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Old 19-02-2007, 12:02   #1
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Buy Cheap and Refit Yourself or Buy Turn-Key?

I am hoping to be moving forward with buying a boat sometime within the next year for my family and I to cruise on. We are planning on using the boat for frequent vacations and getaways over the next several years and then going for an extended cruise, hopefully 5 years. The kids will be 12 and 8 at that point, we will live aboard and homeschool.

We want a boat with 3 cabins so each kid has their own space. Other requirements are that she be heavy, sea kindly, easy to manage double handed, RELIABLE, sail reasonably well and have enough space so that a family living aboard will be happy.

I cannot afford a new boat nor am I really even interested in a new boat. I tend to like old things... I restore and drive old cars as a hobby and in general I like making things the way I want them. Tools and the skills to use them I have in abundance plus I do like workign with my hands.... but finding the time to do so is not so easy.

While we are still considering various boats (and are open to suggestion) I am intrigued by the '77 - '81 Gulfstar 50' MkII Ketch. While they are 50' boats, they are "small" for a 50' particularly in beam. I like the layout and they supposedly sail ok plus have very solid hull construction. John Kretschmer has good things to say about them.

So after a long winded intro.... here is my question:

What are the pros and cons of buying an older boat that has already been fully refit vs buying an older boat in need of refit and then either doing it yourself or managing the process yourself using various subcontractors and such?

It would seem that buying a boat already refit would perhaps come out cheaper but I dont really know. Using the Gulfstar 50' as an example, prices seem to range between $75K and $250K. I would assume the $75K boat pretty much needs everything that can be contemplated and the $250K boat has had everything plus has a owner/seller perhaps a bit detached from reality.

Lets say a freshly refit nice boat would run $200K. This is pretty much the very top end of my budgeted range. If I pay that for a boat... it better not have any further large immediate needs (I would actually limit my purchase price to about $180K figuring that no matter what boat we bought it would need another $20K to make it "ours"). But i doubt there is any boat that would have been refit to exactly what we would prefer. Plus, who knows how well the work was done nor the quality of the components used? What nightmares are hidden behind some shiny new paint? But... buying already refit do you in fact get all the upgrades at .50 on the dollar????? I just dont know.

Is one better off passing on the $200K refit boat and instead paying $90K for a boat needing everything and planning on spending $100K and lots of time/effort on a full refit? I could see doing with such a plan and having the expenses get out of hand in a hurry. What will $100K buy in a "full refit" these days? Can you trust a yard to do a good job without watching over their shoulders every day? One thing my wife and I both agree that we want is GOOD, reliable systems to make short handed managing of the boat as easy as we can make it. In the "Pardey vs Dashew" battle of minimalists vs black check goodies approach, we lean toward teh Dashews but without the blank check

I REALLY love a well finished interior. I like doing woodwork and such plus I am pretty handy at it. I cannot afford a 46' Morris... but I might be able to upgrade the interior of an old Gulfstar to look like one plus it sounds like fun? But is this realistic or just plain stupid???




Terry
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Old 19-02-2007, 13:00   #2
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If you have nothing but time and ability, buying a boat needing work "may" be the way to go. I have recently restored a "large" 32 foot sailboat. I can't tell you how many hours I have in it but it has to be well over 500 hours. I don't have a full time job so I've enjoyed the work and accomplishments.

Saying that, the boat I have did have new sails, rigging, and new Yanmar. These are big ticket items so with those included in my purchase, I have done pretty well. If I had to replace those items, I would be behind the 8 ball.

If you are in no hurry, I would continue to watch boat websites until the boat you are looking for comes up with most if not all the improvements you need. Sure, a boat in great condition will cost more than one needing everything BUT not as much as you think.

Boats tend to hold a certain value. The range could go 50 to 75K on the same model and year depending on condition and improvements, however, the one you pay $50,000 more may have $100,000 of improvements included with it. You can't put $100,000 into a boat and expect to regain that money. I just won't happen. By being patient, you can find some really good values out there because some people just want out of boating or now have two boats to deal with, the one they just bought and fell in love with and the one that is just sitting and costing them money.

Don't be afraid to bid low. If Gulfstar 50's sell for $150K and there is a perfect one out there for $225, offer 150 and see where it goes. You may just be surprised. If you "fall in love" with a boat, you are now making an emotional decision and you will loose. There are always more boats coming into the market. Don't rush and you will find the right boat and have money left in your pocket.

HERON
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Old 19-02-2007, 13:16   #3
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Aloha Terry,
I'm refitting a boat from keelbolts up. Regardless of your talent it becomes frustrating not being able to sail and cruise the boat because it is in the yard and not in the water. I'm not as talented as most and waste too much time engineering my each step.
First of all, are you certain your family will be up for cruising in 5 years? Buying a boat now to use in 5 years seems a bit soon. Things change and people change.
I'd say if you have lots of sailing experience and know exactly what you want then go for it and buy a fixer upper. Just remember you'll not be sailing it, just working on it. If you don't have much sailing experience then buy a sailable boat and do little jobs to make it like you want it while sailing it to gain experience.
Lastly, I believe you are looking at too large a boat. I'm somewhere in the middle of Pardeys and Dashews and because of my experience I would say maximum of 36 feet. Forget 3 staterooms and 2 heads. That's just fluff for an ocean going boat.
I guess you're getting another load of opinions from an old grouch but hope that hearing other opinions might help in your decision.
Kind Regards,
JohnL
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Old 19-02-2007, 13:27   #4
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Not being funny, but have you had a boat before or ever sailed? Has the family?

I ask cos' it seems like a lot of money and time to spend on a dream, possibly based on very little. Although a 50 foot boat is "big", this is a relative term. A boat of this size is still a very small place to spend time on as a group even with (especially with?!!) family.

My suggestion would be to hold off the big purchase, and start with something smaller and see how you (and the family) get on, daysailing. Weekends / holidays. Will also pay dividends when you come to the big boat purchase as your ideas and wishes in rgeard to what is required from a bigger boat will have changed based on your own experiances.

Anyway, as I said, not trying to be "funny".........and in answer to your question, as someone who is not quite as handy with the spanners as you sound (but also does not have a blank cheque book ) the route I took (and am still taking) is to have bought a boat that was the soundest I could find in all the major areas (including the "Seadog" specific "issues"), but which in all other respects needs / could do with updating / refurbishment. She was however (and has always remained) 100% seaworthy and is used by me (not quite as much as I should / could ) and will never need to be laid up ashore being worked on for long periods.

To be honest I probably paid a bit more for her than the "market rate" for a boat in her overall condition, but I did so because I knew that she was sound and for me she was very very good (I might not be top handy myself with the spanners etc, but I do have a fair bit of knowledge to assess stuff. Plus I take hands on advice where needed). She was probably around 35% cheaper than a supposed "good" one, but even these had issues which would have put me off, albeit they looked nicer and had newer kit onboard.

My guesstimate was (is?!!) that when I finish (hahahaha!) that she will probably have cost me in total 35% more than I could sell her for as a "Good one". But she will be spot on for my needs. It was important for me that I can do the work that is needed when I want to, both timewise and cash wise over several years......as my plans are also somewhat in the future, I saw no reason to spend top cash now on a "good" one (always something else to do with cash!), that still did not meet all my needs or worse still needed a lot of important work done which was outside my skills.

I suppose the old car analogy might be that I am doing a "rolling restoration", starting with a 100% solid chassis.

Jeezus!, another long winded post from me! - oh well

I guess what I am trying to say, is it depends on your ability to assess a vessel and the work needed, your skills and your time and cash available - but you knew that already ..........I guess my recomendation would be to do something similar to me, i.e. not buy something too bad, that could be refurbished / customised to your needs in your own time and could still be used at all times. The main advantage being that you will know she has been done right........and have not just paid for the illusion.........May well work out more expensive overall though. But this approach requires you to know what you want / need and to be able to assess a vessel yourself (a surveyor can only tell you so much).
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Old 19-02-2007, 13:58   #5
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When I went through the process of purchasing, the general consensus was that it was better to buy a "ready to sail" boat and pay more (and then use the time that would otherwise have been spent working on the boat to earn money to pay off the extra cost, or, alternatively, to go sailing). Having said that, I bought a "fixer-upper" and have, in the last 14 months spent over 4 months out of the water (through the winter) and put in 400+ hours of work. But, on the other hand, I have also used the boat quite extensively and certainly don't feel that the time I spend working on the boat imposes a restriction on the time I spend sailin.

I have a feeling that, by the time I get the boat refitted to the point where I am happy with it, I will have spent at least the amount that I would have spent if I had bought a "ready to go" boat, and probably a helluva lot more if I factor in some sort of hourly rate for my time. But, on the other hand, I know my boat so much better for having worked on her, and I know and trust the work that I have done.

What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts!
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Old 19-02-2007, 14:18   #6
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Thanks for the replies... keep them coming!

A tad bit of background is needed I feel. I have sailed off and on since I was 8 years old. My family had a Catalina 27 while I was growing up living on Lake Lanier in GA, I crewed on a racing boat a bit here on Lake Lanier through highschool, my wife and I have done sailing schools and bareboat charters in the BVI and we have owned largish powerboats (multi cabin, gensets...). We have spent MANY weekends on the hook, are familiar with boats and boating and have more than just a pretty good idea of what we want/need to livaboard cruise with 2 kids.

I mean this very much tongue in cheek and in good humor, but there is a definite "big boat police" group on this board! If someone wants to cruise in a boat over 40'.... death and destruction are sure to rain on the planet everywhere they go! I assure you: We are not a menace, we are not heading out to sea as novices and we do understand what we are getting into wanting a larger boat. Its not a matter of whether I get to choose a larger or smaller boat. Its a matter of whether we GO on a larger boat or we just do not go. My wife is not up for "camping in a cave" cruising and while we know that even a 50' boat is tiny inside at least there is space enough for each crew member to have a space plus it gives room for our very active and interested grandparents/inlaws to visit. When I posted this thread initially, I bet my wife that we would get the first "you want too big a boat" reply within the first 5 replies.... PLEASE: I am not complaining, I do understand the reasoning, I appreciate the concern and thoughts.... I just find it funny/interesting that so many are so anti-larger boat. Some of us DO understand all the implications and we embrace them. I want the smallest boat that will fit the criteria we desire.... and I am open to other boat suggestions.

We are actually planning on leaving on our extended cruise in January of 2011. So thats a tad less than 4 years, and we hope to cruise for 5 years or so. So yes, that would seem to make buying a boat now somewhat early. And I am in no hurry. But, it would sure be nice to have and be using the boat for a good while for vacations, shorter cruises and day sails and such to build experience with it WELL before we want to start living aboard. Plus, even if I bought a boat tomorrow it could take a year or more to refit it should I choose to go that route.... and it could take a year or more just to find the right boat. So I am looking, casually. If I find the right boat at a GREAT price I will buy it. If not, I wait.

What do you guys have to say about yards and farming out projects? Is getting a yard to do quality work at a fair price and on time hard or VERY hard? One reason I tend to do so much of my own work on cars and boats is I dont trust others to do it based on bad experiences, BUT that mostly related to old vintage sportscars and racecars not biggish sailboats.

David: I tend to agree that perhaps the ideal scenario is to find a boat for which all the "big ticket" refit items such are repowering or major rigging or genset and such are new but it still needs lots of cosmetics and other stuff. I just wonder if such a find is realistic? But, time is on my side at this point.



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Old 19-02-2007, 14:26   #7
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Hi Terry, I have rebuilt 2 boats now, still working on the 2nd which was 70' below the surface when I stole her back from Davie Jones. While these projects can be fun & rewarding if you have the time, I am much more interested in having a boat at the dock ready to go. If you can take 2-3 or more months off work and dedicate 12 or more hours a day you can really get alot done. I've also learned that usually if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. If you hire others to do work, GET A QUOTE IN WRITING. If you do the work yourself, then you know what you've got, and its REALLY good to know your boat since your the one who has to fix it out on the water. I too suggest starting with something small a simple, get the family experienced and hooked first before making the big plunge. Plus they will not truly appreciate a bigger boat, if they have not been on a smaller one. I think if you are patient and watch the market you will find what you are looking for at good price, there are always good deals coming & going......good luck
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Old 19-02-2007, 14:32   #8
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dissregard what I said about the smaller boat and experience as I didn't see your last post befor I sent my'n. Your bad experience's with hiring out work goes well with boats too, that why I say GET A QUOTE IN WRITING FIRST. I too have had bad experience here.
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Old 19-02-2007, 14:39   #9
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Phew! Already knowing one end of the boat from another will help no end (I thought I managed to be very tactful ).

I think in your proposed price range you will have no great problem finding a vessel in the condition that you eventually decide you want. particularly the less model specific you are. Always tends to be someone around who has stretched themselves a bit too far or whose Dreams (or wife?!) has moved on.

Don't be afraid to make "silly" offers.........


Oh, I nearly forgot...... DON'T BUY A BIG BOAT - DEATH, DESTRUCTION AND BANKRUPTCY AWAIT
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Old 19-02-2007, 14:40   #10
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Originally Posted by emeraldsea
dissregard what I said about the smaller boat and experience as I didn't see your last post befor I sent my'n. Your bad experience's with hiring out work goes well with boats too, that why I say GET A QUOTE IN WRITING FIRST. I too have had bad experience here.
70' underwater and your refitting??!?!? Any chance you have a website or such following the project? I would love to follow along.

Taking several months off work to live aboard and focus 12 hours a day on refitting sounds GREAT to me. I do enjoy such efforts. But, the truth is that while I would RATHER be working on the boat I seriously doubt the money I would save by doing the work myself would equal the money I did not earn because I was not in the office running my company. But, if paying others to do work does not result in the work being done to my standards then I am right back where I started but out big $$$$. Definitely a tough choice and difficult situation.



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Old 19-02-2007, 14:47   #11
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Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey
Phew! Already knowing one end of the boat from another will help no end (I thought I managed to be very tactful ).
You did. I promise. No offense or such at all.... I was merely chuckling a bit as I knew the big boat "issue" would pop.


Quote:
Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey
I think in your proposed price range you will have no great problem finding a vessel in the condition that you eventually decide you want. particularly the less model specific you are. Always tends to be someone around who has stretched themselves a bit too far or whose Dreams (or wife?!) has moved on.

Don't be afraid to make "silly" offers.........


Oh, I nearly forgot...... DON'T BUY A BIG BOAT - DEATH, DESTRUCTION AND BANKRUPTCY AWAIT
I am not hung up on any one particular model. This is because I am sure there are models out there that would fit my needs well that I have as yet not even heard of! So I continue to listen and learn. Models that I find intresting include the Gulfstar 50, Cheoy Lee 49, Kelly-Peterson 46, Liberty 458, Transpac 49.

Death and destruction?!?!?!? Well, my wife says that tends to follow me everywhere regardless of land or sea or the mode of transport. Bankruptcy???? Heck, thats just inevitable... right? We are after all taking about cruising on a sailboat. I figured that was just another term for financial suicide!



Terry
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Old 19-02-2007, 14:58   #12
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Hi,

I bought a fixer-upper in good shape at a good price. I have spent the last two years upgrading or modifying things to the way I want them for cruising. The boat is nearly ready now and we will be leaving in a couple of months.

I have spent about as much as to make my fixer-upper the same price as the high priced ready-to-go boats that were on the market at the time. I have put in two years into the retrofit but I still feel I came out ahead since now almost everything is new and what I have rebuilt is "cruising quality".

If you have the time, skill, and are a stickler for having properly intalled equipment then retrofitting a fixer-upper can be a good deal. If you have to hire the work out, you will undoubtedly spend way more than buying a clean ready-to-go vessel and still not get the proper installation you would like.

Richard
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Old 19-02-2007, 15:18   #13
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Hi Terry;

Welcome aboard. i too had a $200k budget. Funny how fast it goes. I bought a Sceptre 41 for $155 and have spent well over $20k in parts. I think you will have a hard time finding a boat of that size in the condition that you want for that price. I would suggest doing some spreadsheets on what the costs are for diffferent items compare prices on: standing rigging for a 40' 45' and 50' also sails, engine, halyards etc. While I am on the big side of boats (at least for this forum) it is only by 1'.

I wish I had done that spread sheet the costs really go up fast as the size goes up. A 50' boat probably costs a little more than twice as much as a 35' to refit.

A compromise that we are making with a two cabin boat and a two kid family is that we are going to give the kids the cabin and use the main cabin as our cabin.
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Old 19-02-2007, 15:48   #14
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Hi Terry;

Welcome aboard. i too had a $200k budget. Funny how fast it goes. I bought a Sceptre 41 for $155 and have spent well over $20k in parts. I think you will have a hard time finding a boat of that size in the condition that you want for that price. I would suggest doing some spreadsheets on what the costs are for diffferent items compare prices on: standing rigging for a 40' 45' and 50' also sails, engine, halyards etc. While I am on the big side of boats (at least for this forum) it is only by 1'.

I wish I had done that spread sheet the costs really go up fast as the size goes up. A 50' boat probably costs a little more than twice as much as a 35' to refit.

A compromise that we are making with a two cabin boat and a two kid family is that we are going to give the kids the cabin and use the main cabin as our cabin.

Charlie, thanks for the reply. Give some more details if you can.... when are you guys leaving? How old are your kids? What are your cruising plans?

What all have you done to your boat? The spreadsheet is a great idea, except I dont have any numbers to put in it as I dont have a boat and as yet am not pouring money into it! Care to share yours? At this point one of my problems in evaluating refit expenses and such is little frame of reference regarding how much some things cost.



Terry
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Old 19-02-2007, 16:08   #15
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Hi Terry:

Don't have my spreadsheet done was just comparing notes with a guy on his Niagra 35 versuses my Sceptre 41. He replaced his standing rigging for $3500 Canadian while I got a quote for $8000 for mine. It is not quite a fair comparison b/c I am converting from rod rigging to standard rigging. My mast has to be pulled to do the work where as his didn't but the bigger boats just seam to have more complexities (spelled $$$$).

I felt it was prudent to repower as the engine I had had 5000 hours and given some of the other maintenance on the boat I wasn't impressed with the boats upkeep (even though a number of problems had been repaired in a $60k professional refit) Engine cost me $9800 and install another $3k. Had quotes as high as $23000 with $19000 the biggest area. If I had a 35' it would have been a much cheaper engine 35 hp compared to a 55hp.

Kids are now aged 8 (boy) and 10 (girl). I hope to leave in fall of 2008 to go cruising. I won't have everything on the boat that I want but am trying to figure out what my budget will be. Might have to sell one of the kids to buy that 12' rib with the 250 hp engine. LOL

We are going to go down the West Coast and then on thru the canal and on to the Caribean and then ? maybe the med maybe the east coast. We'll see how time and money permit.

BTW Beth Leonard has a good idea section in her book on budgeting and what kind of costs were involved for the three different modes of cruising -- cheap, average, expensive.

Recently moved from the SF Bay Area to the Sierra Foothills. while building the house we lived in a 30' travel trailer. One of the things that got me thru was a book called Material World. It showed people from different countries who lived on the countries median income. Very eye opening.
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