Bruce Roberts 44 Offshore. Design, refit and modifications.

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Rolf East, Mar 27, 2022.

  1. Rolf East
    Joined: Mar 2022
    Posts: 7
    Likes: 6, Points: 3
    Location: Norway

    Rolf East Junior Member

    Thanks for a very good forum. I have been reading here for some time and gained valuable knowledge.
    I would very much like to share my project with you.

    I have bought a Bruce Roberts 44 Offshore, that I plan to turn into a home that can go almost anywhere and be be self sufficient for long periods.
    The boat is an abandoned project, that has been sitting idle for 8 years in salt water. At some point in its life, there has been a fire onboard and subsequently it almost just an empty hull that needs to be built up from scratch. There is no obvious distortion of the steel, so I recon it has not been heated beyond a critical temperature (600 deg. C for 20 minutes?).

    The hull is apparently in good shape; the anodes were half gone and there seems to be no rust outside under the waterline, and the epoxy barrier is intact.
    Inside it has been repainted after the fire, and the barrier seems to be good, except for several places around the longitudinal stringers, where condensation has gathered and rust formed. Obviously an error by the builder, not to establish efficient drainage.
    It is a ketch rig, with a functioning but old main rig and a mizzen mast and rig that needs to be modified and have new wires.
    It has a 1,5 meter wide wing keel with 4 ton of led, bolted on the normal vertical keel, witch is also the main diesel tank.
    There is no engine and no electronics installed.

    The restoration will be made in several stages, at least three.
    1. Making the boat operational for coastal sailing, before mid summer this year.
    2. Continuing the process, while using the boat, and having another period of intensive work next winter, in harbour.
    3. In a few years time, after saving some money and doing some good thinking and testing, I will do alterations and upgrades, to make the boat suited for ocean passage and ice encounters.

    I am on a fairly strict budget, and need to find relatively cheap solutions and use as little professional help as possible.
    But I like to design and build stuff, so I will enjoy a long, slow and thoughtful process, with some alternative solutions and a focus on environmental friendliness.
    I am a relatively skilled carpenter and have experience with various types of handcrafting. It is my second sailboat, so I am familiar with both boats and sailing.

    Things I plan to do this spring and summer:
    - Install an engine. I have several options, a hybrid diesel/electric is one of them, and what I aim for in the long run.
    - Weld on studs for anodes. (the current ones are welded on.).
    - Remove old antifouling and apply a hard antifouling, probably gel based (Seaspeed, Hempadur or similar).
    - Weld the wing and keel to one solid piece.
    - Repair internal rust and establish efficient drainage of the stringers.
    -Install hydraulic steering and an autopilot.
    - Install a basic electric system and electronic equipment.
    - Reinstall water and wastewater tanks and establish basic plumbing for kitchen and bathroom.
    - Build a composting toilet.
    - Reposition door openings and other internal structures.
    - Build a minimum of furniture; workshop, lounge, bathroom and kitchen.
    - Build a new steering position on the aft deck, which will also contain an amount of electronics and other installations and be accessible from the inside. (See attachment.)

    ...and probably a lot of other things that I forget in this moment.

    And with time, I'd like to do the following:
    - Extend the boat aft, so I get a lazaret and still keep the boat under 15m total length. I wanted to do this now, but have to postpone, due to steel prices 4 times the normal. (Don't mention the war.)
    - Ad an icebreaker on the bow, in form of a flat steel bar.
    - Reinforce the skeg. Maybe extending the keel aft with a keel cooler, so that it connects to the skeg.
    - Insulate the hull. Preferably with sheep wool.

    I would very much appreciate to hear your opinions and thoughts about it all

    Maybe many subjects are best handled in separate threads, but for now I am in particular interested in your thoughts on extending the hull and what you think of the design of it.
    I have attached some pictures and drawings from a Sketchup model I made. Let me know if you want a copy of the files.

    I am sure I forgot to mention a bunch of things, but I think I will just post this and add later if I forgot something important.

    Attached Files:

  2. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    4t of lead is worth ~70 000 NOK. Add to that whatever you get for the scrap steel and other sellable parts and use the money to buy a boat that is useable.
    A boat that had a fire would have to be sandblasted inside before repainting. Right now you have a hull, and lack the rest of the of the parts and labor to make it a boat. Wich is to say, your project stands at 15% complete, and that is actually the cheap part of the total. It would actually make more sense to build a new (and better) hull from scratch then to refurbish this one.
    fallguy and bajansailor like this.
  3. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Rolf, please do take heed of Rumars' wise words above.
    If you built a new steel boat, it would not necessarily have to be 44' to be capable of going almost anywhere and being self sufficient for long periods of time.
    There are some nice designs available from Van de Stadt for steel boats - have a look at Van de Stadt Design - Yacht Designers and Naval Architects
    And click on 'stock plans'.

    Alternatively, if you really want to go sailing to almost anywhere (rather than building a boat for the next 5, or maybe even 10, years), then buy a boat that is ready to go - it will still be 'cheaper' in the long run than rebuilding this Roberts 44.
    BlueBell and kapnD like this.
  4. Rolf East
    Joined: Mar 2022
    Posts: 7
    Likes: 6, Points: 3
    Location: Norway

    Rolf East Junior Member

    Thanks for your advice. I know it is probably recommended to buy a boat that is closer to being ready for sea. Case is that I tried to find one for several years, and didnt manage. So this is the boat I have and what I am going for.
  5. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Well, I did try to warn you, the rest is not my problem.

    First thing on your agenda is to contact Roberts design office (he retired, there is a new guy in charge) or another NA you trust and discuss following problems:
    1. Ballast. The builder screwed up the longitudinal ballast distribution by using those wings, it needs to be corrected somehow.
    2. Modifications to keel, skeg and rudder.
    3. Ice breaking bow.
    4. Hull lengthening. While entierly doable it will add significant weight to the rear, see point 1.
    5. You want to cut into the bulkheads to move doors, this (and everything else that might effect structure) needs approval.
    6. Whatever rig modifications you want to do.

    All modifications that need welding should be done before you insulate the boat and build the interior, otherwise it's way more difficult.
    Sheep wool holds water, that's exactly the thing you don't want against a metal hull. There are basically three options, glued on closed cell foam (Armaflex type), spray in place PU, mineral wool.

    Approximate budget if you do all the work is at least 500 000 NOK. Since you probably find this too high, just look at this video of mid refit from SailingYachtZora – The Journey of Sailing Yacht Zora

  6. sharpii2
    Joined: May 2004
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    Location: Michigan, USA

    sharpii2 Senior Member

    I suggest you look up "Sailing Melody" on YouTube. A Welsh family of three purchased a 38 ft. steel sailboat. When they got it, decrepid dumpsters looked better. It was streake with rust, and had a hole in the bow big enough to stick one's head through.

    Patiently and diligently, they cut out the worst corroded parts and welded in new steel.

    They were not allowed to sand blast where the boat is kept, so they came up with various substitutes.

    The boat looks a lot better now.

    I suggest you learn as much as you can about steel boats, to find out what the rules are.
  7. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    @Rumars is one of the most positive fix it guys on the forum. If he says scrap it; give it heavy consideration.

    Even a squeaker budget for that boat repair is gonna be 250k. But we can go lower in an economic exercise.

    Take a week off of work and spend $500 on grinding equipment and safety gear and go in and do some cleanup. Measure your work pace against the total job and decide if you can do that part alone.

    Then consider fresh air needs to be forced in for paint work and all of that and you can start to establish a time budget. Probably about 5 years to get to sea.

    Lumber. Lumber is super expensive. If you have some, that would help. Have none, lumber is going to cost you about $10 a square foot.

    Nothing done on boats well is on the cheap.

    After you are done, the value of the boat is no different than the cheapest 44'er out there. So, let's say you spend 20 hours a week and 5 years on it for 5000 hours. And the money you spend it say $100,000, and the boat is then worth a fair value of $100,000. Your hours had a value of $0.

    And herein lies the problem with major boat restorations. Once they are complete, the boat's value doesn't magically become your inputs. So, $100k in low budget materials and equipment and 5000 hours at $20 an hour is $200k. And the boat will never be worth that..

    So, work out the diseconomy. It has happened to me twice where I bought a boat that needed more work than the value of the boat at resale and I scrapped them. Even that costs some money, bit you limit the hours lost.

    It is easy to cheat on real costs, the paint for a 44' boat is going to cost you at least $10k, probably more like 25...
    bajansailor and Rumars like this.
  8. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Thank you fallguy you are kind. It's not that I think the boat unsuitable for restauration, it's just that I think it's not the right project for the OP. As you said, this is going to take a lot of money and time, and his priorities are backwards. To do this kind of project in stages while sailing requires excellent planning so that you don't have to later tear out things you do now. Everything to do with welding and structure is first, systems is second, insulation third, etc., and you better have your plans set in stone.
    For all the trouble I would just find a better suited hull or build from scratch.

    If I wanted to have the boat operational this summer I would concentrate on engine, steering, basic electric for lights and anchor winch, mainmast rigging, trough hulls.
    If I got away with $20k for that and have the boat launched in july I would be more then happy.
  9. AV1US
    Joined: Mar 2022
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 4, Points: 1
    Location: USA west

    AV1US New Member

    I was not going to comment... but I feel I have to help a well meaning Norwegian. The German is right; buy a boat that is done, save yourself. I often ask myself how much time I have left (in life) and is a project worth my time. Even now, writing this, I'm budgeting my time.

    I bought a boat that had been sitting derelict for seven years (...probably more like 12-15). By the time I found it, it was rotted out swiss cheese (aft deck, forward deck, some spots in the hull and around all the ports and hatches... and all kinds of unused, unnecessary thru-hulls). The price was very cheap and the interior is above average. There are lots of systems and high quality parts that would cost me thousand$$. So far I have 3-4-5 months into it and about $25k USD.

    STRIPPING... I had to strip the boat down completely and weld in many places. I was lucky that the Ameron/PPG paint had failed (40 years old, dry and brittle). The yard had rules about paint stripping and disposal (they call it "environ-mental", even the Europeans that used the yard were complaining about it). Three options, 1) sand blast ($5-8k, yard monkeys were the only ones allowed to do this) 2) chemical stripper (cheap, 5 gallon pal of industrial stripper, messy, will it work??) 3) mechanical chipper (hmmm... chisel not needle; needle will not do the job fast enough).You need to do the cost benefit analysis. Remember, the yard will always try to tilt the rules in their favor, so that they can make the money off of you (the greedy side of a Capitalist society). They messed with me in every way they could, have to work hard and fast... I ended up choosing to build a chipper out of a mechanics pneumatic hammer and a 4" cold chisel. I welded the chisel to a special shaft for the gun. You want to keep the chisel shafts as cool as possible; the hotter they get from welding the faster they snap-off. Also, the cheap tools broke or deformed. Re-welded the tools 50+ times. Went through 6 chipper/hammers. sharpened the chisel with the 4" grinder too many times. went through 20 chisels and shafts, I would have 2 or 3 going at a time. The hull took a week, the deck took another week, staggered after the hull was done. My hands went numb, from the vibration. When I couldn't feel my hands, I would wake up. Yeah, not much sleep, 12-18 hour days. Full PPE, almost all the time; except during lunch. Industrial fan on all the time. Dust everywhere... I basically took a geologists pick and actually tried to bunch a hole in the hull. This is how I found the weak spots and then over built everything...

    WELDING... I went to school for it. Nothing will teach you like actually doing it, having time/money constraints. A lot of the steel I welded had contamination that I couldn't get rid of. I went through 8 spools of wire. Burned up the last of my welding jacket and got burns on my arms and feet. Went through 3 pairs of shoes. Got metal in my eyes... went to the hospital 3 times.

    PAINTING... They say that the quality of the paint job is in the preparation. It took about 2 days to get everything masked off. I used over $100 and about 12 rolls of masking tape. No one wanted to help and I had only a week left. I had taken a day off, months before, to go buy $2,000 in paint (and that IS a good deal). I went with PPG/Ameron again. For the price it was the best choice and I have a lot of experience using it. Four different types are used and you have to read/understand the performance characteristics of each. If I hadn't used it before I wouldn't know already that the paint dries too fast at certain temps, or what needles to use in the gun, or how to thin it and with which chemicals. Went through 5 spary guns and 3 compressors. Air dryers have to be used also. The paint has to be thinned and mixed properly, that takes experience. Found out that I needed to replace the filters on my mask, not good. I thought that during this process I would get more sleep; it was just the opposite. I could only sleep for an hour daily, if I was lucky. Ended up spraying the deck and rolling the hull. There is a time limit to bond these paints to each other chemically. Came out good, all things considered. Everyone was blown away. Coffee, lots of coffee...

    I still have a list of projects, but, it's not as bad. I never want to do that again... The boat is now water proof.

    I have 3" of spray in insulation through the whole boat. Do not do this! Do not use the loose stuff either... You need to be able to inspect and repair and repaint everything on the interior... use the foam board. A carpenter friend said to me 20 years ago, "You have to think like water".

    I think it's great that you can 3D model the interior of your boat. One thing I notice is that there are too many walls and cubbies and doors and stuff. It will be too dark. It will feel small and tight. How much plywood are you going to use and at what cost? Will the ply-wood fit down the hatch? what about the finish woods? where are they going to come from? Etc, etc...

    Weather/temps is/are a huge factor in how much work you can actually get done (not even going to talk about motivation or bureaucracy here). If you do have a boat in the north I would recommend building a heatshrink (Dr. Shrink or similar 6-9 mil plastic sheeting) shelter; in white, always use white. White lasts longer in the UV and allows the light to come in. Use a weed burner, it's cheaper...

    The harder you work the faster you will get burned out. I have learned new things and I did find good deals; I was lucky...

    Anyway, I'm supposed to be helping a friend find a good deal on a boat. Scanty pickings in North America these days...

    I wish all the lovers and the dreamers out there well.
    RMA, fallguy, Flotation and 1 other person like this.
  10. cyberpiper
    Joined: Feb 2023
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 0, Points: 1
    Location: Luxembourg

    cyberpiper New Member

    Hello, I am in a similar situation as yourself. I have however, not bought a sailing boat, but a barge from 1923 (Hamburger Hafenbarkasse) and we want to restore this and turn it into a Puppet Theater ship. It is 15,65 m long and 4.03 m wide, and before we stripped it and took the engine out it had a weight of 21 tons.
    I have received similar statements the you have, that repairing this hull was not worth it. I will likely start my own thread about it on this forum. But in the meantime I would love to get in touch, an see how you have gotten on since, and to exchange our experiences!
  11. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Welcome to the Forum @cyberpiper - please do start a thread of your own about your fine vessel, and post lots of photos as well.
  12. Andrewski
    Joined: Mar 2020
    Posts: 9
    Likes: 2, Points: 3
    Location: Sydney

    Andrewski Junior Member

    Hi Rolf, I am currently doing up a 44’ rust bucket. And I completely disagree with everyone here. (Noses please stay put)

    this is how I see it. Most people will have an average approach. A normal outcome, a standard…yes?
    they are assuming you want to build an expected boat. well I say screw that!

    as long as your rudder works, your engine and sails, all the rest is arbitrary.
    For eg, a race boat has a super spartan finish. No luxury. I personally, will be not quite racing, but very rustic and minimal.
    all my furniture will be removable. I am considering cnc plywood.
    also I am doing a junk rig, so much cheaper to make and maintain.
    Paint can come from China alibabba
    Sails can be second hand
    You can use pallet timber and scrounge around for free stuff. no one says you have to do a high end finish.
    don’t over invest, it may end up sinking after all. so just use whatever you can
    You can always fix it up bit by bit after you do the basics. my boat has much rust. But I plan on making a pilot house for sleeping up stairs in bad weather or hit nights, or mixed up rain and sun, and also sleep next to internal steering. So 360 views.
    and @44’ you can do what you want. Steel is amazing for customising. cut weld paint. No smelly glass
    All the best
    calevi likes this.

  13. Steelboat
    Joined: Feb 2022
    Posts: 79
    Likes: 14, Points: 8
    Location: Seattle

    Steelboat Junior Member

    How is this project going?
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