All but 2 of the sailboats we have purchased over the years have been projects. Most have been an average 2 years in duration. There have been 2, regrettably, that we eventually gave up on. It was very difficult to let go. That's not what we normally do and goes contrary to our nature, but sometimes you have to know when to say when. In the case of the first one we had invested several years and way too much money
when we discovered structural problems that were just over our head
. This was definitely one of those cases where they should have paid us, a lot, to take the boat, and is a prime example of what previous posters have pointed out, the boats with the cheapest initial purchase price
can sometimes be the most expensive boats you'll ever buy.
The first was a 38' Cabo Rico
that we got from the Boy Scouts for $10K. It was hull
#1. It started life as a Tiburon 36 hull
kit. But the couple who was building it wanted a different cockpit
configuration so they asked William Crealock
to design a 2' bustle on the back of it and the CR 38 was born. The couple, Ben and Helen Harrison, then young 20-somethings, rented a shack in the backwoods in Costa Rica
, had the hull and deck
delivered there and set about finishing her out for their world cruising adventures. (Ben and Helen are well known figures in Key West
as I understand it and Ben has just written a book about their adventure with the boat which is called Sailing Down the Mountain
, and is soon to be released.) I think this was in 1976 or 1977. They did a magnificent job. We had an opportunity to speak with them after we bought the boat and as it turns out they cruised her for many years, had two children
aboard I think, and had the adventure of a lifetime.) Hints of that magnificence remained when we bought her in 2001. But her cockpit
, which they had built from plywood
, was completely rotted and gone. The teak
decks had been removed by a previous owner and the decks glassed over, the leaking through the rotted cockpit had also destroyed the galley
, the engine
did not run, there was no sails
. But somehow in our mind it was a Cabo Rico
and for $10K could not possibly be a bad deal. (We had done 2 previous rebuilds which had gone WAY OVER budget
, so why we had not already learned our lesson I do not know.)
Anyway, we toiled away on her for a couple of years and put in about $40K more. But the Harrison's, in the quest for their ideal interior
layout, had made one fatal flaw. Against Bill Crealock's advice they had stepped the mast
on the deck instead of the keel
. (Mind you I am not in any way speaking badly of the work done by them. For 2 young kids
, what they did was amazing....but they were not architects.) What we discovered, 2 years into the rebuild
, was that the supporting beam in the roof had a huge crack in it. The crack had been concealed behind a bolted on stainless steel
plate. We called in a naval architect for advice. He told us that the only way he felt the boat would ever be structurally sound was if we tore out the interior
and reconfigured it so that the mast
could be stepped on the keel
, as it should have been in the beginning. (With the layout it had, the mast would have come down right in the middle of the doorway to the forward part of the boat.) At that point we finally conceded that we were in way over our head
and let her go. We managed to sell her for a paltry sum, losing over 2 years of hard, almost full time, work and most of our financial investment. To this day, as painful as it was, I am convinced we made the right decision.
The second boat was a 22' Cape Dory
that was a hurricane
Katrina victim. We bought it on eBay and had it shipped from Louisiana to MD. Actually we were doing fine with that restoration
but decided to pass it on to someone else when a 28' Cape Dory
came along at a fantastic deal. It was just a matter of priorities on that one. But still, it didn't feel right to stop short of completion.
We have done a couple more restorations since those but we are much more discerning about the ones we choose now and we have a much better sense of what a boat really needs and can make a more realistic assessment of what the costs are likely to be. Of course it's still always more than we think, but we're coming much closer these days.
Sometimes walking away really is the best option. You have to know when to cut your losses if you can't see your way clear to finishing what you started, or if you know that the finish you are able to achieve isn't one you'll ever be happy with. Take those lessons you learned, determine what it is you really need, what you're willing and can afford to do and make a better choice next time.
Or......do as others suggested, figure out what's essential to get her sailing and go have some fun. The rest can come in time. Sometimes a day out on the water
can recharge your batteries just enough to get you through the next couple of projects.