Amateur Boat Building

What the Big Boys are Doing and
What We Can Learn From Them

by Jim Betts

February 5-7, the boat building industry came together in Florida for the IBEX show. (The full name is International Boatbuilders' Exposition & Conference.) IABBS asked a couple of members who are close to the industry (and live in Florida) to see what they could find that would benefit the rest of us.

Jacques Mertens, who runs e-boatnet and is a top designer of amateur-buildable boats, reports that the major topic in the conferences as well as around the many exhibits was "kiterizing" supplies. That is to say, the builders are demanding that the suppliers of such things as fiberglass cloth supply it in kits for each design. This means that the cloth for a specific boat is all precut and ready to use. So the builder is able to close down his own cutting operation. This method is also used for wood, electrical systems, plumbing, engine controls and such.

Well, kit boats have been around for the amateur builder for many years. Did the "pros" learn something from us? In any case, people like Glen-L, Clark-Craft and already supply kits that may be total boat, or fastenings and fiberglass, etc. Mr. Mertens says they will do more of this in the near future. (Check out his web site: to see more about his offerings.)

A Close Look at Some of the Goodies

Russell J. Bartell, N.A. reports, "Going to IBEX was like a kid going to a candy store." One of his observations is that it was good to see more competing suppliers at most levels. This obviously holds dovm prices and leads to better material. Looking at some specifics:

1. In the area of fiberglass building for the amateur, see information on C-flex (story on this in our Dec/Jan issue) and Core-Cell foam strip planking. See info at

2. Pressure-treated plywood helps prevent rot. While not widely available to the amateur builder, it can be had by special order. Write to:

3. Cruising boats especially must have opening ports for ventilation. Bronze or stainless are best, but aluminum and plastic are cheaper. See,, and

4. The competition for 12-volt pumps is fierce and the upgrade in quality is significant. Plastic plumbing has been made easy with "erector-set" fittings. Besides the usual Ts, Ls and Xs, adapter couplings etc., valves are made to clip to one another quickly. See web sites:,,,,

5. The largest category in the show was hardware, most of which being high quality. If you can't find what you want in the list below, you probably don't need it! See web sites:,,,,

6. Three of the fastener suppliers offered a wide variety. Square drive is becoming quite popular. See web sites:, and

EDITORS' NOTE: Russell J. Bartell, N.A. is a consulting naval architect and engineer for the Hinckley Co., a NAMS certified marine surveyor, former Chief Engineer for Palmer Johnson, Director of Florida and Tom Fexas Yacht Design. He has designed boats and built boats, including a 48-footer on which he made a 3 1/2-year circumnavigation.

Jim Betts