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  #1  
Old 02-02-2014
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Full refit or Partial

If a couple is planning on spending a few years cruising aboard a boat 38' to 45' there seems to be two schools of thought.
One school of thought is to buy the best boat you can and sail it. When something breaks fix it.

The other school of thought is to buy the best boat you can then put it through a complete refit so every system is in top shape.

If someone is in the second category then the next division is whether they choose to pay a premium for a boat with a lot of recent upgrades and top quality maintenance or if they just buy a boat with a good design, and bones under the theory they are going to refit it anyway.

I can't personally stomach the thought of sailing away on a boat with major systems unexplored and a mystery.

I would feel compelled to take the whole boat apart, inspect and repair everything and replace what is needed.

So my question is, if that is what someone is committed to do, is is likely that the premium paid for a good boat going to pay off in a faster cheaper refit?

What is your experience?

There will be a temptation to address the wisdom of a refit vs fixing things as you go.
I know different people will make different decisions in this regard and have good reasons both way.
I envy the people that could just take off on a boat they hadn't refit and learn and repair on the way.
I personally don't have that ability or confidence so that option is not one I'm likely to follow no matter how good it might be.
If you can please don't get off topic and talk about the just go option.
I am specifically interested in the potential payback of refitting a better boat vs a not better boat.
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Last edited by davidpm; 02-02-2014 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 02-02-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

Presumably before you boght the boat you looked it over well enough to have at least a rough idea of what was going to need refitting and what was good enough to leave alone. Now, I wouldn't leave the next day on an ocean crossing, but after sailing the boat for a year or so and fixing up the big things on the list, as well as what I found that I had overlooked, I think I would be comfortable that the boat was sound and that I knew enough about it to have a realistic opinion.
To answer your question, it seems that the price you offered for the boat when you bought it should reflect the amout of refitting you expected to do, so aside from your own time and labor it should about even out.
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Old 02-02-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

Yes I suspect it is basically a dumb question. Everything depends on everything else.
How much more, how much time, what is new, how new.

As usual it's all about the details.
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Old 02-02-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

From my experience, it seems the majority of boat owners who plan to sail over the horizon, actually don't. Most seem to get caught up in making sure everything is perfect before they go and of course, that's just not realistic. By the time some of the initial projects are finished, new ones appear and departure is delayed and so on.
With a good survey and a bit of prioritizing, I believe that one should bite the bullet and just go. So many things that need doing, but aren't critical to safety or sailing can be done in a beautiful anchorage far from the home dock. Sure, parts may be a bit more expensive, but now a days, nearly everything one needs for general repairs and maintenance are available in most places or somewhere near.
But time is not something that one gets back and every second lost is lost forever.
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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

I bought a well looked after boat, spent money on Sails, Rigging, Self Steering, Anchor chain. liferaft, Epirb, SSB, etc.

The refit continues 18 year later in exotic port around the word....
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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

Along with the reality, that sometimes buying a NEW boat can be cheaper depending upon the refit you go thru! I have about 60K in my 28' on deck boat I bought. That includes, sails, lines, interior replacement of all cushions etc. The only thing I have not replaced per say is the shrouds and stays. For an additional 20-40K or so, I could have bought a new boat 30-32' longer than I have from the same manufacture.

So the refit/build etc, can be a lot more pricey than one thinks, which is probably why many do not sail off into the horizon, they spend more time, money and energy into fixing the stuff, and tire before they take off. Where as one in reasonably good shape, or new, you can spend a year practicing, installing a few items you realize you need, then take off!

If it were in my budget, new would be my way to go about this.

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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

Even if you buy new, unless you buy a real high-end boat, it is unlikely to be fit to sail off into the wide blue yonder straight from the builder. So you will be adding ground tackle, extra sails, water-makers, solar panels, electronics - the list goes on.

A well equipped used boat that has some real ocean miles under her keel in the hands of an experienced owner will most likely have most of the really important gear plus most of the bugs ironed out. It would be better to do a refit of the essentials - such as rigging, possibly wiring and plumbing and replace stuff that is obviously worn out or getting close to 'use by' date. That way you will learn the systems at your leisure and you can set out with some peace of mind. Better than being in some foreign port - or worse at sea in a storm - and having to find out what does what the hard way.

Going the whole hog on a sound boat that is, say, 10 years old and has been obviously well-maintained, is probably overkill. If the boat was 20 years old, a more extensive refit would likely include replacing chainplates 'just in case' and quite likely the engine and stern gear. At that age the hatches could be in need of rebedding and the porthole plastics crazed. And so on....

As for value, my boat had her 50th birthday this year. The previous owner did a total refit and restoration just before I was lucky enough to acquire her, but I still had to upgrade the batteries and solar system to meet my cruising ambitions and I went for heavier rigging 'just in case...' But even if I have to spend half her current market value over the next few years on big ticket stuff that is now wearing out (sails, mainly) the nearest new boat would set me back five times what I have invested and probably would still not be as good a sea-boat.

So, find a boat with a good sailing track record and a history of proper maintenance then go for partial refit using the IRAN method - Inspect and Replace As Needed.
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Last edited by arvicola-amphibius; 02-03-2014 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

In 2010 we decided to buy a bigger boat tio eventually go long term cruising. We first set a financial goal so that we would have enough to buy a boat, refurb it, cruise comfortably and return with some money in the bank. Our estimations put us at 5 years to achieve this goal.

First order of business was to purchase a good late model boat and live aboard until we left. This allowed us to learn all the systems and replace what we felt was necessary either for safety, efficiency, functional or aesthetic reasons. We purchased a boat 8/2010 and moved aboard full time 10/2010.

We have managed to meet our financial goal ahead of time and be leaving in May. We have done most all the projects but know there will always be things to be done as we cruise. Isn't that the definition of cruising anyway? I have actually started accumulating the necessary parts to work on some projects after we depart. Right now we are concentrating on projects that are easier performed at a dock; sewing, polishing, etc.

We did and will do all the work ourselves. Just yesterday I sewed new filler cushions for our salon settee to make it into a double.

One last major project will be to replace the chartplotter and radar. We did this when we first bought the boat but I used older equipment then and I want some of the features newer equipment offers.

So I guess i am in the second category. Have done this with 3 boats now.
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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

If you want a perfect boat that is refitted and is totally ready to go you will never leave.

Make sure that mission critical items are safe. Things like through hulls and standing rigging must be checked.

Go cruising and fix things as they break. Fedex delivers world wide now.
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Old 02-03-2014
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Re: Full refit or Partial

^^ This.

The only way to achieve a perfect boat, is to either buy a new boat or throw a ton of money at an older boat to upgrade all systems simultaneously.

Some folks won't leave the dock without aerospace-grade systems and an accompanying level of QA (Quality Assurance).

I say that it kind of depends on the type of sailing you want to do.
I race in the Chesapeake Bay, and I intend to coastal sail. No ocean crossings.

For the kind of sailing I do, I prefer the "rolling refit".

The rolling refit entails buying an older boat with good "bones".
(Dry deck, cabin top, hull and appendages, through-hulls)
Next, inspect and repair "critical systems"
(Rigging, engine, electrical, minimally functional sails)

Go sailing.

As I sail, I roll through "secondary systems" as I can afford them:
Re-bed all deck hardware to keep the boat's "good bones".
New Sails.
Electronics: (GPS/chartplotter, tiller pilot, speed, depth, wind)
Liveability items: (stove, toilet, freshwater systems, heat/AC)
Hull form: (Sanding, fairing, templating)
Running rigging: (Customize the running rigging layout to suit my sailing style)
Cosmetics: (Brightwork, upholstery, ventilation, entertainment systems)


Some people want to sail. Some people think they want to sail, but what they really relish is the experience of boat rehabilitation. I'm a little of both. I love bringing my Pearson 30 back to fighting trim, but I enjoy sailing her even more.
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