Thursday, April 11, 2013

Boat Shopping

This past weekend we went to Florida for a whirlwind boat shopping trip.  I don't have a whole lot of time right now to go through all the details now, so that will be in another post.  We did get to see about a dozen boats and our thoughts on our preference have changed.  Before the trip the PDQ 36 was at the top of our list, but now it seems that the Lagoon 37 may be taking that spot.

We also have a bit of a decision to make.  There happens to be a Lagoon 37 for sale that would work well for us.  The problem is that it is a bit of a "project boat".  There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the hull (and only a survey would tell us that for sure) but there is a lot of cosmetic, interior, and smaller items that need attention (and I'm not just talking about new cushions or refinishing woodwork).  I think it may have been a charter boat at one time as well so re-powering might be an issue.  This of course, comes with a more attractive price point.

Now I'm a fairly handy person and have some knowledge about the types of repairs needed, but am I up for this task.  On the one hand, we would definitely learn a LOT about the boat both working on and working with professionals while we brought the boat into proper condition for us.  On the other hand, do I really want to make my first large boat to be a project to the extent this one will be (definitely beyond the basic refit/update of electronics, sails, etc.)

So, since I have a few followers now, what do you think?  I would have the time to do the work, but should we make our first live-aboard boat a small project?  Decisions...decisions...


  1. I guess the question is, what is your definition of a "project boat"?

    What HAS to be done vs. what you WANT done?

    Is this the 1993 in Key Largo? If it is, it doesn't seem to bad from the listing.

    Every boat is going to require work and a good maintenance schedule to keep things going. This is where you can tell the difference between boat owners and cruisers. If you are just a boat owner, you put off maintenance, pay a boat yard to do things you could readily do and don't spend very much time thinking about improvements to your boat's system. But if you are a cruiser, you have a regular maintenance program, you constantly think about improvements to the systems and you never pay someone to work on your boat. This isn't just about being cheap, but being prepared.

    We are going into season 3 of owning Smitty. At this point, there is not a system with which I am not familiar on her. Mind you I knew nothing about diesels, 12 volt electrical systems, marine plumbing, etc. prior to 2010. Our first boat had barely any electrical (a VHF, stereo and nav lights) and one thruhull for the sink. I just finished putting my engine back together and redoing my entire 12 volt charging and fusing system. Every week I am learning something about the boat or a better way to set up something on her.

    I don't know if you have read the Harts-at-Sea book or their blog but I would recommend it. They taught me that your boat is never going to be finished and that's OK. You will always have a list of projects and you can work on them along the way.

    I would also recommend and These are both great resources to help with DIY repairs and maintenance. But the best resource out there is Compass Marine "How To" articles ( This guys is one of the best resources around. With these resources, I bet you could tackle almost any project and end up with much better knowledge of your boat in the end.

    Good luck and fair winds.


    1. Hey Jesse,

      It's not the one in Key Largo, but is "similar in condition" according to someone that has seen both. I guess my biggest concern is in addition to "all the usual stuff" that one would expect with boat ownership (what's the joke...cruising is the art of fixing your boat in exotic locations), this one does have additional known work that I'll need to do or supervise (depending on complexity and my skills) and I just worry that the work will take way longer than I estimate (history indicates I'm a bit optimistic with those estimates).

      Thanks a ton for your insight and information. I'll definitely be checking those links out.


    2. Boat projects always take longer than expected.

      I guess the first question is, what is the list of known repairs and which ones are you concerned about? Maybe some of us have done the projects and can let you know how difficult they really are.

      The second question would be how much below your purchasing budget is this boat?

    3. Hey Jesse,

      I don't want to post the whole list here, but if you want to shoot me an email at thisratsailed (at) gmail (dot) com I can provide more detail. Most of the work comes down to what I'd call cabnetry/woodwork/finishing, engines approaching 5000 hours, tired headsail, and minor gelcoat repairs. There are really only a few that I'd consider boat-specific skills.

      It is appropriately below my purchase budget to cover the fixes. If I can get to the right price, I should be able to get out much of what I'd put into it in this regard. Refit and additions is another consideration and I have separate funds set aside for that

      Hope that makes sense.

  2. If it's a Lagoon 37, it has almost certainly been in charter. I would replace the rigging immediately, and engines when they let go.

    Next time you go boat shopping, bring a mallet and start rapping on hulls. You will know when it sounds wrong.

    Also, bring a screwdriver. Pop open any panels you can that contain electrical work. Rat's nest = walk away.

    You should consider posting on Cruiser's Forum, you will get a lot more response.

    1. Yes, I'm pretty sure it has been in charter. You bring up a good point about the running rigging, and I expected I would likely replace it based on condition...I do hope you meant the running and not standing rigging.

      You happen to know the "average" (yes, I know, a loaded word) expected life of a Yanmar Diesel? I've heard anything from 5000 to 10000 hours. I'm assuming a repower is in the near future and am including that in my "project" list for the boat (and price negotiations).

      My wife actually bought me a book on "Inspecting the aging Sailboat" shortly before the trip and I read it before we left. So I did open every compartment I could to inspect things and did test for delamination (as best I could without tools...unfortunately I don't think the TSA would let me on a plane with a hammer or screwdriver).

      I'm reasonably confident that I'm aware of the condition as best one can be after "kicking the tires"...I guess my real question is am I crazy for considering more of a project for my first boat. While I enjoy some projects like this, this is more than just a hobby so I just wonder if I'm nuts.

  3. Pay the money and get every fluid on the boat checked. If we had done this, we would have reduced our offer on our boat by the $5,000 it cost us to replace the V-drive and transmission because we didn't do the fluids inspections. Take a sample of each and send them to an independent lab. Also, you will be surprised at the lack of standardization for the word "professional". Some day we can swap stories over a sundowner on the disastrous works of "professionals" on our boats.

    If you're really bored, you can go back on our blog and see our perspective on buying a "project boat" that we didn't realize was a project boat.

    S/V Kintala

    1. Hi Deb,

      I think I vaguely recall some of your posts but will go back and check them out again. Good advise on the fluids...I was planning on an engine survey in addition to the standard survey and will make sure they include it if we move forward.

      I've had run-ins with "professionals" in other areas and have no expectation that the boating field will be different. Learned a long time ago to get lots of references, actually go look at the work, and to do everything I can to ensure that a "professional" will meet my expectations. Also helps when you will be there to supervise.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with my concern. I'm reasonably comfortable with what I do know about the boat, it's the possible unknown surprises that give me pause. I expect there will be surprises and things do just break, I just don't want to be in "year 2 of a 3 month refit". ;-)

      And the sundowner's sound great. Hope to see you out there soon.


  4. Under almost EVERY circumstance I would say "walk away". This, coming from someone that worked in a yacht factory many moons ago and has owned boats all his life.

    However, in your case since you have the time, $ and patience and if the price point is VERY-EXTREMELY-CAN'T WALK AWAY FROM attractive, I say do it. And do it for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Because this will be your home and you will be far away from any repairman or facility at the times you'll need them most, the lessons, knowledge and familiarity you'll gain with your vessel from the project will be vital at some point(s) in your travels. You'll also be assured that you know the exact condition of every component.

    If you weren't planning to travel and live on it permanently, I can't think of any reason to invest in a "project" like this. They are big money pits you'll never recoup.

  5. I'm interested in the PDQ 36 as well, so I'm curious what you saw that made you move on to the Lagoon? What was it about the PDQ 36 that you liked/didn't like?

    1. Hi Stacey,

      Don't get me wrong, we do like the PDQ's, I think they are nice boats and well constructed. I guess the difference for us was the extra space. The Lagoon is only a few inches longer, but is two foot wider. The result is a more spacious cockpit and salon area. The headroom in the Lagoon was also better.

      Comparing what we learned online versus what we got to see, I'd definitely recommend seeing any boats you remotely think you may be interested in in-person.

      I need to finish one more post on the trip and I'll try to go into a bit more detail there as well (my time seems to be a very scarce resource lately).

      Hope this helps,

    2. Thanks for the reply. It's appreciated!