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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Build a Boat or Buy a Boat? The Plans

The recent Living Abroad forum discussions on the topic of build vs buy, along with Tony's email, has prompted me to post my views on SailboatFamily for completeness.

The question at hand is, should you buy a boat or should you build a boat?

In the end it all depends on your goal. Is your goal to get on a boat and go? Or is your goal to build a boat? Sure, the latter can feed the former, but you are better off focusing on your numero uno priority.

The subtlety lies on the desire to build. Is your life transformation contingent upon building the boat?

If the building part isn't your goal, don't be seduced into building your boat. Don't let it creep in unless you're damn sure that is what you really what.

When we first entered into the lifestyle, Val and I talked long and hard about the building it ourselves approach. We reviewed lots of boat plans, talked about which ones to buy, which materials suited our needs, how the various layouts supported a family, how we would lease space to allow us to build the boat, how we would spend our weekends as a family working on it together, how we might have friends help out too, and then the glorious parade of the conveyance to the ocean once complete.

I have no doubt we could have done it, but then we would have missed 30 months of being on a boat. [This is assuming we could have put in 20 hours a week working on the boats construction, and completing the boat in about 2400 actual hours. This number, 2400 hours, is based on the build of a 50 foot catamaran by someone whom had done such things before. Actually, at 2400 hours, this example boat wasn't fully done. The boat still needed a few months more of work.]

Reflecting on what drove our thoughts around building, we imagined that by building we could feel the dream as it went along. We could feel it as we got our other life items in order. It would be the physical connection to the dream that would continue to pull us forward. It also appeared financially easier. We would pay as we go. If we needed timber, we would buy that piece of timber. If we couldn't afford to, then that piece of work would wait until we could.

From spending almost 3 years studying how best to enter into boating, it is our opinion that you are better off buying a used boat versus building one. Even if the boat isn't your perfect end state boat, getting a decent used one will get you on the water faster than building the equivalently sized boat. You can go out and learn, learn about you, boating, as well as the key features you will need for your style of boating.

We also surmise that the on ramp is cheaper with a used boat. When building your own, it isn't just the time you spend swinging the hammer, but the time spent in scouring materials and the cost of all the materials that must be factored in. When you buy a used boat, all the materials are there, and in place.

While it isn't as tangible, nor maybe as fun, we believe you are better off working some side part time job (in a boat yard if at all possible), collecting money for buying your boat rather than using your spare time to build a boat.

So unless your dream is building, don't do it. Friends don't let friends build.

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