Things learned from boat rebuilding.

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by comfisherman, May 4, 2021.

  1. comfisherman
    Joined: Apr 2009
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    In lieu of the "things I learned from boat design " thread, it seemed fitting to have one in relation to boat rebuilding as it seems the majority of posts lately revolve around resurrecting free or nearly free old boats.

    I've got a list as long as my arm.... but what were your top 3 lessons learned rebuilding boats?
     
  2. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Don't
    Don't
    Don't

    Seriously,
    It costs far more than you estimate
    It takes far longer than you estimate
    And you learn far more about boat building than you can imagine.
     
  3. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    I've seen it crush men's souls more than a messy divorce. but folks line up every week to do it.

    My thoughts are

    If it has more than 2 major systems gone it's not worth doing. I.e. boats immaculate but had tired mains but a solid hull, current wiring and a clean interior. But the mains were a capital expense the po couldn't swing.

    Or like my neighbors, they bough a boat that had all the major mechanical done, witha good designed hull. But the boat was rough cosmetically. They haven't touched the systems but have done interior and paint.


    I've watched more guys loose money and hope on a cheap fixer upper.
     
  4. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    Yep, pretty much.
    I spent 30 years re-building ships for a living. I was asked once why it costs so much, and here is a summation of why...
    1) Most builders, during construction, never think about taking something out. (...you don't want to set me off on SSN 688 MBT3 vent valves...during my first trip to NNS 20 years later my fist question was if that designer still worked there...because I was going to strangle him...)
    2) The economics of "lowest bid", means that the focus is on cheap fabrication, not repair (i.e. someone else's money).
    3) During rebuild, you have to touch everything three (3) times; once to take it out, once to re-furb it, once to reinstall.
    4) Pipes and wires have finite life.
    5) You have to take everything out to paint.
    6) You have to fix the problems that the original builder painted over.
     
  5. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    That's a solid point.


    I've rebuilt 3 seine boats and a gilnetter for myself. Building my first new build for myself currently. Old sucks, it takes almost as much time cutting and grinding to get clean as it does to install new equipment on new. My rebuilds were viable as they had some value for dollar assets. With that said..... I'd build another new boat but won't rebuild another.
     
  6. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    With a new build you already know what you're getting into. With a rebuild you have no idea until you take it all apart, and it's like an archeology dig, the more you dig, the more stuff you find. I wouldn't do another rebuild either.
     
  7. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I bought two boats for rebuild and the diseconomy is tremendous. Both ended up at the landfill.

    One boat I paid 3k for and the thing people forget is all boats have a maximum marketable price. This boat could have had a bracket added (super cool)and a new 250 hp engine and it might have brought 15k at resale. The 250, engines and rigging would have run say 35-40k. So the engine replace was a 70% bad financial concept. Some people think they can sell it for more, but market drives it all. So repairing the old engines was acceptable until one engine had a bad piston. A used engine maybe a grand, okay. But then when the balsa core was rotted, say 300 hours for a core repair, sent the thing to the dump.

    If you get a boat for free, you can sometimes make them work, but paying a lot for a boat to fix never makes sense.

    And even a new build has diseconomy, but not neary as bad as a used, old boat.
     
  8. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    Is there an economic value to gutting a boat down to bare hull and deck, selling hardware as salvage and starting as new from the original hull?

    -Will
     
  9. Howlandwoodworks
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    Howlandwoodworks Member

    If you want to go boating buy a boat that you can go boating in. If you want to work on a boat buy a boat fixer upper. Don't confuse the two.
    Deals are few and the deals were sold before they went on the market.
    How many of this model were built?
    Electrical equipment over 5 years old are worth little to nothing at resale.
    The only boats I haven't paid for the pleasure of owning were 22' LOA or under.
     
  10. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    Not in my opinion, unless it's a very valuable hull for other reasons.

    Case in point we have in the fishing industry a few companies that made 40ish foot fiberglass fishing boats. One company made 39 another 285. The ones made by the smaller production company have proven to be much better in a seway and have aged in an evolving industry. They have developed a bit of a mystique and price associated with it. I grew up on one, and found one on the cheap. I was able to cobble it together for 285 all in, it had some significant work done to it prior to the owners demise, and I can do all systems myself. Ended up selling for a modest profit, and buying a larger class boat.

    A friend did the same thing with the competitor brand hull. Required a complete strip down. But his had not had very expensive shaft work recently and a drive train rebuild. He also only did minor work and had to hire out much of the labor. All in he was in 435k. Both boats were sold after 3 years use post complete restorations. We were pretty similar on fit out and machinery and similar in hull cost. The sad reality is after it splashed it was still a 1980s made old boat. The market value for a leclerq is 185-225 and 285-330 for the hansen. Even if he had been able to do all the work like me would have been a loosing battle.

    That's a point many folks forget. A complete restoration is moot not long after it's done.
     
  11. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    Only if you have the time and the income stream to rebuy new.
    Well here is the point about rebuilding...why are you rebuilding, who are you paying, and what is your time line?
    The US Navy overhauls ships because of the time. In one year and a lot of money I can refurbish a ship. Generally, over the 50 year life of a major combatant, it will get 2 or 3 major overhauls and several minor refurbs which cost about twice the original building cost. Since it takes about 5 years to build a follow on class vessel and you get about 8-10 between overhauls, to have maximum vessels at sea at once, overhauls make economic sense. Commercial vessels on the other hand are hardly ever overhauled in their 20-25 year life, they simply can't recoup the cost in their remaining economic life.
    This bring us comfisherman's point. There is no real economic value to the owner to rebuild a vessel (even less if you consider how some licensing works) if they are in it for profit. A large commercial organization will have a new boat on the ways before the oldest of the fleet is taken out of service...no break in profits and costs are spread across several boats. If on the other hand, the fisherman who is an owner/operator can buy a used boat with a good hull and refurb it slowly himself to have it ready when the existing boat goes out of service. However, this is going to cost him time as well as real money. Perhaps it is a seasonal employment, but it is still time he has to spend and he has to have the money to pay himself.
    And then there is the yachtsman who wants to sail around the world... again it is why, time, and money. If he wants to go now and has the money, he should buy new. If he has the money and wants to go later, he should build new, either himself or commercial. In one case he is paying himself, in the other the boatyard. The issue comes when the yachtsman wants to go "soon" but doesn't have the money. Many get caught in that slippery slope thinking that it will be cheap because they don't have to pay themselves, but really there is a cost to yourself. Some people can make it work, some people can't, and some people I've meet like the "process" more than the product...
     
  12. Howlandwoodworks
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    Howlandwoodworks Member

    I was coming at the question from a wooden sailboat rebuild.
    They can become a "Ship of Theseus".
    Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.
     
  13. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    A ship/boat is never the same object twice. It lives, it breathes. The souls of people make it alive, for good or evil (and I have known some evil vessels); otherwise it is just a dead hulk, wasting away.
     
  14. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    Blitzen – the 1938 Olin Stephens design that was the grand prix boat of the day - Yachting World https://www.yachtingworld.com/extraordinary-boats/blitzen-the-1938-olin-stephens-design-that-was-the-grand-prix-boat-of-the-day-108902
    upload_2021-5-6_18-43-43.png
    I think this is the same boat.
    20180219_141323.jpg
    I was about 15 when I helped sail her from NOLA to Clearwater, only we ship wrecked off Dauphin Island and her owner sold her.
    Here she is with the owner and me.
    20180219_141427.jpg
    Being towed after grounding in a storm when our anchor rode broke.
    20180219_143806.jpg

    I wonder what the cost of restoration was.

    -Will
     

  15. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

    Here are my rules. They eliminate 99 percent of old boats from consideration, even if you have a serious skillset, space, and time.

    1. You can see a way through the first two weeks such that every day, the boat will be sellable for more than you paid for it. This means bottom fishing, and it means you can double the price just by unloading the broken stuff and old soft goods from the boat an taking it to the dump. You need to figure in dump fees and hazardous materials disposal fees here.

    2. Hang a for sale sign on it the day you buy it. It's a mental thing. Even if you are the only one who sees it, it keeps you focused. Put up for sale signs in the usual places - grocery store cork boards, laundromat cork boards. Responding to the phone calls will help keep you focused.

    3. Don't take it out of the water. That's for boats that are worth something. Just don't buy one that needs to be hauled in the first year. When you've had it a year, you will have had time to organize the yard work. That generally means a multi-year plan of what work gets done in the yard during haulout each of the next several years.

    4. Fix the paperwork before you buy it. That's the sellers job, unless you have some special skill in this area. I sat on a boat for 6 months while the seller got the paperwork sorted (he had sold it once before, buyers didn't register it or make payments before getting thrown in jail, he repossessed it, and it was sorta evidence in a drug trafficking trial.) He called me about twice a month asking if I still wanted the boat and I said yes, then he updated me on the paper trail and I told him to keep at it. Finally he called an said he had the title free and clear.

    5. Don't buy a new trailer for an old boat. If you don't have the skill set to fix trailers, you don't need to be thinking about fixing small boats.

    If you get the word out that this is how you operate, Stuff will start to find you.

    A lot of knowledgeable people with the right skill set have been working on yacht refurbishments on spec since Covid started. There wasn't a lot of yacht deliveries or chartering happening. The supply of cheap hulls with a good reputation for holding some value, like Pacific Seacraft, Hans Christian, Swan, Hallberg Rassy, Cabo Rico, etc is pretty thin. There may be a glut of decent, workaday refurbs of these old boats for some time.
     
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