Planning a Refit—Boat Parameters

In his series on buying and refitting an offshore cruising boat Colin has taken us through some of the common structural problems that older boats are prone to, so for this series and planning and budgeting I'm going to assume that we heeded his advice, and will keep looking until we find a boat without any bad problems—a great starting point.

But so doing is just that, a starting point. Now we need to figure out how we are going to take our prospective boat from fundamentally sound to offshore cruising ready in a reasonable time and for a reasonable amount of money.

In the last article I wrote about you. Now let's look at the type of boat I have in mind while building this plan and budget, and what to do if that's not the boat you want.

For Any Refit

You will also note that the title of this article does not include Colin's US$100,000 goal. That's because, as I wrote in the last chapter, working toward a specific number was screwing up my objectivity, and also because I want this to be useful for anyone planning a refit, regardless of the final cost target.

Basic Boat

That said, I'm still assuming that the end goal is a boat that is:

  • Capable of crossing oceans safely and in reasonable comfort in the mid and low latitudes, in the right seasons—not a high latitude expedition boat.
  • About 40-feet long and around 18,000 to 22,000 pounds displacement.
  • Set up for a couple to live and cruise on in reasonable comfort, but without luxuries. We will be concentrating on needs not wants.
  • Has a final cost, when all refitted and ready to go, that people with middle-of-the-road incomes can aspire to and save for.

The Boat We Start With

To hit those goals we will almost certainly be starting our project with a boat that's:

  • 20 to 40 years old, and most likely on the old end of that range.
  • Fundamentally sound in hull and deck—this is about refits, not rebuilds.
  • Has been well maintained by caring owners.
  • Built of fibreglass. Too many variables if we add other materials and for most of us fibreglass is the best material to get this done in.
  • Was relatively well built in the first place. Better an older good boat than a newer piece of junk—buy junk, you got junk, and no amount of refitting, or even rebuilding, changes that.

What's Covered

Now we know what the boat looks like, and who she is for, what do we need to cover to come up with a good budget and plan?

The list is long:

  • Initial costs
  • Things that will need to be done to most any older hull (as covered by Colin in earlier chapters)
  • Engine (Colin is working on an in-depth chapter with costs)
  • Other mechanical systems
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Deck gear
  • Ground tackle
  • Rig
  • Sails
  • Canvas work
  • Cosmetics
  • Safety gear

Now, of course, some of this stuff may already have been covered off by previous owners, so the spreadsheet I'm building will allow you to tick off items to subtract them from the total. But, in the related chapters, I will ask hard questions that need to be answered before cutting a given cost and time out of the budget—helping you to see through the fog of boat-love.

Other Profiles

So what if the above is not the boat you want? That's fine, this will still be useful as long as you modify our plan and budget to suit your case. Here are some suggestions on that:

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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