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Old 31-10-2012, 17:37   #16
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

There are lots of false economies. By the way, the biggest cost differential is in the initial purchase of the boat. If you buy a boat that costs $50K instead of $250K, you will never be able to save enough with great maintenance ideas on the $250K boat to make it cost less than the $50K boat. But, assuming you start off with two boats that are around the same price, the one that is smaller, simpler, and plainer will always be cheaper to run. For example, if you can live without a watermaker you will save a bundle over the lifetime of the boat. If you avoid networked electronics and use simple stuff you will save a lot. If your boat is small enough to get hauled out at ordinary boatyards and not have to travel far to reach special travelifts you will save a lot. If your boat has a simple rig and simple sail systems you will save a lot. Etc.
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Old 31-10-2012, 17:44   #17
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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you will never be able to save enough with great maintenance ideas on the $250K boat to make it cost less than the $50K boat.
Agreed, but if I can modify the annual operating cost of the boat from $25,000 in cash to $13,000 in cash without killing myself or compromising my quality of life too much, then that is $12,000+taxes less that I'll need to produce in the meantime.

Part of my problem is that I have read endless horror stories on this very forum about massive repair and maintenance costs. Refitting costs are even worse, if you buy a used charter boat (which is probably where my next boat is coming from) according to the chatterbox that is Cruiser's forum.

Maybe I've heard too many horror stories, and it is not at bad as I think.

Maybe I should have started with a simpler question "What are the reasonable and expected running costs of a 40' catamaran for a full-time cruiser, and what can be done to modify those costs?"
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Old 31-10-2012, 17:59   #18
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

I'm only sure of one thing here, keeping up with scheduled maintenance on systems is a lot cheaper than replacing them every few years. I once worked for a manager who thought that stopping the rust proofing program on our vehicle fleet was a great way to save money, till two years later when the body repiars started going through the roof.
As I say oil and belts are cheap at any price.
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:00   #19
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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Agreed, but if I can modify the annual operating cost of the boat from $25,000 in cash to $13,000 in cash without killing myself or compromising my quality of life too much, then that is $12,000+taxes less that I'll need to produce in the meantime.

Part of my problem is that I have read endless horror stories on this very forum about massive repair and maintenance costs. Refitting costs are even worse, if you buy a used charter boat (which is probably where my next boat is coming from) according to the chatterbox that is Cruiser's forum.

Maybe I've heard too many horror stories, and it is not at bad as I think.

Maybe I should have started with a simpler question "What are the reasonable and expected running costs of a 40' catamaran for a full-time cruiser, and what can be done to modify those costs?"
The horror stories are true and that is the problem with boats it seems. Brand new boats fry electronics, blow engines, rip sails, crack rigging, you name it. And this can all happen on the shake down cruise right after purchase. So, while there are ways to mitigate the maintenance it will always be a major time and money suck.
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:02   #20
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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"What are the reasonable and expected running costs of a 40' catamaran for a full-time cruiser, and what can be done to modify those costs?"
Very difficult question to answer as there are so many variables. Lifestyle choices need to be considered too, as they can easily dwarf the maintenance costs. For example, if you stay on the hook all the time you save many $thousands every year. If you do your own work you save $thousands. If you mostly eat onboard and avoid pricey restaurants you save $thousands. If you can go without insurance, or just liability, you can save $thousands. I always say, and I believe it is true, you spend what you've got. Where you cruise can make a big difference. Florida is just about the cheapest place to cruise. Everything there is cheaper than most places on the East Coast and the Caribbean, you can anchor out every night if you want, boatyards are cheap, equipment is cheaper, etc. The sales tax is lower. The Carolinas are also inexpensive, though you have to watch out for property taxes. That's another thing--some places charge a lot in annual fees and taxes, so watch out for that.

Having said all that, if you take two identical boats, and two owners willing to do their own work, there will be very little difference in maintenance costs between them. You could save a bit by timing major work to be in places where it is easier and cheaper, like Florida, but you can't always do that. The major savings would be on equipment costs: use wet cell golf-cart batteries, use a couple of basic GPS units and a PC chart plotting program, skip any fancy integrated electronics, skip a watermaker, use lower tech sails, use lower tech rigging, use standard copper low tech bottom paint. Keep it simple and old school.
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:09   #21
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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The horror stories are true and that is the problem with boats it seems. Brand new boats fry electronics, blow engines, rip sails, crack rigging, you name it. And this can all happen on the shake down cruise right after purchase. So, while there are ways to mitigate the maintenance it will always be a major time and money suck.
Here is the example I am using from a couple with a brand new Catana 50 (a $1M boat):
"Here’s a brief list of what needed fixing or replacing in our first months of sailing: the saildrives on both engines; the starboard spreader shroud supporting our mast; the primary motor on our desalinator; our dive compressor; our anchor, which bent; our catwalk; virtually every element of our marine electronics: chart plotter, radar, speedo, VHF; our BGAN sat-com system; one engine tachometer; our main halyard and topping lift; the drum plates on both roller-furlers; one of our gel batteries; our washer-dryer; and three leaks, one of which took months to diagnose." Cruising World June 2011
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:19   #22
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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Having said all that, if you take two identical boats, and two owners willing to do their own work, there will be very little difference in maintenance costs between them. You could save a bit by timing major work to be in places where it is easier and cheaper, like Florida, but you can't always do that. The major savings would be on equipment costs: use wet cell golf-cart batteries, use a couple of basic GPS units and a PC chart plotting program, skip any fancy integrated electronics, skip a watermaker, use lower tech sails, use lower tech rigging, use standard copper low tech bottom paint. Keep it simple and old school.
Setting aside the lifestyle costs, assuming an active cruising lifestyle with several days on the hook at a time, several weeks of coastal cruising at a time, punctuated by an occasional crossing... (in the Mediterranean, for example), how much is it going to cost me to keep that boat in operating condition? In both time, and money? Where are the true economies, and what are the false economies?

I know the costs of berthing, meals, shopping, etc... I don't know what it costs to own and operate a cruising catamaran with essentially self-sufficent capabilities, meaning a large solar and battery bank, navigation and auto-helm capabilities, etc.

(I assume a watermaker because I have heard that in the Caribbean fresh water is so expensive that it is cheaper to own and operate a watermaker - maybe that's an overstatement)
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:41   #23
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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(...) So it seems to me that, given this, there would be value in creating materials and designs that would minimize or even eliminate these costs.

(...)
Good intentions, but you will have the whole industry (not just the boatbuilding part of it) gang up against you.

Boats, especially from the post 80'ies era, are build to give up at a point. Planned obsolescence, if you please.

To keep maintenance costs down, I think the single most important factor is keeping things simple. Using materials that will outlast you would be my second bet.

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Old 31-10-2012, 19:23   #24
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

I just don't belong to the same club. I don't know the world most of you guys are living in. I bought a 1973 41' boat in 1985 that I traded my 33' boat for plus 35K. I still have the 39 year old Schaffer roller furling working well. I don't buy a new one,- I take it apart and replace the bearings. I bought my new Furuno 16 mi radar with stainless gimbaled mount for $600,- 'took the deal. I bought my big cruising chute for $600 to from Bacon Assoc.,- it has a stain and a small patch. I don't spend too much time working on my boat, but I'm cruising alot. 'just returned from a six month cruise from Florida to Maine for the summer and back. I've put many more miles on my boat than the dollars I spent for it. My $380 Garmin Map GPS sits on a piece of PVC pipe with a weighted zip lock bag of gravel in a drink holder at my binnacle. My 1989 Nexus autopilot is "married" to my 1973 Benmardrive pump. My cheap Humminbird depth sounder tells me depth at a fraction of the price. When I hear of some of the prices above that people are paying for things it astounds me. Where are you guys shopping and why are you paying so much! I guess I rather play than pay. I like functional, but I'm not paying extra thousands for big and pretty!
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Old 31-10-2012, 19:47   #25
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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I just replaced a 6-year-old aluminum-tank water heater that would have only cost $250 for an exact-model replacement. But then I might have had to replace it again in six years. Instead, I replaced it with a stainless-steel-tank heater that cost $750. Will the new unit last as long as three of the cheaper units would last?
Water heaters are a great example because it is rare to find one properly installed. Most installations are condemned from the get go. Most water heaters are an aluminum tank wrapped in glass fiber batting inside a stainless steel (or painted steel) box. They are mounted directly on a deck with no airspace underneath. Any drips or condensation seeps under the tank and is wicked up by the glass fibers, becomes stagnant and corrodes the tank. If you put a couple of 1/2" blocks of plywood or better yet starboard under those mounting flanges to create an airspace under the tank, your heater will last much longer. Few tanks are fitted with a drain hose on the pressure relief valve leading to the bilge and these are a common source of small leaks. Even the stainless steel tanks will corrode earlier than they have to if not installed properly.

The first thing we did on both our boats was modify all the hatches and relocate several throughulls for instant access to every system on the boat. When all systems are instantly accessible it is much more likely that you will check them more frequently and that all seacocks are excercised regularly. When it take no effort to look at your engine underway, it's much more likely that you will detect problems earlier. The seond thing we did was power wash, scrub and paint every bilge and the engine compartment white. This makes it easy to see a single drop of water, coolant or belt dust which is cleaned up instantly, the source located and the cause corrected before it becomes a major expense.

Bottom line ... the easier you make the maintenance, the cheaper it gets.
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Old 01-11-2012, 00:15   #26
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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So what if these boats were built with Titanium plates to begin with? Would the cost have been worthwhile, in the end? Certainly not to the original owner, who never had a chainplate break or corrode.

I suppose that this is a chicken and egg problem. Boats could be built to last longer with fewer repairs, but then most buyers would complain that they only plan to own the boats for 5 or 10 years - why do they need a boat that will last 50? And who will want to buy their 50 year boat in 20 years anyway, when all the styles and features have changed.
The cost for a new build to use titanium, assuming they were designed to it, would be around $20 per boat. Yup. I had an engineer redesign the plates on my Beneteau, and in order to make them the same strength would have been about the cost of four drinks, or a cheap lunch for two.

Would a new owner spend an extra twenty bucks to effectively remove a significant piece of equipment from the maintenance list permanently? I guess it depends on the owner, but for me there is no question. Even if I didn't think I was going to own the boat in twenty years, just knowing that it was something I could safely ignore would be worth the piece of mind.

Part of the issue is that it takes just as much labor to instal crap parts as the best in the world. So even if the material cost is double, in some cases the labor cost saved by never having to deal with it again is often worth the savings. This is called life cycle costs in business, and sadly many recreational boaters aren't familure with the concept...

Just a few parts that are often made as cheap as possible, and lead to predictable maintenance headaches.

1) heat exchangers... Going titanium would make them last forever (really about 2,000 years, but still)
2) chainplates
3) lifeline stantions
4) rigging hardware
5) prop shafts
6) keel bolts
7) rudder shafts

If you were to build a boat from scratch using titanium in all those components it would likely effect the cost to build by about 1%. But if anyone of them fails you could be looking at catastrophic damage or loss of life.

And as bad as builders are many owners are worse. I actually know people who buy rigging turnbuckles from Lowes because "they are just the same, but a fraction the cost".
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Old 01-11-2012, 04:53   #27
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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The cost for a new build to use titanium, assuming they were designed to it, would be around $20 per boat. Yup. I had an engineer redesign the plates on my Beneteau, and in order to make them the same strength would have been about the cost of four drinks, or a cheap lunch for two.

Would a new owner spend an extra twenty bucks to effectively remove a significant piece of equipment from the maintenance list permanently? I guess it depends on the owner, but for me there is no question. Even if I didn't think I was going to own the boat in twenty years, just knowing that it was something I could safely ignore would be worth the piece of mind.

Part of the issue is that it takes just as much labor to instal crap parts as the best in the world. So even if the material cost is double, in some cases the labor cost saved by never having to deal with it again is often worth the savings. This is called life cycle costs in business, and sadly many recreational boaters aren't familure with the concept...

Just a few parts that are often made as cheap as possible, and lead to predictable maintenance headaches.

1) heat exchangers... Going titanium would make them last forever (really about 2,000 years, but still)
2) chainplates
3) lifeline stantions
4) rigging hardware
5) prop shafts
6) keel bolts
7) rudder shafts

If you were to build a boat from scratch using titanium in all those components it would likely effect the cost to build by about 1%. But if anyone of them fails you could be looking at catastrophic damage or loss of life.

And as bad as builders are many owners are worse. I actually know people who buy rigging turnbuckles from Lowes because "they are just the same, but a fraction the cost".
So why was it going to cost the guy $5000 for titanium as opposed to $3000 for SS in post #5? That's a little more than 1%.

I would think the manufacture of the chainplates would be the same, the only difference would be the material.

Is it something in how titanium has to be shaped?
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Old 01-11-2012, 05:13   #28
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Re: Keeping down maintenance costs for cruisers

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...punctuated by an occasional crossing... (in the Mediterranean, for example), )
One way not to keep cost down is by doing "occasional crossings". Nothing wears out equipment faster than ocean crossings - all types of nasty things could happen.
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Old 01-11-2012, 05:33   #29
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We are already on page 2 of this thread and not a single sailor has mentioned that bikinis are entirely superfluous.
I have obviously laded in some sort of a twilight zone were real sailors don't exist!
To keep costs down, start out with just bottoms, and add tops as money goes up, or boobs go down. Lol
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Old 01-11-2012, 06:00   #30
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Re: Keeping Down Maintenance Costs for Cruisers

The most effective way to keep maintenance costs down is to be a DIY. The next step is to try to buy used (equipment) where you can. The third is to be constantly patrolling your boat on the lookout for anything that needs fixing/greasing/oiling etc. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" so to speak. Keep things simple. Never, never compromise on quality - buy the best - it lasts longer.

Ok how much will you spend? There are several threads on this and other forums that seem to have a consensus of around 1500 to 2500 dollars per month for all cruising expenses (including maintenance). That is for mono's, a cat is probably more.

If, as you noted, you are buying a charter vessel, you might just as well face facts. You will need to buy new sails . Check to see that the engine(s) have been serviced regularly - demand to see the service book. Blisters? get them fixed. (better yet -do it yourself)

Maintenance is a tricky question. A boat can look like hell but be well-maintained (aside to all others - yes I know most boat owners are very picky about the boats appearance). But just because the gelcoat has faded, it doesn't mean the boat is going to hell in a hand basket.

end rant

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