Build it or Buy it?
I'm a relatively inexperienced sailor who is looking to further my sailing skill and at the same time pick up some boat maintenance and repair skills by possibly building my own boat from scratch. I've always been a fairly mechanically inclined person, spending a lot of time growing up building things from wood with my grandfather who was a carpenter by trade and fixing cars with my father. I painted houses for three summers while in college (which I've sadly just graduated from) and so have a good amount of experience in scrapping, sanding, priming, caulking, and painting. I'm not looking to build anything remotely large, somewhere in the 16 footdaysailer range.
In terms of experience I've sailed around Buzzard's Bay here in Massachusetts several times crewing on a friend's 33 foot Catalina and started sailing on my own this summer on the Charles River at Community Boating (I highly recommend them to anyone in the Boston area, great people and very affordable - http://www.community-boating.org/)
My question is: what is the best course of action on this is? What books or internet resources can you recommend to further my research? I've seen many listings for boat plans, but are there any good ones? Is it better to research hull design theory and try to get a hold of some CAD software (I'm fairly skilled with AutoDesk Inventor.) I spent two years as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a degree in Mathematics so the theory and the physics are not something I'm afraid of. My last question is how is the resale on a home-made boat? If I should come to build my own boat I don't plan on keeping it forever. Can I expect to recoup a decent amount of the input costs or does the value drop significantly since its not professionally made? Any thoughts or advice you can offer are greatly appreciated. Thank you,
Generally, home-built boats do not sell for enough for you to recoup a decent portion of the costs incurred when building the boat. You're probably far better off getting a factory-built boat, that is in need of some TLC, than you would be building a boat from scratch. This would give you some experience in boat repair and maintenance, but would be far more likely to allow you to recoup your costs.
There are a lot of boats in the 16-19' range that would be suitable for you to learn on. It might be helpful to say what you're looking to spend on the boat. Also, it would be good to say whether you want a boat that is easily trailered, or one that is going to be kept on the water, at a dock or mooring.
BTW, it seems much more likely that you'll be sailing more often if the boat is down at a dock or mooring and ready to go, compared to sitting on a trailer. If it is on the water, it is simple to go out for even a short afternoon/evening sail, which is not the case if the boat is sitting on the trailer.
"My last question is how is the resale on a home-made boat? " Zero, or damn near to it.
By all means look into hull design and handling, there are a number of good books out there that go into that in good detail. Until the advent of PC power, hull design was very much a black art as much, or more so, than a science. The problem is that you are dealing with multiple variables and they all interact dynamically. You can, for instance, design a static hull with the centers of effort, balance, gravity, etc. all neatly laid out where you want them. But now, watch the waterline change as the hull picks up speed, forms a bow wave, and squats in the water. And then as the boat starts to heel over--all the hull dynamics change.
Design your hull in 3D so that you can match all the variables at all the angles of heel, with various wave motions (and make it cut through the chip instead of slamming, and make sure it doesn't hobbyhorse) AND under different sail trims...and all of a sudden you've got a HUGE task, one that was essentially impossible before mini-mainframes and still is going to bring your engineering software to its knees.
I'm not sure that anyone--even the pro designers--has software that can account for all that and still generate hull lines, simply because the cost of developing it would be so high.
Ask folks if they have ever sailed a boat which is so well balanced that it can be trimmed with just the sails--and then will hold any course, by itself, with no hand on the rudder, for at least a half hour. Most sailors will tell you flat out "No way!" but there are some few hull designs that actually hit that sweet spot. Ask the folks who designed them, and they will all say it tooks lots of experience--and then they were still damned lucky.
So when you buy a boat, you are also buying the designer's reputation and the known performance of the boat. And THAT has far more resale value than anything else in the boat.
If you plan on re-inventing the wheel, and want to sell it afterwards, it's better to have a really good one. Guys graduate from a number of intstitutions like MIT (you may have heard of it, being from Massachusetts) , with degrees in Naval Architecture, and know better than to beat themselves over the head with designing the quintessential sailing dinghy or daysailer. At the same time, outfits like Vanguard are killing themselves to find the best boat they can sell to the most people. Your best route may be to examine a number of different designs firsthand, by sailing them and by examining their plans, to determine a boat that suits you and your location best. If you're interested in wood, Mystic Seaport has many plans as well as actual boats that can be sailed. Woodenboat may provide some additional ideas and opportunities. Building a boat takes a long time, but is worth it if you want the boat you end up with. There are lots of options. Explore them before taking the plunge. (You're an engineer - err on the side of caution!)
building my own boat from scratch
This comment may be cynical, but its not to far from reality. Like hurricane-damaged production boats, most home-made boats end up with market values that are a fraction of the costs fo their components (engine, sails, hardware, instruements).
In fact, most older boats often sell for far more than their combined parts are worth. :D Same is often true of older cars.
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