Home > Wharram World > Letters from Peace IV > 2005 > Financing boat building

Financing boat building

By Anne Clement

The financial considerations of boat building must eventually be faced by all of us. And economic considerations vary widely around the world, so it is not an easy topic to address. But some of what we faced while boat building in Britain may be helpful.

The hardest part is finding a place to build. Smaller designs may fit in the basement or garage, or even the living room of a bachelor pad. A tent or tarp works for some of them. But we wanted a large structure for the Tiki 46. It is important to line up the beam troughs in the larger designs, so side by side is the best way to build the hulls and it is time saving also to build something into the port hull and immediately build it into the starboard hull with the same tools being already in use etc. If you must build one hull at a time, please measure the troughs carefully so that the beams will fit properly when you are ready to put the boat together. Smaller designs do not have beam troughs so it is not a problem.

We rented a large, and extremely well ventillated agricultural shed on a pig farm. The wind whistled through there, and the pigs were not good company, but the farmer had helpful lifting equipment, and there were lots of practical people about the place that we came to love. On a farm, we were away from marina folk with their plastic boats who would rather talk about boat building or sailing than actually do it. Talking is not building.

If you have a bit of ground near to home, maybe you can set up an agricultural poly tunnel made of hoops and plastic film. These come in all sizes and are cheap. Try the internet for a used one. Go for white opaque film to diffuse light and be sure to provide for ventillation especially during hot weather. In most places, these temporary structures are allowed under planning permission laws. Sell it when the job is done. A chain link fence will offer a bit of security. Our tools were not valuable to a thief. They were covered in epoxy and only simple stuff. Our security was minimal.

Most timber yards will give you greatly reduced prices on such a large project. It will pay you to go to several timber merchants and let them know you are shopping around. We got free delivery and set up an account and they agreed to not increase their very low timber costs during our build. We had several deliveries throughout the build and made the several small payments as we went along. That way I only sold my investment shares when needed and the rest of the shares continued to earn meanwhile. Share value increased faster than our boat building spending!

In the early stages of the build, the main costs will be for timber, epoxy, fiberglass, fastenings, and tools. Once the two hulls are finished and painted, you can take them out of the building shed or poly tunnel and store them nearby while you get real busy building the cross beams, deck boxes, cockpit, pod, masts, forward mast case, etc. Maybe a smaller shed at this point? You might even be able to afford to heat it if you live in a cold climate. Then you can build throughout the winter. Zoom zoom!

Some people have the hulls built for them, but build the rest themselves. That way they are familiar with the build method. So when they are cruising, they can fix anything or make changes.

If you intend to go cruising in the "Ever After", you may want to rent out your large home and move onto something more boat sized. A used mobile home or RV beside the building site would save on transportation. It could be sold when the boat is finished. We lived on a canal barge behind the pig farm. By keeping your own housing costs to a minimum, you will have more to put into the boat.

Our own combined income during the building years was around $20,000 US. At first I had more because my investments were doing well and providing high dividends, and then Nev got his state retirement pension just in time when the recession came and reduced my dividend income by the same amount.

We were fortunate to have a family member willing to loan us money at low interest from time to time when the value of shares was so low it was not attractive to sell. When the value of shares improved again, they were sold and the loan paid off. We are now debt free, and living "in our own home" mortgage free. It just happens to be a boat.

The cost of the basic boat design does not cover some of the items you will want in the finished boat so keep some money aside for that. Lights, radio, paint, cooker, charts, navigation equipment, anchors, life preservers, compass, etc. We got almost all of this stuff used at greatly reduced prices but it all added up. It is worth noting, that our Wharram hatches never leak and are better ventillation than store bought ones. Wharram designs have you building lots of stuff yourself like chain plates and dead eyes. They work just fine and are better than what you can buy! A fantastic saving.

If you are building the boat for full time live aboard, that is where the real saving comes in. Living aboard a boat that is comfortable at anchor as Wharrams are, means no marina fees are needed. You are happy with your "two boats tied to a dock".

If you rent out your house or sell it and invest the money, you may be able to retire early as we did. We still live on a total of $20,000 US a year quite easily including plane trips to the USA and Britain every year. We do live simply and could live even more simply if needed. By living well below our means, we are able to save and continue investing for future income raises.

But think about it, if you live aboard, you are not paying rent. We know we spent $100,000 US to build our boat including every single cost like transport, marina launching fees, the shed rental, tools, sand paper, and equipment to sail across the Atlantic immediately after launch. But it is worth remembering that cheap rent plus the bills for electric and heat, etc is about $1000 US a month. So within 10 years, the live aboard boat will have saved all that rent. And you can sell the boat when your cruising days are over! Over time, she pays for herself if you live aboard because you gotta live somewhere. If you build the boat, you will be able to repair everything yourself. And if you live out on the anchor as we do, the regular cost of owning the boat is minute. We make our electricity from solar and wind. We sail instead of motoring. We head south to keep warm. It is more fun living that way. You may want to try it.

Love, Ann and Nev

Peace Four

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2005