top of page

Our 8 Biggest Yacht Building Mistakes.

No one likes to question their judgment; why should we when we are all possibly perfect? Such reflection could perhaps be used to create a few road signs, guiding others away from the same potholes? As we near the completion of our hull, it's time to do just that. Here are a few examples; there are plenty more where they came from. Forgive the artwork, "Dall-E", artificial intelligence, as in "a Redneck carrying a book.".


I'll start quite close to home, understanding the characters in the play. I'm a bit impetuous, have a chronic dislike of detail, and am primarily unmotivated by finance, though, to be fair, it's a good measure if not a good reason for work.

These are not the finest qualities one would seek in a project manager, so I avoid the role. My English vocabulary can also land me in unexpected trouble. All those colloquial words and phrases do not translate well across the Atlantic or to an overworked Turkish shipyard owner. So in dealing with matters procedural or commercial, it is best to stick to plain English and to follow up to ensure an understanding exists, "yes" may not mean "YES."


We had some excellent advice from a Yacht Broker early on in this journey. He intoned that if a couple has not previously sailed and wait until their mid 50's before starting, then it's probably too late to enjoy the experience. A good part of your life expectancy will pass just learning what it is you want or like. We had a chance at this journey 12 years ago when selling a UK-based company I had started some 20 years previously. Maybe I should have leaped and had a different life journey. However, here I am at 62 and just passed my yearly medical, so there is still time. But think about it, building a yacht is a time commitment. A few compromises might get you on the water far faster.

As another example, we specified the navigation and communications equipment early in the build process.

Comms seem to be changing by the minute. In the intervening time, both Starlink and OneWeb appeared on the scene. We now have both Iridium Sailor 4300 and OneWeb satellite communications systems. That's probably an unnecessary duplication and pending results with OneWeb; we may remove the Iridium system at some point. We could have avoided this by waiting until the last six months of the build timeline.


Did I say that Project Management is not my favorite sport? Our yard, Naval Yachts, has four or five builds in process at any time. Priorities shift, and there is a tendency to answer the loudest voice in the room. My mistake was believing in progress when it slowed to a near stop in the fall of 2022. That has probably cost us some four months on the project timeline. A time that is impossible to claw back so close to completion. The answer is to monitor more regularly in a "trust but verify" scenario. There is no need to shout, but make your voice heard regularly.


The word always reminds me of a song from Walt Disney's Jungle Book. It manifests in need to do something in the belief that it's both justified and valuable.

So I found an excellent instrumentation company in Belarus. They supplied four CAN Bus-enabled diesel fuel flow meters at a great price. Drop shipped to Praxis in the Netherlands for integration into the monitoring system. The only issue is that there is already a fuel flow rate signal in the John Deere J1939 engine CAN Bus signal, so they were unnecessary.

$1200 of funds "down the pan". Be careful what you wish for.


Believing one's own mantra is a minefield for the unwary, and just such an event happened with our steering system.

What started as a simple idea became ever more complicated as features were added, and the scope of various suppliers became better understood. "Complicated" and "steering" should not be in the same sentence; it should not be that way. When one key supplier introduced late-stage change, the edifice crumbled, and complications became apparent because there was no easy, quick fix. I then compounded the mess by indecision and leaving our Owners Rep to try devising a fix. The solution was to take a step back from the detail and develop governing rules around what was needed. Only then could we logically reconfigure the components and obtain sign-off from all the contributing parties. Sometimes, we have to clean up our own mess.


Vanguard will look different from all the FPB'esq designs; she does not have the iconic derricks used for paravanes and launching the tender.

So the simple answer is to fit a knuckle crane like many other small commercial vessels. But think about it; they are heavy, something like 900kg on an already packed hull. Secondly, and perhaps scarier, at some point, Sebrina or our 14-year-old son, Rhys, will have to operate it. The crane cannot freely rotate 360 degrees, there is a lot of structure in the way, and one robust whack from a 900kg hydraulic crane supporting a 1,400kg tender will not be pleasant. We caught this one in time and researched further. The solution is now a 60kg reinforced carbon fiber derrick with a bi-directional electrical winch. Take time to think about more than functionality; consider how your selections will be misused in practice.


We are painting the hull. Of the 18 FPB and now 14 Artnautica designs out there, only one is painted. Ours, Vanguard.

Instead of hiding with all the fishing boats, I will now have to wash and paint a bright, shining orange hull and fret at the prospect of every scratch. My beautiful wife, Sebrina, has a skill set in interior design; I was reminded that it's her journey too.

Love hurts but she will look nice.

Chris & Sebrina Leigh-Jones

We used to build custom homes on the US Atlantic Coast. I would often tell client that the short term trauma of a build will, in time, be replaced by the pleasure of ongoing ownership. Maybe I should listen to my own words?

286 views9 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page