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Old 19-03-2007, 12:41   #1
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To Refit or Not? That is the question!

After many years, many boat shows, many charters and a few boats of my own, I started looking at something for my "new" wife and kids to live aboard and cruise on. Surprisingly the easy part after a few charters was convincing them to do so

I've recently found a very good deal on a 51' ketch, a Formosa. I know a "Garden Ketch" , but we've chartered her sistership and the family really liked it due to it's seakindliness (of course we were in the lower antilles for both charters), her height above the water, her ample living and storage areas. As far as the Ketch part, we had that conversation on another thread, so let's just assume that I want the ketch rig also okay with and desire a full keel

So again, I found a really good deal on this boat, it was primarily used by it's previous/current owner for trips to and from Catalina Island. Not very loaded with nav gear, but I have some from my last boat and I'm sure Bill will donate plenty of good advice on Nav/Comm gear... I like his inventory

Here's what I do know... I haven't hauled her yet for a survey but plan to after you guys help me with my first question... To Refit Or Not?

1) The electrical system is original (1977) and Taiwanese at that. It probably needs to be reworked/redone completely.

2) The teak deck is in good shape, however there are a couple of spots where the deck joins the pilot house that look suspect. Nothing visual inside.

3) The interior of the boat is very clean and well maintained.

4) The rigging (standing and running) is original. Not sure if it has been inspected lately.

5) Wood Main Mast and Mizzen appear to be well varnished and upkept well... will need to confirm.

6) Boat was hauled and bottom anti-fouled/painted in 2004.

7) New batteries were installed in 2007.

8) Original Ford diesel has never been rebuilt, seems to run good, but would need to be checked.

9) All other systems are original.

10) Very little nav/comm equipment (See comment above)

11) She has two S/S tanks and two iron tanks for both fuel and for water. The owner has never used the 2 iron tanks on either system. Without these iron tanks however, the boat still has 200 gal. of water and fuel.

Probably other things I haven't even thought of...

My thinking on the buy a solid project boat is that I can afford it and I think I can afford the refit (that is until I read your inputs) and that doing much of the work myself will give me a more thourough understanding of her systems, etc. Would likely have to get work on diesel done by someone else and would only help with the electrical refit, but none the less I would know every inch of the boat this way. Also with regard to safety/nav/comm gear, I would be able to palce it where I want it from years of experience and many statements like, "Why did I put that there?!"

Well Guys, am I nuts or not?

Mark
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Old 19-03-2007, 12:58   #2
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I think you need to see what the surveyor says about the main things... Most of the systems will need a refit and that can be fun or not and will be either expensive or very expensive.

The upside is if YOU do the refits YOU know your boat and this is invaluable.

The downside is the time can keep you off the water... because some refits like re wire can put the boat out of commission for quite a while.

Repower would be a good idea to have a new engine you didn't have to worry when it was going to blow something and helping in the install would be a plus... wouldn't it?

Most yachties LIKE messing about on boats... and sailing them... racers are only into sailing.

I know infinitely more about my boat than I do about my car... and I like that. You will too.

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Old 19-03-2007, 13:13   #3
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Nuts!

Without question Mark, you are NUTS! Unfortunately, it's a desease we all share on this forum. Just owning a boat is nuts.

I hope you have A LOT of free time on your hands. I've been working on a 32' boat for three winters restoring her to a first class vessel. By this May, I should be 90% there. I don't have a full time job so my boat has been a big part of my time. I can't even begin to account for all the hours I've spent.

You are looking at a 51' vessel. I hope you are retired because if you are going to take this on as a part time nights and weekends, don't plan to set sail for 3 years, maybe 5.

Yes, it does need all new wiring. The stuff they put on that vessel is junk by now and could burn the boat up. Yes, the rigging is junk. Anything over 15 years is highly suspect and loosing your mast in a storm is not much fun.
Yes, that old diesel will need some work. Even new diesels require maintenance. Since this engine is original, budget somewhere around $15,000 for that project. Hey, it may be fine for a couple hundred hours but it will fail as all mechanical things do.

Make REALLY sure you have those decks checked for moisture and the hull as well. It has been leaking, I'm sure of it. Teak decks are wonderful when perfect and a nightmare when needing removal or replacement. The costs to do that is more than what you may pay for the boat.

Plan on reconditioning the seacocks and thru hulls. Those are the holes in the bottom of your boat that can take on more water than you can pump!

What I'm saying is to do your homework. Get some estimates on new standing rigging, engine rebuild or replacement, sea cock replacements, all new wiring, possibly tanks (stainless does wear out). Then estimate what gear will be necessary for a 51' boat. Make the list and price it out. After you've listed everything, take that number and double it. Are you getting the hang of it yet?

Lastly, do you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need a 51 foot boat. Are you going to be one of those guys who spends years working on a vessel until you can't even stand to go on it and your wife is no longer excited by the idea any longer. You best do some real soul searching on this question.

Saying all the above, I am so farther ahead on my vessel than if I had let someone else do the work. I know my boat inside and out and I've done 95% of the work. She is sound and ready.

HERON
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Old 19-03-2007, 13:28   #4
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We purchased a Far East Mariner 40 Ketch, Installed a new engine, in the process of rewiring the whole boat, replaced sections of cockpit, new steering, new electonics and on and on and on. It is a labor of love; We have been working on it for two years, it will take 1 more year and then we are leaving on our dream cruise. I will know the boat inside and out and I love that... I would not have done it any other way, well maybe...
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Old 19-03-2007, 13:48   #5
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1) The electrical system is original (1977) and Taiwanese at that. It probably needs to be reworked/redone completely.
Most likely not. You do need to check, but just because it is taiwanese doesn't mean it is bad. The boat has a good name behind it.
2) The teak deck is in good shape, however there are a couple of spots where the deck joins the pilot house that look suspect. Nothing visual inside.

You definatly want to check it. The water can run down under the deck and come out somewhere totaly different and be causign damage along the way. This is the only worry of the lot I have.
3) The interior of the boat is very clean and well maintained.

4) The rigging (standing and running) is original. Not sure if it has been inspected lately.
You will still want to replace the stays. They are getting past their useby date and besides, it's not a big expenses to replace them.
5) Wood Main Mast and Mizzen appear to be well varnished and upkept well... will need to confirm.
Wooden masts are very strong and if they are varnished, they are easy to see if there is a problem. The down side is upkeep with Varnish in the future. You need to check wear on all sheeves.
6) Boat was hauled and bottom anti-fouled/painted in 2004.
Will need a very close inspection of all underwater equipment. That is a long time to go without Anodes, unless they were replaced by diving.
7) New batteries were installed in 2007.

8) Original Ford diesel has never been rebuilt, seems to run good, but would need to be checked.
How many hrs??? No. of cyclinders?? What Hp and how tidy does the engine look? Check for rust around everything. That won't tell you much except for the general care of the PO. Heat exchanger may need a look at.
9) All other systems are original.

10) Very little nav/comm equipment (See comment above)

That can be good. Go for a package so as everything talks to each other with no issues.

11) She has two S/S tanks and two iron tanks for both fuel and for water. The owner has never used the 2 iron tanks on either system. Without these iron tanks however, the boat still has 200 gal. of water and fuel.

You could either use the tanks or rip them out for space for say a watermaker or what ever.

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Old 19-03-2007, 16:42   #6
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Aloha Mark,
Sounds like it'll be fun. I resurfaced the wood masts on my Garden ketch and was only non-sailing for a month. Stripped them down revarnished and then put on a few coats of white paint over five coats of varnish.
I'd definitely replace the shrouds first then the stays but you don't have to do it all at once and you don't have to do the masts both at once so you can still be sailing when you're aren't working on the boat.
Good luck,
JohnL
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Old 19-03-2007, 18:55   #7
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How much?

Mark:

I was thinking of starting a thread that asks the same question you are asking. Let me set the table as it were-- I bought a new to me Sceptre 41 $155k. New engine installed $13k (minus sale of engine for $2k Yes I knew about it) so$11k. Had to work hard to get that installed price. (Genset $4.7k plus install ~$3k) Then there is new running rigging $7k. Rewiring$2k (plus my work) Life Raft $4k. Storm Sails $2.5k. Electronics $anywhere from $2k to $18k. Well it is getting pretty close to $200k.

A original owner boat for sale at the same time was asking $230. He came down to $220 asking and it is now under contract. Boat was in great shape so should I have spent the extra money originally or put it in slowly as I'm doing now. I think I'll have spent somewhere close to the same amount. I might and have a boat that is close to the same.

Answer: I could have gone either way. But I think that b/c the boat I did not buy seems to have been taken care of better there will be less surprises in the end.

On the Formossa 51 the decks almost certainly needs replacing and that can be a very expensive proposition tens of thousands.

Then weigh in the factor of how much $$ you make while working and is it better to have that income and pay someone else to do the work on a boat.

Being at the front end of a boat project, and I do like working on boats, I have doubts as to does it make sense to refit a boat. I think buying one in better shape is the way to go.
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Old 19-03-2007, 21:12   #8
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Insurance and optimism adjustment...

Before going any further I would ask your insurance company if they will accept an old wooden mast. I doubt if the condition could be assessed properly without taking it out.

You could also check with your insurance if the rigging needs to be replaced (normal after 10-12 years).

As an optimistic prospective purchaser It is possible that you have found less than 20% of the problems. A good surveyor may only find 80% of problems.

51' is a big boat. Unless you can work full time the boat could deteriorate faster than you can fix it.

Skilled workers are expensive and hard to find.

The price needs to reflect the amount of work needed to bring this boat to the required standard.

I believe that we could put boats into five categories:-
1) Don't take it off the dock
2) Use in sheltered waters and light conditions only
3) Suitable for short coastal trips only
4) Can be used offshore with care (experienced crew, good weather window etc.)
5) The boat structure, stability and all systems are fully sorted and suitable for offshore use.
Which category would you put this boat in?
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Old 20-03-2007, 01:11   #9
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Hi Mark,
Sonds like an ambitious plan and IMHO maybe a 'plan to far' for a first yacht.
I've built a 10 M yacht from scratch and loved it - but that took almost 2 years of all the spare time I had.
A 16 M vessel has maybe 3 times the volume of a 10 M - and you'll find work expotential to that volume.
So good luck if you go ahead - I perhaps would choose a more moderate plan first time round - or simply step on another yacht and get sailing!
Cheers
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Old 20-03-2007, 02:46   #10
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There are usually quality issues with the early Taiwanese boats; but the Formosa Boat Building Co. May have been the poster child for the prototypical "Taiwan Turkey". I believe Bob Perry opined that “Formosa was generally considered the worst yard in Taiwan.”
A competent survey is absolutely essential when considering a Formosa.
Particular areas to suspect:
- Electrical
- Through-hulls, fastenings, & other hardware (anything metal)
- Tankage
FWIW,
Gord
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Old 20-03-2007, 07:12   #11
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Our boat was a project when we bought it. The boat had 3 feet of water in it. I have been replacing systems for almost 5 years now. The up side is that she is becoming very reliable, I know the boat very well and it is a labor of love. If asked if I would do it again , I would in a heart beat. The key is to buy it cheep.
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Old 20-03-2007, 08:22   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris31415
51' is a big boat. Unless you can work full time the boat could deteriorate faster than you can fix it.
I have the flexibility to devote nearly 100% of my time to this project and can do it while living aboard if needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris31415
I believe that we could put boats into five categories:-
1) Don't take it off the dock
2) Use in sheltered waters and light conditions only
3) Suitable for short coastal trips only
4) Can be used offshore with care (experienced crew, good weather window etc.)
5) The boat structure, stability and all systems are fully sorted and suitable for offshore use.
Which category would you put this boat in?
Probably a 4, the previous owner had her for 26 years and took pretty good care of her. Sailing it from his slip (located at his house) in southern CA to Catalina and back. He recently bought a bigger boat. So this is on the market reasonably priced given the work that needs to be done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by swagman
Sonds like an ambitious plan and IMHO maybe a 'plan to far' for a first yacht.
I've built a 10 M yacht from scratch and loved it - but that took almost 2 years of all the spare time I had.
A 16 M vessel has maybe 3 times the volume of a 10 M - and you'll find work expotential to that volume.
So good luck if you go ahead - I perhaps would choose a more moderate plan first time round - or simply step on another yacht and get sailing!
Cheers
JOHN
The previous two boats I owned a 38' (used) and 41' (new) were fairly maint. free (as far as boats go -- no major problems, aside from a grounding or two). So this would be my first real project boat, which does intrigue me for the reasons stated by meself and various others...

1) It's a labor of love
2) Get to know the boat from the inside out.

I think the wife liked the Absolutely NUTS reply best... she's always known that, so I think that gave me her blessing alone.

Thanks to everyone who has replied. As I said before the boat is very clean, the wood (with the exception of the two spots on the deck as mentioned) has been well cared for. The interior wood is awesome.

Thanks to Alan Wheeler also for the detailed response and to Charlie who provided some ballpark cost figures.

I will most likely go with a new engine, one that it may be easier to find parts for. I'll keep you all posted on the decision and should it be a go ahead I'll make occasional posts reflecting the findings, my musings and what not.

Hey, it's not as an agressive project as our buddy Drex ) How's he doing anyway... time to check in.

Thanks again to everyone, that's what makes this forum fantastic!

Mark
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Old 20-03-2007, 12:20   #13
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mark,

So long as you are willing to admit you are nuts and have accepted advice from people at least as nuts, then you can't get too far off the mark. So much of what awaits you is untested and unconfirmed you'll need to be prepared for the expenses and labor of it all.

I don't think sight unseen I would offer up more than has been suggested but I would agree with all the serious issues presented. Hull and deck issues as well as through hulls could as a group be bank account breakers so try to spell out those expensive issues up front before getting into the remaining seruous detailss. You need to close the chapter on all the really ugly stuff early. Anything can be done but it is about having fun at the end. There may be another way to get there so don't bring this boat totally into the family right off the get go. Reserve some final judgement after some serious survey work. After that you can be clear headed about what you have to do and go forward with some degree of certainty.

That will leave you the many many long days of labor and the expensive materials and services bills you will soon encounter. You get that automatically with a 51 ft boat. Boats require considereable expense.
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Old 20-03-2007, 14:01   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais
There may be another way to get there so don't bring this boat totally into the family right off the get go. Reserve some final judgement after some serious survey work. After that you can be clear headed about what you have to do and go forward with some degree of certainty.
Too late! Actually after the family started getting excited by the boat when they found my file of research, I began hitting the YachtWorld site almost daily and priniting other listings of boats... My version of David Copperfield and the Statue of Liberty!
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