Estimating Time to Restore a Boat - SailNet Community
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Estimating Time to Restore a Boat

We have had a few posts lately from very hopeful sounding young people that are considering restoring a classic plastic yacht. There seems to be something about yacht restoration that confounds logic and trips up otherwise skilled and competent people.
The may be skilled in some other field like automobile mechanics or carpentry and they think that their skills in estimating the size of a non-boat project are useful for boat projects.

1. The fudge factor you use now, IE a 1 hour job takes 3 hours.
3. Why you think boat jobs take so long.
4. What the fudge factor should have been when you just started
5. The experience you started with when you started working on boats.
6. You can't touch anything without affecting some other system. Plumbing, electrical, electronic, power, tank age etc are all in the same square foot. It takes a long time to make even a small changes as it will effect other stems.
7. House's follow rules. Kitchen counters are 36" off the floor etc. On a boat very few rules which translates into time to make sure it will work.
Perhaps we can help these young people more accurately judge the size of the project they are contemplating and their-by make success more likely.

I posted the following in another thread.

Figure the most amount of time you could possibly imagine everything taking for your proposed project. Let's say 100 days, a little more than three months. Now multiply that number by 3 so you have 300 days.
Now figure the minimum you will work on the boat per month. Lets say you are not going to do 20 days a month which would be full time but you are sure you could put in half time hours. so 10 days per month. Take that number and divide in half or 5 days.
Now divide to find out how many months the job will take. In this case 60 months or 5 years.

As you can see the 3 plus month project full time estimated to be 6 months can take 10 times longer.

What goes wrong?

I am an experienced carpenter. I built houses, make my own custom kitchen cabinets, finish stairs and could estimate this kind of work and make money.

1. Shopping for boat parts and supplies takes as long as doing the work. It is not not shopping for house projects where what you need is usually at several local stores.
2. The cramped spaces soak up the time. So often you have to move so much to get to what you need to work on, then move that stuff back.
3. Layout takes a lot longer. A plumb-bob, level and square and I can layout almost anything on land. On the boat everything is curved, it takes longer.
4. Corrosion and rot procedures. You can't just drill a hole. You have to over drill it. Fill it with epoxy then drill it. A five minute job takes two hours.
5. I don't know what I'm doing so have to do stuff really slowly or over again if I don't like how it came out.
6. I have to take way more trips to the store to get odd sized parts. At home it seems like by box has what I need. On the boat it has to be stainless.

Any way that is my excuse for being off by a factor of 10 on boat project-time estimates when I first started.

Last edited by davidpm; 08-29-2009 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 08-30-2009
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On a boat there are no right angles - only wrong ones. Everything is custom fit with more expensive stainless screws, bolts etc. If you have to mount a piece of hardware on deck, overdrill and fill with thickened epoxy - you won't finish today or maybe the next either as you can't drill & tap the epoxy until it sets completely. A lot is done in cramped spaces (the boat) or worse a part of the boat you have to crawl to. Everything ties into something else or is in the way of something else. Example - redo of my galley. Galley is under bridgedeck so I have to install new traveler on deck before I can close up the interior panel above the galley counter. Of course that takes time as I had to grind around old holes - I moved the traveler aft 8" to better clear dodger that is coming in the future and had to grind & fill a few voids in gelcoat as well. Fill, sand, fill, sand, fairing coat, sand again then paint several coats and finally install traveler. Now I can get back to galley. A lot of the time it's not the hours but the fact that after an hour of work you have to let it dry or wait for epoxy to harden. If it's paint sanding is out for the rest of the day. Estimating time is something I've almost given up on. Then there are the things that have to be custom made.
I think it's very important to enjoy what you're doing. Otherwise you will look for excuses to avoid the job at hand. Never lose sight of the goal. Everything will cost more and take a lot longer than you think. If you're not skilled in the many trades that are required it's a lot tougher. I own my 9th boat now. A CS27 I bought last October. All work has been done in the water. What I most miss is a shop - not so much to put the boat in (that would be nice) but to do the woodwork. I was an apartment dweller when I bought this boat so the boat becomes the workshop as well. Cutting dadoes with a router and clamping the work to a piece of ply in the cockpit slows you down a bit. I'm a bit of a perfectionist as well and that adds time.
I purchased my first sailboat - an old hard chine 18' sloop - for about \$750
in 1969 when I was 17. During grade 12 a friend and I rebuilt a lot of it in a rented garage. After graduation (mother gave me a British Seagull outboard as a grad present) we let Vancouver and travelled up the B.C. coast as far as Bella Bella. Took 78 days and loved every minute. Sleeping bags on air mattresses and a coleman stove in the cockpit. The only boat I ever worked on under cover.
I've always loved woodwork - took a lot of shop at school. In 1970 after I got back I worked for a small shop building interior components for Columbia 26 and 34s built under license by Coopers in North Vancouver and then a furniture manufacturer for a while. Decided to make it my hobby as opposed to career after that. 29 years in retail electronics with 10 of those doing installations as well taught me troubleshooting and gave me some background in wiring. Along the way there were the other boats - most didn't require much - a teak swimgrid for my only powerboat in the early 80's, a couple of sailboats I did almost nothing to. In 1987 I purchased a 35' strip planked twin keel sailboat and re-did a lot of the interior - got fancy wiyh ash & teak galley counters, oak and teak salon table and a few other changes. Sold it in 1995. Built a kayak and took a small paddling holiday and after a year bought a 30' fibreglass sailboat It needed rotted wood floors under the sole replaced, galley and salon redone and more. Sold it in 1999.
That brings me to my CS27. It was sailable wen purchased but needed upgrading. I've replaced the fuel tank with a custom stainless one, changed engine panel from aft to forward end of cockpit and from idiot lights to full gauges. DC was so basic with 6 old lights plus running lights and a 32 year old fuse panel (6 fuses) that I removed all and am putting in a Blue Seas breaker panel, Xantrex Link 10, Echocharge, new lights, all new cabling including engine wiring. Rebuilt water pump, rebuilt starter, added strainer for cooling water. Biggest job was a redesign of galley - sold pressure alcohol stove and zipped galley module out. Installed two half bulkheads properly - foam against the hull to eliminate hard spots and properly glassed in to hang new Force 10 propane stove between, sniffer and solenoid with proper propane locker as well. New cabin top clutches to replace old stoppers, new traveler, solid vang, upgraded sheet winches to Anderson 40st and moved the Anderson 28sts to cabintop (I already owned the 40sts so that made sense). Changed head to Lavac. Still to come new headliner, cabin sole, re-do chainplates, all new running rigging, bow roller, dodger, steering vane, lofelines and all new rigging including turnbuckles and toggles, and new through hulls/seacocks and propeller next haulout. And new ports.
The only things I farmed out were fuel tank, starter rebuild, custom stainless clutch bases, stainless bases for Anderson 40sts, and stainless engine panel (never learned how to weld) I will have to get the new bow roller/stem fitting custom made as well. I will do my own rigging , paying for swages at the top and staloks or similar at deck level. The rest I've done myself. I agree with Maine sail that if you do the job yourself the tools are free. I am equipped with all the tools I need for wiring (including the crimpers for 22ga down to 4/0 battery cables, woodwork, mechanical, glasswork, painting etc. If one didn't have good tools that is a big expense but I've collected good tools over many years and I doubt I could replace them for 7k or even more.
What do you gain? If you're good at all these skills, not necessarily fast but good enough to make a professional quality job of it, you should end up with a boat that is better than new, one that you know every inch of. One that you'll take pride in. When something breaks in the future it won't be a disaster and you'll know how to get to it, remove it to fix or replace it.
Financially, it either does or doesn't make sense depending on your intended use and point of view. In my case I will retire in less than 3 years, and this boat is the smallest I can sail and live aboard comfortably (I'm single). I plan to sail south to Mexico and beyond. To buy new would be cost prohibitive. I paid about 14,500 for the boat with 5 sails and a diesel that is older but works well. Paid cash. I've spent about 8,000 (haven't added up all the bills yet) so far and over the next year probably another 7 or 8k to go. Maybe 10k. I couldn't hope to sell for anywhere near that. But it's the least expensive way I know of to get a solid, well equipped offshore capable boat.
Brian
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I have to second or third the no right angles and one things leads to another. I took the vinyl liner off my boat and replaced the rotten plywood under it. I still have yet to finish it up as the vinyl goes all the way into the quarter berth and over the ceiling. Hopefully we get to the ceiling starting next week.

It was made harder for us because we had to go to a friends to cut the plywood so that added time and hassle. Then there was all the unexpected things like finding someone to cut a 2x2 at a funny angle... On and on. When we get it done it will be one of the nicest 30' Islanders on the planet though.

Looking at it I had figured it would take a week or so. It ended up being about 2 weeks for the starboard side and about 3 days for the port side. Experience made a huge difference as the second time I had my ducks in a row and I was not running all over town getting things.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo View Post
I paid about 14,500 for the boat with 5 sails and a diesel that is older but works well. Paid cash. I've spent about 8,000 (haven't added up all the bills yet) so far and over the next year probably another 7 or 8k to go. Maybe 10k. I couldn't hope to sell for anywhere near that. But it's the least expensive way I know of to get a solid, well equipped offshore capable boat.
Brian
Great post Brian. The point I'm making for the dreamers and that your story demonstrates is that to be successful you can overcome some disadvantages. But it really helps to have something going for you.
You:
Are very experienced at woodworking
Experienced at electrical
Have tools
Love the work
Have a job and some money
Didn't have to do hull work.
You are a sailor (This is important because unless you are a sailor already it is unlikely you will fit out the boat properly even if you have trade skills.
You started with a decent 14,000 boat not a trashed \$4,000 model

You overcame:
Not having a shop and having to work in the boat.

All told you will end up with a great boat for about \$30,000 and of course will really know the boat.

My question to you is how much time do you have into the boat so far and what would you guess the final hours total will be over how many years.

Last edited by davidpm; 08-30-2009 at 12:18 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huguley3 View Post

Looking at it I had figured it would take a week or so. It ended up being about 2 weeks for the starboard side and about 3 days for the port side. Experience made a huge difference as the second time I had my ducks in a row and I was not running all over town getting things.
Let's see estimated 5 days and actual time only 13 days.
Less than 300 percent overrun, thats great.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo View Post
On a boat there are no right angles - only wrong ones. Everything is custom fit with more expensive stainless screws, bolts etc. If you have to mount a piece of hardware on deck, overdrill and fill with thickened epoxy - you won't finish today or maybe the next either as you can't drill & tap the epoxy until it sets completely. Brian
That is a really important point I forgot to mention.
Drying time really messes with the schedule.
Clean-up time and prep soaks up another 10 15%.
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I've been semi-retired the last year. The company I worked for (19 yrs) went out of business, so I have been doing odd jobs, some car transporting, and working on a few neighbors boats doing wiring and plumbing. So I've had a lot of time. I work on the boat every day with very few exceptions, but not every day is a full day. I look at a good day as one where I went forwards not backwards, but sometimes when you cross out one item on your list you have to add 2 or 3 more! I will be working full time soon - have to buy more boat toys. So I have no real idea how many hours and I had no real estimate to start with, just rough guesses. But as you say, whatever your estimate it will take longer - there are too many variables. As long as I'm making headway I'm happy. Some jobs aren't very visible of course and it looks like you have done nothing, others make a real visual difference.

Several sites on the net are invaluable for how-to and ideas in general. Maine sails site at pbase is awesome and I've recommended it to many others in North America as well as at least one owners group overseas.
"How To" - The Boat Projects & Upgrade Blogs Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com

Tim Lackey's commercial site is a great learning tool. Every job he does is documented in detail with lots of pics whether it's just a repaint or a full restoration. He updates every day or two so you can follow his work almost in real time.
Northern Yacht Restoration | Tim Lackey:* One Man, One Boat at a Time

His other site is the Plastic Classic forum and everybody who posts is very hands on and either is restoring something or has done. Tim is a regular poster of course so it's often an expert that replies to your questions.
The Plastic Classic Forum • Index page

Also I belong to about 8 or 10 owner's groups. Just because you don't have the same boat doesn't mean that there aren't ideas that you can use. When you join just tell them you're looking for a boat.

Also I've got a lot of ideas just cruising Yachtworld. Virtually every boat for sale by a broker is listed and almost all have a dozen or two pictures. As an example I re-did my entire galley. I took ideas from two similar sized boats to come up with my ideal given the space. My boat is a CS27 and I stole ideas from a Morris Linda and a Hinckley pilot 35 (the hinckley applies as it's pretty small inside. Here are the pics - first my original galley area and then the Morris and finally the Hinckley. I won't post a pic of my current galley until it's finished.
What I've done is mostly like the Morris, also in white, except I've used the companionway step idea from the Hinckley, with a garbage bin under the top step and storage under the bottom step. I've also moved the batteries to a cockpit locker as they were originally only accessible by unscrewing the panel behind the fire extinguisher. I have a picture of the Morris taped to the cabin side for reference and inspiration.
Brian
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
Let's see estimated 5 days and actual time only 13 days.
Less than 300 percent overrun, thats great.
I am in information technology so an estimate that was within a factor of 10 would be considered quite good in my line of work. It was the first big undertaking on the boat so I was pretty much starting from scratch on what I was going to find when I started taking things apart. I made lots of mistakes the first time like forgetting to glue in a piece and then having to wait for the epoxy to set before I could move on.

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Also I've often wondered why so many engines under the companionway are accessed by removing the large panel and then having to put it somewhere temporarily. Not the kind of thing you want banging around loose in a seaway. What I've done is hinge it using heavy duty lift-off hinges. If I want I can remove it just by lifting it an inch or 2, but in normal use I just open it and latch it so it doesn't swing. I do however have to lift off the steps, but they are smaller than the whole door. Also I don't like using contact cement for the Formica, as I've found it sometimes lifts when moisture gets behind it. I use epoxy and it'll never lift and it protects the wood better as well. All structural plywood is Aqua Tek marine (3/4" is 13 ply) and not only are there no voids but instead of plugging voids in the inner plies they don't allow any voids in the inner plies to start with. More expensive but worth it I think. \$145 per 4x8 sheet of 3/4". Also I've accessed more storage than the factory could have afforded to - built in a tool box above the engine under the hinging counter top step and there were unused spaces going back under the cockpit coamings behind the aft bulkhead panels I've used for a fairly large galley locker with shelf.
Brian
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I don't think anybody mentioned research time. Boat refitting requires specialized marine knowledge that we don't pick up fixing our cars and houses. I just finished refitting a 27 foot sailboat and kept a log of the job. Working part time (I have a full time job), on a boat that was basically sound but needed restoration in every system, the refit took 16 months: 1,200 hours working and 450 hours researching.

See also Top Ten Refit Lessons - Cruisers & Sailing Forums for some gems.
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