Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning About Building A Ship part two

Learning About Building Part 2

Picking up with where I left off from the last posting. I do need to mention that I do live very much near the Great Lakes and I could have gotten a “free” boat and towed it home but many are smaller sail boats- which would be nice when repaired- as a nice small sail boat but not the older looking pirate ship that I needed. The old, worn out, work boats found along the ocean coasts would be tempting, but as you have read in my last blog post that the alteration to a non-floating structure made this sort of operation impractical.

My early thought was to build the ship on dry land, making it look like a wreck that had been deposited on the sands of the shoreline. The Bristol Renaissance Faire has two ponds, one is called Lake Elizabeth and the other has no name that I know of and is more of a wetland then a water feature like Lake Elizabeth is. Lake Elizabeth is the pond located on the southern end of the faire property and has a long wooded bridge across it.

Building a structure on dry land is a very good idea and one that I would eventually wish to have stuck with. So if you have your own dreams of building something like the Dreadnought for your self I would suggest STRONGLY that you build it on land and keep it as a shipwreck.

The shipwreck idea allows the builder/owner to walk around the structure, put up ladders, scaffolding and what not all on a dry firm surface. Shipwrecks tend to be romantic looking to most people and that is a positive image. Yes a pirate ship on the water is impressive and fun but the work it takes to do the simplest things, like tighten a screw on a board a yard below the deck line on the outside of the ship, takes some thinking and skill. Yes it can be done but there are times when you do not want a challenge just to tighten a screw. And believe me when I tell people this and they come back with something like just tie a rope around your self and sling over the side--- well go ahead and try it yourself, once or twice or for all day in the cold or heat and see if you are up to the challenge. Dry land is the way to go. The other benefit is less amounts of moisture to deal with under the ship and with that cheaper building materials and methods.

So you can see that I have went from a Skull Cave display space, to a ship reworked, to now a shipwreck ship on the beach as a building to operate out of. What is next?

Thanks for reading.

Learning About Building A Ship part one

Learning about building a ship.

So now that I have figured that the potential is there to make some money, hopefully a bunch, I then set out to learn how to build something that looks like a ship.

My first thoughts are to do it as cheaply as possible. This is normal I believe for most people. The typical- I do not have a lot of money here so let’s see what I can get for less than $100,000- or what ever budget you (or me) may set.

Internet searching shows that nobody makes mock pirate ships that look remotely real, or usable by a good number of people. Playground buildings from pressure treated lumber are to be found, but they look box like, are too small for my use, and are just not right for me.

How about a used boat? I see that Wooden Boat Builder magazine carries “for sale” as well as “free boats” ads. The free boats look like deals. Just haul them away and use them. Well most are to be found along the great oceans surrounding the USA. That means a trip way out to California, New York or Florida. I should get a real trailer that will haul what ever it is that is free and then something to pull the trailer. Then again I have never pulled a boat or trailer before- and the boats I want need to be large, like over 60 feet. Now the boats that are free tend to need work and maybe they might not hold up on the ride home even. Well to shorten it up a bit I figured that the boat modifications, hauling, safety, and all of that would make “free” not such a good idea.

After reading up on boat building, small wooden boat stuff as well as the big reconstruction projects like Mayflower II and other replica ships, it seems that ship building methods applied somewhat to my project but not entirely. Cutting a free wooden ship into a usable structure would more than likely wreck the internal forces, the integral structure that keeps the boat together, and make for one flimsy wreck of wood. There seemed to be a tension between planking, ribs and beams that worked to hold the entire ship together.

I then began to think about how to build a ship that looks like a ship but is not a ship. That means a structure. I would take my lunch hours and nights at home and draw out rectangles and squares that represented the frame work, like in a building, and then began to lay over top of that the curved lines of the hull planking.

I had no computer program to do this for me; even if one existed I would not have bought it as at that time I was a paper and pencil guy. Even if I had one I would have had to learn a program that might have been beyond my skills with the computer. Frustration makes for poor brainstorming.

Weeks and months of drawing out ideas slowly saw me to coming up with a size and look I wanted. Working with paper and pencils got me to work through the thoughts and get some concrete sort of ideas down in visual form.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dreadnought For Sale- New Price

Well with the slow economy and all that we have made the choice to lower the price of the Dreadnought to $375,000 US dollars. This is reduced from the $475,000 that it was listed as. Thought we would let you all know here.

See our web site for more information about the Dreadnought structure at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Researching what to do as a pirate.

Been off working on the ship for the past several months and now I have a chance to get back at writing for the blog.

Summer of 2009 was remarkable slower in terms of people at BRF as well as those boarding the Dreadnought. But that was expected, since December of 2008 in fact, so I was not surprised. The people (patrons) at the Faire did have a great time and the weather was some of the nicest I have had experienced so far. A cool summer suits me fine as I had to work in a costume in it every weekend.

Picking up where I left off-- OK so from the visual surveys done and from my talking with BRF staff it was determined that a pirate attraction at the faire would pull in patrons and it was something at a certain percentage of patrons wanted.

From that I began to draw out and think out what it was I wanted to do, exactly. The Dreadnought ship WAS NOT what was envisioned first. Wow! What I ended up doing was not what I had set out to do. This will come up again later in this blog as the story weaves on.
What first came out of my head was to build, on land, a skull shaped cave. It would have been more like a chicken wire over Styrofoam shaped skull like rock shape that got sprayed with concrete and painted to look like rock. It would have been cheap, easy to make, interestingly enough to draw attention and the insides would have been grottoes that I would have fitted out as displays about famous pirates through out the ages, along with weapons, treasure and the like. This goes back to my museum background. Everything on display behind glass. Very dull actually when I look back at it. But the dry land and skull rock idea I liked and still like today. Would have also served well when I went to sell the "shop" later on.
I seem to recall that Peter Pan and Captain Hook had some sort of skull rock or cave in the Disney cartoon movie of that story. It almost always seems that pirates are hiding out or sticking treasure into a skull like cave. So this is why I wanted a skull cave. It would also been very strong and safe to lock up my displays in.
After more meetings with BRF staff it became clear that a skull looking rock with museum displays was not going to fly. They were right about static displays. Compare that pony rides, elephants, the joust and sword fights in the streets and you can tell it was going to be a real loosing idea. Also the idea of a time line of famous pirates was not working either. The faire is set in 1580s and I was told that what the merchants and others presented was along the lines of Renaissance England. So Blackbeard got left behind- wrong time period!
So now comes the research. Pirates in general I knew about. Elizabethan Sea Dogs and the English Renaissance time period I was very weak on. This meant research on my part. Also the change from a museum display inside a skull cave to something else threw things off track.
Research has the word "search" in it. And that is what you have to do. I dug out all the books at the library I could get about Elizabethan England, Sea Dogs, and the Renaissance in general. I also began to look at business plans and business structures. I was not trained in business at all and I found the business side of the research very interesting. This took a good length of time. If you are considering a project like this better start NOW with every aspect of research you will need. Unless you know it all right now- and good for you! But all the same you never know all that you need to and part of growth in to keep on learning different things.
At about this same time I began to do something that would help get through all the work and research I needed to. I cut out of my life TV viewing and computer gaming. Both of these freed up several hours of my time each week that I could now devote to this side line job. James Gurney of Dinotopia fame is a great spokesperson for no TV viewing. He does not own a TV. Think of what you save on no cable bills!?
Next post will continue on about specifics of researching and planning towards a finished product.
One last thing: I found this image of the Dreadnought from the air. Not clear who to credit it to. If it is yours let me and I will give you create. Here is the link-
Fun to have built something so neat and big you can see it from high up in the air.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Making Money and Survey: Part Two

Sorry been awhile since the last post. Too much to do other than post to the blog, but sorry all the same!

Part Two of the "Can I Make Money as a Pirate."

From the survey types used at BRF to determine how many people came through as paying patrons, age types and the like, as expressed in the last post, it worked out on paper that plenty of people walked through the gates at the faire. It also appeared that a wide spread of demographics was represented in those patrons that walk by me, or walking into shops, or out of shops- or what ever spot I was observing.

All this indicates a higher chance for success. From the numbers on the page it was determined that, IF, my pirate ship could capture a percentage of those people that I would have a healthy income in the 19 days that the faire was open.

So, to answer what I posted last time, on paper it looked like the numbers of patrons at the faire supported making money as a pirate.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can I Make Money As A Pirate?

What a question- can I make money as a pirate? I doubt that many of the Golden Age of Piracy pirates uttered that but I could be wrong. For myself, living in the 21st Century that is a good business question that I asked myself, and got asked, when I was considering what to do at the Bristol Renaissance Faire (BRF). I had visited the faire and figured that with all the people (patrons) they attracted that operating something that featured pirates, a display about pirates or a shop, ought to make some money as a small, side line business.

So how do you know if you are going to make money at this, or anything. I had worked in different established businesses while in college. These had been Mom and Pop sort of stores, many flower shops- yes from flowers to pirates. I did it back then for the extra college money I needed and it turned out that I got a good hands-on education on small business management, of sorts. But I still did not have what I needed to know. How much could I bring in? In one hour, one day, a weekend and for the entire run of 19 days that BRF is open.

From my museum work, what I do for a living everyday for the past 20 years, I have learned how to conduct surveys. Not the type that we all hate of a person jumping at you and asking questions. I learned the sneaky type. The one where you just watch and record what people are doing. So I took some time and got a small notebook, a bottle of water and found a spot to sit so I could watch people.

One method is demographics. Who is walking by you? This is still a visual survey. Just divide your page into sections such as "babies-toddlers", "Grade School", "Middle School", "High School", (you can lump teenagers as a group under "teens") Young Adult (college age) "30-40 year olds", "Empty Nester's" (that is 50 to 60) and "Seniors." Do the slash mark method //// sort of thing as people walk by you. Mark the age level that best matches what you think that persons age is. I would write my start and stop time at the top of the page. I generally did this for one hour blocks. Once in the morning, afternoon and towards the end of the day. What this gave me was a slice of what type of age group BRF was drawing in and what my potential patron would be. I remember that they got a wide age span. It was interesting to see how many strollers got pushed into the Faire grounds- plenty of young families visiting when I did back in the early 2000s. I set up watching by the main gate and I only marked patrons coming in, not going back out.

If you want to duplicate this you had better collector current data as times have changed.

You can do this visual survey of ages for general admission, stake out a shop and see who is buying, stake out another attraction or whatever your interest is. Going by age groups is good as different groups spend more than other groups and the interest in learning or doing something differs between ages as well.

Male and Female. You can collect visual data on how many men or women enter the grounds or who is buying what. Race data can be collected the same way too although I did not as race was not a factor for my business.

I also did a simple timed survey of a particular attraction to see how many people entered, how long they stayed and the like. So once again I parked my self at a distance, had my small notebook out and timed how long a person entered the building and then when they left. This gave me a indication of what an average visit time might be. If you have a building, or ship, and you have only some much floor space you need to determine how many people you can actually move through the structure. Also I wanted to know what another place did in terms of business. This would give me a benchmark to go with. Very simple to do. Just sit and count people that enter for one hour. Do it a few hours and you will get a ratio of people who go through in a day.

I also recorded what was being sold and for how much. What is a soda, a beer, admission to the Haunted Dungeon, turkey leg, t-shirt, pony ride and so on sold for at BRF? This would give me an idea for a base price for my business.

All of this gave me some real world numbers to base what I might expect to make with a pirate attraction at BRF. By the way BRF managers did not want to tell me what data they collected as they had to spend plenty to hire survey firms to collect it all. I can understand that. But from what I did it cost very little, mostly my time, and anyone can do this for themselves as well. This was good to do and if you are considering a business like this you really ought to hire it done or do it your self, BEFORE you invest any time and money in the project.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ideas Come From Someplace.

I think it was in the summer of 2000 that my wife and I went to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, located near the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin to spend the day at the renaissance faire. We had been to one in Michigan years ago and having since moved to Wisconsin we thought a day spent at the faire would be fun. It was.

Prior to going to Bristol I had ideas of starting a small business to help bring in additional money. I assume that is why most people start a small business... make some money. My first ideas had drifted around thoughts of making items for sale to reenactors of the colonial time period here in the Midwest. Reenactors get called living historians by some. These are those dedicated men and women who research a particular time period and gather together the clothing, accessories and equipment necessary to recreate a persona from that time period. I had done some reenacting and knew what these people wanted and thought I could manage a business that catered to them.

Once I had visited Bristol and saw the crowds of people they drew and took in the wonderful English village atmosphere of the place I figured I had found a new direction to take. On the drive back home I turned over in my mind what I could do as a merchant at this renaissance faire that would be both interesting for me and a money maker on the side.

I thought about this on and off over the next several months. I did some reading and research, part about the renaissance and in part about the Bristol Renaissance Faire (BRF). I have to say that I believe that the subconscious mind plays a big part in working out our problems and giving us solutions. Ideas come bubbling up from someplace and it had to be the subconscious at work. I had been a big fan of the movie Sea Hawks, made in 1938 I believe. Sea Dogs, the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth I had not escaped my attention. Putting these things together drew me to the idea of pirates. What if I sold or did something pirate related? Sea Dogs were pirates and really good ones too!

So by the fall of 2000 I had the first glimmers of some sort of pirate attraction at BRF. I had no experience in running a business, renaissance faires, Elizabethan time period, being a pirate nor did I have a firm idea of exactly what I wanted to do. But I thought I could smell a chance to start something great and make money while doing it. I was itching to get started.

You may want to check out the Ebay auction for the Dreadnought found at :