a VolksCruiser design brief…

For me the whole budget thing is colored by something the great motion picture camera designer, Raoul Coutard, who designed the pivotal Eclair NPR said when someone asked him how to design a hand holdable self-blimped camera…

“First, you start with a quiet camera.”

Over the years I’ve found this bit of logic adaptable to most things in my life because it simply tells you to look at the core of the problem first. Sadly, a very unpopular method these days…

But, I suppose, we’re talking about budgets so to adapt Coutard’s thought process to cruising and boats…

“First, you start with an inexpensive boat with simple systems”

Sounds simple does it not? 

Most of the advice I’m given related to budget boats and VolksCruisers in particular tend to go against that simple advice and suggests that one should try and replicate more expensive and complicated boats. This sort of advice, if followed, unsurprisingly results in expensive and complicated boats.

So if we’re not going to emulate complicated and expensive boats what should a VolksCruiser be?

First off, since the coat of boats can be measured in size and weight, the a VolksCruiser should be as small and lights as possible. Obviously a 25-foot design is going to be a lot cheaper than a 35-foot design.

The problem is that smaller designs with good accommodation and internal stowage are a lot harder to design than larger boats. Another issue of smaller boats is that they are problematic for things like dinghy stowage and solar panels. On our Cal 34 I only have room for about 500-watts of solar panels and a small nesting dinghy as anything more starts to get in the way of sailing the boat.

One of the biggest issues of turning an old classic plastic boat into a VolksCruiser is that, in most cases, you reach a point where you ‘re at cross purposes with the designers original concept of what the boat was designed to do. Which, I can attest from personal experience, can be a serious challenge to one’s sanity.

Not that it can’t be done but it does have it’s “coo coo for cocoa puffs” moments and challenges.

Building a VolksCruiser would actually be a lot easier on a couple of levels but as there are not a lot of folks designing VolksCruisers and adapting a stock design is just as problematic as changing a classic plastic into a VolksCruiser without the benefit of the low material costs that you get buying an older boat in a world where a lot of great boats are selling for less than the cost/value of their ballast.

I can think of a number of ways to radically bring down the cost of a new build but they all fly in the face of standard practices, scandalize the neighbors, and you’d wind up being “that guy” who built the freak show boat.


Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.

Still, of late, I’ve been having some Raoul Coutard moments where a few concepts are morphing into something a bit like a boat…

More about that soonish.

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