Deciding to have a boat built for your adventures is a significant decision, but it’s just the start of the rewarding process of having a vessel created of your very own. It’s like accepting a marriage proposal; you’re committed and very excited, but there’s a lot of work and research ahead leading up till the day you get to sail away together.
We interviewed Jeff Rhodes to find out the most important things to consider when deciding to buy a new boat from a builder. Jeff is the founder of Coastal Craft Welded Aluminium Boats Ltd. and has over two decades of experience building boats, including the Coastal Craft 65 Concord yacht. Here are eight important aspects of purchasing a custom-built boat to carefully consider prior to finalizing your purchase
- Intended Use: Boats are made for the water, right? Should it really matter how you’re going to use it? In short, absolutely. According to Jeff, you need to have a firm understanding of how you are going to use the boat. “If someone wants to get to somewhere comfortably and safely, you need to make sure the boat can get them there.” The location where it will be used, frequency of use, and personal preferences will all factor into what boat and features will best fit your adventures.
- Fully Understand What You’re Buying: Asked what’s the biggest mistake boat buyers of custom vessels make, Jeff said, “Not taking the time to fully understand the product they are considering purchasing. It’s hard to just walk through a boat show and know what you’re getting. You need to carefully go through specifications and what the boat is intended to do.” It’s important not to try to force a fit if what you’re considering buying doesn’t quite match how you plan on using it.
- Qualify Your Builder: “Take your time and research the companies you’re considering. Do not rush the process of qualifying your builder,” Jeff says. He also cautions that qualifying a builder goes far beyond checking their reputation and seeing what they’ve built in the past. “They may be a great builder with a great reputation, but what they build might not match what you’re looking for and your unique needs. Buyers will gravitate towards a great brand, but want something that doesn’t fit what the builder makes.”
- Naval Architecture: Coastal Craft specializes in yachts crafted out of aluminum, but the design, size, and intended use of your vessel may require a specific type of material. ”It’s all about the boat first, and then about styling and interior second. You can’t compromise the design.”
- Communication with the Builder: Buyers need to keep an open and honest line of communication with the boat builder. “I can’t tell someone how they are going to use their boat, but I can use their description to help guide them in this process.” A boat customized for the conditions of Alaska is going to be different than one made for Miami, Florida, or even in Maine. “I need to understand how they plan on using the boat, and that is gained through having an open dialogue with them.” To avoid problems during the building process, make sure your builder is responsive and that you have contacts you can get ahold of when needed. If you are being left in the dark during the early stages of the process, it could be a warning sign.
- Unique Needs and Preferences: We all have different preferences and needs, but can your builder accommodate them? Coastal Craft recently built a custom 65 Concord that included a wheelchair lift and custom elevator. The Coastal Craft team had to work closely with vendors and come up with innovative designs to give the customer exactly what they wanted. If you have custom needs or preferences, make sure they are presented to the builder at the beginning of the process, and make sure they can deliver. Ask if they have done anything similar in the past and how they would go about problem-solving and building the solution you need.
- Interior Design: The overall design of the boat is the most important aspect of a build, but you have to be satisfied with the interior to fully enjoy your boat. Don’t overlook the interior of your boat. Take a look at boats similar to what you’re considering and keep track of what you like and dislike from each. Then, meet with who will be doing the interior design of your boat with each builder to see what they have designed in the past and to discuss what you want for the interior of your boat.
- Maximizing Available Space: When asked “What’s the hardest aspect of a boat to build to a customer’s specifications,” Jeff replied, “It has to do with space. The biggest challenge is working with space (storage, deck) to maximize space. If you want a fast boat, your boat will have a different layout and have different space needs.”
Whatever builder or type of boat you decide to go with, it’s important not to rush the process and make sure that what you want can be delivered by the builder. If in need of help during the process, Jeff recommends talking to other boat owners, doing internet research, and considering hiring a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB) to help. For more information on Jeff Rhodes or Coastal Craft boats, visit CoastalCraft.com.