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Old 12-10-2009, 05:54   #1
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Upgrading Amenities on Old Boat (Head, Stove, etc.)

So I've been looking over some 27'ish boats from the '60s and '70s and many seem to be well within my price range but missing some things that I would really want if I lived aboard. Columbias, ericsons, irwins, etc. Trying to get an idea for what all it would cost to do some basic upgrades so I can get a better feel for prices.

Common upgrades that I would want to do:

A lot have porta potties, either because the boat had a porta potty or it had a macerator which is no longer legal or head problems and the owner just threw in a porta potty. I would want to upgrade to a proper head with holding tank. Dealt with a porta potty before and don't enjoy hauling them up the dock. Seems like an inexpensive head and holding tank with deck pumpout would cost about $600 in parts.

A lot had 1-2 burner alcohol stoves. Would like to upgrade to propane. Seems like for a cheap propane stove, hanging the propane canister off the stern pulpit, associated hoses, propane sniffer, you're looking at maybe $900+. Maybe better just to use those portable butane burners.

Most have a small very aged water tank that makes the water taste bad and hand pumps for the faucets. I'd like to upgrade to pressure water with a larger tank. Seems surprisingly inexpensive so maybe I'm missing something. Around $400 maybe for tank and pressure pump. Maybe $200 for 2 faucets. Along with that a small hot water heater (around $250) or one of those small on-demand propane water heaters (around $100?). Adding a deck fill would probably be another $100?

Adding a shore power plug on the outside of the boat and some power outlets inside the boat...no idea about costs but seems like it shouldn't be too expensive. Just a lot of work and have to be careful with the wiring.

None seem to have showers. I'd really like to install a shower but don't know if that's even possible. There are some shower sump systems available but not sure if there's enough room to install one on a small-ish older boat. That seems like a huge project, but maybe I'm missing something...seems like you would have to raise the floor of the head to fit the shower sump, build a fiberglass lip so the water doesn't leak out into the rest of the boat, and at that point have about 5' 6" headroom in the shower/head which would kind of suck.

Do those estimates seem at all realistic?
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Old 12-10-2009, 06:29   #2
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Do those estimates seem at all realistic?
Yes, but the expense would make one wonder if its not better to buy a boat already set up that way?

Look at each object or service you buy for your boat. You will be paying retail price for it and retail price to install it, or your own time. Whereas if yo buy it on an existing boat already installed you will be paying at most the second hand price and nothing for the time.

Fodder for the chook pen...?


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Old 12-10-2009, 07:29   #3
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I have overhauled two pocket cruisers in that price range and it was more a matter of time than money. I installed a head and holding tank for much less than you mentioned. (though I didn't need new through hulls. Maybe just a bit more than you mentioned including thru-hulls.) Buying a circuit board and rewiring most of the boat was only a few hundred. I just went with simple foot pumps for the sinks, more to save water and have a simple system than to save money, still that was less than $200 for the pump, hose and spigot. No priming issues with a foot pump and both your hands are free.

Camp stoves with 1 pound propane cylinders are basic, but practical and inexpensive, though it's not what I'd use for live aboard. On one boat, I simply used one of those gimballed ones that fits into a bracket on a bulkhead. I mounted a bracket in the cockpit as well, so I could cook outside when it was hot inside. I could even reach it from inside. On one boat, I created a small vented locker for the cylinders in unused space in the transom. It's hard to argue the economics of stoves for around $100 and $2/week on small propane canisters.

A shower on most 27-ish boats will be tight.



If it's just basic systems, you can get by fairly inexpensively, much less expensively than buying a newer boat and you will know all the systems which can be a huge benefit in trouble shooting. If you like instruments, that can start adding up when old ones fail, but if you keep it simple, that isn't all that bad either. You can get a hand held gps, basic VHF and install an depth sounder all for under a grand.

Expenses that will get you more if you need them are things like an inboard engine, refrigeration, power producing systems, water makers, etc.
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Old 12-10-2009, 09:06   #4
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Yeah, refrigeration is another I should probably add to the list.

I tend to high ball the prices to make sure I have enough room for unexpected expenses.

I was thinking of the little portable butane burners. I've used a camp stove before and they're big, a little hard to adjust for low heat, and the elbow before the canister makes them a little hard to fit in the galley. The butane ones are much more compact and work pretty well. Amazon.com: Deluxe Butane Burner Stove & Free Case: Sports & Outdoors

I like foot pumps for a sink. I was thinking if I ever put a shower in then I'd want pressure.

It'd be nice to find a boat with all that stuff done but once you get into that age range it seems like very few that are for sale have been updated. Seems like to get a boat with those features I'd be looking at a cheaper built boat from the early '80s like a lancer and it would be quite a bit more expensive. Though just saw an ad for a Newport 28 that doesn't look too shabby...floor boards are in bad shape though.
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Old 12-10-2009, 09:34   #5
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Upgrading Amenities on Old Boat (Head, Stove, etc.)

You've just described my life for the past 7 years or so.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:03   #6
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I was thinking of the little portable butane burners. I've used a camp stove before and they're big, a little hard to adjust for low heat, and the elbow before the canister makes them a little hard to fit in the galley. The butane ones are much more compact and work pretty well....
I run an outdoor program and one reason we stay away from the butane stoves is that the fuel cartridges are both expensive and hard to find. The 1 pound propane tanks are available most everywhere and you get a lot of burn time for your buck.

Also, many camp stoves are not bulky. Some single burner ones have no bigger footprint than the pot you will likely put on it. Coleman makes a two-burner stove that allows the burners to fold on top of each other for compact storage. You could bolt it to the counter top, but fold the other burner over when not using it to give you more room. The gimballed bulkhead ones are very small and take up no counter space and the propane cylinder hangs below it. You can even easily slide them out of the bracket for storage else where.

If you purchase a counter top burner with a flexible fuel hose instead of the rigid one, you can also run a flexible fuel hose anywhere. (buy an extension) The cylinder does not have to sit next to the stove.

I'll also add, it's good to have ideas in the back of your head, but the outfitting and configuration of the boat will dictate a great deal.

I just purchased a Waeco compressor fridge for under $300. (They sell from R.V. bulk supply stores for half of what you'll find them for in the marine catalogs) It's small and has good reviews, but I have not used it yet. I'm going to remove the alcohol stove/oven unit from my 30-footer and put the fridge and propane camp stove in the same space.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:10   #7
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I think your estimates are pretty good. As opposed to a camp stove, consider if you really need an oven...? You can get a nice 3 burner cook top for $130. We seldom used the oven on a lot of our boats. (btw, anything you can cook in an oven you can cook in a pressure cooker) You dont mention how much your budget is... but in today's world, you should be able to find an 80's 30 footer with all those amenities already in place for $10000..... (60's and 70's boats are getting real old) I'm assuming you are just coastal cruising. I saw a Catalina 30 on Seattle Craig's list a while back for $4500...
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:47   #8
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buy a newer boat with what you need .. go sailing not spending years rebuilding a boat.
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:56   #9
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Probably $4,000-$5,000 in decent shape without amenities, $10,000+ in decent shape with most of the amenities, from what I've seen. Maybe an extra $2,000 for inboard diesel as compared to outboard. An occasional steal but they go fast.

I've also seen some foldable/portable oven boxes that fit over a stove burner. Don't know how they perform. The only thing I would miss an oven for are the occasional prepared foods (chicken strips, that sort of thing).

My impression was that a 2 burner marine range was about $400-500. With an oven maybe $1,000. I guess you could install a home or RV version for cheaper. I actually like the idea of a small portable burner because I find that pan-searing steaks on high heat down below can really stink up a boat. Would rather do that in the cockpit.

I don't plan on going offshore anytime soon. Probably the worst I'd have to deal with would be the straits of juan de fuca.
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:59   #10
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Yea an outdoor bbq is nice. I just bought a 3 burner stainless RV cooktop to put in mine. I guess mcnuggets could be done in a fry pan...?
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Old 12-10-2009, 23:47   #11
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I have a part ownership of an ericson 27' and it looks like the guy I was sharing with has hit upon hard times. I could probably get the rest of the boat for a very low price. I re-did the settees which are very nice to sleep on, love the layout, good sails, good outboard, hull and deck in amazing shape...very tempting. Would want to upgrade the head, water tank, replace depth sounder, and add better shore power at least. Also, no crown on the passageway hatch which I would like to fix. New forward hatch eventually. Hmm, that's a bit of work.
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Old 13-10-2009, 02:23   #12
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You're planning about 200+ hours for your upgrade and probably looking at more than a few boat bucks.

If you are at all stretched for time let's say your time is worth $20ph so not a lot of change from $7 grand.

Could it be that you really want a nicer boat so before getting into a lot of upgrades that may not add value have you checked your finances and looked at boats that you really like?

Sounds like your current boat is not totally "Admiral Friendly" and it's possible that your upgrades may not improve that by much.

Why not work out what you want will really cost, buy out your partner and keep your boat (sounds quite serviceable) as it is until you can buy another boat?
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Old 13-10-2009, 11:16   #13
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two things

DONT get a cheap head. You will be very sorry when you have to rebuild it on that special weekend with your wife or girlfriend. At that point you will say to yourself "I would pay $200 not to be doing this right now". So pay the money up front and dont be doing it. Also, you want top of the line hoses for the head and holding tank unless you like the smell of sewage

Second, consider an Origo non pressurized alcohol stove. Yes, alcohol stoves have a bad rep but that is because pressurized ones truly can be dangerous. Origos dont have any of the flareup issues of pressurized stoves and even better for a retrofit, have no hoses or tanks to run them to. WIth almost no moving parts they are pretty much bulletproof. Also, alcohol evaporates if it spills instead of collecting in the bilge the way propane does.
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Old 13-10-2009, 12:03   #14
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I would definitely like a nicer boat, but it's basically impossible for me to get a loan at this point due to starting a business this past January. So, I've got to pay it all in cash for now which limits my options quite a bit. I've applied for loans and could easily afford the payments, but they want a co-signer.

I was hoping to live aboard but maybe that's not in the cards for now. It probably makes a lot more sense to wait and buy a boat I really like, but I guess I'm just impatient. It would be quite a while to save up that kind of money ($25k at a minimum, $40-50k for something I'd really like) in cash. No admiral at this time.
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Old 13-10-2009, 12:16   #15
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our marina will not allow livaboards on less than 30'. it tends to be a symtom of personal issues which can become a problem for marina owners. not paying the rent, drugs, domestic violence, theft, eyesore......

not that everyone living on a <30' boat is that way, it is just that there are alot of people out there on small boats with those problems.

at our marina we just got rid of someone on a 34' who whas all of that and more, not to mention one a few months ago on a 34' who was kicked out after 4 days.

my advice is to look for something a bit bigger with the stove and shower or wet head.
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