Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE COST OF BUILDING A CUSTOM LITHIUM SKIFF or any other flats skiff today.

After lots of work by Scott Grider, Geneo Baker, Brian Floyd, Eric Shisler, Rob Rummel and a little help from myself, the birth of a new flats skiff concept has arrived. She's out of the mold and has been launched as a bare hull for a few hours of weight testing, poling around and a bit of towing behind my 12'"3" skiff using our 15hp Yahmaha outboard to see how she planes out with 4 people aboard. 

She planed out with 4 people onboard at 12 mph level with no hull side splashing. The lower Chines are working as designed and are diverting the spray down out and aft. The stern wake parted perfectly clean. She towed behind with ease. Can't wait to get an engine on the stern.
 I am very happy with the outcome but will try and not sound like a hyping salesman here, even though she is my child.
Bottom line is you all will just need to come see for yourself or just ask around. 
Capt. Camp Walker poled her for an hour with 6 people aboard. Find him and ask his opinion.
The builders are happy.

This blog is about the REAL COSTS of skiff building either at home or in a modern shop.
I have been offered the use of the hull mold so I will use it if I can sell my design-build idea here. This will most likely be my last flats skiff project. Rachel and I plan on sailing away this fall for a new life without kids and the dog Bequia into the Pacific and beyond.
I will explain my skiff interior design that I want to build this summer and Hopfully sell to help fund our next years sailing adventures.
You will see here the time it takes to build, the thought that can go into a skiff build and what it costs in today's market both retail and wholesale.


Launching day last week. The hull-plug is cored with 1-1/8" core and laid up with many layers of 2oz. matt and 10oz. Fiberglass cloth. This hull plug is for a client that will use her for a commercial working skiff in the Bahamas fishing and knocking about. She is very strong. The hull weight here is 350 lbs with 2 bulkheads and the stern well in place. The tower was a castoff that they put together for this test launch.
This hull can be built 150 lbs lighter without much trouble or using exotic materials. Just change the Coreing, the hull skin laminates and the way it's all bonded together. I feel that some light weight skiffs have their place but I feel this hull weight suits this design quite well.
The hull I will build from the new mold will be quite different in Coring thickness and laminates but will end up with the same weight goal in mind for the overall hull, deck and interior weight at 500 lbs finished. I can go lighter for sure but it wil not work or feel well to me.

You cannot launch a boat without a proper christening. As per Caribbean West Indian tradition I sprinkled RUM over the inside of the hull and of course I gave some to KING NEPTUNE.
I had my own rum for later if she proved her worth.

According to the Elements periodic table the LITHIUM element is supposed to explode when it comes in contact with water.
Looks like this is the New LITHIUM ELEMENT.
Tim Is on the tower and is the biggest guy at the boatyard, he's the engine at 285 lbs. And 6'5". The young man in the stern seat weighs 165 and Geneo in the bow is at 185lbs.
The deck and floor will vary but they will weigh 150 lbs on average with hatches. Here this hull is sitting light and will have 800 more lbs added to it with a full load of 3 big guys and fuel.
This means that it will float on its designed lines. Right now it's at 4" of draft. At 6" it will be at its full worst case load. I am happy that I did the math in advance.

Here she is poling along with Brian Floyd on the tower, Geneo Baker on the stern and our 2 mermaids Rachel and Heidi Floyd on the bow. She is floating light here. She has 2" to go to get on her designed waterline. With myself at 165 lbs and Camp Walker at 165 aboard she went down another 1/2".

I can say now that this rounded stern really all aspects.
The skiff when poling spins on her own axis with out sliding in the stern as you push her round with no noise or wave friction as she is spun around with ease.
We did not have trim tabs installed......I will let you know when these are in place what the difference is if any.
This skiff felt like poling a light weight WHIPRAY to me but spins and pivots like nothing I have ever felt before.
When poling backwards there is no noise and Camp Walker enjoyed it so much he kept poling backwards and spinning her in circles. He owns and Guides out of my old design the 17.8 or Professional as they are also called. This hull poles backwards as easy as going forward. But no noise.
Because of the weight of the skiff here she is what would be a couple of guys with a good lightish build. She is as stable as any skiff in this size beam range. Which means I could run around the sheer edge with no one aboard and no engine on the stern without any trouble. Ha I have been on the water all my life so I can make this look easy even after a sip of launching rum.

285 lbs standing on the forward sheer with no motor on the stern.

It's always fun to see a skiff floating at its lightest.

The Lithium hull lines with all the running pads and upper Chine areas colored in bright yellow.

This is the skiff I want to build. It is shown here with the hull core in yellow. I am not showing the center console bait well and seat in this drawing here for clarity.
I want this skiff to be run with a tiller motor from 50-70 hp although it will rate for a 90hp and they weigh the same in Yahmaha engines. It will be up to the buyer to decide what HP to use.
It will have the two stern box seats using my new hinge design with very deep gutters so these lockers should be very dry. All wires and engine gear will not be run through these lockers except in the Starboard one which will have the fuel line in it and the two Lenco Trim tabs wires running out of it.
This way these lockers are just for gear. No wire ends to deal with.
They will have my lid hatch lock down designs in them if wanted.
The Port Locker will have two gate valves running to the sea chest from the central bait well. This means they are very accessible for maintence. Nothing else in this locker.
The bow hatch will have my hatch hinge in it that only needs one bolt per side. This hatch will have the deepest hatch gutters built to date so will be very dry inside.
I give two options as to fuel tanks. One being a built in fiberglass tank as this is a Oneoff skiff. Or an alumimium one that is removeable throught the hatch with ease. Well.....a bit of unbolting but it will come out without problems should they arise. It will have my latest ideas on how to stay away from corroding. Both will carry 28 gals or more if needed.
The cockpit floor will be self bailing.
8 - 9-1/2' fly rods in separate tubes.
And then the central console with all batteries set low to the bottom of the hull, with all electrics in this console with the top of the console being able to tilt out of the way to access everything at ease.
Then the bait well and seat.
The poling tower and the console roll bar bases will be bolted in using my system of drilling and taping into preglassed areas. This means no leaks ever into the lockers or hull inside and no worries about how well it's caulked.
The hull side where the rod racks are will be completely faired in smooth with only a small area where the reels might touch. This to be easy to clean and no future worries about old carpet or the new stuff that's all the rage today.
Running lights will be LED detachable ones when needed. If you want something else add later when I am not looking. They all leak and fail.
Bow and stern eyes in Dyneema. No leaks ever.
Hull any color wanted in GELCOAT.
Deck and interior in any color of Awlgrip or any paint system wanted.
Hull and deck to be built using Vynelester resin, AIREX or DYVINYCELL cores.
All building to be done by hand layup by myself, old school.
Hull skin can have a layer of KEVLAR 10oz. Cloth in it if wanted. I think it's a waste of $ as if you hit something that hard you will have other things to worry about than a crack In your hull.

The console I have designed is to have a separate roll handle bar bolted to the hull cockpit floor using my drill and tap method. It will be tied to the stringers underneath the floor with preglassed in angles. The top of the console box will be able to tilt out of the way to look down onto the batteries, the bait well hoses exiting the bait well and be able to see all the fuses and switches. There will be no doors or openings on this console so you won't have to lay on your side a cuss away as you try to get at what's inside. Because of the large angled lip this box it will be watertight. There will be plenty of room for two or more battery's depending on brand. All will be sitting as low to the hull bottom as can go to get the weight down for better balance of the skiff. Same with the bait well water. All will be below the waterline. 

The hinge for this will be made by me out of carbon fiber thus there will be no bolts, no rust and no leaks. You can remove by pulling out a bronze pin. No rust. Super clean and watertight.

The seat hatch bait well lid is designed to lay forward like this so it doesn't need a metal hatch spring or those devices that rust. Hinge as the others is carbon with just a bolt on each side. The bait well can have 2 levels of water. The opening hole to the bait water will have a turned down opening to stop any water from splashing out.

The bait well drain and pickup will be attached to glassed in fiberglass tubes to the bait well and the sea chest. This means no plastic through hulls and no worrys of leaks ever. The hoses that go between the fittings can be changed out easyily because they will go through padded holes in the stringer and the stern seat. The gate valves for the bait well will be bronze not PVC so they will not freeze and will be maintainable as they will be easy to access in the stern locker.

This is an earlier sketch that shows a wide open skiff without a floor. The LITHIUM design has more freeboard than past skiffs. I did this because of all the new trends of carrying so much stuff. The Needed freeboard for these past two decades of new stuff being added to skiffs, bigger and heavier motors and so on. The thing is it's a big step up out of this hull without a floor.
The stern Starboard seat locker is wider to get closer to the tiller. This skiff could weigh in the range of
900 lbs fully rigged and fueled up without people onboard. It's just a concept drawing.

I plan on glassing in the the trim tab pockets with multiple layers of fiberglass matt and 10oz. cloth to build up a 3/8" thick tab base area. I will then wax the short 1/4-20 Stainlesss Steel Machine bolts threads and drill out and tap in these bolts. From here I will glass over from the inside to cover the holes. This will make it watertight forever and the bolts can be removed at any time. I have treaded bolts into fiberglass like this for over 30 years without a failure ever. It just takes a bit of extra effort.
Go look at a sailboats mast. The best are all taped machine bolts.

This is the sheer cap-deck cross section detail. The deck edge is longer and deeper than any skiff built to date. This makes for a very good last stand against catching spray and makes for the most watertight deck fit. The rub rail is bolted in place. The deck is puttied and glued in place and then glassed over. I will do this with precision by flipping the skiff upside down and will then be able to access everything looking down easily. Thhe design calls for every inch of the sheer to be accessible for this. No leaks ever. Total monocoque build. Just like around the world sailing ocean racers.

The aft hatch hinges will be custom made by me out of carbon fiber and glued and faired to the deck.
No fastenings but easy to remove because of the simple pin that holds the hinge together. This design enables the inside hatch downward lip edge to be very deep, deeper than any hatch to date and still be able to swing out and up. It will have a double hatch gasket so should be very watertight.
Because I will build all the hatch drains in the custom one off deck I can go to great lengths to make the gutters deeper to facilitate these hatch lips. No other skiff to date will have this detail.

The bow and stern eyes will use my thinking of Dyneema line to replace the metal normally being used.
No more rusting, and no more leaks ever. Extreamly strong and very light.

The stern eye can be a simple loop like this too. The bow will have a Carbon tube glassed into the bow and all you need is a Dyneema loop to pass through to pull your skiff onto the trailer. The loop can be attached to the trailers hook. You can have a bunch of these loops onboard as they weigh nothing.

You can buy Dyneema short lengths online for $1.00 a foot or less. Or look for a sailboats halyard line laying about. Cut the Dacron outer cover off and inside is Dyneema or Spectra line. Or come by my sailboat and I'll cut you off a few feet to use.

 Just push the line together with your fingers and then poke a hole through it with a pen. If you have a sailing friend about they might have what's called a FID to use. 

This makes a hole which you pass the line tip through. Tape the end to make it easy. Now do 2 more times.

Bingo ! A short loop. Seize the ends. If passing through a tube like drawn above just pull the seized ends into the tube to hide.

Or drill your hole in the stern like drawn. Pass the line loop through and pull tight from outside the hull.
Now just glass over from inside. No leaks ever, this line is strong enough to lift a 30' boat and will last your lifetime.

See... Pretty simple. Weighs with glass work about 6 ounces for all three areas.

Fuel tank details if using aluminum. Tank must not touch the hull anywhere. I want to use a welded tube on the bottom of the tank for even support and for the easy welding.

I do not like stern drain plugs and through hulls. This skiff will have a sea water chest next to the stern Port locker that will be accessible from the deck to clear out any weeds that might get in there. This means this drain plug would be the only through hull in this skiff. There will be small holes in the hull bottom skin which will be solid glass. In the sea chest the water in it will amount to about 1 gallon at rest which is about 8 lbs + -
The drain above will be made by me out of fiberglass and glassed in place. No leaks ever. Unless you forget to put the plug in when standing on the stern. If not over loaded this skiff will self bail with this plug removed.

I have too much going on now to rewrite all my notes here on the costs of materials and the work list with all my time frame notes.
Go to my other blog and you can read everything there clearly.

What I do when designing and planning out the build process is I draw up the skiff parts like this simple sketch. It's good to have all the parts drawn out so you do not loose track or forget a section. This shows the areas. As I have a scale design drawing to use I then use a simple clear velum sheet that is drawn up into 1x1' squares in a 4x8' sheet representing a sheet of plywood or such area of 32square feet.
With this I can slide it along my drawings and just add up the numbers to get the square ft.
I use this method when designing my plywood boats too. I have these predawn sheets made up in all my favorite designing scales of 3/4"-1' and up to 1-1/2"=1'. Very handy and very accurate.

Here's how I add up Sq.Ft.

Here are all the areas noted before with all the core sq. fts. Needed for each area and the material yards needed for each area. 
In lots of today's flats building skiff shops they just add full skin layers right across the entire hull skin one at a time. This makes it easy to cut out and very easy to layup. BUT it adds lots of unnessary layers in places not really needed and thus the hull skins become heavier than originally designed.
I fought this practice all the time at HB. It all comes from big production shops that don't care and they pass this adittude on down to the employees.
I built light weight skiffs that have held up over time because I cared about each and every one that went out the door.
What this translates to is I build a hull skin up in areas and sections differently, with the idea of saving weight in areas that do not have the loads imposed on these areas and thus saving weight on each specific design. 
This means that building a skiff to my design means you have to follow the plan or you will not end up with the end goal.
The numbers here show;
149 yds 1-1/2oz. Matt
131 yds 10oz. Cloth
291 sq. Ft. Of 3/4" and 1/2" core

This is my rough estimating of the hardware costs. I can buy everything at wholesale. I feel that on the Internet today anyone can source out fantastic deals if they know in advance the items they need, what they retail for and have an idea of the wholesale price. This means that a new steering system from WEST MARINE should be able to be bought for 30-50% less if you shop around.
The core that Geneo Baker used for the hull plug here costs over $700.00 a sheet retail. He found a huge stack of it in Texas for sale online, more than he could use for this project for for penny on the dollar at below whole sale prices. 
I would not be able to live my lifestyle if I paid retail. I am always looking out towards future projects and when I see a deal I buy it.

This is my break down of the process of building this skiff to my design. Because I will be building all the plugs to make the deck, hatches, console and the rest as one off projects the labor times are far greater than if just building from an already existing mold.
This might look like a tedious process but I feel that is why I have done well in this business by going over all the details and numbers in advance. It's just like bidding on jobs. You underbid you loose money. If you charge the customer more at the end you lose a future client and get a reputation.

This shows that I have estimated the time for the build, including building the temporary shop enclosure at 610 hours at the most. Hopfully I have thought it out well. I do know what it takes for me to get things done with the factor of being 59 years old now and knowing this skiff will be built in the hot heat of summer under a tarp structure.

If building for a set price I always get the client to aggree to what I am going to do. If they change or add things to the project then we agree in advance that this will be an extra cost at a certain by the hour wage and the extra material costs.
If building from already existing molds the labor time would be 2/3 less. At HB the big top end skiffs took on average 250 hours or less. Waterman skiffs 1/2 this number or less.

Now consider the cost of building the original plugs, molds, making patterns and all the infrastructure that is needed to put your skiff into production. It's time consuming and costly at the best if you can do all the work yourself and very expensive if you have to pay others to do it for you.

I have put my time in making this happen many times and have done well for my employers and myself over the years but it's not for me anymore.
I have never been able to afford a new store bought boat, or house. The way I got ahead was by doing most or all the work on my own.
To build a skiff at home taking time here and there when life allows you can build your own skiff saving the above costs and passing these savings back to yourself. With this in mind I built a $150,00.00 sailboat for $35,00.00 in materials in less than 2000 man hours while running HBBWs and building skiffs there.
Was it easy? No, but it was doable and now 20 years later, 27,000 sea miles and 32 country's later I feel it was worth the effort every day I wake up with our bow pointing in a different direction.

LABOR is 610 hours including the rigging of the skiff as described. Owner will have to add motor and all extra stuff they desire on their own.
MATERIALS for the skiff hull build. Glass, core, putty, paint etc.  $4,290.00 +- a bit.
MATERAILS  to build the skiff. Buckets, sand paper, grinding discs, etc. $560.00 +-
SHED COST    $463.00 if I have to buy at the lumber store new.
HARDWARE COST Trim tabs, rub rail, fuel tank, hoses, electric, batteries, console roll bar, poling tower 
All the hard bits.    $1,789.00 +-  cost can depend on what deals I find.

Now add engine cost, trailer, bow platform, Coast Gaurd gear, trolling motor on the bow, extra batteries, stupid stern power pole, GPS, Cushions, purple under deck lighting, and the list goes on. This last bit is up to the buyer.

Now it come down to LABOR COSTS.
ALL boatbuilding, any project comes down to man hours. This is the make or break a project or your company. All the materials cost can be figured out here in advance just like I have describe above. You can't get away from these fixed costs, you can only save on deals here and there.
Now how fast can all this stuff in a pile be transformed into a sellable product?

I have shown what I feel my labor time will be. 610 hours.
What ever my asking wage is I will have to factor in paying TAXES. As a self employed guy this takes a nice big chunk away. I have to factor in what I need to keep for myself from what Uncle Sams going to want. 
Next is my shop over head. I will have to rent a place to build this skiff. Unfortunately none of my friends have offered me an air conditioned shop to use for free. 
Next is the dreaded word INSURANCE. yes it's always best to look into insuring your build as it might burn up by someone's else's carelessness or a Hurricane comes by. Also if you are the client and have deep pockets if someone trips over your skiff build they will not go after poor ole me but deep pocket you. Ah.... That's AMERICA.

Now to the final cost. What do I think I am worth today? 
I deal with this question all the time. 
To be competitive in today's world I want $40.00 an hour for this build.
This brings the labor cost to $24,400.00 
With this cost I will pay my taxes, overhead, and most likely some type of insurance deal out of my wages. But most times it's easier for the client to cover insurance as they are already up to their necks in this game.

This means this skiff ready for motor and trailer should cost $31,502.00 depending on materials and hardware used. If lots of Carbon is used then it goes up but not by lots as an example. Maybe $300.00
Now add the rest. Plus taxes
My guess is it should be done ready to fish for $40,502.00 plus taxes.
That's $12,498.00 less than an Chittum Islamorada 18. And having a Yahmaha 70 on the stern instead of a TOHATSU. I have nothing against Tohatsu engines. Just showing the difference in costs. I can buy Tohatsus at cost.
I know how to get deals on motors, materials and trailers. I will pass on everything bought at wholesale costs to the buyer.

Now if building a skiff such as this at home your costs would in the range of this;
Chris Morejohn skiff plans $300.00 or someone else's
Materials $5,000.00- $7500.00 depending on skiff design and size, layout etc.
Engine ? $7,000.00 +- my guess for 70 Yahmaha tiller price quoted
Trailer basic - $1,800.00
Taking wife out to dinner to let you make a smelly mess building a skiff in your garage....priceless 
Worth every cent.

Maybe.... $16,600.00 plus taxable stuff. 

Now let's take a look at a retail skiff being built today for a perspective of the bought skiff world.
The best way is to look at the most hyped and expensive skiff out there on the technical flats skiff market today..... The Chittum Snake Bite 2 degree or the Islamorada 18 12degree skiffs.
Both skiffs have similar hatches but can vary a bit. One has a live well and a center console. A side console is a small part to build. The two hulls only material diffence is..... Almost nothing. It's the vee in the bottom which is 6" of extra material. About $100.00 worth.
My skiff, your homebuilt skiff, the CHITTUM skiff,  all skiffs will all have similar materials and hardware. The Chittum will use carbon fiber but when you add up the sq.Ft. Of it and the real costs its not much extra. It's overrated. But I can put it in the build if wanted.

We can now look at their over head costs.
$16,600.00 or less if buying a 50 hp TOHATSU material costs.
Now shop costs, depreciation of Mold costs, tools shop setup costs, rent, insurance, employees' labor, medical costs, advertising, insurance, warranty work, truck to tow skiffs around with...
Man it goes on and this is why I don't want to build skiffs in production ever again.

Now subtract the basic costs from their latest skiff prices and you end up with this;,
Islamorada 18 $ 53,000.00 - $16,600.00 = $36,400.00
From the possible $36,400.00 left you now have to take out all the above costs and then share what's left between the owners. 
If building an all epoxy skiff the resin is the only added cost. About $1,00.00 more.
So if comparing to the earlier Chittium skiffs at $60-70,000.00 base price then it's looking way more attractive to build your own.
Truth is George Sawley said they flooded the market with these skiffs so that's why the prices have come down. Or in other words he has run short of deep pockets.
Like I have said before skiff prices of store bought skiffs are there because the market will bear it.

I have 4 names on a list of first right of refusal waiting for this blog.
 #1 Eric B
#2 Sean A
#3 Daniel M
# 4 Steven R

I feel this skiff is a good logical progression of ideas since the Whipray skiff design slipped into the waters of Florida 20 years ago. 
I feel the LITHIUM stern will change the way the diehard fly fisherman will look at their present skiffs sterns. We will have to wait a week or so till the guys finish installing the deck and putting a motor in the stern to see its speeds and how really dry it will be.

Now the question is will I be able to sell this one off skiff Build?