Sunday, May 31, 2015

Intresting sailboats, multihulls and skiffs in the Caribbean

So far we have logged 2,000 miles of sailing since leaving The Bahamas on this cruise. I love all types of boats so the islands down here provide me with a kaleidoscope of vessels to see. Each island nation has a different type of local fishing skiff. The French islands are the places to find cool trimarans from days gone by. Antigua in season has the best mega yachts and big sailing vessels.
Here's a bunch that caught my eye.
Latest gun boat foiler
Well, she's attached to a boat!
Aluminum bilge keeler from Germany
Complicated rudder on an Ovini sloop. I don't care for this as it uses a hydraulic ram to move the rudder blade.
Another bilge keeler. To much draft but it needs no cradle!
Nice looking french centerboarder. But with a very small rudder. It's for sale for $70,000.00 euros.
See, the rudder is way too small.
French racing sloop
New and very nice plywood skiff built in Carriacou
Carriacou two bow racing dinghy
Boat building in Windward, Carriacou
Alwin Eno the builder
Supposed to be done by August
Nice fixer upper, kinda like a Jay Benford in the making
Beautiful Paul Johnson ketch built in steel from Ireland
Trimaran in Martinique that's using Val floats
Another Dick Newick tri just yards away. Lovely
French racing day boat
These boats are sailed with large sprit sails and all crew use trapezes
Another French center boarder
Interesting sloop with twin dagger boards at the sheer and twin rudders
20' long but it has it all on board
All aluminum Piver like tri
Tiny Newick tri in wood
Couple of rotting Pogos in the bushes. They are for sale.
Huge French going to rot in the same bay, so sad
Fast racing sloop collecting mold
Interesting aluminum tri
And last a chopped off Lazer bow being used as the shortest dinghy seen on this cruise

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Finding Treasure and the feel of greed

It's early morning with the tide out as I walk along a dark, black/grey, sandy beach. The sea is almost calm but the slight swell undulates the waters edge in a way that reminds me of the way women run their fingers through their hair, going in and then out ever so slowly. 
This vision, along with the crowing of roosters and the never ending pulsating movement of the shoreline, enhances the early morning coolness of this secret beach. You see I'am not here today to just enjoy my surroundings, I'am here to look for and collect treasure.
Lots of it.
I have been sailing the worlds oceans since I was a kid, having grown up on a sailboat from the 60's to today. During this time period of cruising about the Pacific and Atlantics waters I have had the good fortune to have had a good vessel to carry me and my crew to many great and wonderful beaches with shore lines where treasure could be found. To be a successful treasure hunter you need a good like minded crew, and a boat that can carry your loot back home.
I found my first real piece of treasure at the age of 3 in 1960 on the beach in Mission Bay in San Diego, California. It was a dead crab Skelton. Since that first find I have been an inveterent beach comber, Treasure Hunter. Growing up on a sailboat sailing off to distant islands and country's brought me to many fantastic beaches, shorelines, hidden coves, shallow reefs with myriad pieces of beach finds to be had.
I have nurtured and refined this passion for found objects into an art form by literally turning beach finds into art that I create. Over the years my crew and I have sailed thousands of miles across oceans collecting, shorting and stowing our finds with it all eventually ending up at our home base in the Bahamas where we use it in decorating our house and property or turning it into art that we sell to finace future voyages. At least 15 tons to date have been collected from the shorelines, stowed aboard and then maybe a year or two later when we return from a sailing cruise it is unloaded to await the next leg in its life.
This morning, bent over walking along zig zagging between the low tide line and last nights upper reaches of the waters edge, finds me picking up jewels. They are everywhere. It's like Montazuma, King Soloman, and Drake used to vacation here and they just dumped their treasures on the shoreline.
I have not discovered treasure like this in a long time. My pulse is flowing as I pick up each piece that has been tossing about for untold years being polished and formed into its unique shape and color.
In no time I have collected a bucket full of century's old sea glass that used to be glass bottles that held wine, rum, perfumes, medicine, and poison. The really black pieces are the oldest, maybe 180 plus years. The blues, ambers, light pinks, greys, greens and reds all tell a story from the past. I pour the bucket into our dinghy carefully and go back for more.
The day before found Rachel, my wife, and I along with cruising friends Tim and Gayle Evans of the ketch Wild Bird were playing with our dogs along this stretch of beach. I was collecting very old bricks that had been rolling back and forth in the surf line, slowly caressed and at times pummelled into an oval rounded smooth shape by the never ending relentless surf. These bricks find their way to the ocean by way of hurricanes, old battles and simply just being thrown into the sea. I like the human connection of the sea bricks. These I would carry back home to be used in concrete foot paths in our home base in the Bahamas. I have collected beach stones throughout the North Atlantic basin from beaches and shorelines from where all the great explorers have come and gone from as they went about their lives. On one Atlantic trip we returned to our place with over a ton of these stones we found and collected from the islands of the Azores, Madeiras, Canaries, Cape Verdes, through the West Indies and back to the Bahamas. We built our small place in the Bahamas to be our base to offload all our beach finds. A place to stow, exhibit, and use our treasures. We call our land base "Tight Spot" as it has water on three sides. The land our two houses are built on is 152' long and 31' wide. We think of it as our land Yacht with the west side, that is the Starboard side, being tied to our neighbours lands. From a life time of beach combing and collecting we can say we have a piece of most all islands in the Caribbean and Atlantic waters at our place. "yeah , St. Bart's over there,  granite stones from Denmark over there" and so on.
As the four of us walked along the beach I started finding bits of sea glass, then lots of it. I had never seen so much such thick beautifully sculpted pieces. We all started picking them up off the sand. Later that evening Tim came over to our sailboat with his iPhone and Internet access to show us that the totally black pieces we had found were very rare and old. We also could see all the web sites for selling sea glass and jewelry made from and with sea glass for sale. Some raw pieces were for sale on eBay for twenty dollars. Nice jewelry was selling in the hundreds. It was getting dark. I planned on being on the beach early. That night I had visions as I dreamed of making a huge seaglass chandelier for our small house, seaglass stepping stones, jewelry, necklases, and to get as much as I could I would use a huge barge with a JCB backhoe to dig up the entire beach. Oh the treasure to be found. So much loot just lay there waiting all these years to be had. This was the first time in my life I felt greed creeping into my soul. 
Over the next several days the four of us collected seaglass. Tim and Gayle had caught the fever too.
But not like me. I kept finding myself looking down as I walked everywhere, looking for a really perfect piece. I swam with a snorkel and mask along the shoreline in the gentle surf picking the pieces out of the shifting sands, beach pebbles, and stones like brightly painted Easter eggs off the grass. It was so easy and so much fun. I could not stop. How much did I really need? I wanted it all.
I looked online  to research seaglass. So much information! What all the seaglass people were promoting was that Daimonds are made by nature and then crafted by man, but seaglass is made by man and then crafted by nature. Excellent marketing. Quickly I came to realize that to sell seaglass I would have to be a very creative  jeweler, and make some very unique pieces of art to make money. This I will do. 
I have happily gotten over my greed. But not totally. I want to go back and anchor at this beach again for a few more days collecting as you never know what might come rolling out of the surf. Plus this place is so good the four of us have taken an oath not to share its location. But if you see the Hogfish Maximuis anchored close to a beautiful beach and I'am ashore hunched over walking slowly with a bucket in my hand then go get yours and we can compare finds at dusk.

A jewel sits waiting to be found

Walking the beach looking

Treasures in between the stones

The first haul of loot

Diving up more loot

A days treasure hunting finds

All Mine!!!!

Bottle bottoms, stoppers and nice big thick seaglass

So many colours in Rachel's sample

Another pile, the blue chunks turn dark green when put to the light

In seaglass lingo they call the outer worn surface " frosting"

Where do I store my treasure till I get home? In modern day sea plastic 
Found on the beach of course

Rocks drying off before storing in Madiera

A nice haul of beach finds from about the Atlantic islands

Our place "Tight Spot" today

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What flats skiffs cost to build and sell

This post is not a tell all expose of the behind the scenes scheming of flats boat builders trying to get rich. It's just my way of trying to show you what things cost and how and why some skiffs cost what they do. With my basic information presented here you can go and look at your skiff or any other and add up the numbers to get a good idea of what it's original cost was, is and where all your hard earned money is going.

To save you the time of reading the rest of this I will give you in site right now as to why so many skiffs cost what they do, it's very simple, "because the market will bear it". 

The first thing you have to know is what the materials cost the builder. If you build lots of boats then you can get a slightly better discount on goods bought wholesale from either the manufacturer or the vendors that buy in bulk and resell to you. Most flats skiff builders are building a small amount of boats a year. Less than 200 is the norm. Small shops maybe 30-40 a year. The difference between these two shops will differ in buying power by very little between the two. The smaller shop will have smaller over head verse the big shop with employees and all that goes with size. So if a small time builder is producing 20 skiffs a year with low overhead but is charging the same or more than the big shops the potential for profit by a per skiff basis is way more than the bigger shop. But that profit is limited to 20 skiffs so the bigger shop can be way more profitable in the long run. 
I will be describing here a materials list that will fit any of the top end skiffs I built in 2000-2001 from 16'-18'.The only real difference in cost will be the slight added amount of fiberglass materials for the slightly longer hull and the added length of the rub rail. All the hardware is the same for most all skiffs. The time difference to add this hardware to a 16' skiff verese an 18'er is nothing.
The fiberglass labor to build the bigger skiff comes to about 12% more.
All poling towers have the same amount of welds, bends, feet. That's where the labor comes in. Aluminum sells by the pound so you are only buying as a builder onces more. 
It's these little details that save the builder money.

The prices here are from 2001. Sorry but I'am not in the business anymore so you will have to add inflation to these past real costs. Anyone with time to spare can look up these costs today. I leave that up to you. This is easy, but the sad thing you will see Is the increase in skiff prices from then to now but your wages and buying power is not in line with this increase. That's just my opinion.

I will show a basic break down of one of my skiffs. I was going to print every last part down to the last screw and oz. of resin. Too long a list. But you will have to trust my list and numbers to get an idea of what's up.

This is all the hardware, rub rails, electric wires connectors, cushions, battery's everything needed to put the skiff together.

This is what the whole setup costs including an Edson wheel.

- 14 gals. For hull average
- 10 gals. deck , hatches
- 2 gals stringer
- 4 gals. Bulkheads
- 4 gals cockpit floor
- 4 misc, for tabbing in parts
38 gal total but will vary a bit between hull lengths by about 10-12%
$15.00 a gal. For vynelester resin= $570.00
GELCOAT 7 gals. For entire skiff about 5% difference between lengths.

There are at least 10 excellent core brands out there to choose from. I always used either Dyvinycell, Kledgecell, or to me the best core, Corecell.
You have to add up the sq. ft. This is easy, just draw out the skiff as shown and add up the sq. ft.
- 180 sq. ft. Hull.       3/4"
- 108  deck.               3/4" 
- 42 floor                    3/4"
- 48 bulkheads.          3/4" and 1/2"
- 12 stern        3/4"   And  3/4" hard foam
- 4.5 tower lid.                  1/2"
- 3 misc. Deck supports. 1/2" 
- 6 rod racks                   1" hard foam
403.5 sq. ft. Core in varying thicknesses , densities.
- 7 gals bonding putty 
- 3 gals bonding resin used
$ 1,516.00 to bond core in skiff.

Following is the layup schedule that I have used on most of the skiffs built during this time period. 
There have been variations due to the customer or what was going into the skiff but this Is my standard layup. It's very low tech and simple but becomes very high tech through the enginerring of how it's put together. Works very well building by hand layup all the way through resin spray out guns and using a Vacume bag to hold the core In place. But I feel you and I can build a superior boat by hand with a brush, roller, and bucket if that's all that's available. All the rest diffinitly enhances the skiff build but just go for a ride in one of my 32 year old skiffs. Still cooking along.

- gelcoat.                           Let cure
- 3/4 oz. skin out Matt.      Let cure
- 1-1/2 oz Matt. 
- 10 oz. layer Kevlar cloth
- 1-1/2 oz. Matt.                  Above three all at once, let cure
- fill in strakes with putty, let cure , agitate hull skin for core bonding
- bond core. Let cure
- fair core , fill voids
- 3/4 oz. Matt.
- 7 oz. layer eglass cloth laid up with Matt all at once.

- gelcoat                          Let cure
- 1-1/2 oz. Matt.              Let cure
- bond core.                     Let cure
- fair , fill voids
- 3/4 oz. Matt
- 7 oz. eglass cloth, all at onces with Matt.

- one layer 7 oz. eglass cloth on bare core.

Depending on floor size, stringers vary a bit. Described here is a simple hat stringer. Some I use are shaped like an H. The core is doing all the work, the stringer is just to support the floor. If the deck and the entire skiff is bonded as a whole then you do not need lots of thickness. In skiffs that have their decks riveted on or screwed on then it's a whole other story.

- 2 - layers 1-1/2 oz. Matt with a 12" strip of Carbon unidirectional laid down the middle all at once.

- 40 yds 3/4 oz. Matt.
- 40 yds 1-1/2 oz Matt.
- 14 yds 10 oz. Kevlar cloth
- 32 yds 7 oz. eglass cloth 
- 12' Carbon unidirectional cloth 
 Material Costs total $ 615.00

Trailers vary in cost but have a very high markup from whole sale.
- $750.00 standard trailer
- $ 1,300.00 top of the line

All boat builders that have boat dealers can buy their engines from the manufactures if they can afford to be affiliated with them. That means you have to be able to have enough boats going out the door to be able to sell to dealers at a discount so that they can resell at a profit. 
If you can buy $100,000.00 dollars worth of engines up front then you get them for a great price. The deal is they go on the boat and boat dealer sells the boat and only he gets to do the warranty work or future maintence on it. As a builder once out the door it's out of your hands. Now as a boat dealer engine sales shop you can buy engines from the manufacturer but at not as great a savings. What the manufacturers do is give them rebates for every engine sold. Sell a lot of engines and you make your profit from this. 
What does all this BS mean, if you are a small shop what you do is find a motor dealer and get him to sell to you at just above his cost with him getting the rebate and you maybe passing the savings onto the customer. What you are really after is the boat sale with lots of options to install.
A Big foot Mercury 60 hp cost whole sale $ 3,544.00 with the prop costing $210.00 more.

Ok we now have some numbers to add up;
- $1,627.00 parts 
- $ 1,114.00 steering
- $ 570.00 resin
- $ 120.00 gelcoat
- $ 1,516.00 core and bonding putty
- $ 615.00 fiberglass cloths
- $ 750.00 trailer
- $ 3,754.00 60 hp Merc 

Total... $ 10,066.00 for the total boat cost in materials wholesale to get it out the door in 2000-2001.
Today if you mark it up by inflation standards my guess is that most every thing has gone up quite a lot.
I would mark this up 30% today. I still do boat projects so I see the costs rising. 
The thing you need to look at, ask yourself at this stage is, why is that boat that has no hatches, very little hardware, weighs so very little with a tiller steering cost so much?
You can see what the materials I have used. These same ones you can use today to build your own skiff. 
I will try and sess out this dilemma next.

You have all the materials you need to build a skiff in a pile on the shop floor. Now you need to build the dream skiff. Skiffs need a shop to be built in, people to do the building and all the stuff that goes with trying to sell your skiffs to the public some where out there.
This takes start up money. You will need cash to get your shop and build your plugs and molds and then your first hull. If you can do all the design work yourshelf, all the plug and mold work on your own and then build the skiffs on your own you will save a ton of cash. But you will only build a few skiffs a year. This I did in my early years making a living but could always see that if I could just build five times the amount I could then make a good profit. Thus in come the employees the added costs and so on.
By the time I sold out my share of Hells Bay Boatworks to my partners we were a well oiled machine with many boat models, a very low overhead as we owned everything built to date and only had the mortgage to pay and the standard cost of having employees. But as I've  already explained I wanted to go sailing with my family so I sold out. Best thing I did for lots of reasons.
The break downs of the rest of the skiffs costs are based on that time. Today they could be the same , way more or very little. Depends on how much your start up costs were-are and your current overhead. Buying a company and pouring tons of advertising money at it with all the start up costs can be earned back in the long run if done well and you have deep pockets or investors that have them to.
Everybody that I have ever worked for wanted a good return on their investment so have always been under pressure to get it right the first time.
Once you have your skiff built and know it's costs you can then set its price. With lots of similar skiffs about all claiming to be the greatest thing invented in the last few years you will have to decide where you will fit in this market. Having very high priced skiffs can make it very easy to get more for your skiff as the others have set the bar. There's nothing better than having a very well built, designed and known skiff that really performs with a great reputation to keep the hype flowing and the market value up. It's called marketing. But some might say it's also profiteering too. Well we'er talking about skiffs here not oil or food.

This is a break down of what I think your average hired fiberglass workers, riggers should take to build a skiff. I always think of the skiffs built to my designs and engineering at HBBWs as low tech - high tech. By this I mean that the employees building the skiffs were mostly people that wanted steady employment but had no knowledge of boats or boating or could care either. Just a job. But with the proper training and motivation you can get a great crew together to build a high tech boat. The high tech part of the building comes from the engineering of putting it all together. Today my guess is there are a bunch of younger people out there that want to be part of this industry so there's a better chance of getting people to move to the next level and be more well rounded so as to be able to do it all.
In rigging you have to get the crew to care for the boats so they will treat them like a favorite posseion.
Once you get them to see it your way and understand the value of what they are working on then your screw ups go away.
I have worked at every level of building boats hands on so I'am very familiar with all aspects of building from the drawings through sea trials. This has helped me tremendously in my career. The hours I show here can vary a bit but not widely unless you have very new, or very slow workers. If you are infusioning a skiff with high tech epoxy resin the labor is about the same or less with a crew that understands the process. The rise in cost is in resin only. But you want to put in all these new fancy cloth weaves that sound so great on paper. Not for me ! Waste of money. I feel all the hybrid Biaxells take up more resin, and are prone to high impact shattering because of the way they lay. An infused epoxy hull with these cloths having to be pulled and compressed over many tight lifting strake angles is a pain in the butt. As soon as your hull has been lifted out of the mold go and look at it to see all the little air bubbles and resin pockets in the cloth and Chines. But oh ! When we go to paint over all this you can fix it then. Not for me.
Ask your builder why a hull that is so light with so little resin used and so little cloth needed costs so much. Do the math, a 375 lb skiff can't have too many gallons of resin and cloth. The cores the same pretty much for all skiffs. 

- sell skiff.                                                                 ? Lots 
- wax molds.                                                             2 days
- spray gelcoat all parts.                                            1 day
- skin all parts, layup all parts                                     2-3 days
- core boat - by hand , Vacume bagging, or infusion. 3-5 days 
-finish glass all parts.                                                  2-3 days                                                                                      
- remove parts, cut , trim parts.                                  2-3 days
- assemble boats from all parts.                                  7-10 days
- rig skiff, carpet, tower all hardware.                          3-4 days
- rig skiff electrical.                                                      2-4 days
- install motor, steering                                                2-3 days
- finish details, fix dings etc.                                        1 day

27 days x 8 hours a day = 216 hours to build, rig an average skiff as described without options.
39 days max worst case scenario. If this is happening you need to see what's up to get the hours down.
Let's split the difference on the two and end up with 280 hours to finish.
280 hrs. X  $ 20.00 US average wage cost back then = $5,600.00
Workers costs back then were from $11.00 an hour to $ 18.00 with most in the $ 13.00 an hour area.
The two shop foremans wages were more. The wages of the owners are included in my estimate. We had a health plan for all employees. We gave out bonuses every year to all employees.

Now take the two costs ;
$ 10,066.00 materials
$ 5,600.00 labor
= $ 15,666.00 
Now we have to add in the mortgage, building insurances, advertizing, extra employees like the secretary, alarm company, electric, waste disposal of acetone, lawyers, company trucks, inventory,
Future plug and mold building, tools needed, dinning out smoozing clients,and so much more. 
Yikes ! I'am so glad to be anchored here in the Leewards remembering why I'am here.

This is where in today's Internet world you can do very well advertizing through facebook, instagrame, and other venues for very little. You still will have to get someone to deal with this though. You won't have time as you'll be building and selling. Starting with a small shop building a very good designed and built skiff with a well controlled overhead with good employees should keep the costs of your skiff low. But with more models you need more room and more people.

To wrap this thought process up the average cost for a top end skiff out the door in 2000-2001 cost about $18,900.00 to $20,000.00.
For the simple bottom line skiffs they cost about $12,000.00 + -
When I started HBBWs with Hal and Flip the overhead was low, not many employees, very little advertizing costs, wages were low. As we got bigger so did the costs.
Now some of you will say " wow I paid way less". Yes but what I'am showing is for a wheel steered skiff with a rigged bait well. Tiller boats were less, side consoles a bit less than a center console and so on. 

The place where real profit lay was in the options list. This is stuff you don't want to give away with a standard boat so you put this stuff on the options list. The markup here is mostly profit. To builders this is where you get ahead in sales profit. This is where you hear all the crazy prices coming from.
I had many clients that wanted to see the sales ticket for the most expensive skiff built to date so they could figure out what else to order. These were always the worst skiffs as too much going on. But yes there was good profit there.

Simple open skiffs today with no floors and hatches that drain into the cockpit and tiller steered are very cost effective to build. Less parts and labor. Not much in materials for the hull and deck.
Building a one off top line skiff on your own today will take an amature about 600-700 hours to build and rig. A simple tiller skiff 250 hours less.
The material costs will be about $9,000.00 more or less without an engine for a top line skiff.
To build an all epoxy skiff one off will cost about $2,800.00 more in resin costs.
A 17' tiller home built skiff will cost in materials about $4,500.00
 I'am now back to what I said in the beginning of this , people buy these skiffs because they can afford them, because they have no time or skill to build their own or they make to much to stop and build their own. Because they like the idea of a well crafted product and the process of having their own boat built. They buy them because they can be way better at getting near fish than in the wrong skiff.
Lots of reasons. 

I have worked all over the place on many different projects for a days wages. The only times I made any real money were when I owned my own business, made a profit and then sold that business or land. 
Yes these skiffs can cost and some do a lot and can be worth it. Others are riding on the others backs and picking up sales by being a bit less in price. So look at what you are buying or lusting after.
I think for lots of guys out there it's time to clean out the garage and save a pile of dough and build your own skiff.
I would love to own a Finnish built Swan 42' sloop but the price tag is way out of my range, so I built my own boat and have been using it now pretty much non stop since 1999. 
Hope this helps