|Auntie Em! Auntie Em!|
We Ante Up.
If the ante were lower, we'd play hands we shouldn't.
- Heard around Tenakee poker tables
Filthy Lucre: The Rising Cost of DIY
We have entered the dreaded and inevitable shop/buy phase of our project.
First, I guesstimated this boat to cost about $17.5K, all found. Materials, transportation, infrastructure and clean-up... the works.
But it seems that real world numbers have jumped up an average of 50% since we built SLACKTIDE in 2009. My guess is that this is post-peak everything at work, especially in terms of energy involved in procuring raw materials and manufacture and transportation. Our ACX Plywood, for example, is now coming from Chile, rather than our own forests (which have been cherry-picked below 'commercial viablility').
My guesstimate came up about $10K short! We threw up a broadly itemized 'worst case' scenario by supplier/service, for a 'ridiculously conservative' total of $27.7K. After shopping, it looks like that's our scenario.
To cover this, we've gone into debt for the first time in our lives (a very generous advance against next winter's caretaking commitment). While we're very grateful, this is a queasy feeling for us. But it allows us to fit the copper plate in good order, rather than retrofit, later.
Here's our list, to date, rounded a bit:
$1500 Container, SeattleWA to PetersburgAK
$1200 Sheepherder WoodStove from TransOceanLtd.com
$5000 Plywood, Foam, Underlayment (for Copper)
$2700 Red Cedar Framing, Coamings, Handrails
$2750 Home Depot and Harbor Freight - Paints, Glues, Tools, Sundries
$1200 Jamestown Distributors - Glues, Fasteners
We have yet to shop for Sailcloth + Rigging, Cushions/Mattress and Electrical System. Some of this will be forwarded from SLACKTIDE, and the latter two can be deferred for later. I expect another $3K?
Ooh! Aaah!! I feel the pain of pennies, wrenched from my skinflint soul.
Admittedly, the path we've chosen for our boats is an odd mix of cheap and expensive. The low road approach (ACX Plywood, Ply-Frame Construction, Nails vs. Screws) is juxtaposed with some higher end features (remote building site in far Alaska, Copper Plate, Ply/Foam/Ply Construction, Bronze and SS Fasteners, use of 3M5200 and Gorilla Glue, Wood Stove (Range with Oven), extra-heavy 2in Bottom).
Factor these out (and lower-cost alternatives in), and we'd be left with a total of around $10K (modest rigging, cushions, electrical, included). Reclaimed framing and scrounging could drop this further.
For a 32ft boat, this is still high. Especially since we count labor as free.
Why build DIY, when the market is awash with cheap, used boats?
Our answer is that:
a) Not one of the affordable boats out there are likely to let us sail where and as we do. Ultra-shoal, insulated, armored sailboats in decent shape are rare as hen's teeth, lying far away, and tend to cost a cod-wallop.
b) Retrofitting what we want as best we may - insulation, junk rig, maybe sheer-legs and metal keel-strip - along with fixing what's iffy - keel-bolts, blisters, backing plates, rig faults, etc? - takes time and treasure, and is tricky to back-fit. DIY lets it all install in good order.
c) Knowing exactly how it's built - the whats, wheres and whys - keeps maintenance manageable.
d) Most of the upfront costs are one-time expenses. They pro-rate over the lifetime of a boat that is exactly what we make of it... that fits us and our ways like a glove. In the long run, we make up an initial price difference (vs a used boat) and more.
e) There is a feeling to setting sail in your very own creation, with which no mere acquisition can compete.
Is DIY for everyone? Nope. Not even for us in some situations. If something were to happen to this one, we'll regroup, if possible, and buy used.
This one's our last, DIY home... better make it count!