gabilo - Last year, I completed what sounds like a similar refit (rebuild) on a 46' sloop
. The experience and advice I could share about this decision is legion. Details of the 'cradle to grave' project are here: COUP D'ETAT (USA414)
But this is where I would start (apology if the cut/paste formatting is rough):
During re-commissioning last June, I was asked the $60M question: "Would you do this again with a small boat shop?" The question came from the GM of a small, competing yard with a sincere desire to grow his own business. So I thought to reflect on this question a bit.
The answer is "yes, maybe". In hindsight, I've learned some lessons about working with a boutique yard that are worth sharing.
Size aside, stuff to consider before even contemplating a 'project' boat:
Passion: does your wife/husband/SO share this passion? - You'll need her or his (and your dog's) spiritual, financial and mental support and shoulder (and doghouse) once in a while. If not, think twice.
Pedigree: don't waste energy on an ugly boat. Pick a boat worth saving, one created by a respected naval architect and builder
, but most of all, one that will draw your eye like a moth to a flame when she's at anchor
. After all, you may have to live in this one day (see above).
Timing: if it takes 2-3x longer than anticipated, will the boat still meet your lifestyle needs?
: if it costs 2-3x more doubloons than the worthless estimate that lured you into the shop, can you comfortably afford the overruns? One doesn't bring more to a casino than one can afford to lose.
Sanity: how's your mental health
? Seriously, a project of this scale will push every emotional button. I sure didn't start out wanting to be the general contractor.
Exit Strategy: do the math...what is this boat realistically worth when completed? Hint - less than invested! Using a worst-case scenario, does it still represent a good value? But then again, this isn't about money
, is it.
Don't BS a BS'er: are you seriously trying to tell me you can't find an equally great boat in this market that some other fool already spent his kids' inheritance restoring and now needs to sell at a fraction of that investment?
If you're still fixated on a 'project' like Republicans on the White House and expect to pay someone else to do it, here's the only way I would do this again. Some things I did the first time, some I didn't:
Hire a naval architect to scope
the work and solicit multiple quotes
Identify the strengths and limitations of the yard - mutually agree how to fill the gaps
A low labor rate does not necessarily translate to lower cost if project management is abysmal
Consider retaining an independent Project Manager to be an intermediary
Agree to a defined goal and project plan with a critical path schedule, completion date, payment terms and reward/penalties for meeting/missing a commissioning date
Insist on 'fixed price' quotes based on thorough inspection
, a firm build plan and shared risk; establish in advance how change orders will be calculated
Don't be lured into a 'project bid' only to be T&M' invoiced 'by the inch' - pay only for project completion (i.e. headliner
complete, sole installed, etc.)
Insure the builder's crew has actual experience with this type of vessel and its intended use - an offfshore vessel needs the skills of craftsmen with personal offshore
experience so that when judgement calls are required, they make the right decisions
Retain the option of selecting product from independent vendors if the builder's choice in sub's is poor; obviously this is a last resort before reverting to the exit strategy
Determine the sailplan and rigging changes first
Make the electrical and electronic decisions before carpentry starts
Don't allow the builder
to demolish more than you care to replace
Consider the builder's location. Monthly inspection
and decision-making trips, hotel
rooms and meals
, the need to eliminate and replace deck hardware
to accommodate inland bridge clearances, relocation for painting, relocation for commissioning, etc. easily added $10k to my project.
Require weekly communication and progress reports as critical to a predictable outcome and good relationship
If you are expected to pay 'uplift' on electronics, mechanicals, etc., expect the builder to deliver product expertise, perform analysis and make informed recommendations
A builder that encourages you to visit and even help with labor makes for a pleasant relationship - just stay out of their way while the clock is ticking
Secure agreement that no other boats will come and go with workers being re-deployed if yours is behind schedule
, references.....does the builder have a track record
of quality, integrity and professional project management?
Consider a performance bond - you don't want to end up owning a boatyard or with a half-completed boat if the yard collapses
Have an escape strategy from an incompetent yard - know when to pull the plug
and where to move the boat
Consider how warranty work will be handled. Once splashed, can the boat realistically return to the yard for service
if the yard is too far away?
So would I use a boutique builder again? Maybe. After all, big yards are risky too and perhaps more adroit at nickle and diming. I'm not sure this project cost me any less and it certainly cost far more than they estimated; it could have been completed in half the time by any yard with more resources and better project management. That said, I've not yet regretted the quality or questioned the builder's integrity. And in the end, that matters more than price.
So perhaps as my wife assures me, "size doesn't matter".