When a sailor can’t find the right boat among all the production offerings it may be time for a custom design. This is what I really like to do the best. My job is to take all the various requirements, reasonable and unreasonable, laid out by the client and turn that “wish list” into a real boat. The design I produce will be a reflection of that particular client’s vision of how he sees himself on the water. It is very personal and over the life of the project the client and I will get to know each other very well.
The sequence is easy. I work at my standard office hourly rate of $150 an hour and I begin with preliminary design studies. This may cost as much as 2% of the total build cost. The client pays a retainer and off I go exploring the various approaches to satisfying the design requirements. This can take some time as emails with drawings go back and forth and each option is eliminated or refined. During this phase VPP (Velocity Prediction Program) studies will be done so we can get a good picture of the boat’s performance and stability characteristics. Perhaps multiple VPP’s will be needed to optimize draft options or rig size.We will know this boat very well before proceeding with the working drawings. The end of the preliminary design phase comes when both the client and I look at the drawings and say, “Yep, that’s the boat I’m after.” The client must be happy and I must be happy
Then begins the working drawing phase of the project. I will produce detailed working drawings while working with the engineer and the 3D modeler, in most cases Ivan Erdevicki for engineering and Jody Culbert III for the 3D work. I’ll bring in my buddy Tim O’Connell to fine tune rig and deck arrangements. In short time the first drawings are off to the builder and construction can begin. The total cost of the entire design project will usually run between 8.5% and 10% of the total build cost. I have turned out custom design for around 6.5% of build cost but extensive 3D work can push this price up. Today with CNC pattern making requiring a lot of close tolerance 3D work much of the work previously done by the builder is now done in the design office. So, while it may appear the design cost is increasing, build cost is reduced. I bill monthly as the project proceeds. I often put a “not to exceed” amount on the design cost.
I make a deal with the client to always be available to visit the yard. I bill for time at the yard but not travel time. My only stipulation is that I do not fly “coach class”. I am 6’3” and I do not fold well. Flying coach is physically painful for me. The good news is I am not at all picky about hotels. In Asia I am very comfortable and even prefer staying in Chinese or Taiwanese hotels. I don’t need a fancy Western hotel.
So, quit dreaming. Get me started on a custom boat for you. We will both have a lot of fun.
Jakatan - A 40' Schooner for the San Francisco Bay
The Jakatan schooner project is chronicled in detail in Design According to Perry. The boat was built at Jespersen Boat Builders in Sidney, British Columbia, Canada, and the Jespersen crew did not hold back, in showing the level of detail they were capable of delivering. Jeff Hawkins, who commissioned her, has made a website detailing the design process, the considerations that went into the build and provided a photo journey from start to finish. Enjoy Jeff's presentation.
Gypsy - A 50' Expedition Motor Sailer
Emil and Susan Dopyera came to me initially when they were outfitting their schooner for a circumnavigation. We got along well so I was not overly surprised when they came back years later with an idea for their “final boat”. The new boat would be a hybrid trawler yacht/ sailing yacht. It was a tough challenge but I like tough challenges so I plunged into the project.
The idea was a boat with all the comforts of a trawler that would be at home in Alaska or Mexico while preserving some sailing performance. I came up with a very traditional looking hull and deck structure that fit the requirements well. But after approaching a few yards it became apparent that the allotted budget was not enough to build a one off in the style that suited the Dopyera's. The project laid around for a long while but was eventually shelved when Emil and Susan bought a Grand Banks.
But I have always loved this design for its distinctive look and unusually practical accommodation plan. With 3D modeling help from my pal Rick “Sonadora” Beddoe we brought this boat to life. Rick’s 3D work is beautiful.