. Just wait until anti-fouling time comes around and you'll see what I mean.
Berthing costs seem to take a hike at around 12m (40ft) overall, and another at 15m (50ft), which was the final compelling factor in sizing our self-build cruising sailboat at 11.5m (38ft) on deck. This allowed for the anchor poking out at one end and the self-steering gear at the other, just in case any marina employee should get overzealous with the tape measure.
But where do you want to start? Here are your three main options:~
We'll take a look at these three options in turn:~
This can be a great option, particularly if you can get your hands on an old but tired pedigree boat with a proven reputation like the Ted Brewer designed Morgan 28 shown here - and you might just get it at an absolute knockdown price.
With luck, much of the interior will be salvageable, but you'll probably want to bring the instruments and electronics up to date, replace the rig and all the rigging, install a new engine and stern gear and replace the hatches and much of the deck equipment.
But you really should get a professional surveyor involved before you take up such a project. Explain to him carefully what your intentions are, and ask him to prepare his report with that in mind; it could save you a whole heap of time and money.
This approach will get you off to a flying start, particularly if the hull comes with the deck moulding already fitted and the bulkheads bonded in. The problem will be in finding one, as few manufacturers seem to offer this once popular option these days.
You need to take a very deep breath before setting off along this route - and believe me, I know, because this is how we built our custom designed sailboat Alacazam.
Unless you're building from an established set of boat plans, you'll be well advised to get a yacht designer involved at the outset.
And one of your first decisions will be the choice of hull material - fibreglass, steel, aluminium, ferro-concrete or wood - but which one, and why?
My current boat at the time was a Nicholson 32 Mk10. Jalingo was a narrow hulled, heavy displacement, long keeled cruiser that I'd sailed thousands of miles - much of it singled handed (until I met Mary, who put paid to all of that self indulgence) - off the shores of the UK, France, Spain and Portugal, and to the Mediterranean and back.
Her hull shape and displacement (Jalingo's, not Mary's) meant that she was comfortable in a seaway and great in a blow, but sluggish in light winds - and that keel meant she was a nightmare to handle in the confines of a marina.
Like all long-distance sailors we had a good idea as to what our 'ideal cruising sailboat' would be. I've always thought that a cutter rigged sloop is the ideal the ideal rig for a cruising boat, with a roller furling jib, a hanked-on staysail (easy to replace with a storm jib when necessary) and a slab-reefing mainsail with lazy jacks, as I don't trust either in-mast furling or in-boom furling.
Additionally she would:~
Did we know how to build a boat with these desirable characteristics? No, but we knew a man who did. Enter Andrew Simpson, yacht designer, surveyor and shipwright - and one of my best chums...
Andrew did the number crunching and came up with an outline design for a 38ft (11.5m) cutter rigged wood/epoxy (cedar strip) water-ballasted cruising boat.
"She'll be light, quick, robust and comfortable" he said
"And seaworthy?" we asked
"Eminently so" he replied
"Right" we said, "Let's do it!"
And so we did...
Length overall ~ 11.5m (37.5 feet)
Waterline length ~ 10.6m (34.5 feet)
Beam ~ 3.9m (12.5 feet)
Draft ~ 2.2m (7 feet)
Displacement ~ 7,023kg (7.75 tons)
Displacement/length ratio ~ 159
Sail area/displacement ratio ~ 18.28
Here's the whole story, in words and pictures.
How to Build a Boat:~