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Bruce Roberts-Goodson


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Illustrated Custom Boatbuilding.
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Extracted from Bruce's book METAL BOATS

If you decide to custom build from a hull and deck package, or from scratch, you will need a suitable building site. Depending on where you live you may have many, or a limited number or choices. If you live in a warmer area, then a simple shelter will suffice. If your boat is to be built or completed in a cold climate, then you will to need to consider a heated structure.  In any case you will need some form of secure building, in which to house your tools and more valuable supplies. Fortunately when building a metal boat the need for security is relatively less than if you were building in fiberglass or plywood, this benefit only extends until you start on the interior and fitting out stage. Even if working outside, it is a good idea to keep the more valuable items out of sight or maybe in more secure storage, until they can be properly secured to, or installed in the boat.

   Part of the advantages of having your boatbuilding project located in a secure, comfortable and weather proof building, is purely psychological; it will be easier to make the effort to go and work on the boat. Also if you are paying rent on a building, you are more likely to 'get on with the job'.  If you are building totally outside and exposed to the elements then you will often have to stop work due to inclement weather conditions. All of the disadvantages of building outside can add months to your building program.

 To determine how much space you will need to house your boatbuilding project, simply plan for a space 50 percent longer and 100 percent wider than the finished boat. For instance if you are building a 40 ft / 12.19 M by 13 ft  / 3.96 M boat your space should ideally be 60 ft  / 18.29 M long by say 26 ft / 7.92 M wide. This is the minimum area required. When it comes to handling plate and other construction members, you will need s-p-a-c-e! You will need room for tools, materials storage as well as space to move around.

  To provide yourself with an efficient working environment, plan your building site so that the minimum time is spent walking from one area to another. The siting of benches and frequently used tools, will play a part in making a comfortable and productive workplace.

   Your boatbuilding project should not be too far from home and this is even more important, if you are only working part time on the project. Travelling time can eat into valuable work time and distance can be a deterrent to getting started evenings and weekends. Make sure that your work site is accessible to the large trucks needed to deliver long lengths of plate and other necessary supplies. If you are working outside be sure you have a flat level site. Carrying tools and building materials up even the smallest gradient, can soon become a tiring exercise.....Exercise, yes, you will get plenty of that!

   One obvious choice is to build your boat beside your house. Many fine boats of 65 ft / 19.81 M, have been built to my design beside the owners home. To make this a practical proposition, you need to live on a large lot or in an isolated area.

    Many local authorities have building ordinances that may govern just what you can do in your own back yard. Check these before you start building a shelter or erecting boat frames beside your house. Generally speaking, the further you live from the

of your rented property. Best check with the landlord first and get permission in writing, before you sign the lease.

If you start with a hull and deck, then all you may need is a tool shed; the hull can be heated and the outside work can be completed in fine weather. Another advantage of starting with a ready built shell is that this may make it possible to complete the boat in your own yard. Metalworking is noisy especially when building the hull and deck. If your boatbuilding project is sited in a residential area, then make sure that the noise that can be heard outside the boat is kept to a minimum.

   Here are a few suggestions as to possible boatbuilding locations: in your own yard, unused corners of marinas and boat yards, fenced in but unused industrial sites, beside or in an engineering business, inside old warehouses, inside or beside an old storage barn. These are just a few of the many possibilities and these locations can often be rented at a low monthly cost. 

   Make sure you think ahead to the day that the boat is completed and ready for launching. Can a low loader and lifting crane get to your location and move your boat to the launching site? Have you surveyed the route? Check for low overhead wires, sharp corners in narrow streets. We have seen it all; there are hundreds of stories about boats being lifted over houses, lifted from mountain sites by large helicopters and boats that were dragged through villages by willing helpers.