With the Toronto Boat Show just around the corner, I thought that I should revisit a topic that I had published a number of years ago. I have been in the marine business for 25 years. I have owned and rebuilt many boats both power and sail. So now I would like to share some insight and give some advice that I think will hopefully prevent bitter disillusionment of boating in the future.
DO NOT BUY A “PROJECT" BOAT AS YOUR FIRST BOAT!!!!!
Definition: A boat in need of many repairs or upgrades before becoming "seaworthy".
As tempting as it may seem, especially when considering the price of a new boat vs. a fixer-upper; to rebuild even a modest boat is a large and expensive undertaking not to mention very time-consuming. There are many expensive and often unforeseen pitfalls to restoring any boat and as proof, my yard is littered with abandoned "project" boats that people have purchased with dreams of gentle breezes and warm starry nights in quiet anchorages, only to end up with large bills, and an unusable boat with no end in sight. Note there is a difference between a boat which requires a little work and a "project boat"!
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before buying:
#1 Location: Where will I work on this boat?
Many marinas will not allow any (but minor) repairs to be done by the owner for insurance reasons and to protect other boaters from incorrect repairs that in some cases could cause injury or death. Also, you will be working on prime waterfront property and storage fees reflect that. My fees at this time are $5.25 per ft. per month, OUTSIDE, not including utilities. This is comparable to working on your car in a downtown city parking lot!
#2 Expenses: What will it cost?
Like many consumer goods, to replace some or all of the parts of an item it is 10 to 100 times more than the original item and marine goods are expensive to start with! They must meet the same high standard whether the boat is used in the arctic or the local duck pond. We use a rule of thumb, whatever the cost estimate, double it add 40% and this will be closer to the actual cost. Also, any repairs that you cannot do yourself must be done by a licensed tradesman approved by the marina at a cost of $75 to $100 per hour plus parts.
#3 Time: How long will it take?
Marine repairs generally take twice as long as any other repairs. You're working with different tools, equipment, and supplies that you normally do not use around the house. Similarly, the skills needed are generally not within the normal training of the average handyman. The same rule of thumb applies to time as with cost. The average number of workable weekends in the summer is 12, so you can see time is limited. In addition, if you have any other hobbies, interests, or obligations, this will further limit time available to work on the boat however the costs will continue to incur as you are still paying for storage.
In conclusion, it is far better to buy a smaller boat that is already seaworthy and in need only minor cosmetic repairs as your first boat than to take on a large rebuild. It is also a lot more fun! It's a buyer’s market at this moment for older boats which are still in good condition. Wander the marinas in your area, talk to the staff and you may find a treasure.
If you are still considering buying a vessel which requires a fair amount of work, remember to do your research, be aware of the boats' and your own limitations (such as time, money, dedication to the project, skill, and availability of marine professionals for advice and expertise) make a plan, and ask a lot of questions before buying!
In addition, make sure to always hire a marine surveyor before buying!!!
This is another topic I will touch upon in the future.
If these observations have discouraged you, do not despair as there are other exciting options I will explore in my next post.