Economics of Kit Building

I receive a lot of questions and comments regarding the true cost of building a boat from scratch, full size patterns, and kits. Since I track time and materials closely, I have found that building from kits makes a lot of sense from an economic stand point. I took some discussions with customers/potential customers and put together this PDF on the 'economics of kits'.

In a nutshell, the cost of building from a kit is not as much more than building a boat from scratch as people think because of the extra plywood required to build from scratch not to mention the time savings.

As of last week

In the meantime, we are making progress on the first professionally built Goat Island Skiff (yawl version) which will be at the Maine Boatbuilder's Show in Portland on March 18-20th. Please stop by. We'll be in building 2 near the stairs up to food court.

When I post next, I'll have a PDF link that goes into more detail about how the designs/kits are produced in CAD and CNC cutting.

Quality Plywood & Epoxy Encapsulation

I am a believer in epoxy encapsulation of wood; I wasn't always. Encapsulation entails coating the wood with multiple coats of epoxy, saturating the wood surface and building up a moisture-barrier. The moisture barrier is key for bilges and underbodies as it keeps water out of a laminate and maintains a more constant wood moisture content in timbers. Wood movement and ingress of water is what often gives wooden boats a bad name: high maintenance. Encapsulating forms a stable base for varnish and paint. We tell customers to expect a 10 year life for their paint. After 10 years of normal use they may need to do a fresh coat. That is as good as any fiberglass boat maintenance.

What convinced us of the merits of epoxy encapsulation was a visit to my friend Steven's house. He has a faering he built with his son that shows the effects of different plywoods and of epoxy coating wood.

Plywood and Epoxy Encapsulation

You can see three panels in this Faering. The darker plank is Joubert Sapele faced Okoume (varnished), the middle strake is Okoume by Joubert, and the lower plank in the photo is Shelman Okoume. All planks are finished with a Behr spar varnish.

Plywood and Epoxy Encapsulation

This is the same boat closer up to one of the tanktops. It is Joubert Okoume. The neighboring plank is Shelman Okoume. Both were varnished the same. The tank top is more degraded and molded than the plank. The tank top along the edge of the plank is perfectly clear. This strip was inadvertently epoxy coated when the squeeze out from the glue joint was spread during the clean up process. The same thing happened in the next photo: can you see where the epoxy is?

Plywood and Epoxy Encapsulation

The results? It is clear that the epoxy coated areas of plywood are making the plywood much more durable and holding up much, much better. The sheer strake is probably holding up better because it is higher in the boat and receives less foot traffic and a lower angle of sunlight upon it. The middle strake and tank tops get more direct sunlight. But the different brands of plywood may have to do with the difference between planks made of Joubert vs Shelman. It is too bad Shelman went out of business. Clearly, Sapele holds up great and Steven made a good decision putting it in as the garboard. With that said, I have also seen Sapele planked boats flake and shed paint after many years and these were boats that were not epoxy coats.

The moral of the story: epoxy encapsulation is a good thing.

Plywood and Epoxy Encapsulation

Goat Island Skiff Boat Kits Available

Our first kit offering at Clint Chase Boatbuilder is a plywood and timber kit for the Michael Storer designed Goat Island Skiff (GIS). Why buy a kit? Folks are sometimes offended when I suggest this, feeling that it is thought they don't have the skills to make the parts themselves, but that is not it at all. We build all of our boats in the shop from kits!!! Even professionals do it and the reason is that it makes the build process quicker and smoother and the result is more professional. In the case of the GIS, we have made parts and built the hull of the boat, making all the small tweaks that professionals with a good eye make to the lines of the boat to make them look eye-sweet. Any design, no matter how well drawn, will need some eyes on it in 3D to make final tweaks. We also have checked bevels and made some adjustments for a rabbeted gunwale, which covers the end grain exposed at the top of the gunwale. Our kit captures all these professional practices so you can get a better boat. Currently, kits are cut per order, but we may move to CNC when volume increases.

We were attracted to this design initially because of the sail plan, a beautifully proportioned Balanced Lug. Upon further reflection we noticed something was missing for RAID sailors and for others who might use the boat as a sail & oar craft. It needed a mizzen. A small mizzen gives great control of a small boat, allowing one to lie head-to-wind for reefing at sea or for heaving-to. It allows you to back off a beach or a dock, with practice. It is useful for trimming the sail plan, adjusting weather helm to create "feel" in the tiller. A mizzen makes single handing much easier, especially for switching between oars and sail, because the boat will tend itself and stay head-to-wind while you stow oars and fidget with things at the mast. For a useful diagram showing How to Sail a Lug-Yawl, by James McMullen.

We can supply a kit for the GIS as well as the mast and spars. Masts are round, hollow using the Birdsmouth technique. Yard and boom for the GIS are solid, laminated Northern White Spruce. Laminated spars stay straighter over time with changes in moisture content in the wood. We can make custom 9' oars specifically designed for the GIS. Rowing in the Goat Island Skiff is quite enjoyable, whether it is from the dock to a local area with wind, or coming back when the wind has petered out. Products for the Goat Island Skiff can be seen in the GIS Flyer on our website Goat Island Skiff Page.