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Old 06-12-2014, 03:07   #1
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Breaking All the Rules ...

A month ago I bought a 50 foot 1987 aluminium yacht, on a mooring, in another country, with no inventory, no survey, no viewing, sight unseen. This is my first boat, and I intend to sail it for a year or two, then sell it for a profit. According to the common wisdom of this forum many will think that I am an idiot and everything about this purchase is wrong, from the hull material to the age to the lack of survey, and making a profit on a boat is impossible.

The boat is a big strong aluminium cutter, built by Kanter which has a good reputation, and these boats are known for circumnavigating and high latitude sailing. Similar boats in various levels of maintenance are listed on YachtWorld for between $240,000 and $500,000. So ... when I see one listed for sale by owner for only $38,000 I initially thought they forgot a zero, but I emailed to confirm, and the price was correct, so obviously there were some issues ....

A quick phone call revealed that the boat was owned by an elderly sheep farmer who lives a long way from the coast, and was rarely used in recent years. Sea cocks were left open, a raw water filter had a slow leak, bilge pumps failed, and the owner was notified that the boat was low in the water. It was towed to a nearby marina, pumped out, hull water blasted, and inspected. Water had risen to the floorboards, possibly damaging engine, gearbox, generator, pumps, and some veneer at floor level. The owner put the boat back on the mooring, and submitted an insurance claim for over $100,000 to fix the suspected damage. Unfortunately the boat was not flushed with fresh water, and engine oil was not changed before being put back on the mooring. 5 months later the insurance company declined the claim due to the poor maintenance of the bilge pumps, and the the owner decided to sell ASAP and walk away.

In the first 3 days of the boat listing multiple people had contacted the owner for a viewing, but being away from the boat he had asked them to delay for a week to give him time to get to Sydney. I could not fly to Australia in time for the group viewing, and based on the phone conversation with the owner I believed the boat was worth a lot more than the asking price, and there was a good chance the other interested parties would make an offer.

So I had a choice ... make an offer without a viewing or survey, or miss what seemed like a great opportunity. I made the offer ... and it was accepted.

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Old 06-12-2014, 03:14   #2
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Congratulations ... perhaps.

Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 06-12-2014, 03:26   #3
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

As long as you have the skills and funds to make good the damage, then good luck to you. It sounds like it'll have to be lifted and dried out asap for as long as possible, and then rebuilt pretty much from scratch. But if that is your thing (and I can only assume it is, simply because you'd have to be an idiot to take on this project otherwise), then it sounds like you have found the sort of bargain everyone dreams of.

Good luck!

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Old 06-12-2014, 03:42   #4
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

I transferred the money to the owner, arranged for it to be towed to a nearby marina, and booked a flight to Sydney. So ... what did I find when I got on the boat ...

Everything from the floorboards down was an oily dirty mess. It took a few days of being up to my elbows in stinking oily water to clean up, but it was useful in getting into the most inaccessible corners of the bilges to look for corrosion on hull or wiring, and finding all of the pumps, hoses, and through hulls.

Corrosion on electrical items was the main issue. The diesel Onan generator alternator was corroded beyond repair, so I decided to remove the generator piece by piece, replace it temporarily with a small cheap petrol one, and eventually add solar (the boat has a wind generator).

The Perkins diesel looked a rusty mess, but after a scrub with some fresh water and a wire brush, the only issues were corroded starter motor and alternator. There was a spare starter motor on the boat. I changed the oil, put in a new impeller, and when I turned the key ..... the engine started, and testing confirmed the gearbox was OK. I did need to buy a new 160 amp alternator for charging batteries.

The hot water system was a pile of rust flakes in the corner of the engine room, but I don't need hot fresh water showers, and don't want anything that needs 240 volt AC, so removed it to create space. I also removed old 240 volt refrigeration pumps and heat exchangers for fridges previously removed from the boat years ago.

The autopilot hydraulic pump was a solid lump, and the flux gate compass made a sloshing sound, and these have been my biggest problem so far. I had to wait 3 weeks for Raymarine to deliver the pump, and after sending me two different rate compasses that did not work with my autopilot the Simrad distributer gave up and advised me to buy a new autopilot. $3300 for a new Raymarine EV-400 was a bit unwelcome, but it will be a lot easier to get support and spares and integrate than the old Simrad AP16.

Another unwelcome surprise was unfurling the genoa and staysail and finding them sun damaged and torn. New genoa was $4500 and stitching for staysail repair was $200. The main sail has a bit of sun damage at the top, but is otherwise in good condition and seems to have had little use.

Working electronics include wind, sonar, GPS, two colour chart plotters, VHF, and HF radios. I haven't gotten the log or the Furuno Radar working yet, but these are not essential. I will probably replace the old green screen radar with a new Raymarine in the future.

Other minor issues to fix included failed bilge pumps, old wiring, failed float switches, corroded windlass switch, sun damaged rope, blocked hoses, and some sagging headliner due to water leaks around some hatches. I have also pulled over 100 meters of dead wiring out of the boat, and fixed many poor electrical connections and loose screws.

Major projects that I will avoid until I get to countries with cheaper yards and labour include slip, antifoul, repaint pilot house, sand teak decks, and re-varnish the interior.
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Old 06-12-2014, 04:04   #5
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

So ... after the new autopilot is installed this week I will be leaving Sydney and heading North. I scraped the bottom myself, so antifoul can wait until Queensland, and the cosmetic fixes like sanding, painting, varnishing can wait until Malaysia or Thailand.

So ... what has it cost so far ...

(in AU$)

Boat - $43,000
Airfare - $300
12 months 3rd party insurance - $500
6 weeks marina slip - $1800
Sails - $5000
Diesel Mechanic - $1200
Alternator - $600
Electrician - $200
Hydraulic Pump - $700
Raymarine EV-400 autopilot - $3300
Tools - $500 ?
Assorted screws, wires, fittings - $700 ?
Glues, paints, sealants - $150 ?
2.5 person kayak - $500
Fishing gear - $150

I have probably forgotten a few expenses, but in total have spent about AU$60,000 for a big strong boat with working engine, electrics, electronics, sails, anchors and huge tankage that is quite capable of circumnavigating. The boat can hold about 1000 litres of fresh water, and has a water maker that I have not tested. It also came with about $750 litres of diesel in the 1000 litre tanks, so I probably won't need to buy fuel for a few months.

I will replace the radar at some point, and the antifoul, sanding, painting, and replacement of a few hatches will add to the cost, but so far it looks like the bet is paying off.
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Old 06-12-2014, 04:44   #6
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Just add another $100k and a year or two of work and she'll be ready to fly.
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Old 06-12-2014, 04:54   #7
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

This sounds like a great project. Forget the savings, or the cost, or the work... the most important thing is that you are bringing the old girl back to life. Saving her, and letting her sail again, is the noble thing to do! Bravo to you!
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Old 06-12-2014, 04:55   #8
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Pics or it didn't happen.
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Old 06-12-2014, 05:15   #9
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

I know quite a few people who have turned a profit on old boats. It always (and obviously) comes down to an original deeply discounted purchase price and a lot of elbow grease. It does sound like you've found a "diamond in the rough" and have a decent start on turning it around.

I would suggest that you have the fuel polished before you take off on any longer trip. Given the state of the rest of the boat, there's a fair chance that the fuel is fouled. And you may not discover it until you get offshore and the tanks are well agitated. Polishing, while not a magic bullet depending on the baffles in your tanks, would be cheap insurance and will give you baseline off of which to evaluate the state of the tanks going forward. Ideally you'd pump all the fuel out and give the interior of the tanks a good visual inspection but that's a more involved process.

I'm going to assume that all the thru hulls, prop seal, etc. look OK and that you feel you have adequate expertise to evaluate their condition. They should be top of mind when evaluating an older, poorly maintained boat, since the failure of just one of them can be catastrophic.
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Old 06-12-2014, 05:21   #10
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

In my book, you made a stupid thing.

In my book, not all stupid things lead to bad endings.

Hope you will find the boat well worth the emotional and financial effort. Have fun restoring and sailing.

Let us know what she is like when you lay your hands on her.

Good luck!
Fair winds!
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Old 06-12-2014, 05:33   #11
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Would love to see some pics of the process! Sounds like an interesting find and if you have the time a lot of fun for a handy man. Keep us updated, it will be nice to see your progress and final before and after pics.
-Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum
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Old 06-12-2014, 06:10   #12
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Suijin beat me to it....

You would be 100X the fool if you did not polish your fuel, and/or investigate the tankage...

Buy some dewatering system for the voyage...

Agree with the next 100k and hard work estimate... You may actually come out of this without an extended sanitarium stay...
In the harsh marine environment, something is always in need of repair...

Mai Tai's fix everything...
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Old 06-12-2014, 08:16   #13
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Return on investment?
Here is a fully equipped Kanter 50 ready to go 159,900 us.

1984 Kanter CC Pilothouse Sail Boat For Sale -

Hope you are not looking for a huge profit, but more so the enjoyment.
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Old 06-12-2014, 08:31   #14
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

Good luck with the project. Definitively post some pictures. Obviously the aluminum Kanters sell for considerably more than the steel ones do. This should be a fun project. I hope the boat surprises you in a good way.

I agreed to purchase my boat before I even stepped foot on her. Of course she was less than 100 feet away and I then did a decent walk through. After the paperwork was done I spent a good 2 weeks cleaning her up and going through her. Minus a little wet core in the cockpit floor she was 100% solid structurally. The rest was in need of major refit though. I hope the best for your purchase as well.
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Old 06-12-2014, 08:56   #15
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Re: Breaking all the rules ...

We did the same thing with our new aluminum 37'. We bought it sight unseen, without a survey, and won't lay hands on it until we cross the Atlantic and get back to Florida. It may be the stupidest thing we have done, but I wanted a project and an aluminum boat. I'm glade I don't have 50' to fix-up! I wish us both good luck!


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