Part 7 Contents

7.1 Management

7.2 Teamwork

7.3 Avoid the Rush

7.4 Designer/Owner Relationship

7.5 Cheap can be Expensive

7.6 What could go wrong?

7.7 Be wary of Changes

7.1 Project Management

A successful project relies on a collaboration between the builder, the designer, the engineers and the materials people. Management is Key, It's the single most underrated skill factor in the Build Process


The most successful projects are those that are driven by someone with a sound understanding of boatbuilding and who has the ability to plan, to organize cooperate and to communicate. And this person usually spends a considerable amount of time on the workshop floor.


They may or may not be the boat owner, the business owner, the business manager, or the project manager, but typically they demonstrate a passion for seeing the project through with efficiency and quality workmanship.





7.2 Teamwork

Great projects are made great by great teamwork. Keeping a project running smoothly requires coordination communication and cooperation. Get all of your contractors and technicians lined up as early as you can in the project. 


Find our from your electrical contractor where wiring needs to be run and where the larger appliances are going to be located. Plan the fuel and water conduits so that piping can be installed before pats of the boat get closed in with floor and watertight bulkheads.

The sailmaker and the rig builder need to be in communication with each other and the sail controls need to be coordinated with the rig design and the sail plan.

Wherever practical work with technicians who have worked together on previous projects and are familiar with how things are likely to be done.

7.3 Avoid the Rush - the time penalty clause can be a trap

You want you boat as quickly as possible, right? Well that should be convenient because unless you're paying on a do and charge basis the builder wants to get the project finished as quickly as possible to minimize overheads and labour costs for the project. 

But if the pressure is on to finish the boat by a certain date and there's a penalty clause involved, it's possible the builder could be in a position where the only way to avoid the penalty is to cut corners, compromise the standard of finish and not pay due attention to details that warrant close attention.

And once the penalty clause kicks in the pressure to compromise accumulates.

If you are paying the builder on a time and cost basis or if the build the build time is otherwise critical to your project, then the best advice is to choose an established builder who has already completed a similar project and is able to verify the hours and material costs that are likely to be involved. And if at all possible get references from owners who have had similar projects completed by that builder.

7.4 The Designer / Owner Relationship

It is quite common for your designer to take an interest in your project and visit the build site from time to time to see how the work is progressing and to see if the builder or the owner has any questions that can be dealt with on site.


Unless you have a specific agreement in place for your designer to inspect the workmanship and report to you then the designer is simply an interested party. If a dispute arises between the builder and the owner or the owner's  representative then it is not likely the designer will want to take a stand on the issue unless the issue is clear cut. Quite often it is not.

7.5 Cheap can be Expensive.

Boat building is not easy. It's complex, there's a lot of different technologies and skills that have to come together in the right order. If the price is cheap, then unless your builder has found some way of significantly reducing the costs without cutting corners you probably should be asking questions about how the savings are being achieved.

Any remedial work that may be  required after the boat is delivered can be expensive and take a lot of the joy out of boat ownership.

7.6 What could go wrong?

We opened the factory doors in the morning to find a series of laminating tables with a lot of parts made the day before that were still very sticky. Fact was the workers hadn’t known to mix hardener with the epoxy. Hopefully things like this don’t happen too often and when they do we would like to think the cause gets addressed in a proactive manner.


When thing go wrong in a boat building project it is almost always something you haven't experienced before, and it is very rarely a black and white issue where one party has made one serious mistake. It's most likely to be something you've never imagined could have happened and like most aircraft accidents it's most likely to have occurred through a chain of events. Who would have imagined the workers didn't understand the way resin systems work? 


So what's the lesson here? Pay attention when little things start to go wrong. Is it a management issue? Poor communication? Is it lack of training for one or more of the workers? Is it a failure to pay attention to the details in the plans and specifications? Too much rush under time pressure?


Getting to the cause of the problem is just as important as fixing the problem because if you don't identify the cause and take remedial action it's probably going to happen again.

In case of conflict between and owner and builder try to solve the issue by identifying the cause in a calm and considered manner, but whenever possible try to avoid apportioning blame and making demands. When you start making demands the other party is likely to put a stake in the ground and things tend to go downhill from there. If things are going belly up try to find a moderator who can step in try to cool things down. 


Graphic by Greg Taylor
Graphic by Greg Taylor

7.7 Be wary of changes.

Changes can be expensive and time consuming, both in the design phase and the build process. When an owner calls for a change it's tempting to take a quick stab at the implications the change might have and come up with a rough estimate of the additional cost. However when you start to implement the change a series of unforeseen related issues are likely to crop up. A little change here affects something else and that change possibly flows through to other parts of the boat. 


If you're the builder be sure to make the customer aware of the costs that might arise from make changes. Provide a cost estimate or fixed quote, and get the changes signed off before you go ahead.