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Old 07-10-2018, 14:03   #1
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Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

So I've spent last couple years working, saving and sacrificing so I can hang it up in my early fifties, probably have two to three years left and I will be ready. The plan was to either start a boat build (catamaran) or find a monohull that needs some attention and work towards putting together a sailboat I can live on and see the world. Now I've been a contractor my whole life and have taken on many large projects, so building a boat will not be as overwhelming for me as it would probably be for most. As well as I have many friends who also work in the trades and we've always helped each other out with projects etc. so I have scoured every sailboat ad for the last several years, even considered hurricane damaged boats but nothing has really done it for me. Yesterday I'm looking at a local ad for boat sales and I come across an ad that says free boat, 43' Bruce Robert steel hull, I guess the husband built this boat for twenty years and it was titled ad licensed in 05 and he passed away around this time. The boat has sat since then in a wooded lot, the interior was finished but who knows what it's like now. There's no engine or mast. So this boat is only two hours away from me, I'm not sure what the transport fees would run or if it would be worth the effort to bring this thing back. I know it would be pretty expensive and what is it going to be worth when finished. I hear guys on here say, just because it says free doesn't mean it's a good idea, there's usually a reason they're free. So I'm just looking for some input from someone who maybe has walked a similar route with a boat. I'm gonna try and post pictures but not sure if I know how.
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Old 07-10-2018, 14:14   #2
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

A couple of thoughts.

First, years ago when I wanted a boat but had little money I looked into building a boat. After doing the math I quickly figured out that it was far cheaper to buy a used boat than to build a new one. You might be able to build more cheaply IF you are a consummate scrounger and look for all the bits used or salvage but it would likely be a full time job for a long, long time to do it.

That brings me to the next thought. How complete is the boat, what kind of condition is it in and does it have all the expensive pieces like engine, mast and rig?

Next, where would you work on it. Even cheap yards, unless you find one way out in the boonies someplace, you'll spend a few hundred a month to keep it there while you work on it. That could add up to $5-$10k a year or more.

Finally, someone in another thread once made what I considered a very pertinent comment, do you want to be a sailor or a boat builder? Some get great satisfaction from building their own boat. Others just want to go sailing and often burn out on the project boat.
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Old 07-10-2018, 14:19   #3
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I have pictures, but m having trouble posting them.
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Old 07-10-2018, 14:32   #4
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I have southern cross 31, but before I bought it, I was really keen on a bruce roberts, I really liked the fact that they were steel (not all but the ones I was looking at) there are a lot of unfinished projects about, most of them just a hull and deck, I got the impression people built the hull and deck, then find out what a huge project, and what a huge expense it is. Fitting out a boat can be really expensive, in saying that, it can also be very cheap, just depends on how good you are at getting parts at a good price. A mast and sails could run to tens of thousands, then again, you could get them for almost free, I brought my boat from the USA to Scotland, and have for three years been re fitting it, I got a lot of the stuff out of dumpster in the marina, another boat owner gave me his cooker, because his wife wanted one that the oven had a thermostat, and that one the oven didn't, another guy gave me his sails when he replaced them, I got a free anchor chain, 200 feet of it, got a cheap liferaft, completely re wired the boat myself, that was not cheap, as I bought all the best components, waterproof LED lights, deep cycle batteries, waterproof solar system, all the best components, the electronics were no too bad as I picked them up secondhand, I did have some knowledge of things like that though, but either way that its done, it can still be more expensive than finding a boat that the owner wants rid of and is willing to let it go cheap, but if you do the boat as a project,the good thing is, you know every part of it, and every component on it when you take it out to sea, and in my experience of several boats, you don't really know everything, until you have owned the boat for a good time, and spent a lot of time on it, maybe lived on it for a year or more.

As to what that boat is going to be worth when finished, don't ever expect to make a profit on a boat, its not like buying a car doing it up and selling it, if you were to build a boat and it was to cost you 100,000 to build, you might struggle to get 50k for it when you launch it. Its also very much a buyers market, people sell to get out from under the marina fees, the boat next to me a 26 footer, was given away twice, because owners wanted out from the fees, first person to take it thought great deal, after six months of fees, and realising how much work it needed, he gave it away, next guy took it away on a trailer.
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Old 07-10-2018, 14:57   #5
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

no-one knows the point at which they will face disillusionment. I suspect that there are many points thereof in the boat building process, a strong reason why I have never undertaken a build myself. I can tell you that once you put a boat in the water you will face a whole new series of tests which may become decisive in your plans. A free boat to work on in your backyard may be the perfect treatment for whatever form of the sailing bug has ailed you - it wont be cheap but other solutions could be more expensive...
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Old 07-10-2018, 15:39   #6
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

It's not the initial cost but the maintenance and upkeep that's the killer. You can count on having to shell out $2,000 to $5,000 immediately out of pocket for unforeseen "whatever" expenses. Then your carefully calculated monthly expenses for moorage, insurance, bank payment, yard work, etc will increase by 1/4 to 1/3 right after you sign the papers.
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Old 07-10-2018, 17:22   #7
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

We built a Westsail 32 kit boat. Really helped we were young and stupid. Didn't save any money doing it ourselves and missed a year and a 1/2 we could've been out cruising. We did end up with a boat that was way better than a factory built boat and it fit us to a T. Being in the trades you are a lot more experienced than I was but you aren't getting any younger.

Really need to have a look at what's there. The interior and exterior woodwork took the most time and rigging virtually no time. If the boat has quality interior finish and an engine installed, you are looking at something south of $50,000 to buy a stick and rig it, electronics within reason, and all the other toys that seem to accumulate on an actively cruised boat. If you are going to have to tear out what's there and start over, time is your enemy.
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Old 07-10-2018, 17:57   #8
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Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I have a friend who had a steel boat. It sounds great until you try to keep it painted. Sailed like a tank. They rust unless it is not regular steel and some variant that is Corten that rusts and creates an oxidized finish. While it forms the oxidized finish, it runs rust all,over anything nearby. Huge maintenance and for what value -so you can run over a steel container and still probably get a hole? Be very wary of this boat.
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Old 07-10-2018, 18:17   #9
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

Itís all about condition, your skills and expertise in evaluating that and your appetite for learning and the skill sets of your friends who are able to help out.

Itís two hours away. Go look at it. If you donít know after that then you donít have the skills and knowledge to evaluate it and make a sensible decision about whether you should take the plunge.

Asking here for advice is sort of like asking if we think the engines on the jet youíre about to board are well maintained. We canít really help you out.
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Old 07-10-2018, 18:37   #10
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I used to build and repair ships and unless you are building utilitarian you are looking at a lot of work.
To go from a tanker or freighter to a cruise ship is a lot of money or time.
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Old 07-10-2018, 19:43   #11
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

Building is best when you start young and take your time with it over several years, while sailing around on weekends or vacations on a ready to sail vintage fiberglass boat picked up for a few grand. Or if you want something that is extremely personalized for very specific needs or preferences.


All the Bruce Roberts designs are pretty nice, but depend greatly on care and attention throughout the build process. A well built one is a honey of a boat. Steel you will either love, or hate. You kind of want your own facility for haulout. Oherwise you may be shelling out a lot of money over the years for yard fees. The nice thing is the ease of adding or deleting stuff and having the modifications just as sound as the rest of the hull.


An engineless project boat could be a good thing IF you have an engine and genset available. A cheap used diesel is usually cheap for a very good reason. If you have really good mechanical skills, a DIY rebuild can be a thing. Another way to bring an engineless boat to life is to go electric. Replacing a perfectly good diesel with electric is usually a bad idea, but if there is no engine you are working from a blank slate and it is maybe practical if you can live with the limitations imposed by electric drive and understand battery maintenance thoroughly.


For most people, an engineless project boat is going to be a huge drain on finances and time. The free boat can end up costing a lot more than a good sailaway vintage boat. Or it could give you a free hand at putting together something that is perfectly suited for you.


Having the funds available and plenty of time for boat shopping will eventually put you in the right place and the right time to pick up a real cherry of a distress sale. But like the lady said, sometimes you gotta kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your prince. And the good deals don't last, of course, so you got to be ready to snap it up, and know enough to be your own surveyor.
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Old 08-10-2018, 09:25   #12
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I bought a well built boat, fully kitted out, to use as an offshore vessel. 2 years later, I was ready. Belt driven auto pilot 3000 was gone, to a hydraulic pump and ram. Electrical system upgraded with a 200 amp alternator, 3000 watt inverter and wiring. Spectra sails and upgraded vang, rig and backstay, for Ham radio. Liferaft, Epirb, emergency parts for everything, total was bout $70K. But for me, it as the 2 years, of thinking, finding, arranging, spending ALL my time to get ready. Did it pay off? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Probably trade dollars for expertise. Like living aboard, it' not the size of the boat, it's a lifestyle. Get ready to change yours.
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Old 08-10-2018, 09:38   #13
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

I started building a boat a Dudley Dix a CW925 32' boat. I built the rigid back, the frames and stations and had them on the rigid back. At which point my father-in-law wanted his shed back. I sold the plans and took everything apart. I'm still using the wood I bought.

While I was building I found a 30' boat for sale in a bad state but I was after the fittings and engine. I bought it but two days later I was refunded as the boat should not have been sold.

Later in that yard I found a Colvic Victor 34 which was a repossession and up for a forced sale. The boat just "spoke" to me which I was advised was a good sign.

It was in a state but the price was good and when I offered a bid of 30% they didn't laugh at me. I came away with a boat at a third of the going rate.

That was in 2002. I spent 6 years refitting a boat which had never been sailed or driven. It has now been in the water 10 years, coming out once for an engine refit. So I give the following advice.

1. If the boat "talks" to you then you are made for each other but it needs to be true love.
2. Everything takes longer than you think, much longer. It always costs more too.
3. Sometimes its better to buy a boat that's "complete" and modify it, it spreads the cost and you get what you want
4. When planning time and costs work it out and move to the next unit up. I.e. a job that should take a week will take a month.
5. Have time to still sail, it helps the dreams.
6. Make sure that everyone around you supports your dream too.
7. Don't skimp on the quality of tools. I would have taken less time if I had bought better drills, saws etc.
8. I would still be building my original boat, whereas I have had ten years sailing.
9. I have spent as much in parts as I would have done buying the same model afloat, only I would never have been allowed to spend that much in one go.
10. I dreamt of a 27 ft boat, started building a 32 ft boat and mine is about 40' overall.
I am still modifying our boat 10 years after the initial launch. Experience is that thing that allows you to make a different mistake next time.


As someone said here "are you a boat sailor or a boat builder?" I was the former but by necessity I became the latter otherwise I would still be a dinghy sailor.
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Old 08-10-2018, 09:49   #14
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

What Suijin said: it's close to you, so go check it out. If the guy did a good job on finishing the interior and someone has kept the rain out, maybe baby.
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Old 08-10-2018, 10:12   #15
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Re: Bruce Roberts barn find- is it worth it?

Forget it, just dont
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