Minimum Boat Preparation Time? (going offshore) - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-10-2009 Thread Starter
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Minimum Boat Preparation Time? (going offshore)

I have an interesting question - what is the minimum time you would plan to allow from day of boat purchase to day of departure for a 6 month cruising trip including an Atlantic crossing?

Now, this question is like 'how long is a piece of string?' so if you don't mind me sharing my scenario I can narrow it down for you -
My wife and I have been researching boats for years and have a shortlist of suitable yachts we've decided on, and from what I can see online we can afford to buy a yacht in 'sound' condition (probably Florida) that won't require a major overhaul.

I ask because we are working back from the Atlantic hurricane season for the ocean crossing. I'm trying to work out a rough cut-off date to fly to the States to buy a yacht, before we have to delay another year. Once we've found our yacht we will be working full-time on preparing the yacht for the cruise.

Here's an example yacht otherwise my question is too difficult to answer - let's say a mid 80s Tartan 37 that's had regular refits and is in 'good' condition. No major structural concerns, nor deck leaks, and let's say the engine was overhauled in the last 5 years, hull has been repainted, and most equipment is in servicable condition. Let's say for this example we'll replace her standing rigging for an ocean crossing and have the through hulls checked and serviced, a new mainsail and Genoa, new batteries, engine service, and have to find and purchase a few extra bits and pieces for a 6mth cruise - lee clothes, additional anchors, new bimini, and minor bits and pieces.

with this example in mind -
1. What is the rough minimum time (weeks/months) you would allow to be comfortable with your plans? (purchase to departure)
2. What is the bare minimum time (weeks/months) you think this is do-able in? (or before plans just aren't smart!)

I know no one can give me an accurate answer without seeing a specific boat, but for the sake of rough project planning I'm interesting in seeing the range of answers from seasoned cruisers (eg. 3-4wks, 3 months? 6 months??, etc).

I will value your input highly thank you.. We are currently in decent jobs in Oz so the later we leave it to fly to the States the more cash we'll have for our trip (but my wife and badly don't want to put off our trip, we've waited ages already!).
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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It's the triangle - good, fast, cheap - pick two. If you pile a ton of money into it and hire several contractors, you could get the refit done in 2-4 weeks. If you do it all yourself, it could take years. Everyone else will tell you to take a year getting to know your boat, but you could do it the way we did - start with her in New York, and then work your way down the coast to Florida, stopping along the way to fix problems that show up. By the time we reached FL, we had fixed a ton of issues, had access to many of the best resources and to US boating shops and mail order companies and felt comfortable hopping over to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, we didn't make it farther south this year, but we will next year.

s/v "Pelican" Passport 40 #076- Finished Cruising - for the moment -
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post #3 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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I wouldn't call myself a seasoned cruiser, but under the scenario you describe above, I would want at least two months. Preferably three.

The sails alone will be a tight delivery unless you find a loft with no work (which might say something about their product), and you'll need time to test those sails then have them tweaked even after you get them delivered.

You may encounter other unanticipated delays, but hurricane season starts when it starts. Give yourself as much time as you possibly can. Or find a boat that is truly ready to go.

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post #4 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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The answer usually depends on two things - how much time you have before your planned departure and how much work you can get done. neither of which you can know until you do it. Too many people have tried to predict and always with the same result.
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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Another thing the answer will depend on is: how many times have you prepped a boat for an ocean crossing before? How about for a coastal hop? I have never been on such a voyage but I would guess prep time scales up at least linearly with distance, or maybe duration, which may or may not be the same thing. My first overnight voyage took several weeks of planning, and since then the prep time has gone down to an hour or so, since I have a better understanding of the boat, the crew, the local conditions, etc.

It sounds like this will be your first Atlantic crossing. Maybe you've done some sailing already off the East Coast, in which case you have a feel for how quickly things get done there. It also sounds like you'll be sailing a new-to-you boat, so no matter what the broker (and even the surveyor) tells you, you'll probably be doing at least a couple of coastal hops before crossing the pond, so factor in a coupla weeks for that plus prep time for those trips.

If I were in your situation I would probably be looking at one year from purchase to departure. This would include time for a shakedown cruise and other, progressively longer cruises on the same boat, say to the Bahamas. Plenty of opportunity there to work out all the bugs that the survey inevitably missed, and to get familiar enough with the boat that my wife and I could both singlehand her confidently in adverse conditions, building on experience with our previous boat. It was also give me time to pick and choose increasingly challenging conditions in which to drill heavy weather tactics, experiment with provisioning strategies, consider modifications, etc. This is assuming we can get enough time off from work to do all this, but it sounds like you won't have that problem. This is also assuming that winter is still sailing season in Florida.

So, for the purposes of rough estimation, assuming your experience level is similar to mine, I'd be looking at a year.

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post #6 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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Ocean prep (any prep)


My three rules are:
1 - It is never as easy as you think
2 - It always takes longer than you think
3 - It always cost more than you think.
Someone in this excellent community has a great corollary to Rule 3
It never cost more than you think - you are just thinking about the wrong amount.
(or something like that)

All that said - when you do arrive back across the pond, you will certainly know your yacht intimately!

Enjoy and be safe


Irwin Citation 34
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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I would say two weeks absolute minimum AND be prepared to see that stretch into 6-10 weeks depending on the surprises you get.

If the boat hasn't been recently re-rigged, it may take you a month to obtain and replace the standing rigging. Similarly, if you need engine work, or any machine parts, you've got to find that out, pull 'em, find a shop that will take them in, lose a day or a week in shipping or travel with them...these things add up.

Do you trust the diesel system? Or, plan to lose a day or book a day getting the tank scrubed and fuel polished--just to make Real Damn Sure it is starting out right?

Got a chandlery in town? Need a new head? Gee, is it in stock or shipping and coming in a week? And then a holiday weekend sneaks in.

Heaven help you if you need sails, you won't get them in two weeks unless you pay top dollar with express shipping and they are "stock" on a shelf someplace.

So, if the boat was really well maintained, and if there are no surprises, you can take it out for a weekend shakedown, confirm there's nothing else wrong, take it out for a week to really shake it down, and then set off. All within two weeks, assuming you get the paperwork down fast, and you're not waiting on any parts or anything.

A lot will depend on your luck, and how clean the boat is when you buy it.

Anything should be possible in under three months, but anything less than two weeks is going to need some long days, good eyes, and luck.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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Not that you should buy a boat without a good survey anyways, but a survey would give you a good checklist to work from that would help you make a better estimate than an imaginary boat.

You may also consider the services of a delivery captain, whose job it is to prepare a boat for crossings or shorter deliveries. Not sure of your experience sailing but a seasoned delivery captain should be skilled at handling any unexpected repairs made at sea.

If you don't hire a captain for delivery maybe just as a consultant for the preparations if one would be wiling to do so. If you can find one on the beach near the boat and pay them their daily rate to inspect and suggest the work needed to prep the boat, it could be worth your time and money.

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Oceanside CA
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-10-2009
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When we landed in Punta Gorda a couple of years ago and took posssesion of my dad's Tayana 42, we intended to sail her across the gulf. Now, sailing across the gulf is not the same as sailing across the Atlantic, but it is not cake walk either. We were on the baot for about a week. The boat was ready to go short of polishing the fuel. We bought a handheld Garmin GPS as a backup and began preparing. In the end, we did not sail it as we caught an unbelieveable deal on a dead-head (trucker) that was going that way and we could not say no.

It was not the sailing that bothered me, it was where the systems were. You will also need to polish that fuel and do a complete evaluation of that boat before going. You will need to buy a fair amount of spares, like water pumps, impellers, backup gps, etc. As far as how long it will take you to feel comfortable sailing the boat on that type of a trip, I guess I would say it would be less the trip that would scare me versus the prep to make sure that I had not missed anything. Assuming you just had the boat surveyed, it is probably sfer than 90% of all the other boats that just take off across.

These are just my opinions, but I have never crossed the Atlantic so others may have different opinions and suggestions. I guess I have just sailed long enough that I can pretty much hop on any boat and make her go where I want. It is the finding out where all the systems are and how they are run that bothers me (along with having sufficient spares).

- CD
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Polish the fuel, Polish the fuel,Polish the fuel, and don't forget to Polish the fuel!!
I've delivered quit a few boats, both new and old, back and forth to the Caribbean, and the most diffiucult delivery was on a boat with dirty fuel. Lesson learned: Don't believe the survey, and Polish the fuel! Regarding surveys, always double check the report, and carry several hand held back up gps's, radios and a portable solar panel just in case.
We ended up in Bermuda with just one working hand held gps and no power whatsoever.
The joke I make about that delivery is, "It was the perfect learning experience, because everything went perfectly wrong." Many miles later I'm grateful for the experience but the most important lesson was to make sure the fuel is clean, that you have many spare filters and knowledge on how to change them and bleed the system, and knowledge on how to clear dirty fuel lines. I've delivered some real junk, but as long as the engine can be started it's possible to survive about anything (so far).

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Any wind will get you there
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