case for building in aluminum...
...can easily be made
if you look at the real cost. This cost includes not
only material, but also the amount of work and time
needed, and the retained resale value of the boat
once it is built.
First of all, no boat is cheaper to build than buying
a used boat. It just can’t be made as inexpensively
as buying used. This is especially true if your time
is worth only the minimum wage. So, if all you want
is a good boat, buy used.
Emily Girl Scow Daysailer
LOA - 13 ft 4 inches
Beam - 52 inches
Draft - 4 inches/36 inches
Weight - 350 lbs
However, if you want to have the experience of building
your own boat, with all the pleasure and satisfaction
that offers, then your decision will be what type
of boat, what size of boat, and what material to use
First of all, you should settle some boat builder’s
1. Building a boat to some day sail around the
world. It could happen, but not likely. So don’t
build your first or second boat for that purpose.
In fact, if you do end up sailing around the world,
the best way to do it the first time is to sell
your boat and use the money for passage on a tramp
streamer excursion instead.
2. Building a boat to retire on down in the islands.
Again, it could happen, but probably not right now.
Instead, you probably will realize more pleasure
from a boat that can be made in a short time, and
used in your immediate home waters.
3. Building a boat for a family bonding experience
on weekends and vacations. It can happen, but probably
not for a very long time. Your kids, once they become
teens, will want to be with their friends, not the
old man knocking around on a boat. Same for the
wife. Bless her heart - but she may not want to
go with you.
All these dream reasons for building a boat are legitimate,
but should be viewed with a sober eye before you start
My suggestion based on 60 years of messing about
on boats, and years of experience owning a marina,
it to go three ways: go small- go quality- go now.
You’ll get just as much satisfaction and excitement
building a 15 ft boat as a 40 footer. In fact more.
It’s because you will be able to see progress,
and the light at the end of the tunnel within a reasonable
time frame. Nothing is more depressing than a half
built boat, and then running out of money, time, and
the energy to complete the job. Not even considering
what it can do to a good marriage.
If you settle on a small boat designed for the waters
where you live, you will be able to spend your time
knocking about the whole area, without worry about
the hazards the big guys fear. If your waters have
shallows and you sail, a center boarder, or dagger
boarder choice would be a smarter way to go. If you
do run aground, you can pull up the board, hop out,
and push off.
get just as much satisfaction and excitement
building a 15 ft boat as a 40 footer. In fact
more. It’s because you will be able to
see progress, and the light at the end of the
tunnel within a reasonable time frame.
Even though you may think you are building the boat
to keep forever, and then leave to your kids as an
heirloom, a smart choice is to anticipate someday
selling the boat. Additionally, the real cost of stuff
that goes into the boat is more than just the material
the hull is made of. The resale value if everything
is effected by the hull materials.
Back in the 70’s ferro cement was touted as
a great material for large boat building. In fact
it is. However, once these ferro cement boats were
completed, and even though they may have been beautifully
done, they were worth less than 1/3 the value of similar
boats made of other materials. If you want to buy
a great live aboard boat down in the islands, and
don’t have much to invest, large ferro cement
boats would give you a great value. I know you can
get 40 footer’s for less than $10k if you look
With this idea of retained value, aluminum is tops
for resale. This is especially true if the boat is
professionally fabricated and welded. Fortunately,
every community in the world has a top welding shop
that can give you a top quality welding job.
If you are thinking welding is expensive, you are
wrong. Most good weld shops charge $50-$60 per hour
for their services. We find the cost of welding a
typical 16-20 foot boat is in the $400-$700 range.
When compared to the time it takes to make a wooden
boat hull, even at minimum wage for your time, welding
is a cheaper way to go. Additionally, there is the
savings of the time and expense of painting the boat
Building the boat in aluminum takes the least amount
of time because you essentially start with a bare
hull, and then finish off the boat to your deck and
interior design. You can make it as simple or fancy
as you want. Starting with a pre-fabricated and pre-welded
hull kit, lets you spend your time doing the fun finish
work, instead of the icky glassing of a wooden boat
The time required for the finish work in the completion
of the boat is essentially the same for all boats,
no matter the hull materials used. Again, there is
a small time advantage with aluminum because you can
bolt things in place instead of glassing.
The total cost of the finished boat will be about
the same for all building materials. Plywood materials
cost the least going in, but once you add the cost
of fabrication and glassing that includes some minimum
value for your time, the initial material cost savings
The net result of what boat to build, and what materials
to us for your boat is the choice. Which material
would you rather have to use over a number of years?
That’s really the bottom line in making your
About the author: Harold Duffield
- age 67 - grew up on the Mississippi River - was
whats known as a "river rat". He has been
messing about and building boats for over 50 yrs.
Now he is offering plans and kits for fishing boats,
shantys, house boats and even sailboats in aluminum
as well as finished boats. https://www.oneuglyboat.com/
Other articles by Harold Duffield: