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Old 12-12-2011, 09:57   #1
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pirate Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Inspired by the great Cruising on $500 a month thread I thought might be useful for a new thread (specific - yet still general ) on the subject of refurbing / refitting an older boat with an aim for extended cruising (likely on a smaller budget), but that not an absolute requirement .

Although I am kinda relaxed about this thread wandering around on subject matter, broadly speaking the topic is older and cheaper (to buy) boats......... as my take is that folk who go down the boat refurb route generally do so for financial reasons (like not having the $$$ in the bank from the getgo )............not to say that other reasons are not involved (learning the boat backwards / making sure she is 110% sound / putting maintanence in the bank to reduce future cruising costs / simply enjoying fiddling around on board for a few years ).

On that latter point, although most boats (that still fall within the term "refurb" rather than "resurrection" ) probably could be sorted out within 3 - 6 months of full time work, I suspect that most would be a multi year project simply because of the need to work to fund the project!



To kick off I would suggest:-

a) That much consideration be given (pre-boat purchase) to deciding what you will really use the boat for - and then divide that into the "likely" and "would like to" (i.e. sailing around the carribean and adjacent continents (likely) and sailing RTW (would like to) etc etc)........and buy and then refurb the boat accordingly. The idea being not to buy and then over refurb / equip ($$$) for a voyage that may never happen, but nonetheless still not excluding the possibility (by say, removing all the bulkheads to fit a Jacuzzi inside ).

b) Again pre-boat purchase, take a long hard look at yourself and decide whether you are the sort of person to tackle a project that involves getting hands on for (likely) a number of years. As a broad rule of thumb - if your skills amount to once seeing someone put up a shelf on The Discovery Channel, then probably not . On the other hand, if you are already not afraid of a toolbox (of any sort) and enjoy getting hands on, then probably a fair chance of doing OK (all other things being equal - which they rarely are ).....the specific skills involved with boats are not that complicated (exceptions apply ), it's mostly about learning what needs doing and how to tackle the job(s).....and for that there is the Internet as well as real life.

What breaks refurb projects, empties bank accounts and turns owners into gibbering (divorced?!) E-bay Vendors is.......

c) The volume of jobs involved - and the time that costs. Annoyingly most of which are within the skillset of the owner (or can be easily enough learnt) - but the time to complete all 1,000 easy / quick (Lol!) tasks should not be underestimated.......over an extended period a refurb project can really suck out the soul . You do need to get something out of the process during the refurb, other than only the dream at the end of.

d) Buy well........not neccessarily the cheapest (although that always nice ) but the best bang for your b#ck, given your intended purpose and timescale and skillset. The best place for financing (of boat and refit) is the Vendor at time of purchase

e) Plan your Refurb project. On paper / PC. No plan ever survives first contact but vital to keep a handle on what's coming down the pipe, both for morale and also to plan / buy ahead ("bargains" rarely appear exactly when you want them to ).



Could add a squillion more things - but this thread of more value from multiple viewpoints, time will tell how that goes...........
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Old 12-12-2011, 11:28   #2
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

The first thing among the "must haves" I would cross off the list are electronics. Chances are great they are already outdated when you purchased the boat, and guaranteed they are completely outdated by the time the refit is finished. Nothing wrong with outdated electronics -- I have a 20-year-old radar that seems to work just fine -- but don't assume any of them will have any monetary value by the time you start cruising. You're either going to use the outdated stuff that's there when you bought the boat or replace part or all of it with new-fangled gizmos. Either way, there is no value to the electronics suite you get when you buy a refurb project.

I agree that the two biggest hurtles on a refurb project are time and money -- if you have more of one, you can do with a proportionate less amount of the other. For me, money is the sticking point, so time is of the essence. I have spent 80 percent of my weekends for the past few years getting the boat up to scratch - but there has come a time (finally!) when the projects seem less onerous. I have crossed most of the really big ones off my list.

I think it's a sliding scale on purchase price vs. the amount of time and expense on the refurbishment. If I had it to do over, I would have shopped for a boat that needed less work, but then I couldn't have really afforded a more expensive boat, so that's probably a moot point.
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Old 12-12-2011, 12:03   #3
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

My succinct advice, after having refurbed a previous boat and being presently in the middle of a "refit" of the new-to-us boat is:
  • Buy with your head not your heart
  • Expect to spend 3 times what you originally thought you would and take 4 times as long doing the work.
  • Plan ahead and do an initial budget. Yes it will blow out in time and expense, but it acts as a guide to keep you on track.
  • A longish refit time and a plan means that you know what you need up front and have time to wait for those bargains to appear on Ebay. This can represent a considerable saving.
  • Face the reality that much of what you spend on the refurb will return pennies in the dollar at resale and most of your invested time will also be worth diddly squat

And my most important bits of advice are:
1) Never look behind, inside or under ANYTHING. Doing so will only lead to more work and expense
2) Avoid boats made of steel or wood requiring "TLC" unless you are a bona fide expert in them. Boatyards are full of abandoned timber and steel dreams.
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Old 12-12-2011, 12:46   #4
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

As a person that has been doing such, these are the ups and downs of it all.

First you need a place to keep the boat that you can justify the cost for the long period. Especially in bad weather climates.

Consider the weather. In cold/wet you'll need a shelter or work only when weather permits, and prioritize that so you don't slack off on the nice days.

All of the above about the boat. The electronics, save and buy last.

Don't go in debt for more then a 3-6 months on anything. Pay cash and surf the web for best prices. If you have other debts other then a house & car, it takes from the boat.

If married, this may be a major downfall. With kids even more so, unless they can willingly help as you go. I've lost 2 wife's to a sailors life.
Relationships require personal time on demand! You're better off single. In my case lately, both the wife and I worked second shifts and she worked the weekends, which I worked on the boat most of the time. 5 out of 7 eves a week were together. Now she still works and I'm retired.

Time is valuable, don't waste it. Make each day account for something. But do go on vacations!!! But one can not be a slacker.

Skill level: The higher the level, the more money you'll save. But do remember, anything structural, your life may depend on the quality of work.

Sail the boat at least once a year!!!! Do not tear into the boat so much that it can not be put back together within a short time. Interior work excluded. Some times whole interiors need to be totally "refurbished", which is usually a personal choice. As well, access to external fittings can tear up the interior. So again, chose the best boat possible and within budget. Any boat over 43' starts to accelerates dramatically in co$t as the size goes up
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Old 12-12-2011, 13:02   #5
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Good thread idea David.

My experience may reflect my inexperience. Deciding what to work on has been a process of first learning about it, as well as seeing what breaks, and then deciding what to fix. In my case I can say the surveys were of no value with this. I can understand this since so many things are hard to look at and get a sense of their state.

I have gotten a lot of use from the boat over the last couple of years and I've spent a lot of time working on it. My list is getting longer not shorter though.

The engine is a good example. There were oddities that made me wonder if I should walk away but I paid the mechanic that surveyed the engine extra to do more tests and dig deeper to see if the engine was good. He even had discussions over an oil pressure issue with Perkins who said it's supposed to be that way. The boatyard here is just finishing a bottom up rebuild of my motor at the sort of cost that ... well lets just say I won't be getting that new heads'l for a while.

I'll continue my approach of mixing use and rebuild because it makes it seem worth while to me and I have much to learn.
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Old 12-12-2011, 13:20   #6
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Never buy a frozen boat! Look at it when it's thawed out... Ask me how I know about re-coring my cabin sole and deck! LOL
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Old 12-12-2011, 14:14   #7
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

If ya find filler next to the chainplates, be prepared for agony. If ya find goop next to the chainplates on a wooden boat, be prepared to lift the house, decks and anything between you and those rotton structural members... That or to have a good bit of firewood....
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Old 12-12-2011, 15:14   #8
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

I take it you're considering whether to sell your current boat and to buy again or whether what you've got is good enough?

Having owned a small fibreglass yacht, built two boats from scratch and almost completely fitted out Boracay I'd recon the answer lies in what you want to do with the boat. Is it the project you'll enjoy or the final use?

Financially, of course, refurbishing an older boat makes no sense at all. Better to flip burgers, mow lawns or fleece tourists and then buy a newish boat or one that someone else has poured their heart into.

Noticing your signature line if I were a single person building a trimaran I'd do it at one of the boatyards located a bus ride from Cebu City. Carmen and Port Bonbonon come to mind.
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Old 12-12-2011, 15:29   #9
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boracay View Post
Noticing your signature line if I were a single person building a trimaran I'd do it at one of the boatyards located a bus ride from Cebu City. Carmen and Port Bonbonon come to mind.
I think his backyard will do; click the link to see what I mean.
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Old 12-12-2011, 15:46   #10
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

I looked around and visited a lot of boats before I settled on 'zerk. Really hadn't a clue as to what I was doing, but I do remember some of the boats and why I passed on them. Ol' dopey me. Berzerker seemed a well thought out boat that I'd give a quick fix up and be circling around the Caribe in a year or so. That was, uh...er...., 11 years ago. Almost got the old girl wet this year. Living 45 minutes away didn't help. Having a house in need of roughly as much work as 'zerk didn't help. Family stuff, weather, 1 absolute crook I trusted to install my new engine (2 years+ & 13k just for the incredibly inept effort), next vendor who disappeared with my prop and shaft, recession and loss of income....but the good news is by Spring (yea, right, no really this time!) I'll have a 40k boat I spent another 50k on and it'll be worth, oh, maybe 40k. New engine, prop, etc., all new wiring throughout professionally done, instruments, radios, Northstar, Origo, Cool Blue, new elec panels, batteries and all the rest. Upholstery, topsides and bottom paint, lifelines, windlass, bowsprit, furler, fans, head and all the plumbing, Honey Teaking, new windows, etc.....
Bottom line is I've got a cool boat that I'm pretty proud of, but would I do it again?
Not a bleeding chance in the world.
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Old 12-12-2011, 16:01   #11
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

There seems to be two ways to do a refit/refurbish: haul the boat and don't put it back in until it's done or do a little then sail a little. I'm doing the latter. I work on the boat in the off season but, come summer, we load her up and go sailing. Some years we didn't go too far and sometimes we weren't looking pretty but we enjoyed it. It allowed us to save and plan projects and wait for the right deal on gear. It also helps avoid doing stuff you don't need! The all out projects work for many although they can drag on if you are not careful against project creep. It really depends on your goals and time frame.
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Old 12-12-2011, 16:06   #12
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Great thread Dave.
I have a 33 ft contest I bought in February. I have recently started to refurbish the inside and companionway.
My main goal at first is to keep the water out so I rebed the bow rail and sampson post. I wtill need to rebed the life line stancions as well as replace the lines with Dyneema or double braid poly lines. I also want to rebed the chain plates as well as add a good size plate to each under the deck.
The engine is locked up and I still have to pull the block.
I had a man clean the bottom and he said all thru hulls looked good even though the man before me hadn't cleaned the bottom in years.
The rudder moves all the way to port now. He said he cleaned four inches of barnicles off the prop and shaft.
Next year I will be pulling it and replacing all sea cocks, painting and barrier coating the bottom. Adding a three spade prop that came with her and replacing any seals and bushings it needs while I''m there. I'm hoping then I will feel good enough about her to start sailing her while doing major work projects at the same time.

1 Keep the water out.
2. keep the engine running.
3. paint and barrier coat her as well as adding new bronze sea cocks.
4. Work the entire electrical system from the batteries to the fuse panel.
5. Add solar and wind generators.
6. Paint the decks and strip that god awful blue non skid off the boat.
7. Varnish the inside (which is what I am doing now)
8. The head has to be redone using a gravity tank system for draining and pump out.
9. Sail sail sail.
10. Crew crew crew

That's most of my list though not in that particular order. The head will be next year also. But right now there is a lot I can do at the marina at night after work.

Hopefully this link will work. If you want to see a work in progress here are the pics of her when I got her.

Flickr: w1651's Photostream

I will say this. The bare bones are there with my boat. Many have said the guy who cleaned her bottmo included that she doesn't have a soft spot on her.
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Old 12-12-2011, 16:20   #13
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

[*]Expect to spend 3 times what you originally thought you would and take 4 times as long doing the work. And if a Cat x by three to allow for the bridgedeck and by five if a trimaran.... It's all a matter of square area!
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Old 12-12-2011, 17:32   #14
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anzo View Post
I looked around and visited a lot of boats before I settled on 'zerk. Really hadn't a clue as to what I was doing, but I do remember some of the boats and why I passed on them. Ol' dopey me. Berzerker seemed a well thought out boat that I'd give a quick fix up and be circling around the Caribe in a year or so. That was, uh...er...., 11 years ago. Almost got the old girl wet this year. Living 45 minutes away didn't help. Having a house in need of roughly as much work as 'zerk didn't help. Family stuff, weather, 1 absolute crook I trusted to install my new engine (2 years+ & 13k just for the incredibly inept effort), next vendor who disappeared with my prop and shaft, recession and loss of income....but the good news is by Spring (yea, right, no really this time!) I'll have a 40k boat I spent another 50k on and it'll be worth, oh, maybe 40k. New engine, prop, etc., all new wiring throughout professionally done, instruments, radios, Northstar, Origo, Cool Blue, new elec panels, batteries and all the rest. Upholstery, topsides and bottom paint, lifelines, windlass, bowsprit, furler, fans, head and all the plumbing, Honey Teaking, new windows, etc.....
Bottom line is I've got a cool boat that I'm pretty proud of, but would I do it again?
Not a bleeding chance in the world.
I couldn't have put this better. I too have a boat that is worth far less than what I have into it. Do I reget it? Nope. Would I do it again? Nope. Am I glad I did? Yep. Even fasteners cost a fortune on a boat. It is easy to massively underestimate the cost of a refit, just by leaving out details, and that leaves no allowances for surprises. I think one of the reasons there are so many project boats that pass from one owner to the next without ever seeing the water is that about halfway through people realize that they will never see the money back they have put into the boat and lose drive. I may buy a used boat again. If I do I will know what is involved, but as a way for someone to get a boat on the cheap? Refitting is more expensive than buying. By a good bit in most cases. Just the parts and material scrounged up from scrapyards and ebay (leaving marine stores out of the equation entirely), will cost thousands more than anyone would guess. The only way to save money is to go smaller.
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Old 12-12-2011, 17:46   #15
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Re: Refurbing / Refitting an Older boat - Advice and Ideas

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Originally Posted by engele View Post
I couldn't have put this better. I too have a boat that is worth far less than what I have into it. Do I reget it? Nope. Would I do it again? Nope. Am I glad I did? Yep. Even fasteners cost a fortune on a boat. It is easy to massively underestimate the cost of a refit, just by leaving out details, and that leaves no allowances for surprises. I think one of the reasons there are so many project boats that pass from one owner to the next without ever seeing the water is that about halfway through people realize that they will never see the money back they have put into the boat and lose drive. I may buy a used boat again. If I do I will know what is involved, but as a way for someone to get a boat on the cheap? Refitting is more expensive than buying. By a good bit in most cases. Just the parts and material scrounged up from scrapyards and ebay (leaving marine stores out of the equation entirely), will cost thousands more than anyone would guess. The only way to save money is to go smaller.
The truth's.
1) If you are going to "do up" a boat for weekend/holiday sailing it would be better to save your money and go on a charter each year.
2) If you are going to "do up" a boat because you think it's a cheap alternative then read what Engele and Anzo are saying because they are hitting the nail on the head.
3) If you are going to "do up" a boat because you have a love of creating things and pottering then good on you ENJOY.
4) If you are going to "do up" a boat simply to MAKE money then you are deluding yourself.
Boats are like puppy dogs ALWAYS someone will give them a home, i know here in Australia there are NO boat wreckers always someone comes along and sees the dream no matter what pile of crap sits in front of them......... My opinion only :-)
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