Welcome to the Sea Dreamer Project! This is the story of a complete boat building novice and his family with no previous nautical experience constructing a 41 foot Diesel Duck in the backyard of an Upstate New York home. This George Buehler designed trawler yacht is a blue water cruiser designed to cross oceans. Built mostly of home center lumber, epoxy and galvanized hardware, this boat is within the reach of an average person. It's the internet boat project for the rest of us!
Diesel Duck 382
Diesel Duck 382 with the "get home" steadying sails up.
The work continues, but at a snails pace. It's spring in upstate NY and while it's perfect boat building weather it's also perfect grass cutting, tree trimming, hedge clipping, weeding, landscape and spring clean up weather.
I almost feel guilty not getting out to the boat shop so that I have something to write about along with producing content for the YouTube series. I have to remind myself that it's supposed to be fun! There are no deadlines, no bosses and no expectations. I work on the boat when I can but I also have responsibilities at home and at work. Not to mention with such a short warm weather season where I live, it's important to take advantage of nice days for time on the jetski and other family activities.
An OT shift with our Marine Unit
So, in between working (including a few OT shifts which have had me working 17 of the last 18 days) lawn care and some leisure time we have made a little progress. In early May, I made a trip down to the Seneca Lake area to pick up the remaining larch for the frames from one sawmill, and another trip to an Amish sawmill for 850 BF of white oak.
The sawmill operator for the Larch was busy with another job so he couldn't meet me at the mill site. He told me where it was and that I could pick it up anytime and leave my payment in a tin can adjacent to the storage container. After some searching I located the honor system based payment method and found another envelope filled with cash from another customer. I dutifully left my payment with a smile, happy that there are still some people doing things the old fashion way.
The Christmas themed can forces people to be honest!
Then with my friends trailer fully loaded with over 1000 board feet I headed home. It took me two days to organize and stack all the custom cuts. I wanted things close to the order I would need them so I didn't have to dig through the whole pile.
We have completed 10 frames and still have 9 more to go plus the transom. It's the same process over and over. However I am getting much more proficient, especially on the tricky raised sheer assembly.
A few days ago I had about an hour available which was enough time to convert the heights above the baseline and lay out the corresponding chalk lines. I'm learning tricks of the trade here as well. It's funny how something so simple like snapping a chalk line has some shortcuts. I snap about 4 lines before I reel the string in to be re-coated with chalk. This helps keep chalk dust off the table with the added benefit of lighter, crisper lines. The layout lines continue to be tight so attention to detail is a must!
This weekend is Memorial Day, so the plan is to head up to the family cottage for some much needed jetski time. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend. To our veterans I say thanks for your service, truly, we are all in your debt. Our family will be sure to say a prayer to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
What an eye opener it was calculating how much we have spent on this project so far!
I know you're not supposed to talk about money in public but I think it's an important part of the project. After all, if you are crazy enough to believe you can build your own blue water cruiser, you certainly need to know if you can afford to do it.
I consider us to be a pretty average family with a mortgage, 2 car payments and 2 children in high school. We try not to carry any credit card debt but we are still making payments on our jetski. My wife and I both have stable, full time employment and our household income is less than $175,000. That number sounds pretty good until you understand that the county we live has one of the highest tax burdens in the country. With the addition of various other New York State taxes our household tax burden for income, property and school exceeds $40,000. So as I said, we certainly aren't starving but we are not care free, wealthy people. We run our checking account down pretty low every two weeks just like everyone else.
We save a little, invest a little and put a little aside for the kids college fund. We have funded this build pay check to pay check as George describes in his book. I have used a little of our savings account for some of the larger cash purchases but I've worked to pay that money back to myself. This build has definitely required changes in our spending habits and we've all had to sacrifice a little. I've worked a little over 110 hours of overtime this year to help supplement our income to help minimize the impact of the associated costs.
As I've said before you really need your spouse "all in" if this is something you are considering. Money is the #1 argument couples disagree over, so if you attempt this without your spouse being on board, it's going to cause considerable tension. My wife and I talked long and hard about what this build was going to take long before we ever broke ground on the boat shed. This is OUR dream, not my dream. I can't see it working any other way than to have the whole family on board for such a challenge.
The cost included in my calculations are only for the things required for the boat. The following numbers do not include the cost of building the boat shed. Previous columns have talked about the costs and materials for that and we ended up building our boat shed for around $1800. That build certainly could have been done cheaper but I'm happy with how it turned out. Additionally, after 81 mph winds rolled through our town and our building didn't suffer any damage, I consider it money well spent for the extra durability.
While for me personally, I believe the boat shed to be essential (my wife was right!), someone certainly could do a "blue sky" build. The shelter has allowed me to keep the wind off of me on those cold winter days and dry on these rainy spring days. Not to mention it allows for the convenience of keeping your tools close at hand because they are protected from the elements. Make no mistake, this build is hard work. It would be to easy to fall back on the excuse of its too cold, too rainy, too snowy, or too windy to work on the boat today, if you don't have a shelter to build in. However, to each his own and that is up to individual builders to decide.
I consider this phase 1 of the boat build. We have all the lumber and adhesive for the keel. We have most of the lumber and plywood for the frames. We expect to take delivery of the remaining lumber to complete all the frames, bilge stringers, chine log, deck beams, house beams and deck carlins this month. I'm including the cost of the lumber we will be picking up this month in the numbers to follow.
Phase 2 will include buying and installing the diesel tanks and enclosing the framed boat with traditional planking and 2 layers of plywood on the sides and bottom. Phase 2 will also include the plywood for the engine room bulkheads and the 2 layers of plywood to cover the top-sides.
Without further adieu.....(drum roll)........The total invested in phase 1 of the boat build is:
That number breaks down for the major categories as follows:
The remaining $800 or so dollars include things like threaded rod, paint, industrial fan and odds and ends that were required. These are the little things that are $50 here and $20 there that are not tracked as well. I am constantly aware of where the money is going and I try to shop for the best prices on the things I need. I use the CAD renderings of the plans to take accurate measurements so I can estimate the amount of materials I need. I try to take into account a minimal amount of waste so I don't turn money into saw dust. That's a risky plan in the sense that I have already under estimated the amount of mistakes I would make. Additionally I've been fussy about the quality of the lumber I am using and have been rejecting some pieces because I don't like the defects. In the end though, running short of materials is just an inconvenience because you can always buy more. However, having more than you need is a waste of money.
I have no idea how much this build is going to cost. I have never owned a boat and don't really have any idea of what kind of systems will be required. I'm learning as I am going. What little I have learned indicates that this is the cheapest part of the build. In the grand scheme of boat building, lumber and glue are cheap. Engines, tanks, finishing and systems are where the real money goes.
I'm painfully aware of how ridiculous the above sounds to the seasoned boat owner or the veteran boat builder. I can see them shaking their heads as they think about the idea of a guy who has never owned or built a boat, attempting to build a 41' yacht for their first build and first boat. It is indeed crazy, but I know it can be done and I know that I can do it. It is my dream and I am having a great time fulfilling it.
I have been managing risk in my personal and private life for 41 years, always planning 10 steps ahead and living with the stress of worrying what could go wrong. It's liberating to take things as they come while dreaming of the end game instead of worrying about the path. I'll never be able to afford the dream of a waterfront home, but I can build a home to be on the water. A home that will take us anywhere in the world my wife and I choose to go. Don't waste your life dreaming, spend your life doing!
Our site just went over 25,000 views and the support and words of encouragement have been a true blessing. We so appreciate you all following along and being a part of our project. If you're ever in upstate NY don't hesitate to send us an email at email@example.com so we can set up a time for you take a look at our progress first hand. Be careful though, we may put you to work!
Please check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page by following the links at the top of the page. We would love for you to like and subscribe to our channel and page.