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Getting Started



If you're a long-time sailor, this discussion will probably get a chuckle or two.  However, if you're new to sailing and boat building, it should give you a place to start.

     Let's begin with the type boat you're looking to build.  If it's a day sailor, then most any boat you like is a fine choice.  However, if cruising is your preference, then think of standing behind the helm for 24 hours a day in all types of weather for days after day.  If there are two on board, that's 12 hours a day each at the helm and so forth.  Yes, there are auto-pilots.  However, the boat will still need tending to.  A pilothouse  with inside and outside steering will provide the best of both worlds.  Nice days standing at the helm and on stormy days, inside warm and somewhat dry, helping to minimize fatigue and exposure to the elements.

    Boat size, you'll need at least a 30 foot for cruising, and a 30 foot also makes a nice day sailor.   We would like to think that boat size is a matter of what is best for the job.   However, there are all sizes out cruising.  The question is: What can I afford?   If you have lots of money and time and want to build that special boat yourself, you probably can do it in a few years.  In boat building, time and money are relative.  Lots of money and no time, or lots of time and no money.   Sounds like you've been there?   I know the story all too well!  Take it from me, go over 40 feet and money becomes a major consideration.  So, if you have a small budget, around 40 foot should be your goal.  Between 30 and 40 feet the money difference is relatively small.  However, a boat $ unit = $ 1000.00, and every thing you do seems to take a unit or two.  The average home boat building time is from two to twenty years.  Which sounds like around ten years to me.  Money delays being the major factor.

     If you're still with me, we will move to hull designs.  Most all the plans on the market are proven and have been built many times over the years, by both home and professional builders.  To keep it simple, it sort of goes like this: long and skinny is fast, and short and fat is slow.  Boat designers try to find the right match of length, width, and shape that moves through the water with the least resistance and best stability at all points of sail.  Then they give you some choice of  keel, rigging and interior floor plan. The interior is a matter of personal choice and can be changed as you build.  However, the keel is to be given some attention.

    Small ocean going boats 30 to 40 feet long ride best with full length keels.  For boats 40 feet and larger, a modified keel with a good  keel to skeg and rudder ratio will offer a little more boat speed without much loss in stability.  Most all other types of keels have a place on day sailors or racing hulls with a few exceptions for special applications.

   As for rigging, all the popular configurations sail well.  Sail some boats and pick the rigging you like best.  I like cutter rigging myself.  You can sail with the staysail and main most the time, and add the jib in light air...  or rig storm sails in heavy weather for good forward drive. 

    Designers are usually happy to help you choose the boat that fits your needs.  

    We can't do this subject much justice on one web page.  You should read up on ocean sailing, and go out sailing whenever possible.  Join a sailing club, captains are always looking for crew. There is no substitute for hands-on experience.

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This page was last updated on 05/10/14

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