If you’ve decided to build a boat using a kit, think about ENVIBOATS. Don’t expect their designs to be a prepackaged, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kit. It’s so different, they call it “The Build.”
“It’s the cheapest way to buy a custom boat for about a third the cost,” says Marc Shlaes, President of ENVIBOATS. The latest sophisticated computer and engineering technology creates customer-inspired, Carolina-style freshwater or saltwater boats, with options. “Is this the cheapest way to buy a boat? No, go buy a used boat,” Shlaes quips.
“Our mission is to make building your boat as attractive, exciting and doable for those who have never built a boat as for those who have. For the greatest percentage of our builders, an ENVIBOATS cold-mold composite is their first significant build.” Shlaes interviews potential customers to determine if his product is a good fit for their skill level, time and budget. The number one statement he hears is, “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life.”
Customer Ed Roberson, a CPA from Durham, NC, began working on his 21’ Near Shore Blackfin boat 2 ½ years ago. With no carpentry expertise, he’s in the final fairing stages before flipping his boat. The skills he gained produced a self confidence ready to tackle almost anything. “You’re working with wood and glue. If you mess up, you cut it out.” He wanted to build a family friendly boat and do some fishing, even in the ocean. “It doesn’t matter when I finish; my goal is to make a showpiece.” With an approximate budget of $30,000, he figures his meticulously completed boat will be worth about three times that.
There are three ways to make an ENVIBOATS product. The customer may purchase The Build including leased jigs to create the hull shape, then buy the materials; or purchase The Build plus pre-cut items using the FasBild™ options; or have the boat made. “The bottom line is the more you want to do yourself, the less the boat costs. We’re here to reduce the stress of building a boat,” says Shlaes.
The jig is a computer-cut (CNC cut), intricate plywood form that acts as the hull’s mold during construction. “Once you set the jig properly, you pretty much are going to make a good boat. If a boat part can be CNC cut, we will do it for you as a FasBild™ option for a small fee.” Items may include glued parts like compound, intricate curved pieces; the keel, stringers, bulkheads or built-in fuel tank beds. The builder typically locates long Douglas fir boards that are difficult to ship. However, “It’s essential to have the right kind of fiberglass and resin for the process and nearly all purchase that from us,” says Shlaes. Additionally, ENVIBOATS can provide extra hands in their warehouse to expedite the building.
For Rob White, in IT, from Mechanicsville, Md., the attraction of the build was the construction in stages method. He began his 17’ Flats boat in November 2011, describing her as “a shallow water boat with sexy lines, and extreme flare. I’m going to have it built in 6 months” he said laughing. “My wife still can’t park in the garage.” What hooked him was the boat’s curves and customer support. “I never took shop class but now, I’ve developed an eye for flaws.” He hopes to have the boat in the water this summer. “The boat will be christened Sandy, because my family says this boat is 20% building and 80% sanding.”
“Each builder comes to the project with different resources, different skills and different expectations of the finished product.” Shlaes goes on to say the build time can range from several months to many years. The builder pays up front for each stage of the project so when finished, the boat is paid for except for the motor. “Almost all are talking about doing the next build,” boasts Shlaes.
Four stages move the boat from skeleton to completed skin to topside work to finish and launch. A builder is never alone during any of these stages. “We’re happy when the phone rings; we love talking boats,” says Marc Shlaes. Ongoing customer support continues through the build, at no extra cost. “We have created an online builder’s forum that has become a lively environment,” Shlaes reports. “These builders are proud of their work and excited about how they progress, share stats, and receive advice.”
Initially the company targeted professional builders, providing jigs for very large boats. Seven professional builders now use ENVIBOATS jigs with a license fee for multiple uses and reduced rate for second time customers. Because jigs for smaller boats were then unavailable, ENVIBOATS “went after DIYers.” Regardless, the support level is the same.
Donnie Parrott from Morehead City, N.C. has built three ENVIBOATS since 2009. One he sold, keeping two for fishing and casual cruising, saying “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had, and the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.”
ENVIBOATS products and methods are found in the classrooms of North Carolina’s Croatan High School’s boat building class and Carteret Community College’s Marine Technology accredited program. Marc Shlaes envisions ENVIBOATS being in other boat building programs in the region.