Refitting an Old Boat Can Work…For Some

©John Stone

Many of you long-term readers know that, when the subject comes up of buying an old and tired boat and refitting it as a way to get out there ocean voyaging inexpensively, I tend to be a spoil sport and start throwing around a lot of cold reality.

The Down Side

My four main problems with this course of action are:

  • Many (most?) people who take on a major refit are new to cruising-boat ownership, which poses a problem since the only way I know of to get the experience to do a proper refit do a refit—a Catch 22 if ever there was one.
  • Very often the owner selects, because of their inexperience, a boat that has poor bones or, worse still, will never be a good boat for their needs, so that  they are no closer to having a good offshore boat at the end of years of work than they were at the start.
  • In most cases, the refitted boat costs more than buying a newer boat would. And if the owner cranks in their own time, even at minimum wage, that's pretty much a certainty.
  • Generally, the economics go like this: buy old boat for X, spend 2 * X on refit, sell refitted boat for ~1.2 * X. The sad fact is that even beautifully refitted old boats are not worth a lot more than other old boats.

How do I know all this with such certainty? I learned it from my old friend Poor Stupid Bob (see Further Reading below).

The Up Side

But every so often I come across someone who has made a refit work in ways that has both given them pleasure during the refit and resulted in an offshore boat they love and actually go places in.

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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