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Old 09-06-2008, 05:47   #16
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Originally Posted by Solosailor View Post
I don't consider myself a "bottom feeder"....

Yeah, most don’t – just my contrarian temperament… When I was living aboard, most of us didn’t consider ourselves yachties and would bristle if anyone gave us the title (which we reserved for those sperry & blazer folks who had more money than sense, usually couldn’t handle their boat without endangering half the dock or needed a charter captain for a Sunday outing…). But mostly I just find there are lots of perfectly good project boats available in our area (slightly outside of DC in a quasi-waterman area) that look inviting – although I’m well along in the process of turning my el-cheapo, six-month project boat into a three-plus year adventure, so what do I know…
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:35   #17
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I would like to know where people find good project boats?
Right up front nearly all free boats are not worth the cost to repair and that assumes the boat costs you nothing to acquire. They don't given them away because they are valuable.

I would assert the best place to find one is to search out and follow the people that have done so in the past. Many never get finished. A started free boat make be the very best deal of all. At that point all the ugly parts are exposed and you can find out what the free boat really will cost you. There lies the clue to making a free boat come out. Don't worry what you pay for the hull but what it will cost you to fix. Paying something might save you many thousands of dollars. Every foot adds a few thousand easily sight unseen. Knowing what the free boat will cost you is the serious risk part of any restoration. Being off by 2, 3, or 4 times the original estimate is not uncommon and causes many attempts to fail. How wrong can you afford?

Materials and supplies are indeed very expensive and if you don't have a boat yard that is nearly free the rent keeps chipping away at you as well. You can eventually compute the cost per hour to repair this boat even though you work for free.

Planning before you even look at boats is probably the key to having a chance. If you have deadlines or time constraints I would venture the deal is doomed from the start. Time is your enemy if you are reaching for a deadline. It works ashore just like on the water. You get in a hurry and things get worse. Mistakes made cost double to triple to undo.

New boats are expensive because the cost of high quality workmanship is time not money. Even with cheap labor rates it still costs a lot of time. Working for free won't make the clock slow down.

Save all receipts and keep meticulous records. Items you pay tax on now don't require taxes paid later. You need records and the ability to keep them else your planning skills won't be up to the greater task at hand.

There is a lot of help available here on the forum but even with all that this is not an easy job. If any of this is fun then there are many parts that are not. If you have the patience to rebuild it you probably will have no trouble sailing it. The skills transfer well.
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Old 09-06-2008, 08:48   #18
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Right up front nearly all free boats are not worth the cost to repair... They don't given them away because they are valuable.... this is not an easy job. If any of this is fun then there are many parts that are not. If you have the patience to rebuild it you probably will have no trouble sailing it...

I rarely find myself disagreeing with Paul, and I’m not going to this time either – but I’d add this…

Project boats are not for those who think they’re going to save a bucket of money… but, one can. If one already has the required repair, maintenance and fabrication skills, or is willing to learn as they go (excepting the plethora of modern techno-gizmos bedecking modern boats, most boats are not rocket science… occasionally intimidating, often frustrating, but eventually conquerable…), hideous eyesores can be restored to life. Boats lose value because the current owner no longer finds them valuable – that is all. Many times the current owner is 100% correct, but occasionally (and these are the ones we’re looking for) the owner has lost interest in a boat for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the value of that blotchy lump of fiberglass, stainless-steel and wood…

A person contemplating restoring a semi-derelict vessel needs to gain (somehow) at least the most rudimentary skills of a competent marine surveyor… forget the fancy density and moisture meters etc., etc… but one needs to know what delaminating plywood and fiberglass looks like, what normal fiberglass sounds like and the difference between superficial gel-coat crazing and often similar appearing stress-cracks foretelling major, hidden problems, etc., etc… Bottom line, unless one just wants a project, probably less that 25% (maybe less that 10%) of the apparently undervalued boats would pass my test… proper selection is key, and Paul is correct here – don’t do either the selection or the refurbishment with some notion of hard deadlines; likely the refurbisher will not achieve either of them -- I never have...

I look for “sailing projects…,” ones that can be used (at least some of the time) while I work, or ones that can be brought to some semblance of sailability with modest work… I don’t require that the vessel be perfect, but the working sails should be repairable (by me..) enough for local day-sailing and inshore seaworthiness requirements met without major difficulty, cuz I have no need of a lawn-ornament. I also look for a boat that is floating unattended in its slip or at its mooring… certainly doesn’t guarantee anything, but at least I know it then passes the basic criteria of a boat – it floats. For me, fiberglass only (the only thing I know much about), no plank-on-frame wood – been there, did that… others will have their own preferences.

In any event, over time I’ve really only lost my way on one project boat – my first, a wood-hulled fly-bridge cruiser thirty something years ago… fortunately, because of a quirk of selling it under “contract for deed” circumstances, I came out alright financially, but that was a fortuity… the only boat I really lost a bundle of money on was a 42’ ketch done the professional way, which has colored my shopping ever since… read: cynical, jaundiced eye anytime I hear the word “professional…” and "marine" used in the same sentence… but, that’s just me.

However, there ain’t no free lunch – either one must invest time in learning (often, lots of time), as well as time in selecting (both the vessel and the place to work on it…) and then investing the sweat equity it takes to make a boat serviceable again – grandkids are a huge asset here … or, it is probably decidedly more profitable for the potential skipper to continue pursuing their chosen profession (and simply buy what they want) where they’ll doubtlessly make far more money that they’ll save trying to breath new life into a derelict – especially if the potential skipper thinks they’ll finish the project boat in time to catch the seasonal trade winds for Papua New Guinea or something… still, I enjoy puttering through the inevitably growing (occasionally, exploding…) lists of projects -- it really isn’t about pecuniary profit and can’t imagine doing it any other way…
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Old 09-06-2008, 13:37   #19
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Larry, I am on Mattox creek near you. I need some local sailing info. Cold one on me! Would like to meet some sailors around the area. A guy I went to school with bought the happy clam, I was at the yachet center for several years before I moved. Just before robin got hurt. I was working on a project boat and havent sailed much there yet. Ok to PM you Thanks Al
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Old 09-06-2008, 19:34   #20
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I am on Mattox creek near you. I need some local sailing info.
Al, happy to chat, but I’m only a recent newcomer to the middle Potomac in the last year and a half… over the years kept boats at DC, Baltimore and eventually a few places near Reedville on the G. Wicomico… so although I’ve traversed the Potomac a few times (usually in the middle of the night) I’m far better versed on the middle Bay from the G.W. to Solomon’s and up to St. Michael’s … now that I have shoal draft, we hope to pop into your creek this summer, but haven’t got there yet and the Happy Clam is still on our list of things to do…
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Old 09-06-2008, 20:33   #21
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Try Shelter Island

Hey Solosailer: If you really want to take a run at finding an unadvertised project boat sitting on the hard in the Vancouver area, take a stroll around the Shelter Island marina and its workyard. Don't know of a greater repository of project-level boats in the region, myself. (Even if you don't buy, the long rows of salty beasts are better than a trip to a museum.) Besides, if you do find a project boat somewhere else, it's a pretty good chance that you'll end up working on it at Shelter Island anyway, so you might as well scout it out. Did the same thing myself on Saturday.

Good luck!
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