The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Restoring A 30-Year Old Boat: What It Takes

Over the years we have received numerous questions from readers asking whether it is better to buy a newer more expensive sailboat or to restore an older less expensive boat. We usually recommend buying a newer boat as, in the long run, the price will probably come out to about the same, so why not have a newer boat and save a huge amount of time and labour?

However, we have come across someone who is restoring a 30-Year old Cape Dory 36 and who makes a good case as to why. But it isn’t easy and one look at John Stone’s site will reveal the scope of his project.

So if you want to know what it takes to restore a 30-year old sailboat and some tips on how to get going, visit John’s site. It will either convert you to the older-boat-restoration option or scare you witless (maybe both!).

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John Harries

This is a fun discussion worthy of a lengthy article, one we’re working on at Practical Sailor. We have a photo essay this month on restoring a Cape Dory 25.

It can work both ways—buying newer and working less, or buying older and working more. Two key points:

1. In either case, it is best to start with “good bones”: the hull, rig, and critical systems (engine) need to be in good shape, passing a thorough inspection by an experienced surveyor. If you’re talking about a 30-year-old boat, this means one that has already gone through a major refit.
2. If you can focus on the essential safety and navigational gear and resist the urge to create a perfect boat, you can get cruising cheaply in an old boat.
Wife and I cruised for 11 years in a 60-year-old boat that we bought for $6,000 and invested $12,000 before setting out for the Caribbean, another $5,000 prior to the Pacific. It would have cost us $50,000 or more to find an equivalent boat.

Time on your hands and experienced guidance is essential. It is very easy to underestimate the time required for restoring an old boat. Which is why you can find some very good deals on cruise-ready or nearly cruise-ready boats, the route I’d take next time.

John Harries

FWIW, here’s my story about resurrecting a 30 year-old boat.


A local fellow is almost through with a multi-year restoration of a 1974 Hallberg Rassy Rasmus. Very impressive.

John Harries

Hi David,

Thanks for the link. Very good information.