Freecycling: Should I Even Consider A Project Boat?

Boat Graveyard

Bob over at BoatBits has a short note this week that struck a chord with me.

Every boat I’ve owned was used. My most recent one, a Balboa 23, was “free.” The thought process for me was rather simple.

1) The Balboa, while free, would have some initial expense. This came in the form of sweat equity to get it out of the water, a small ramp fee to do so, and the cost of discarding the hull of my Aquarius 23.

2) Sweat equity and lost sailing time from removing every piece of kit from the Aquarius 23 to later be installed on the Balboa 23 (same model boat, just slightly upgraded interior.)

3) The typical friction inherent to any project, where lots of decisions need to be made, time sucks, learning curves, etc.

The reward was practical: for little initial expense, I was getting a significant boost in interior renovation. The Balboa, while lacking many items, had a great interior that was much farther along than my Aquarius. I knew I’d sink a lot more time and money into the Aquarius interior before it would be up to my desired standard. I figured I could short cut a little bit of the process.

That said, it wasn’t easy to get everything in order to go sailing that season. I only made it out once in 2012, and it was over Veteran’s Day. In Maryland, the daytime might have been comfortable, but the nights are quite chilly. So much for opportunity.

Every once in a while on Craigslist there will be a “diamond in the rough”. That potentially great deal, which like a siren calls to a mariner. “Of course you can have this 40 foot world-girdler for the low price of $1000,” while the reality is there’s a significant outlay to be made to get her in good condition.

Then again, a patient person, with the right plan, and a large degree of self-restraint, could pick up such a boat with the intent of doing things slowly over time.

Frankly, that was the plan for our Tartan 37. A sailboat we could keep as long as possible, and just keep doing small upgrades over time while maintaining the basics. I can say from experience it’s a tough position to be in. If you are considering a project sailboat (a significant project sailboat; they all need something), then please heed Bob’s words.

(Photo Credit: Clicksy)