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Understanding the Boat Plans BusinessWhen you go to buy a plan from a plan agency it sometimes seems like they are pushing you to build what THEY want you to build. The below tries to explain why and also suggests how you can deal with them but retain your own direction.
READ THE DISCLAIMER AT THE BOTTOM
There is a huge range of boats built by people from plans sold by companies acting as agents for a number of designers..
If the company has a big range of plans available the customer gets lots of choice. If the company only sells a couple of lines then they will push you towards one of them - of course.
There is a tendency for the people selling plans to try to sell the plans for boats that they know well and have seen built already - or from designers that they know have a good track record. This works strongly to the customer's advantage - particularly for the first time builder.
The reality is - if you don't know what you want to build they will make a number of suggestions (if there are a number of boats that fit your requirements). So it is "more likely" that you will end up building something they suggest.
If you turn up to the agent with a clear idea of what you want to build then it is likely that you will end up building it. They might suggest something similar that they are more familiar with, but the choice is always up to you.
If you already have the plans in your hot little hands many of the agents also sell materials. The good ones will usually be happy to give you advice if you buy some of the materials from them (see comments about advice below).
There is a big advantage in buying a plan from a company that is also engaged in boat building on a consistent basis. They know the plans better than the designer in many cases and are usually up to date with materials and methods. They often have a lot of knowledge about how to adapt older plans to modern construction methods. See the comparison between modern and older construction methods
There is a big advantage in buying from someone who will give backup support - that you can ring or email with any queries - or if local drop round with the plans in your hand. The more experienced the person at the company - the better advice you will get.
Where someone selling plans has a long and extensive track record supporting customers during their boatbuilding process it becomes very clear that some designers are very good and some are poor - in terms of explaining the building process clearly and avoiding errors. This feeds back into what plans the plans seller will tend to offer to a customer.
Doing a boatbuilding course is great if you want to do it. But you can gain much the same knowledge by building a boat or two yourself.
A plan seller that can answer building questions and has the practical knowledge to help, and has a commitment to getting the boat built is as effective as doing a course.
THE REALITY IS (IT WAS FOR ME TOO) IS THAT PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR A SITUATION THAT WILL ALLOW THEM TO GIVE THEMSELVES THE PERMISSION TO BUILD THE BOAT.
SOME NEED TO DO A COURSE BEFORE THEY CAN GIVE THEMSELVES PERMISSION.
SOME CAN GIVE THEMSELVES PERMISSION IF THEY FEEL THEY HAVE ENOUGH BACKUP SUPPORT FROM SOMEONE ELSE.
SOME WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE THEMSELVES PERMISSION IF THEY CAN UNDERSTAND THE PLANS.
I wanted to build a boat for years but had a number of problems
1/ How to do it
2/ Where to get the materials
3/ What plans are good
4/ What happens if I have big (or small problems)
Luckily I ran into Duck Flat Wooden Boats when I moved to Adelaide for the first time (too) many years ago. They solved all these problems for me - so I had no excuses left - I just had to start building!
My First Boatbuilding Project is right - a 17ft L Francis Herreshoff Double-ended Rowboat.
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