Thinking About Renovating a Yacht as a Hobby Project?
Here’s What to Expect
There are many different scenarios that might see you one day staring down a decades-old boat on land from bow to stern, wondering, “Where do I even start?” Perhaps you’ve recently bought a pre-owned boat and are looking to make it your own. Or maybe your existing boat needs a few repairs and modern enhancements. It might even be that you have just inherited a boat that’s been in storage for so long and needs a little work before she is seaworthy again.
Whatever the case may be, restoring an older yacht can be a fun, rewarding endeavour. Just keep the following steps in mind to know what to expect when it comes to restoring an older boat or tackling your upcoming yacht restoration project.
Step 1. Take an Inventory of Your Tools and Workspace
Before you begin, take a look at your tools and workspace. Do you have what it takes to pull this off (an electric buffer, demolition tools, etc.)? Do your friends and family have tools to lend you? If not, having to acquire these tools will factor into your restoration budget.
Step 2. Wash the Entire Vessel
Thoroughly clean your boat from top to bottom, and from stem to stern to get a sense of what exactly you are working with. This includes removing all the water, leaves, and other organic matter from the boat.
Pro Tip: If you’ve purchased your pre-owned boat from a broker, this step has likely been done already.
Step 3. Take a Visual Inspection of What Needs Fixing and Replacing
Start identifying everything that is visually broken, damaged, or otherwise falling apart, and make a list! This could include things like:
- Crazed and cracked fibreglass
- Torn, ripped, or mouldy upholstery
- Rotting or decaying wood components
- A shabby-looking cabin or galley
- A dull, chalky looking hull
- Peeling no-slip paint on the deck
- A cracked or foggy windshield
- Rusty components
Depending on time and budget, you might have to pick and choose what DIY projects you realistically want to take on. For example, if your hull has just lost its shine but is in otherwise good condition, you are likely able to buff it back to life yourself. However, if your upholstery needs work too, this is a more challenging DIY project and a professional re-upholstery company will be worth every penny.
Step 4. Inspect the Vessel’s Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Components
Examine the mechanical components of the boat and continue adding to your list of repairs. Check all the electrical components, including all the vessel’s lights, electrical outlets, heating and cooling systems, appliances, sinks, toilets, and shower. Ensure you’ve removed any old fuel from the fuel tank and any lingering oil from the engine and gear case. Replace any old belts and hoses on the engine.
Pro Tip: A marine technician can complete this step for you and provide a more comprehensive report on the vessel’s power systems. In many cases this is done prior to the purchase of a used boat, giving you a better idea of what the project will entail.
Step 5. Pay Special Attention to the Hull
Another area to pay special attention to is not just the cosmetics of the hull, but the through-hull fittings. Make sure they are rust-free and are still properly sealed. While you’re in the area, check the conditions of the seacocks and the cleats. If any appear to be rusted, broken, or missing altogether, these items are all relatively cheap to replace.
Step 6. Make a Wishlist of Features, Amenities, and Upgrades
If time and budget are on your side, make another list of all the add-ons you’d love to have on this boat. Keep things in scope by first thinking ahead to your intended uses for the boat. If this boat will mainly be used for fishing excursions, brainstorm all the fishing amenities you’d like to see such as rod holders, rod storage, and a livewell.
If you’ll be living in the boat part-time on the water, consider upgrading or adding to the appliances in the galley. You can also look at things like adding a laundry closet, carving out more storage space if you’re doing a deep reno, and adding newer navigational equipment.
Not sure what add-ons are even possible? Check out the floor plans of today’s modern luxury motor yachts on the market that are within the same size as what you’re working with, and you’ll get a sense of all the potential layouts, amenities, and modern touches you might want to add to this boat. Think about things like USB phone chargers, LED TVs, and sound systems that will make owning a boat that much more enjoyable.
Step 7. Get Started on the Project
With your lists in hand, it’s time to get started with your restoration project! At this point you can re-evaluate the items you want to tackle yourself, or start to call in the experts. A lot of help can be found on YouTube, on boating forums, and by talking to other boat owners who have already been where you are. Look at boating magazines and different boats for sale on the internet for visual inspiration of what’s possible.
Finding the Right Boat to Restore
Finding a boat to restore is similar to buying a boat you plan on enjoying right away. You need to consider things like what you plan to use the boat for, where you plan on storing the boat when it’s not in use, and what size and age of boat your budget will realistically afford you. All of these things are considerations for any boat purchase.
For a restoration project, storage considerations and budget should be looked at a lot more closely, as does your skill level. Be realistic about how long the boat project will take you, and where your skill level is at if the restoration is going to be a true DIY. If you think 3 months, and it ends up being 3 years due to life’s circumstances interfering with things, then that’s a lot of additional storage time you have to consider if you’re paying to store the vessel somewhere. And depending on the make and model, there could be too much depreciation if you’re planning to resell.
If budget, time, and skill level are factors, start small. The smaller the boat, the quicker the retrofit in most cases. And, if you’re just starting out, definitely avoid boats with no salvageable equipment. If the boat is just a shell, replacing gear, seating, and fibreglass components is going to far exceed the end value of the boat. Also avoid boats with major structural defects. The repair job on these types of boats is likely to be beyond cosmetic and require more equipment than the average DIYer has at home in the garage.
Likewise, if you’re looking to fix the boat up to eventually resell it, check the market before settling on something. A boating expert or yacht broker will be able to help you sort out the resale value of the boat you’re looking at restoring. It might not be worth the time or money if there is no resale or no sentimental value at the end of the day.
Just like when you’re looking at renovating a house, you already have a sense of where your comforts lie and what your limitations are. Depending on the nature of your restoration project, things might be more complicated than what we have provided above, but we hope this post has inspired you to get started on your next project. However it turns out, you’ll likely feel proud of the outcome and enjoy life on a boat you’ve customized just to your liking.
Opting to restore an older yacht can be the perfect option for someone who has the time and wants to own their first boat but is limited by budget. If you’re searching for a boat to restore, let our brokers help you find what you’re looking for. While most of the boats we have for sale at our sales dock are newer, we do come across the perfect project boat from time to time, or can help you locate one from elsewhere.
At Van Isle Marina, our brokers are ready to help you navigate the purchase of your next boat or yacht. Learn more about our sales process, or contact us with any questions you might have. We look forward to helping you end up in the boat of your dreams!