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Old 28-04-2021, 08:32   #1
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Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Hey everyone- I saw a thread recently of someone noting how sad it is to watch project boats get abandoned and demolished, and it got me thinking as someone who just restored a yard queen and successfully took her somewhere (from Annapolis to Florida and then back to Norfolk), and who has done sailing on both project boats and non-project boats (if that is even a thing), that perhaps my personal pro/con list to the "do I restore a boat or do I buy a ready-to-sail one" might help some people who are considering the same thing, or provide some insight to the "where do I start to sail into the sunset?" crowd.

So, my boat is a steel Dutch-built 1974 30-footer. She had been sitting on the hard for somewhere between 10 and 20 years, with the cabin locked and the key lost, and I owned the boat before I had even cut that lock off the cabin and seen the inside. I spent April 2020-January 2021 restoring her, which included replacing the entire drivetrain, all of the electrical, all of the plumbing, all of the rigging minus the mast and boom themselves, repainting everything above and below the waterline and inside, repouring concrete in the bilges, hiring a welder to replace through-hulls that I could snap off with my hand, and tracking down a plethora of parts that no longer existed or were, for some reason, a mix of imperial and metric sizes. And despite the fact that this was a total overhaul, I still managed to miss things. The best example is my stern tube that I've mentioned in a previous post- despite the fact that I thought I knew every square inch of the boat, I managed to miss that it was corroded through in multiple spots and was held together by 30-year-old emergency tape left behind by the previous owner, until that tape decided to retire 1000 miles from home and I was forced into an emergency haulout and month-long weld repair. So, from this experience, this is what I have:

Cons to saving the yard queen:
1. It was not at all cheaper than buying a similar-sized boat that just needed some fresh paint, and obviously took significantly more time (this was my full-time engagement for the entirety of the overhaul; when I wasn't working, I was on the boat)
2. I spent a decent amount of my time worrying that my repairs and upgrades were done incorrectly or not well enough, or that I missed something, and that ended up being confirmed in a few cases, most notably the corroded-through-stern-tube
3. I was lucky that my boat was savable in the first place; if she'd been made out of a lower grade of steel, for example, she probably would've been rusted beyond repair on the stands before I got to her
4. I had no idea how she'd sail during all those months I was working on the hard; there was no opportunity for a trial to see if I liked how she handled before I already invested over half of the time and money that would end up going into her
5. Despite the fact that the shotty tape on my stern tube decided to wait to give until I was back in the ICW and relatively close to a yard, it easily could have gone out a week prior when I was offshore and could not even reach it to slap emergency epoxy/anything on it. The fact that she was a yard queen with large hidden problems could have resulted in complete disaster.

Pros to saving the yard queen:
1. I knew every inch of the boat (except apparently the exact one that I couldn't see or feel and apparently mattered the most), and I knew how all of my systems worked since I installed them myself
2. I got to customize everything to my liking, all the way down to the spacing between the mast steps to fit my exact height
3. I was forced to do tons of research that I may not have done otherwise
4. I was forced to spend a crazy amount of time in hardware stores, etc and interact with experts that I may not have met otherwise
5. I got to save a boat that now has a lot of life left in her
6. There is, in my opinion, twice as much satisfaction in completing a trip under an engine I installed myself, sails and rigging I picked out, and a boat that would have sank at launch if not for the repairs I did than if I had done the same trip in a ready-to-sail boat
7. While I would've learned a lot through this trip in any boat I'd picked, I learned five times as much through the fact that I restored the boat myself first and it made it even more unforgettable

I'm curious to see what others might have to say on it- I'm hoping this thread might turn into something more substantive than the "do it, you'll find purpose and satisfaction" and "don't do it, you'll throw away all your money and injure yourself or worse" back-and-forths that sometimes come out of people asking whether they should get a fixer-upper or not. Because I do think there's a case to be made for both- in my case, I don't plan on saving any other yard queens, but I also wouldn't go back and change a thing about how I saved this one.
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Old 28-04-2021, 08:45   #2
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

My son, when he was 15, did something similar with our next door neighbor who bought a relic which was holed. He learned a lot in the process and my neighbor got a lot of free labor. Great learning experience but he would agree it’s not as enjoyable as simply buying a good boat and using it. Th neighbor died soon after the refit was complete.
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Old 28-04-2021, 08:52   #3
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

I think your pros are great. Knowing your boat and it's systems are one reason I like tearing into things also.

I think the only way I would buy any boat is if I could sail it right away and repair and upgrade as I go along. I don't believe I have the fortitude to keep at it for as long as you did. I also have a habit of reformulating the plan as I go, either as I nod off to sleep or standing over the project thinking "While I'm here, I might as well..." which could really throw a wrench in the timing.

Sitting on the deck enjoying the sun while seeing all your hard work accomplished is a great feeling though.
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Old 28-04-2021, 14:10   #4
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

KelseyB I restored half a 32 yacht wreck when I was 19. The other half of the yacht was scattered on the beach. The boat was not really a financially viable project but when you are earning less than $300 a week and want a yacht your options are fairly limited. I was lucky because I was a boat building apprentice so I had free hard stand and access to a huge workshop. Luckily for me once I got stuck into the project I had lots of materials donated to me. The boss Mike Muir also let me run up a big yard bill so I could get the yacht in the water. Even on launch day 9 months later I had no idea where I was going to keep the yacht until Ken Simmons turned up with his marina keys and gave me his empty berth for the next three months.
Overall it was good experience (certainly had more than one hangover when a days work with mates turned into a party) and one I have repeated a few times, until the wife told me to wise up and build exactly what we want.
Cheers
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Old 28-04-2021, 14:21   #5
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Chapeau!

Seriously, hat's off, Kelsey. Glad you're back and nice to learn your perspective on what you accomplished.

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Old 28-04-2021, 16:39   #6
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

personally, i couldn't do it and big respect for your perseverance !

i can see the ownership benefits of knowing the boat intimately and the satisfaction would be immense

on the other hand financially it could be a disaster (there is a chap next door restoring a 50' steel POS...he'll spend 3 years hard work, and $30k, and finish up with something worth $20k)

the key is selecting the right boat...one with good bones and sweet lines, and one where the work involved adds value. although i could never take on a job your size, out of the 10 or so yachts we've owned over the last 30 years, we've actually made money on 2 or 3 of them simply by buying carefully

cheers,
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Old 28-04-2021, 21:21   #7
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

You list not knowing whether your repairs are good enough as being a con. I'd argue that at least you know what you have or haven't done. When you buy something supposedly ready to go, do you really have greater faith in the PO's abilities than your own? And there are plenty of threads on here attesting to the ability of surveyors to get it wrong, so that's not a 100% guarantee either.
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Old 28-04-2021, 22:05   #8
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fore and Aft View Post
I restored half a 32 yacht wreck when I was 19...

Overall it was good experience and one I have repeated a few times, until the wife told me to wise up and build exactly what we want.
A good point too

Often a lot of repair and refit work is done at great time and cost only to end up with something less suitable, more expensive, and with poorer resale value, than buying or building the correct boat in the first place.

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Old 29-04-2021, 05:47   #9
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

I think it is really pretty simple. If you will enjoy working on the project just as much as sailing, then buy a project boat. If your objective is to get out sailing as quickly and inexpensively as possible, then spend the money to buy a boat that is NOT a project.

It is very clear to me, based on the postings I see on this forum, who the people are that get lost in the weeds on this sort of thing. They are the ones who want to go sailing as soon as possible, and make the mistake of thinking that buying a project boat, and fixing it up will, be quicker and less expensive than continuing to work and save for a boat that is in better condition to begin with.

Buy a project boat if you like the idea of working on a project, and eventually want a boat. Buy a boat that is ready to go now if what you want to do is go now. (With the understanding that almost no boat is really ready to go "now," but some are WAAAAAY closer than others.)
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Old 29-04-2021, 07:09   #10
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
I think it is really pretty simple. If you will enjoy working on the project just as much as sailing, then buy a project boat. If your objective is to get out sailing as quickly and inexpensively as possible, then spend the money to buy a boat that is NOT a project.

It is very clear to me, based on the postings I see on this forum, who the people are that get lost in the weeds on this sort of thing. They are the ones who want to go sailing as soon as possible, and make the mistake of thinking that buying a project boat, and fixing it up will, be quicker and less expensive than continuing to work and save for a boat that is in better condition to begin with.

Buy a project boat if you like the idea of working on a project, and eventually want a boat. Buy a boat that is ready to go now if what you want to do is go now. (With the understanding that almost no boat is really ready to go "now," but some are WAAAAAY closer than others.)
Yep, get a project boat if you like to work on boats.

The OP seems to be the exception. Very few people who do project boats seem to make the leap to cruising. Usually they move on to the next project.

And there is nothing wrong with enjoying a project. As you say, the ones who get into trouble are the ones thinking the $500 heap of junk is going to get them on the water quick and cheap. The majority of those boats wind up back in the yard rotting when reality sets in.
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Old 29-04-2021, 08:44   #11
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Quote:
Originally Posted by KelseyB View Post
Hey everyone- I saw a thread recently of someone noting how sad it is to watch project boats get abandoned and demolished, and it got me thinking as someone who just restored a yard queen and successfully took her somewhere (from Annapolis to Florida and then back to Norfolk), and who has done sailing on both project boats and non-project boats (if that is even a thing), that perhaps my personal pro/con list to the "do I restore a boat or do I buy a ready-to-sail one" might help some people who are considering the same thing, or provide some insight to the "where do I start to sail into the sunset?" crowd.

So, my boat is a steel Dutch-built 1974 30-footer. She had been sitting on the hard for somewhere between 10 and 20 years, with the cabin locked and the key lost, and I owned the boat before I had even cut that lock off the cabin and seen the inside. I spent April 2020-January 2021 restoring her, which included replacing the entire drivetrain, all of the electrical, all of the plumbing, all of the rigging minus the mast and boom themselves, repainting everything above and below the waterline and inside, repouring concrete in the bilges, hiring a welder to replace through-hulls that I could snap off with my hand, and tracking down a plethora of parts that no longer existed or were, for some reason, a mix of imperial and metric sizes. And despite the fact that this was a total overhaul, I still managed to miss things. The best example is my stern tube that I've mentioned in a previous post- despite the fact that I thought I knew every square inch of the boat, I managed to miss that it was corroded through in multiple spots and was held together by 30-year-old emergency tape left behind by the previous owner, until that tape decided to retire 1000 miles from home and I was forced into an emergency haulout and month-long weld repair. So, from this experience, this is what I have:

Cons to saving the yard queen:
1. It was not at all cheaper than buying a similar-sized boat that just needed some fresh paint, and obviously took significantly more time (this was my full-time engagement for the entirety of the overhaul; when I wasn't working, I was on the boat)
2. I spent a decent amount of my time worrying that my repairs and upgrades were done incorrectly or not well enough, or that I missed something, and that ended up being confirmed in a few cases, most notably the corroded-through-stern-tube
3. I was lucky that my boat was savable in the first place; if she'd been made out of a lower grade of steel, for example, she probably would've been rusted beyond repair on the stands before I got to her
4. I had no idea how she'd sail during all those months I was working on the hard; there was no opportunity for a trial to see if I liked how she handled before I already invested over half of the time and money that would end up going into her
5. Despite the fact that the shotty tape on my stern tube decided to wait to give until I was back in the ICW and relatively close to a yard, it easily could have gone out a week prior when I was offshore and could not even reach it to slap emergency epoxy/anything on it. The fact that she was a yard queen with large hidden problems could have resulted in complete disaster.

Pros to saving the yard queen:
1. I knew every inch of the boat (except apparently the exact one that I couldn't see or feel and apparently mattered the most), and I knew how all of my systems worked since I installed them myself
2. I got to customize everything to my liking, all the way down to the spacing between the mast steps to fit my exact height
3. I was forced to do tons of research that I may not have done otherwise
4. I was forced to spend a crazy amount of time in hardware stores, etc and interact with experts that I may not have met otherwise
5. I got to save a boat that now has a lot of life left in her
6. There is, in my opinion, twice as much satisfaction in completing a trip under an engine I installed myself, sails and rigging I picked out, and a boat that would have sank at launch if not for the repairs I did than if I had done the same trip in a ready-to-sail boat
7. While I would've learned a lot through this trip in any boat I'd picked, I learned five times as much through the fact that I restored the boat myself first and it made it even more unforgettable

I'm curious to see what others might have to say on it- I'm hoping this thread might turn into something more substantive than the "do it, you'll find purpose and satisfaction" and "don't do it, you'll throw away all your money and injure yourself or worse" back-and-forths that sometimes come out of people asking whether they should get a fixer-upper or not. Because I do think there's a case to be made for both- in my case, I don't plan on saving any other yard queens, but I also wouldn't go back and change a thing about how I saved this one.
I think this is a classic "labor of love" scenario. Anyone who doesn't already know they love working on boats should never attempt this - hence all the unfinished boat projects out there. For most of us, I think there is more than enough work to be done on a boat in relatively good shape to keep us busy. You were lucky as steel boats tend to have the worst rusting on the inside where you didn't look prior to purchasing it. By your own admission, you probably didn't save any money. But if you truly enjoy doing this type of work, more power to you. Let's face it, there's a lot of more expensive hobbies that are often less satisfying.
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Old 29-04-2021, 08:57   #12
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Bravo Kelsey - what a great post. I'm glad to see it worked for you.

We have been doing the same thing to a lesser extent but on a larger scale. The only way we could afford a big boat was to buy a project. Ours (ferrocement, but we've had steel in the past) had been built to high standards but then the last two owners just duct taped their way out of every problem for a couple of decades.

We started on the "this could sink the boat" problems in 2015 and just went from there.

We began long term cruising (April - Oct) in 2018 with still more projects to do, but these projects were the ones that made life easier -update refrigeration, new windlass, mostly spend money and then a couple of weeks here and there to install.

Covid shut down our cruising area (we're in Washington and we cruise British Columbia) so instead we spent some serious money on a new inverter, 2 roller furlers (previous were hank on sails), 2 new sails, new autopilot. Now you're talking!

Now we're stressing about replacing the 40 year old upholstery instead of life and death issues. Would I do it again? No. I've done this and I'm proud of it and, like you I've learned more than I ever imagined, but times passing and it was always about sailing for me.

Rehabbing this boat has made it a living thing for me - in a way my previous boats never were. I know every inch of it, it still has flaws, but so do I, and we're comfortable with each other's flaws...
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Old 29-04-2021, 09:09   #13
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

Been there, done that, have the “satisfaction” tee shirt. My little project took four years, but it was fiberglass (mega kudos to you for taking on a steel ship!) and I learned:
1. There’s nothing more time can’t fix;
2. There’s nothing more money can fix; and
3. There’s nothing another can of epoxy can’t fix.

Would I do it again? Once was enough, but having said that, our follow-up boat was “cruise ready,” and I’ll refer you to the above three lesson...
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Old 29-04-2021, 09:12   #14
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

I saved two yard queens and one Hinckley Bermuda Yawl with a history which was used as a live-aboard. I do not regret at all the many hours of hard work and the expense to put them back at sea. It was a great learning experience. I know my now 52 year old yawl in and out and enjoy every minute sailing her.
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Old 29-04-2021, 09:13   #15
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Re: Saving a Yard Queen vs. Not Doing That

All this depends on your yard. We are a frugal bunch to say the least, and it takes a really good yard to put up with us tearing down a yard queen and getting her back in the water. When she is nearing completion, trying to haggle over basic costs- especially after borrowing tools and plugging into their electricity, and trying to get them to allow you to paint the hull yourself, etc., is sometimes not appreciated or against yard policy or state or Provincial laws, and may bring up some of your basic costs in the future. Of course, the fact that you have freed up space in the yard and gotten a clunker back in the water is a plus in this regard, and sometimes counters this tendency at the yard.
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