Wednesday, November 20, 2013

You could build your own yacht!

Valiam, On Strike, Sagittae, Pretty Alright, Roger Ramjet, Touchwood and Anui to name just a few...

These are the names of yachts built by their owners.

We have now met seven couples who have completely built their own yachts; sourced everything that Glenn and I take for granted as standard fixtures onboard of Sea Trek III. Their owners are not professional in the industry. They are regular people from varied walks in life who have willingly taken on this huge and unconventional path to boat ownership. They have committed themselves to years of work and hours totaling 3,000 to 4,000 to eventually are able to sail and enjoy their owner crafts.

Why would anyone undertake such an enormous task, for pleasure?

The dream, to go cruising...

A few favoured designs are readily accessible in kit form. They arrive as pre cut foam and glass sandwich pieces and instructions with paper pattens. "This seemed do-able in our back yard". Anonymous quote.

Some ambitious amateurs use professional help with the hull structure, and then continued the "finishing off". Sounds simple but multiple skills are required: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, upholstery, glazing, rigging, mechanical, and years of patience. For one couple this involved moving the hull and their new home, a caravan into an industrial shed. Years later they have an elegant and stunning Radford 55' yacht that races through the open waters. It's internal carbon fibre fit out is truely futuristic, and practical.

Several friends said that it was the only way that they could afford a yacht of the design and size that they wanted.

Saving money was mentioned by many. This was countered when most people admitted that it was far more costly than they had expected, and not the bargain that they had hoped for. The expenses were spread over 4 or 5 years and the pace made it manageable. "We could have bought a lovely yacht without all of the agony". Savings were made by finding the best prices by internet shopping, generally overseas products. A few industrious sailors sourced second hand deck hardware and engines. This required being in the right place at the right time, and networking.

Most couples mentioned that building was a way to stay focused on their dream of cruising and retirement, prior to being ready to go. Most also mentioned the strain on the marriage/relationship as the epic of frustrations dragged on.

I was curious to find out how new skills were aquired. "The internet, and just doing it". Hmmm. "So anyone with computer skills could build a yacht?" "Yes". Not this crew.

A real positive was repeated often "If I can build it, I can fix it".

Being self reliant was a commonly expressed idea. Repairs and maintenance can be financially draining. The owners of these yachts eventually know everything about the systems onboard, and as a result will be in the unique position of being able to fix things when they break. They have the spares, the tools and know the sizes and the sources. The marine environment of salt and humidity is harsh. Lots of gear will eventually fail.

The vast majority of sailors we know buy yachts fully assembled. There is a very healthy second hand market, and bargains abound. Our first few years onboard Sea Trek III have involved sorting out the systems onboard: idiosyncratic repairs of previous owners.

Recently we met Trevor and Fiona who aren't actually on the water as yet. They are still building their yacht in the back yard of their home and business: Granger 40' Catamaran.

The famous rear view of Glenn meets Fiona and Trevor.
We visited Fiona and Trevor's back yard project. "Just come up the driveway, and you'll find us out the back". A normal looking suburban house, driveway and garage. Veggies in the garden. Massive catamaran in the field. Mast, boom and rigging horizontal on wooden saw-horses. Ladders for access, and up we climbed.

Very impressive. Trevor has discovered that he is a craftsman. We saw beautiful finishes everywhere. Together they have meticulously smoothed over thousands of corners and edges. The paint finishes shine, perfect reflections. The design features for the galley are super stylish, and Fiona who is a professional cook is proud. "Cooking is what we do, and this kitchen will work well". I can clearly see what she means, everything is in it's most practical position, very accessible, an advantage when under way. They have sourced some stylish gear. Design and creativity are an underlining current of expression in building your own yacht. You get to build your own ideas. Sounds good and looks good.
Style in yachting +++
Trevor was happy to hear our feedback. Although we are not overly familiar with Catamarans, we do admit of 'Cat Envy' right now. I commented that spatially it all seems to fit: the right size headroom and step downs all become important when living onboard and sailing. I found plenty of storage body holes and expanses of room to move around the engines. The seating without cushions was comfortable: a good sign for voyaging. There was just so much to admire.
The bathroom are gorgeous, luxury for boat dwelling. Two private areas, to match the two hulls. Visitors will be spoilt.


Two differing toilet systems onboard as well, "just incase one fails".
The Airhead toilet is a natural composting toilet system that uses Peat to decompose 'solids'. The urine is separated and removed and is not part of the balance. I confess that when onboard of another cat: Hoo Roo I actually looked at Captain Wally's 12 month collection of Poo and it didn't smell. It looked like fertile garden soil. Glenn refused to look into someone else's toilet. "I'm not that kind of friend".
Trevor and Fiona were gracious hosts. Glenn and I shared a delicious coffee and cinnamon toast. Lots of chatter about plans, lifestyle choices, destinations and sail sizes.

Fiona with fresh baking.

Thanks Fiona and Trevor: the yacht viewing was "Definitely worth the drive". See you next year.












  1. I took one look at Captain Wally's poo collection and I'm still in a coma.


  2. PLUMBERS!! Poo bandits!! Why dont you send this into C Helms along with a slow feed of your trip? A fortune awaits PS ,so glad to get a mellon fix

  3. Ah, the joys of the composting toilet. We have found a few problems with ours (all solvable, but not pleasant)
    1. Fruit fly infestation - even with the exhaust fan running 24/7 to maintain negative air pressure.
    2. Urine flow blocked by toilet paper resulting in overflow into the solids section and ultimately producing a septic mess
    3. Urine bottle overfilling. We must empty every day or run the risk of pee on the head sole.
    4. Too much poo. With 2 of us donating to the system, it can only go a few weeks before the little bacteria are overwhelmed by more incoming.
    But, hey, it's a good simple system with hardly any moving parts. And as one of our American cousins put it, " I've learnt to deal with my sh*t"