Building a Yacht: Top Things to Know About the Yacht-building Process

Building a Yacht: Top Things to Know About the Yacht-building Process

Owning a yacht and having the freedom to explore our beautiful planet by boat is a dream shared by many. But building a yacht is a long and complex process. Should you be one of the fortunate ocean explorers who will get the opportunity to have your semi custom yacht built from scratch, you will undoubtedly require the services of an experienced and knowledgeable boat builder.

Knysna Yacht Company is a boutique yacht-building company based in the picturesque coastal town of Knysna on South Africa's world-famous Garden Route, and crafting beautiful, artisan-made semi custom yachts for clients around the globe is what we do best.

Having your yacht designed and built by a professional, acclaimed yacht builder like KYC will not only see you sailing off in a unique boat that was built to the highest standards. It will also ensure that you are a pivotal part of your yacht's design and construction process, right from the very outset. 

While KYC builds your yacht, your input will not only be valued, it will be sought out and encouraged, with your particular tastes and preferences incorporated in every aspect of your boat's construction. 

Continuous consultation and communication with the KYC team of expert yacht builders will see you taking to the seas in a boat that not only complements your personal style, but one that can truly be your home on the high seas.

Read on as we take a closer look at the various aspects of the semi custom yacht building process.


#1: What are the trademarks of a semi custom yacht?

When you first start to do your yacht-buying research, you'll no doubt come across various types of yachts available for purchase. Most of these will be standard, production yachts.

With a production yacht, what you see is truly what you get. There are virtually zero customizations that you can make to the layout or interior of an off-the-shelf production yacht,

A semi custom yacht, however, will afford you much more opportunity to add all those little touches that will make your boat a true extension of your personal style and tastes. 

Even though semi custom yachts are built on a standard hull, when it comes to trims and finishes, appliances and the interior layout, that is all up to you.7The planning and design of a semi custom yacht can be compared to working with a home builder. Many larger home building companies have several base floor plans to select from, with the selection of cabinets, finishes, layout, and other details entirely up to the owner. It's the same with the design of a semi custom yacht.



#2: The advantages of a semi custom yacht

You might be wondering if a semi custom yacht is a better option than a standard production yacht. Buying a production yacht may save you money, but going for the cheapest option is not always the best choice.

There are clear advantages to having your own semi custom yacht built by professional yacht builders. One of those advantages is that you will personally be involved in the entire process of your yacht's construction.

A semi custom yacht build takes around 12 months to complete, allowing you ample time to really get stuck into the various design, building and finishing aspects of your boat.

In addition, you will almost certainly be cementing a long-lasting relationship with the dedicated team that is building your boat. Should you choose KYC as your yacht builder, this relationship will continue long after your boat's build is complete.

With a semi custom yacht, the price may be higher than what you'd pay for a standard production yacht (although the costs of KYC's boutique semi custom yachts compare very well with some new production yachts on the market).

But, if you choose to go for a semi custom yacht, you'll be getting much more than just a boat.

You'll be setting sail in a vessel you can take immense pride in, because you would have played a central role in crafting your boat to your exact tastes and specifications. If you select KYC as your yacht builder, you can also look forward to the many benefits of becoming a member of the KYC family of yacht owners. 

This means you'll enjoy the support and expertise of an experienced team of yacht-building professionals for many years to come.

ContentImage_The advantages of a semi custom yacht


#3: Semi custom vs. production yacht

The advantages of having your own semi custom yacht built for you may be clear, but how do these boats compare to standard production yachts?

Well, one major difference is alterations. When you're having a semi custom yacht built, you can make changes as you go. With a standard production yacht, you are buying the boat pre-made. Alterations to a production yacht after the fact can cost a lot of money, and may not be that simple – or safe – to execute.

Why would altering a production yacht post-sale be a safety risk? A production yacht's design and aesthetics may hide pre-existing flaws in the boat's construction. In itself, this could already pose potential safety risks. Making further changes or additions to a yacht that may already contain pre-existing design flaws would not be a wise course of action, and could be very dangerous indeed.

If you're involved in every step of the build of your semi custom yacht, you will have the opportunity to closely inspect your boat at every stage of its construction. This is a valuable advantage that could potentially allow you to avoid safety issues and layout problems relating to your boat.


#4: Building a semi custom yacht

If you choose to have yacht builders build your semi custom yacht from scratch, you'll be involved in every step of the process. For this reason, it will be in your interest to know as much as possible about your boat's building process.

So, what is the actual process of building a semi custom yacht?



Building the hull

The first stage of the yacht-building process involves the "bones" of your yacht. During this stage, your yacht's hull and superstructure are made.

Unless they have commissioned a completely custom yacht to be built from the ground up, boat owners typically aren't involved in the selection of their boat's hull. However, it is important to know what this process involves.

Constructing a boat's hull is a process that takes four to six months to complete and takes place in a boat builder's aluminium or steel workshop. A steel yacht hull is extremely durable, but it will add a lot of weight to the overall weight of your boat.

Steel is one of the most common hull-construction materials, as it can be constructed and maintained with low technology, and at a relatively low cost.

Aluminium or alloy hulls are one of the better options available for hull construction, as they are so much lighter. These hulls offer the durability and longevity of steel hulls, but add only a fraction of the weight of a steel hull to your yacht.

After your yacht's hull is complete, it will have to go through a rinsing and priming process before your boat will be ready for the next step in its construction: finishing.


Finishing the yacht

Once your yacht's hull is complete, the second stage of your yacht's build can commence. This is the part where you'll start to see your boat "come to life".

The finishing process of your yacht is made up of several stages, including:

  • Installing the yacht systems
  • Interior and exterior carpentry
  • Insulating the yacht
  • Varnishing the yacht interior
  • Spray painting the hull/superstructure
  • Installing the mast

Semi custom yachts are beautiful machines. And, under such a boat's surface, a lot goes on to keep that beautiful machine moving and functioning as a self-contained living unit on the water. A large network of wiring and systems will be expertly installed to keep your yacht running smoothly and safely.



Yacht systems

It takes several systems for your new boat to run, including a navigation system, anchoring system, electrical system, propulsion system, air conditioning system, water systems, and more.

Each of your yacht's systems requires an expert team possessing the necessary knowledge and expertise to install it correctly and efficiently. Some people set sail with a yacht engineer as part of their crew team, to keep everything running smoothly onboard. However, KYC offers all new Knysna yacht owners a complimentary, 2-week training period during which they are shown and taught everything they need to know in order to maintain their yacht's systems themselves.


Gel coating & interior and exterior carpentry

A yacht's gel-coating process is done with a resin that bonds with the fibreglass surfaces throughout your boat. Gel coating ensures no leaks and cracks on a yacht's surface, but it can also be applied to add more colour to your boat.

Since most yacht hulls and exteriors are finished in fibreglass, gel coating becomes an extremely important part of the yacht-building process.

After gel coating, the interior of the yacht receives a protective varnish. The yacht exterior is also gel-coated and waterproofed to prevent leaks and ensure the boat is completely sealed.

Carpentry is also an essential component of your new yacht. Marine carpentry experts are required for both the interior carpentry (think bathroom cabinets, kitchen counters and seating), as well as the decks and other carpentry aspects on the boat's exterior.



Yacht builders and their teams

If you select to have your yacht built by a big yacht-building company, a project manager will be appointed to oversee your yacht's construction, making sure the entire process runs smoothly. Project managers are typically the face of a boat-building company, and clients will deal with their boat's project manager as their point of contact throughout their yacht's construction process.

Underneath the project manager, you'll likely have a team of engineers, systems installers, artisans, an interior designer, and a few legal team members.

Should you choose to have your semi custom yacht built by KYC, you will be dealing directly with KYC’s owners. You will also have access to your under-construction yacht at all times, ensuring that the lines of communication remain open and that your needs are being met.



Selecting the right yacht builder

It's essential to choose the yacht builder best suited for your particular project. There are several questions you should ask yourself before selecting a company to build your yacht.

First, you will have to decide on the type of vessel you want. Many boat builders specialise in certain types of boats. Knowing what type of boat you want will be the first step toward deciding which yacht builder is right for you.

Next, you'll want to figure out how far you'll typically be sailing. This is known as your yacht's range. If you're only planning on doing shorter sailing trips, that will require a specific type of boat. If you want to sail out on the ocean for weeks or months at a time, that will require a different kind of boat entirely.

Finally, ask yourself how long you're willing to wait for your new boat. This wait is known as your lead time. If you're okay with waiting 2-4 years for your yacht to be built, then you can consider selecting a fully custom yacht. 

Semi custom yachts, including KYC’s artisan-built Knysna 500SE and Knysna 550 yachts can be completed much faster. This will vary from builder to builder, but most semi custom yachts have a much shorter lead time than a fully custom boat that is built from scratch.


Financing a semi custom yacht

Financing a boat that is yet to be built is notoriously difficult, with most banks and financial institutions only willing to provide loans for completed boats. At KYC, we offer clients a Yacht Construction Financing Option, allowing them full flexibility to pay off building costs over the boat's complete building timeframe.



Become a yacht owner faster

Let us answer your yacht-building questions!

Read our blog article on yacht financing and learn more about KYC's unique Yacht Construction Financing Option.



Let us answer your yacht-building questions

There are lots of points to consider when you're thinking of having a boat built. 

Our team of KYC yacht-building experts will help you navigate the yacht-building process to ensure that your journey towards ultimate freedom is smooth sailing every step of the way.

Don't hesitate to send us a message at and let us know how we can help.

yacht anchored in lagoon

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