This is an interesting topic and after living in a boat yard for most of the last few years while restoring my old boat it's a topic that I could talk about for a long time. I could come at it from a variety of perspectives depending on how the day's boat work went and should share that today, and in the past week it has gone well (we won't go into the previous weeks!). From what I've seen in others, and experienced with my own, sail boats always end up becoming very expensive and a lot of work. Even the folks that buy the newer, larger and ready to go yachts still end up putting in their long days spending more time and/or money than expected, even if it's only spent in trying to get others to do things the way they want.
I've seen folks buy older used boats and then get them put together and into the water
in a matter of months so, as has been said, shopping
can lead you to a better boat that is a balance between work/cost/sailing/etc.. Those folks didn't spend the hard years that others may have but they got to experience the yard/work side of boat ownership
long enough to know what it's like (and to appreciate getting out on the water), and then got to sail before they started to begrudge the projects/boat. If I ever get a different boat I will do my very best to be one of those people, buying a good used boat
that needs only minimal work, outfitting and provisioning
. Fortunately I now know enough about boats to have a chance at joining them, where I certainly didn't before my months and months of boat work and learning
I've also seen folks that continue to create projects as they go and that may never see the water. I can relate to these folks as it's hard to keep ones head
and priorities straight in a boatyard. There are always nicer boats to compare your work to, and folks that will tell you that you "just have to do project X" etc. etc.
28-1 with little wood on display and no varnish
to be found looked simple enough and sound enough to justify the restoration
. I thought it would be a good learning
experience and that I'd launch after a season of work, but I had no idea what the boat needed or what it really would take to fix those things. After a few years and a learning/work experience that seems to have been more intense than the entire university/degree process that I went through a few years ago I still have months of work to go before I can shift focus back to sailing (even partially). I could have bought multiple examples of solid and fairly complete boats of similar size/capabilities for what I've already spent on my P28 and that's not counting my labor or what I'll spend before I launch. Even though I've learned a ton about boats and enjoyed a lot of the process (though certainly not all) there is no way that I would go in for this again.
At the same time I wouldn't trade
the last few years for many of my previous years of life. The boatyard where I am sees a steady stream of boat folks from all over the globe and that is a very good thing. I've made lots of cruising friends and have been immersed in the culture that I hope to be a part of for a long time to come. It's gotten to the point where the boatyard and working on the boat is now home and it will be saddening to leave once the boat is ready (don't worry, I will still leave, asap). I have also probably avoided a lot of expensive and difficult lessons on the water through learning about those from so many experienced cruisers. I'm sure I'll still find plenty of these though once I get back out there.
I feel like I've been fairly successful at restoring my old, broken-down boat and that I'm close enough to the end of the process to believe that I may even sail her one day
From that perspective a few of the techniques that I think have helped immensely though this long and laborious process are:
-steady feeding of the dream through sailing books
, magazines, videos, conversations, forums
, sailing trips (on other boats and in my little sailing dingy) and other sources. For years I've been passionate about sailing but that was hard to keep alive at times during the restoration
(during days of mid-Summer fiberglass work for example,, why am I doing this again??). Keeping that passion alive helps one get up on the boat for another day of work when anything else might be preferable. Day after day,, getting something done was all I could do since the end was nowhere near my field of vision.
-an organized restoration plan defining the work ahead and the estimated costs for each task group. This helped me pace myself and also allowed for me to order my work in a sensible way, spacing out large costs and boring jobs as much as possible.
-having enough money to do the jobs I needed to do... There have been times when I've had to switch to cheaper/labor intensive projects until I had the money to buy more expensive items but without a steady stream of money it would be hard to get anything done in a timely manner. At a minimum this has meant a few hundred a month in small parts
, sandpaper, paint, epoxy
etc. but most of the time I was spending much more just to keep the project going as it had to at that time.
-listening to all available opinions and then making up my own mind. After a while I realized that I had spent more time thinking about whatever problem, and knew a lot more about what I wanted out of the solution which made me the leading expert in terms of my own boat/project. At the same time, I've learned from everyone I've talked to about various projects and from a few true experts I have learned an immense amount about fixing boats.
-being relatively young (early 30's) and single
. This has worked for and against me. These have probably helped a lot in the face of a boat restoration that didn't make much sense financially or in terms of work time needed since the personal rewards/education may be the biggest returns from the last few years of work. I should say though, that most cruisers seem to be couples from what I've seen and I often envy their teamwork. These couples probably do a better job of selecting good boats, and it would be great to have help since with the boat and all of the non-boat things that still have to happen (food, laundry
, bills, etc. etc.) Most cruisers are somewhat older than I am, which also seems to help in selecting a solid boat and knowing how to succeed in a refit/rebuild.
-taking sufficient breaks from boat work. I've not worked for more than 6 months straight on the boat, and that was probably a month too long. It seems like I am way more productive for the first few months after returning to the work and then things slowly taper off as I get fed up with the work etc. After leaving for a few weeks, or months I'm back to laying awake at night planning my next projects..
I think I've proven my first sentence true so I'll bring things to a close by wishing all those who are rebuilding (or building) boats the best of luck and productivity in their work.
oh yeah,, for those that want to see accounts of my restoration up to this past Summer you can do so here:
Poolio's sailing and travel blog.
I've kept working at a steady pace but stopped blogging this Summer to save time for boat work. I'll be updating the blog this Winter while I travel and get ready for what I hope to be the final push and a late Spring launch.