Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's the price dude...

Yesterday's mailbag was sorta interesting so maybe a good time to set the record straight.

First of all, I like multihulls. Sure, I'm somewhat critical of a lot of modern low bridgedeck multihulls fobbed off on an unsuspecting public but, on the whole, I think multihulls make all kinds of sense when they are designed right.

The fact that I simply don't think they make sense for someone making $15 an hour is simply based on the sobering reality that multihulls are just more expensive than someone working as a line cook at Denny's can afford. Face it, when all is said and done, used monohulls have way more bang for the buck...

Which brings us to Wharram, Brown, and Piver. I was not being sarcastic, what I was doing was pointing out that just about the only bargains around in multihulls are boats designed by these three fellows. The reason you can find them for a semi-reasonable price is that a lot of folks built their designs, used them hard, and a lot of them are not in exactly pristine shape. For the record, I can't think of many boats more suited to the whole VolksCruiser lifestyle than a Brown SeaRunner, Wharram Tangaroa or a Piver (well to be honest, a Piver where the builder actually followed the plans)... That said, most used Wharrams, SeaRunners, and even Piver boats in decent shape sell for more than the Volkscruiser can afford.

Friday, February 22, 2013

and about those multihulls...

Yeah, what about multihulls in the whole VolksCruiser universe?

Problematic at best as multihulls are just silly expensive. I see old Piver and Jim Brown trimarans at reasonable prices that make sense from time to time, the odd Wharram or other cat home-built with issues, but, to be truthful, on a VolksCruiser budget, multihulls are never going to be your first or even second choice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

a somewhat problematic VolksCruiser issue...

So, what about building your own VolksCruiser?

The thing is, I really like building boats but I have to hesitate when it comes to recommending that someone build a boat these days on a VolksCruiser budget. The truth of the matter is, I'm not sure it can actually be done in the current economic climate.

Not that there aren't some great VolksCruiserish designs just crying out to be built. Tad Roberts with his Future Cruiser concept is really on to something and so is Mark Smaalders with his Simplicity series and there are any number of existing plans just crying out to be built and cruised...

Have you checked the price of good lumber and plywood lately? Epoxy? Lead?

The fact is, the cheapest way to buy boatbuilding materials these days is by buying them in the guise of a used boat. Not an exactly happy making state of affairs is it?

That being the case, here's an idea...

Would it not be cool if some enterprising boat designer were to look at what's out there on the used market and do a VolksCruiser redesign of some likely readily available sailboat? That way you'd be able to reuse resources that might otherwise wind up in landfill or left rotting tied to some dock.

I don't know about you, but I'd pay a reasonable chunk of money for a well thought out refit plan that improved a CAL34, Columbia36, or other undervalued boat available used in great numbers... Like I said, just an idea.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

a secret to happy camperdom...

So, where were we...

I'm pretty sure we were describing how a cheap fixer upper can be a lot more expensive than a turnkey boat.

That said, I'm a big fan of fixer upper boats. It's just that a lot of people don't do the math and, as a result, wind up unhappy campers.

Happy campers, by contrast, when they buy a fixer upper, know what the boat will be worth when they've finished fixing and refitting it. For what it's worth, they also realize that their labor has a worth of its own and a dollar/euro/yen value. The bottom line is the total cost of the boat when finished has to be significantly less than one you can buy for cash in turnkey condition.

I'll repeat the important part...

S-I-G-N-I-F-L-C-A-N-T-L-Y  L-E-S-S

Otherwise, what's the point?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

a quick VolksCruiser reality check...

Now that you have a couple of ways of comparing costs of boats, we can start talking about actually acquiring your VolksCruiser.

I've noticed over the years that where the buying and selling of boats is concerned, the words "RIP OFF" are not as uncommon as they should be. More often than not, it's the seller who gets the blame but in truth most of the time it's the buyer ripping him or herself off.

How do you rip yourself off when buying a boat?

Well, for a start, you don't know what the boat is worth, don't know what it will cost to make its problems right, and while you're inspecting the boat in question you're either thinking where you're going to install that brand new watermaker/integrated instrument system you're itching to buy or thinking about being at anchor on the boat in some tropical paradise... Faced with such a buyer, the broker/owner of a boat simply has to stand aside and let you rip yourself off.

So, for a start, you have to know what the boat in question in turnkey condition is worth. For example let's take a look at another boat...

The Irwin 37 is not a bad boat and a whole lot of people really like them. Irwin built a bunch of them in a variety of versions so there are a lot of them for sale at any given time. Because there are a lot of them for sale the price range is pretty wide but, it is safe to say, you can find a turnkey boat somewhere in the $29-49K area.

Since we're talking about Volkcruisers, I expect, we're only interested in the $29K sort and only then to use as a comparison to figure what that fixer-upper you're considering is actually worth.

Irwins and the Irwin 37 in particular, while good boats in general, do have some known issues and just off the top of my head chainplates and centerboards jump to the top of the list. The chainplates because they were glassed in and have been a cause of rig failure so NEED to be replaced if they have not already been and the centerboard because a lot of Irwins are missing their centerboards and as a result sail to weather like a pig.

Either issue is not a reason to avoid buying the boat but should be factored in as issues needing to be budgeted into the overall equation. The chainplates are easy to fix and would only cost a couple hundred dollars in materials but it is an ugly time consuming interior disrupting job so you'd need to factor both materials, the actual work time and a couple of days in cleanup to fix the leftover carnage (angle grinder + glass fiber + interior of boat = one hell of a mess). The centerboard issue if missing or glassed in is more serious stuff but doable by anyone approaching handy but I'd rate the job at $7500 worth of costs/hassle factor.

I happen to know of an Irwin 37 for sale and the guy is asking $12K... Cheap huh? It does have its centerboard but like more than a few Irwins a previous owner has glassed it in. It has its original rigging including glassed in chainplates so that needs fixing and as the rigging (wire, etc) is far past its sell by date, that needs to be replaced as well. The interior needs a lot of work and the electrical system is downright dangerous that needs to be dealt with and there is still a lot of stuff we haven't looked at...

The killer is that the engine does not run nor has the current owner ever had it running. In that sort of situation you really have to factor in a completely new motor/transmission ($12K sounds about right). Ouch!

Do the math...

All of a sudden that $12K boat is not looking so cheap and, even if you fixed everything and did a bespoke job doing it, at best you'd still only have a boat worth $29K. In spite of the fact that you'd be at least $39K or more out of pocket when the dust settled.

Of course, if you were to think outside the box it might actually be a worthwhile project but we'll get into that later...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

So, what's a VolksCruiser supposed to cost anyway? Part 2

Now that you're comfortable with the idea of thinking about what a boat costs per foot, it's time to change it around and get you to think about a more important figure... Displacement.

Displacement, when all is said and done, is a lot more important to someone cruising or living aboard than length. Which is not to say that I'm adverse to light or even ultralight displacement boats but the livability of a boat is more often expressed in its displacement number than in its length.

Let's look at yesterday's boats and see what they displaced...
      Catalina 36 with a displacement of 13,500 pounds = $2.67 a pound
      Ericson 27 with a displacement of 6600 pounds = $2.58 a pound
      CAL 27 with a displacement of 5400 pounds = $1.08 a pound

Now, the cost per pound of a boat does not really tell you anything by itself but it is extremely helpful in comparing what various boats cost.

So, why not throw another boat at you...

The Westsail 32 is a heavier displacement boat (19,500 pounds) of the Colin Archer variety similar to the Tahiti ketch. As it happens, I know of one for sale in the $35K zone which is currently cruising, well equipped and could easily continue cruising so, it fills our turn key criteria.

That gives a cost per foot of $1094 and a cost per pound of a $1.80.

The thing about boats is that it's easy to get into the comparing apples and oranges thing and not realize you're doing it... The Catalina and the Westsail are both good but very different boats and, as such, need to considered and judged differently.

For instance, while the Westsail is a 32' LOD boat when you figure in the spars it's really closer to 40 feet (something to keep in mind where marinas/haulouts are concerned). Its interior is spartan by today's standards and it really only sleeps two. Then again, it will happily carry just about as much weight as you can load on...

The Catalina is faster, has lots of elbow room, more open space, can sleep more comfortably, but has the disadvantage that you'll always be looking at your waterline and not making a happy face when you do. On the other hand, a sorta/kinda advantage of the Catalina is that there is so much space devoted to accommodation you'll be hard pressed to find space for stuff to overload it unless you convert berths into stowage...

Monday, February 4, 2013

So, what's a VolksCruiser supposed to cost anyway?

Face it, the whole thing about cruising, boat buying, and building budgets are pretty much a confusing mess. You often find one guy who thinks a $250,000 boat is "cheap" discussing budgets with someone who wishes he could afford a $25,000 boat... How exactly can you bridge that sort of gap?

You can't... It's just not possible and even trying to will simply make your head explode. Trust me, it is really something best avoided...

So, since you can't really compare boats in general, the only way to make it work is to ignore whatever is not in your selected subset. Which, in today's world means, more than likely, you'll be starting with price.

The other day I was looking at a Catalina 36 which was selling for $36K and it was a very nice boat of the turnkey ready to go cruising variety. I mention this because it was a lot of bang for the buck but still maybe a bit expensive for many interested in the whole VolksCruiser idea. The one thing special about this boat is that it did not require an expensive refit or expensive toys to take you where you want to go and get gone.

So, we'll do what everyone does and pull this number out of the proverbial hat and use it to define the top end of the VolksCruiser price range at $1000 a foot 97% ready to go.

There is a local Ericson 27 in pretty much the same condition, extremely well equipped, and as turnkey as you can get selling for $17K (say $630 a foot). There was also the CAL 27 I missed buying that sold for $4,800. ($178 a foot) but, more than likely, would have needed some money and sweat equity to bring it up to ready to sail off into the sunset condition (let's peg that as an additional $1000 bringing its per foot price to about $215).

Realistically I'd say that $200 is as low per foot as you're likely to find a ready to go cruising boat. So, we'll give the sorta/kinda answer to what a VolksCruiser costs at somewhere between $200 and $1000 dollars a foot.

Now, I'm well aware that a lot of folks currently reading this are currently trying to make sense of these numbers because they fly in the face of everything you've been told, while others are trying to figure out how they can make a Halberg Rassy or Swan fit into those numbers... I'll give you some time.

Tomorrow we'll get into some higher math on the subject...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On not striking while the iron is hot...

I almost bought a boat recently...

Not, in fact, the project I have been hinting about but a boat that simply seemed like a real good deal. I figured I could fix it up as part of a book and DVD project then turn around and sell it for a small fair profit.

Seemed like a plan!

As it happens, the boat in question was a very nice little CAL 27 which, is a fairly interesting Bill Lapworth design.  Well actually, the term CAL 27 covers four different designs (CAL27, CAL 2-27, CAL 3-27, and the T2) all pretty cool variations on a theme in the minimal blue water cruising on a budget niche.

The first CAL27 is similar to the legendary CAL28, a flat top with a pop-top for added head room...

Not quite the boat that the CAL 28 is but it still has a lot of great points and, as it is not a "classic CAL", is just perfect for someone who is not inhibited by the idea of making some serious changes to stuff that might involve a Sawzall!

The CAL 2-27 & 3-27 are more normal in the CAL 29 and CAL34 mold... Good boats with no vices... What's not to like?

The T2, on the other hand, tends to be a little freaky at first but, in my case, I found the modified for the half ton rule + cruising design changes really grew on me. An odd look for sure but it just may be one of the all time great pocket blue water cruisers that no one knows about...

Anyway, while I thought, pondered, and rethought the pros and cons of buying the boat someone else who knew what they want when they see it picked it up for a song. A reminder that life is short and excellent opportunities don't hang around very long!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

VolksCruiser friendly rigs...

The successful VolksCruiser is not just about spending less for stuff. A lot of it has to do with thinking how sailboats work. That said, if you actually suss out how/why sailboats work and act on your findings. It's a pretty safe bet that you'll wind up saving money if you do.

For instance, you'd think that the most commonly used rig in sailing would also be the most logical rig... Common sense right?

As it happens, a while back, someone by the name of Tony Marchaj did a study of how boats work with a special emphasis on rigs and the results were exactly what most people who sail would never dream of. Heresy upon heresy such as the fact that lug and gaff rigs would outpoint a Bahamian sloop (the rig 99% of folks use). No opinions, just plain old scientific method.

Marchaj's book "Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing" pretty much spells out the gory details (and is well worth the read) but the reason I mention this is that it proves that not only is it OK to use an alternative rig like junk, balanced lug, or gaff but it really makes sense to do so.

My personal favorite is the balanced lug because it is simple, cheap, and has pretty much zip in the way of things that break or fail. Throw in the fact that it has more power per square foot of sail area than the Bahamian sloop rig at a fraction of the cost, it makes lots of sense for anyone but for someone on a budget, it's pretty much a slam dunk.

Another rig that makes a lot of sense for the VolksCruiser crowd is the junk... Not quite as powerful as the balanced lug but with a slew of advantages that makes it a pretty equal choice when all is said and done. For me, the choice hinges on whether you like to fiddle with line or not... I'm lazy so the balanced lug tends to win out.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Some VolksCruiser answers...

A few readers have written asking about what I think makes a boat a VolksCruiser which, I'll admit, is bit hard to answer in one quick sentence.

Part of it is, of course, affordability. Talking about what's affordable all depends on who you're talking to. I know someone who thinks his $500K cat is a bargain and someone else who sees a $5K old Columbia 26 as being too expensive for his budget. That said, I'll go out on a limb and suggest that it is somewhere in the realm where a blue collar worker, someone who works in a service industry, or other lesser paid job can sort out something seaworthy in a timely manner. A good number to play with is 25% of your gross income... I was always told that you should budget 25% for your housing so for someone making $15 an hour that would come to $7,800.

These days you can buy a lot of boat for $7,800 or less...

Another aspect of the whole VolksCruiser ethos is you have to realize it is a non-consumerist boat. This means that systems are all based on a pretty strict and somewhat Zen approach to the need/want decision making process. Less is more will very much be your mantra. Lucky for us that it's relatively easy to outfit a boat very well for less these days...

For instance, you may want a Panbo induced bespoke navigation system but you only really need something to tell you where you are...

Hell, you can even buy a second one for backup!

Fact is, the cheap stuff will get you to Tahiti just like the much more expensive system and when (not if) it breaks down you don't have to sell a kidney to replace or get it fixed.

The VolksCruiser does not do well with expensive systems... You don't really need a motor but not having some form of motive power can be problematic so a good compromise is using your dinghy as a yawl boat. You'd be surprised just how easily a 30-something foot boat can be pushed around with a 3-5HP outboard on a dinghy lashed to your aft quarter. Not having an inboard motor also makes the boat sail better/faster and opens up a lot of stowage space.

The real question to ask yourself is whether a higher price for boat/gear/etc is really worth the added cash to acquire it. When in doubt, remember that math is very much your friend...