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Old 19-11-2009, 10:55   #1
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Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

I had a professor in college that took his old beat up mustang down to Mexico to have it completely restored. I saw it when it got back and it was beautiful car. I don't know how much he paid but supposedly it was much much cheaper to get done in Mexico than in the US.

I have friends in both Mexico and Colombia that say you can get labor for about $200/month. I'm looking at a local Columbia 36 that is in need of a complete refit but would need minimal work to sail/motor. The idea is to buy the boat for cheap and sail it to SA where I can hire three guys for three months to completely gut and refit the boat. Now parts are going to be expensive anywhere you go but the labor should be around $2000 for the whole thing.

I would like to know if anyone has done this and what your experience has been. Too good to be true? Thanks.
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Old 20-11-2009, 12:59   #2
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One can always find cheap labour anywhere, however for the type of minimum skills needed in refitting a boat then I would suggest that it would be a lot more... Even then, assuming that you paid a higher price, then really you need to be there to oversee; or it just not going to get done.

Parts etc tend to be more expensive and none of the local labour will have the tools...after a while neither will you... lost, broken damaged etc.

A modest refit, properly planned with one of your friends overseeing, could be a achieved at a justifiable cost saving but you will feel older...it will take longer and likely be a compromise which will have to be addressed sometime in the future. What is viable is doing most of it yourself with their assistance...Even that can be frustrating but quite doable (it has a bonus- it does help you learn the swear words quite quickly and with near perfect intonation).

Economically most central and south American countries have seen the prices paid locally for untrained but useful help rise considerably over the past few years. It wouldn’t surprise me that your Professor could have his car restored inexpensively….those are ready available skills in a competitive market…Sadly anything to do with boats are never so considered… So doable but with many caveats

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Old 21-11-2009, 05:35   #3
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Wherever you go for cheaper labour, you'll have to ask yourself; how & where these "cheap" labourers will have had the opportunity to learn & practise their marine trades skills.
If there's a locally active boat building & repairing industry, there may be qualified marine tradespeople. If they service a "yachting - cruising" clientel, they are even more likely to have the skills you require.
Otherwise ...
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Old 21-11-2009, 10:26   #4
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I'm thinking someone with carpentry and furniture building skills could do excellent work on the interior of the boat and any good mechanic should be able to rebuild an engine. As for painting and fiberglass repair, if I'm able to learn then so can anyone.
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Old 11-01-2017, 06:59   #5
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

What has your experience been?
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Old 11-01-2017, 07:23   #6
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

Zeehag has repeatedly commented on the quality, low cost work she's had done in Mexico. Typically by really getting to know the locals, such as the mechanic who rebuilt her engine. And like sailmakers, it pays to catch tradesmen during their "low season", or during economic slumps. As from now to March you can almost always get deals on sails & rigging in the N. hemisphere due to this.

Also, as with most things, it's really a Huge benefit to be well versed in the work that you're hiring out. So that you can tell the difference between what's needed, & what ain't. Along with the difference between crap, & decent, or stellar results. Ditto on the materials, & equipment used. As, sadly, we're hearing about via a cruiser who had sub-standard paint used on their decks.


EDIT: You might also peruse this thread currently running http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...29#post2300729
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Old 11-01-2017, 07:23   #7
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

If you think any three guys anywhere can completely gut and refit a 36' sailboat in 3 months, you've got some hard learning in your future. Just remember, you get what you pay for. Even if you could get a derelict vessel down there without trucking it, which would probably be risky, you'll find you needed to purchase all parts and materials for your refit and bring them with you.
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Old 11-01-2017, 07:38   #8
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

3 months to refit a columbia 36???
must be not much wrong with it to be able to buy it in one place then sail it to be refitted in another.
if you buy the boat in mazatlan, get it fixed here. it WILL be more than 3 months i guarantee it, as you need to meet and get to know the mechanics and workers before they will do any work. finding them is fun. must interact with fishermen with no spanish.
ps manana means not today. donot be literal with the time lapses...hahahaha. you will be waiting forever.
once you disappear without a caretaker hired and paid in advance to watch over your work, your cheap lil refit may well cost you 40,000usd, as is the case when gringos--we are rich, dont you know--leave their boats behind for a repair job. seen it happen in baja naval and other yards in mexico from 1998-current times. in water the bill padding is not as obvious.
if you donot intend to remain with your boat as it is repaired, you kinda get what you get.

it will be most difficult to obtain pix of workers past deeds--this doesnt happen here.
you must be on hand to hand pick your workers, each step of the refit.


.
after my engine played runaway it took me a few months to find then convince the workers i needed that we had work. i am handicapped in this by being female. is a traditionally catholic nation with traditions which must be honored. respect is name of the game here.
you DO realize there are thousands of miles distances you are considering moving an iffy boat from point a to point b. first of all--will it make the run safely??
if so, why refit?
if not--how ye gonna get the boat from point a to point b without dying or boat loss??
there are many things to consider.
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Old 11-01-2017, 07:45   #9
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

Let's see I just talked to a rigger sailmaker here in Florida yesterday that told me he charges $85 an hour. I hire boat carpenters and mechanics in the Philippines anywhere from $5 aday to $25 aday. Generally the work goes slow but fast enough considering the hot temps. Sometimes I have to do some teaching and always a good idea to supervise. Sometimes these workers have some real cleaver ideas on how to save money. Machine shops and welders work a tenth of what costs are in US.
You tell me you get what you pay for. I think not. This poster is looking for real life experience in central and South America. Work here in The US is not always that good either. I hear of a lot of redoes.
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Old 11-01-2017, 08:00   #10
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

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Originally Posted by freshalaska View Post
Let's see I just talked to a rigger sailmaker here in Florida yesterday that told me he charges $85 an hour. I hire boat carpenters and mechanics in the Philippines anywhere from $5 aday to $25 aday. Generally the work goes slow but fast enough considering the hot temps. Sometimes I have to do some teaching and always a good idea to supervise. Sometimes these workers have some real cleaver ideas on how to save money. Machine shops and welders work a tenth of what costs are in US.
You tell me you get what you pay for. I think not. This poster is looking for real life experience in central and South America. Work here in The US is not always that good either. I hear of a lot of redoes.
there is no comparison usable between usa pricing and mexipricing. none whatsoever. philipines has a lot easier pricing than usa or mexico--is awesome pricing there... good woods also.....
those not ever here need to realize this is a different nation than usa. much different. your 85 usd hourly pay is not practiced here unless you hire a gringo boss with local workers. no guarantee by using this method in getting your work done, as the gringo boss demands 10 times the payment given tot he workers--i call it pimps and 'hos. i avoid the pimps and go straight to the 'ho. and gringo boss will pad the bill. oops.
get what you pay for???? someone needs to rethink doing business, especially outside usa. that is not how it works. seems the gringo pimos keep the dough and only pay 200 pesos daily to the mexiworkers actually touching your boat.
you CAN find usa pricing in baja. that is THE gringo haven of mexico.
you also can find gringos to do your work at 85 or more usd hourly--i can guarantee you will not be happy with the results. hahahahaha
some how the gringo workers seem to think if they remove a part from the engine you will return to him for further work. hahahahahahahahaha
get what you pay for??? h aha h aha ha ha ha only in usa where the pricing is soo bludi high you cannot see anything else but the price tag. this is a delusional statement.
let me finish laughing here--that may take a few weeks, as this is hy larry us.

IFF one is able and willing to remain with the boat during repairs , one can find decent pricing here and good work.
items not found are fabricated. you must be present to see the work quality and progress, as well as guidance for the workers so they know what you want as well as how you want it. cannot be done remotely.

i think my words can be presumed as being from real life here in mexico, a si have only been gone from here one week for dead brother trip in 2014.
there is also a huge difference between work done in cities and in pueblos. i give pueblos 2 thumbs up--as long as spanish is in your language box of trix you are fine.
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Old 11-01-2017, 08:22   #11
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

Maybe somebody with experience with getting the work done on the Rio dulce can chime in with some relevant advice. I've heard that is a good compromise between price and skills.
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Old 11-01-2017, 09:35   #12
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

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Originally Posted by jrau18 View Post
Maybe somebody with experience with getting the work done on the Rio dulce can chime in with some relevant advice. I've heard that is a good compromise between price and skills.

You can get most things done in Rio Dulce at a good price and good quality EXCEPT Electronic repairs and sending warranty claims back to US suppliers is a pain in the A**e

I have been around the Rio Dulce area since 2007 and have had some very good work done (3 large refits on an old steel boat involving steel work, carpentry, electrical and rigging/sail work and a refurbishment on a project sail boat)

BUT you either need to be there EVERY DAY to answer questions and queries whilst the work is going on or hire a project manager otherwise the work will stop whilst the worker waits for their question to be answered. It is a culture thing.

Do not expect to leave a list of work to be done, leave the country and have it completed when you return 6 months later unless the project is being managed.

There are 3 haul out there now, expect to pay about US$250 to $350 a month for storage, electricity is expensive. Some have their preferred workers and some apply a mark up to their charges, check before you commit.

We have just had our project boat painted and varnished inside and out and a new cabin sole made, the labour cost for a man and a boy is about US$31 per day. If you employ Gringos, you pay Gringo prices and I do not believe the work is much better. It helps a lot if you can speak some Spanish.

Parts either have to be shipped in (cheap 5- 10% for freight Duty etc. but takes about 6 weeks) or bought locally if you can find them at a marked up price.
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Old 11-01-2017, 10:14   #13
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

Ditto what Triumphant said.

The Rio is a great place for refit work. Rates are very reasonable and skill sets are good.

Skilled local carpentry, canvas work, fiberglass, paint/varnish work available at very reasonabe rates.

Even the skilled foreigners charge way less than they would in the USA.

Rio was my home base for many years so the voice of experience...not some of the way off base conjectures offered so far.

Importation of parts/supplies into Guatemala is relatively inexpensive, but slow if you go surface transport (lowest cost).

There is already a thread here discussing Cartegena vs Rio Dulce for refit work. Give that a search and read too.

As with anywhere you, or someone, needs to supervise...this is not a Central/South America thing...its true even in the USA.

And Guatemala is an awewome country...plenty of amazing places to travel to while you wait for parts! 😎
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Old 11-01-2017, 10:17   #14
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

We have had a lot of work done in Mexico and Panama and Cartagena Columbia. We have the advantage that my wife is Latino and has experience as a project manager in industry. In Mexico and Panama half the workers we worthless especially the carpenters. They lacked tools and parts and in Panama City parts for a Kubota powered Onan generator were over twice the cost of shipping them from Miami. Riggers were marginal in Panama but there was a good one in Cartagena.

In Cartagena the workers were excellent and a quarter or less of US prices but parts were expensive with a big import duty and they lacked good tools.

I would have work done in Cartegena again but not without my Spanish speaking wife supervising the job and I would take all the tools and parts with me.

I hear good things about the Rio Dulce but have never been there.

I would not like to sail a bargain boat to Central or South America from the USA, likely a recipe for disaster and unless you speak good Spanish and can sit and watch the work you heading for an expensive disaster.
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Old 11-01-2017, 11:28   #15
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Re: Refit in South / Central America with Cheap Labor?

Ive been underwhelmed with services in Panama too...both ashore and afloat. Have encoutered plenty of apathy, poor quality, and out right dishonesty. Though I am now sorting out some of the good ones.

Now doing the important parts of a refit, like standing rigging, in Panama and plan on sailing back to the Rio for the rest. Why didnt I do that before l left! 😕
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