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patrscoe 07-25-2011 08:18 AM

Retrofit or Not?
It is the same question that our yard mechanic saids he hears too often - "to put the money into a older sailboat which you may never get back or sell the boat and upgrade?"

Our sailboat is in good condition but we went her to be in better condition, apply new non-skid, finish all the exterior teak (alot of it), new skid paint, renovate the interior, replace the old standing rigging and new hull paint over the old gelcoat.... many other smaller projects. We purchased her early this spring and thinking that we will redesign and replace all the running rigging, which we did, then sail her this summer, which we did.

With the market being down for the seller, I don't think we would ever get our investment returned, and that is just the cost, not all the labor and weekends spent working on the sailboat.

Should we consider selling her and upgrading to a newer sailboat? Or finish what we started, which in the end, should be as good an upgrade since most of major components have been replaced.

Anyone out there thinking the same?

JimsCAL 07-25-2011 08:39 AM

A boat is not an investment. Like cars, boats depreciate. With a new (or newer) boat, the annnual depreciation is a big part of the cost of owning the boat. With an older boat, the necessary upgrades are part of the cost of ownership. If you like your current boat and its in decent shape, keep it and make it yours. Just don't expect to get your money back out when you sell.

tommays 07-25-2011 08:40 AM

I did mine pretty complete BUT having owned boats for 30 years short of wining the lottery we will NOT be selling in the foreseeable future

Doing all the work myself was the only remotely feasible way to keep the cost at a sensible level BUT even a DIY deck and topside paint takes a huge amount of time and is a very weather constrained project

For example i got real close to finishing the topsides when earl came through last fall and lost the painting weather till this spring

Jeff_H 07-25-2011 09:06 AM

I appologize that this is mostly cribbed from an earlier post that I had written for an earlier similar discussion on this topic. It all depends on how much you love this boat. Fixing up an old boat, especially if you have a yard do all the work, almost never makes economic sense. The value of an older boat is generally limited by the the fact that there are a lot of them out there for sale cheaply, that the design is percieved as being 'out of date' and no matter how much you do, there will always be 30-40-50 year old parts which can fail.

Your list of tasks far exceeds the value of the boat even in a very strong market, and your list does not include adding up-to-date sails, new upholstery, rewiring and updating the electrical system and electronics, and perhaps an engine rebuild, which these boats often require to be in 'like new' condition.

But many of these older designs also have merits which in certain applications or for certain owner's tastes offset their liabilities. Your Pearson 35 for example sails reasonably well and offers shoal draft, and so would be appealing in a venue where there was decent breezes and extreme shoal draft like the west coast of Florida.

Whether to 'restore' a boat like the Pearson 35 or buy a newer boat is a very personal question. If you have some predominent mix of the following:
  • You really love the Pearson,
  • Money is not important,
  • you intend to own the Pearson for a very long time,
  • You are very handy and enjoy working on boats as much as sailing them
Then restoring the Pearson 35 may make sense. But if you have no real committment to the Pearson 35, then put the old girl back together, clean her up, sell her, and find another candidate to win your heart strings.

Perhaps off the point, in your original post you said that you re-engineered and replaced the rigging. Whether you keep the boat or sell her, I would like to suggest that the Pearson 35 was pretty well engineered. Upgrading and updating hardware and the deck layout is one thing. Re-designing is quite another. Many boat owners think that they can improve on older designs by rearranging the interior or restructuring the standing rigging. These so-called improvements may suit your needs, but they rarely add value to the completed boat.

My take away recommendation is that if this is a boat that you intend to keep for a long time, and which uniquely suits your needs and tastes, and you can afford to look past the economics of restoring the boat, then there is no reason not to restore the old girl. But if you are like many of us with older boats who like our boats and find they suit our immediate needs, we enjoy tinkering with them, but don't have the resources to fully restore them to 'like-new', then the right answer may be to simply do the things which make the boat reliable, and safe, then, do the deferred maintenance items which are necessary to keep the boat from deteriorating, and then, when you have the time and money, do the things that annoy you most. And finally if you own the boat long enough and have the resources, do the aesthetic items when you have the time.

But if you are like most of us, give up the idea of making a new boat out of the old girl; do the very least to her that you can to make her safe, reliable, and meet your needs. And then simply appreciate her for her wringles and age spots and admire her for her wisdom which came with age.


patrscoe 07-25-2011 09:17 AM

I guess using the word "investment" was a bad choice...
We have owned many smaller sailboats like a Oday 27, Pearson 26, Ranger 22, etc... We refit the Oday and was fell in love with her but sold her to start a family.

We unfortuanately know the time required to work on a older sailboat (Formula for calculating hours required to work on a sailboat: A = what you it will take, B = 1.75 factor; difficult / problems / didn't go as per plan, C = 1.5 factor; weather / heat / cold / rain and D = actual hours work performed, Thus... A x B (C) = D, this weekend A = 4 hrs x 1.75 (1.5 (it was 95 degrees) = 10.5 actual hours) You can use this formula on the cost too....

patrscoe 07-25-2011 09:27 AM

Thanks Jeff, very well stated. You post is exactly what I am trying to figure out.

FYI - the redesign of the running rigging was fairly basic; replacing and upgrading the mainsheet purchase, replaced all the lines, ran a few controls to the cockpit, etc... nothing out of the box type of things.

SloopJonB 07-25-2011 05:49 PM


Originally Posted by patrscoe (Post 754085)
Thanks Jeff, very well stated. You post is exactly what I am trying to figure out.

FYI - the redesign of the running rigging was fairly basic; replacing and upgrading the mainsheet purchase, replaced all the lines, ran a few controls to the cockpit, etc... nothing out of the box type of things.

My points have pretty well been covered but the bottom line on this sort of question is: do you like working on the boat as a hobby? If not and all you are going to do is cut cheques for other people to do the work, buy a newer boat. If you can and will do most of the work yourself, go for the upgrade.

Boats are not an financial investment, they are a lifestyle cost but those costs can get unreasonable quickly if not realistically managed. If they are managed you can get a much nicer boat than you could otherwise afford and in some cases, even break even or make a couple of bucks in the end.

By the way, just to let one of my neuroses show, restoring an old boat is a reFIT. Adding new gear to a boat not originally equipped with it is a RETROfit. Replacing the standing rigging is a reFIT - putting furling on a 60's era Pearson is a RETROfit.

CaptainForce 07-25-2011 06:05 PM

I've lived aboard and actively cruised the same boat for the last 26 years and I bought it as a twelve year old abused boat. Sort of a "rescue dog"! I also bought a new boat that I lived on and cruised twelve years before. Both of these boats cost me money and I'll never expect to gain money by boat ownership. The choice for me is to enjoy what I have and without great expense and to continue to live beneath my means. Paying for a new boat does not buy security, reliability, or safety. I witnessed a man once pay a mechanic $300 to come to his boat an change the impeller on his generator,- my same task is completed for $19. There is a very deep well to fall into when owning a boat,- your skill,- your choice. Take care and joy, Aythya crew

tdw 07-25-2011 08:05 PM

As he usually does Jeff nailed it.

We made the decision to go newer/bigger boat only because we decided that more space was required. Raven is not a 'large' 34'er and whenever we were away for longer than a weekend space really did become an issue. To a large extent that space was for storage as we like to get away from the necessity of restocking. The new girl though 41' is still 'small' in that she is a small 41'er but she suits our needs and wants perfectly.

The Wombet and I spent so many evenings on Raven discussing the change and it all came down to "if only she was just that little bit bigger" then we would have put the money into constant improvements, economic sense or no economic sense, simply because we love that boat. However, having made the decision to 'upgrade" we knew that meant younger. We chose to pay for work that was already done and equipment that does not need replacement rather than embark on yet another major refit.

Omatako 07-25-2011 08:41 PM

My view may be a little different . . .

I believe that to own a boat (or anything else for that matter) one has to convert something into boat. If you have excess money, convert that into boat. If you have real estate you no longer want, convert that into boat. Or, as in my case, if you have skills convert them into boat.

I have always said that I actually should not own the boat I do. Using conventional wisdom I actually can't afford the boat if I have to do things the way many other boat owners do (imported help). But I don't do the things most other boat owners do.

I do everything possible within my skills to make my boat what I want it to be. And if I don't have the skills then there is another double edged question: Can I learn the skills and be happy with the results of my newly found skills? Or can I live without the things that require skills I don't have.

So over the years I have learned to competently use (and mostly bought) a lathe, a milling machine, paint-spraying equipment, carpentry equipment, an industrial sewing machine, a TIG welder, a miriad of hand tools and so the list continues. And yes, there are some that say my work is not super-yacht standard but my boat looks good, works well, is safe and will eventually be complete. At a price that I can afford.

If I can't continue to convert my skills into boat then it's time to trade down to a smaller boat - but that will hopefully be a long time coming.

If this conversion of skills is not for you, then you have to find something else to convert into boat. Money, mostly.

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