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Newby 03-28-2005 02:44 PM

Buying a yacht
Hopefully someone might be able to offer some sound advice. We are considering purchasing a 36ft Roberts yacht. It''s history informs it was built circa 1977. However it sank, has been salvaged and the hull repaired. It appears dry, everything is gutted, the hull has been faired and ready to start again. What should we look for in the hull? Would experienced sailors guard against taking up this project? I am also keen to hear of any folklore about sailing in ships that have been salvaged - how do we guard against the Gods? Many thanks

paulk 03-28-2005 05:56 PM

Buying a yacht
You have many questions. This is a good thing, especially considering the boat you are looking at. Roberts seems to sell a lot of plans, some of which get built. No one I''ve ever spoken with has ever mentioned how any of them sail. Many Roberts designs were (are) built by amateurs. Was this one? How good were they at boatbuilding? Did they alter something from the plans? Was it something they did that caused it to sink? What else might they have done that will cause other problems later? Many Roberts boats are also made of steel. How much steel is left? Steel tends to rust continuously, especially in places you can''t see, and especially after getting thoroughly wet on both sides from sinking. Even fiberglass doesn''t enjoy being mistreated this way. If she is ferro-cement (!) are you wearing your track shoes? (You should be RUNNING the other way.) How was she salvaged? Lifting a boat full of water too fast can really do nasty things to it. Why did the hull need fairing? Does it need a new engine? (If so, add about $10k, or more for a hefty one. ) If it needs a new interior buy a copy of Ferenc Maté''s book From a Bare Hull and a copy of Practical Yacht Joinery from Intl Marine Publishers. Do you have twice as much money as you think it will cost to complete the interior? If you are a professional cabinetmaker with every imaginable machine & tool at your disposal, do you have a year or two to spend putting the insides back together? (Please consider that if nothing in a house is level or square, on a boat nothing is level, square, straight, or with enough room to fit anything.)
Why does this boat appeal to you? Are there others in this size range that might be in better condition, or with less work required, that could save your marriage? Why does this boat seem so affordable? Is it really?
Experienced sailors would ask these questions and spend another three days thinking up more of them. If the answers came back so there were only a minimum of things to worry about, then they might ask around about quotes for needed work, and get opinions from others -- NOT involved with the yard, broker, or current owner-- and proceed with both eyes open, putting one toe in at a time.
Worry about the Gods later - the Gods help those who help themselves first.

Newby 04-02-2005 05:35 PM

Buying a yacht
Many thanks PaulK. This is exactly the sort of thing I was after. The boat is fibreglass, but I think we have opted for purchasing something that is in our price range without the work load. We value our marriage and have already experienced repairing houses where nothing is level or square. I will purchase the books suggested anyway.

Thank you and happy sailing.

Jeff_H 04-03-2005 07:47 AM

Buying a yacht
Sorry about the double submission of this....

Jeff_H 04-03-2005 02:07 PM

Buying a yacht
Bruce Roberts is a popular designer of off the shelf plans for amatuer builders. He has probably solds more stock plans than any individual designer. While he has done some reasonably good designs, I am not a big fan of his work. While I think that for the most part Roberts designs conservative simple boats, by any reasonable standard, they are very dated and many of his designs produce just plain bad boats. He has two popular design series, one based on Slocum''s Spray, and the other is a bit more modern. Most of his more modern designs seem to be based on 1960''s and 1970''s thinking, and the science of yacht design has greatly advanced since then in terms of understanding motion comfort and seaworthiness. To me Bruce Roberts designs generally do not seem to take advantage of these lessons. Roberts has refined some of his earlier designs producing some boats that I think are better designs than they were in thier original form. A good example of that is the boat he calls a 434 that someone built as a long range single-hander looks like a nice boat.
More to your specific questions, there are two Robert''s 36''s. The one is a part of Robert''s Spray series. His Spray series boats have less than no appeal to me personally. Having read detailed accounts of the original Spray and the sailing ability of some of the so- called copies of her, I have come to believe that Josh Slocum was the consummate seaman who made it around the world despite the short comings of Spray rather than because of Spray''s sterling virtues. He chose Spray because she was free not because she was well suited for offshore work. Spray began life as a a coastal oyster smack. Why anyone in this day and age would want to use her as a model for a whole line of boats is completely beyond me. But I emphasize this is only my opinion and Roberts has sold a bunch of these things so my opinion is not shared by everyone on this. Having sailed on as lightly longer version of his Spray series, I found the boat to be a miserable sailor and not a boat that I would consider very well suited either for coastal or offshore work.

The other Robert''s 36 was probably a late 1960''s or early 1970''s design. It is a prime example of what I was saying about yacht design and engineering really advancing over the past 40 years but Roberts designs being trapped in a period when yacht design really was not very good. Built to the drawings, these boats were mediocre sailors. But most amateur built versions exceeded design weight and were under ballasted as compared to the design ballast furtehr reducing sailing ability. With the extreme shallow draft of this design they would tend to be tender in relation to their comparatively large amount of drag. That is a combination that results in a dismal performer with real problems at the light and heavy end of the windspeed range.

By any objective standard these are rediculously heavy boats. I strongly believe that weight, in and of itself, has no inherent virtue and is by its very nature a very serious liability. In a design like this the extra weight does not contribute to seaworthiness, motion comfort, strength, or carrying capacity. It just adds to the stresses on the boat and crew.

Which brings us to the other amateur construction issues. Amateur built glass boats generally have mediocre to poor glass work. They are rarely laid up in a condensed period of time which means that there is often contamination and secondary bonds within the laminate, which greatly weaken the impact resistance and increases the propensity for fatique. Amateurs tended to use a lot of fillers, end up with resin rich laminates and use a lot of non-directional fabrics all of which further increases the tendancy toward reduced impact resistance and fatique and a greatly increased maintenance regime. Given the 1970''s build period this is also likely to be a boat that will be prone towards serious blistering problems.

Then there is the idea of building a boat that is little more than a hull and rig. I have been involved in and consulted on a number of these projects. Boats like the boat in question have a limited value even when they are carefully constructed and in perfect shape. The fears about amateur construction and the issues of poor sailing abiltity will always keep a boat like this at the very bottom of the fair market price range for boats of this size.

When you talk about rebuilding a boat from the condition that this boat is in, you are going to be buying a lot of materials and perhaps subcontracting some skilled labor. Like building a car from the spare parts bin, the total cost of materials needed to put a boat like this back together is so extensive that it can easly equal far more than the boat will ever be worth in the open market place and that does not include any payment towards your time and labor. In otherwords rebuilding a boat of a mediocre somewhat obsolete design, with a less than perfect heritage, or home construction, that has already been sunk once, in most cases, makes absolutely no monetary sense.

On the other hand, many people get a lot of joy from working on boats. For them the process of rebuilding a boat may equal or even exceed the joy of sailing a boat and if you are that kind of person then perhaps a project like this might make sense even if it did not make economic sense.

The reality from a time and money standpoint is you would be way better off finding a better designed and built production boat that has been properly maintained and updated. Boats like the one that you are considering in reality can easily have a negative fair market value.


aflanigan 04-04-2005 12:55 PM

Buying a yacht
This comment by Jeff really struck me:

I strongly believe that weight, in and of itself, has no inherent virtue and is by its very nature a very serious liability.

Back when I used to have time to subscribe to and read Car and Driver, they had a sharp columnist named Setright who could be counted on for informed and interesting takes on automotive issues and conventional wisdom (he once argued that the received wisdom "racing improves the breed", which came from horse racing, was basically a myth when applied to automobiles). Setright did a column once on this very theme, i.e. that lightness was a virtue in vehicles that was its own reward. I think I''d have to agree with Jeff; the only time sheer weight is clearly an advantage in a vessel is when you want to use it to anchor an artificial reef.

Allen Flanigan

windship 04-04-2005 01:40 PM

Buying a yacht
Jeff and I used to, every now and then, go round and round on this weight issue. After a couple of years and alot of analyzing I know now that Jeff''s and other''s are completely correct. I like more traditional yacht''s so it took a long time for me to come to grip''s with the truth that too much weight is a bad thing for performance and doesn''t make, in itself, a good boat.


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