Plan and Budget vs Reality for Boat Yard Work

In the previous post, we looked at the purchase price and admin costs associated with actually buying the boat. In this post we are covering what our boat yard work plan was vs what we actually ended up doing. Since we had been chartering and looking at boats for a few years, and more specifically the Lagoon and Leopard brands, we had a pretty good idea what we thought we wanted on our boat.

Much like buying a house, you try and get one with those items that you want, or think you need, and if they are not available, you get them installed after you move in; so it goes while shopping for a new boat.

People who purchase 40-45′ catamarans tend to gravitate towards the same options on their boats. Though some hardcore sailors will use it as a negative descriptor, they are aptly described as floating condos, and as such get appropriately outfitted as you would expect to find for a condo in the tropics.

We were no exceptions, and came up with a list based on our time aboard 2 X monohull charters in the Mediterranean, 2 X catamaran charters in the Caribbean, along with the numerous blogs and Facebook discussions on the subject.

  • Water maker – we weren’t sure of the brand we would get, but there were two that were the most popular at the time, Spectra and Cruise RO.
  • Solar panels – we didn’t know how much we needed, nor the infinite number of components and possible ways to install it.
  • Generator – we weren’t sure how much we would use it, especially with solar, but “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it” plus in most cases, if you want to use your a/c you needed to have the generator on.
  • Washer/dryer – “better to have it …”
  • Upgraded anchor(s) – endless opinions and books written on ground tackle, including what to have for backups, unique situations or emergencies, but we knew a big Rocna or Mantus anchor was a good all-around primary anchor.
  • Radar – weather, darkness, fog, sea monsters…
  • AIS – Automatic Identification System
  • Mast steps – as a supplement to a bosun chair, or use the bosun chair as a safety while using the mast steps.
  • Air conditioning – small confined spaces with no breeze in the tropics can be nasty for both people and gear.
  • Deck fridge – because one can not live on water alone.
  • Scuba compressor – because we like diving.

We had an idea how much all this stuff would cost if we bought a boat with none of it, although the biggest variable tends to be the labour involved. At anywhere from $90-150/hour, and no idea how long it will take install a given system, that was quite a variable. The boat we found was in very good condition, was actively maintained, but only had a few of the items we wanted: air conditioning, generator, AIS and solar, but only 280W which only really serves to keep the batteries charged.

We also planned for the costs associated with a complete servicing of the engines and generator, inspecting the rigging with any additions we may want, and the cost of 2 X complete scuba outfits for us.

10,000 – Water maker
8,000   – Radar
10,000 – Scuba compressor
1,500    – Cockpit Fridge
1,500    – Washer/dryer
1,000   – Anchor
1,500   – Servicing
1,000   – Mast steps
2,500   – Rigging
2,000  – Dive gear
$39,000 – Total

So that’s what we had in mind when Christa returned to Canada after the weekend we took possession of the boat, and we had both stayed on it for a couple days in Key Largo. Between then and November 6th, I spent time getting to know the boat and started to make some purchases beyond boat yard work that we had scheduled with Just Catamarans after we had an accepted offer. They had already done some work on the boat for the previous owner, so they were familiar with it.

From this time alone with the boat, and then approximately one month with Just Catamarans working with us, we adjusted our plan a fair bit for what we wanted to get them to do for us before we crossed to The Bahamas. Some of this was due to us coming from a place of ignorance on a subject, to what I like to call “knowing enough to be dangerous.” Some of it was due to cost or complexity, and simply deciding to worry about it after we crossed back to Florida and/or getting ready for the following season.

This is what we ended up with:

$15,000 – Water maker. We chose the Spectra Newport 400 Mk II. This was the same model, and the install was essentially the same as it would have come from the Robertson & Caine factory if the previous owner had ordered it. The big difference was the price, as the factory install option was over $23,000. Verdict – There are cheaper systems like the Cruise RO that would have done the same job. Our only worry about them was that they are not automatic, so it will allow the user to damage it, and there is really no factory or retail support as with the Spectra. We were very happy with our system, and at about 15 gph, occasionally wished we went with one that made water faster.

$350 – 2 X AC outlets. We installed an outlet under the main salon table as that is where we spent most of our time if we were using a laptop, and another one under the outside table in the aft cockpit. This allowed us to plug a laptop, cell phone, cooler, etc while outside. Verdict – Very happy with the decision, and could have even installed a combination electric plug and USB outlets and/or 12V, but adapters are easy to find.

$3,400 – Washer/Dryer. We installed a Splendide 2100XC with dedicated pluming, electric and deck vent. Most boaters and RVers are familiar with these machines. Verdict – Used a lot of water, but very happy with the purchase. We never used the dryer when at anchor. Ensure you use a deck vent, not a reservoir model. With the reservoir your clothes never really dry, and you’ll be adding humidity to the inside of your boat.

$1,500 – WiFi booster. We went with the Rogue Wave Wifi Booster on the mast just above the spreaders. Verdict – Should have gone with a WiFi & Cell Booster combo or a just a cell booster. There were only 2 places where we had access to a usable WiFi signal (anchored close to a bar), since we never spent any time in marinas. Plus nearly the entire Bahamas chain has cell service, and so we ended up using T-Mobile One Plus service on my phone, and a pay as you go Bahamas Telecom service on Christa’s phone.

$400 – Rewire windlass control. I had learned that Leopard catamarans of this vintage must have an engine running (port I think) in order to operate the anchor windlass. Evidently it’s something they do to mitigate charter customers from pulling the boat around on the anchor chain without any forward movement. I wanted the ability to use the anchor with no engines if required. Verdict – Was the right decision for a lot of reasons, not to mention we actually needed this after our lightning strike which knocked out both our engines.

$550 – 3 X fresh/salt capability in heads. Pluming and electrical switch to allow either salt or freshwater flushes. If you have a water maker on board this make sense since salt water and urine combine for some nasty smells and can clog up your rather small pluming hoses. Verdict – We were glad with the addition. You can however mitigate the smells and build up by running a lot of salt water through your toilets when you are in crystal clear water like most of The Bahamas.

$1700 – Upgrade anchor. We knew we wanted to upgrade from the factory anchor, and use it as a secondary. We went with a 33kg/73lb Rocna Anchor with a custom roller assembly. We could have opted to stay with the factory roller, but the new anchor risked rubbing the trampoline each time we raised it so the custom roller moved its stowage point forward and down about 6 inches. Verdict – We were very happy with our anchor, and calmly sat or slept through nasty fronts with winds over 40kts while others had issues. Everyone has an opinion on anchors, but the discussions are frequently based on anecdotes and emotion rather than any meaningful experience or facts. For more information on anchoring, I recommend The Complete Book on Anchoring and Mooring by Earl Hinz as your first stop, and Happy Hooking – The Art of Anchoring by Alex and Daria Blackwell as an alternative. We also have a previous post about our anchor gear.

$250 – Automatic Charge Relay (ACR). They divert energy from the house batteries to the start batteries for the engines and generator. The previous owner already had two of these installed for the engines, and we installed one for the generator. Verdict – Great to have, but ensure you understand how your boat is wired. If there is a drain on one of your batteries, this setup could drain your house batteries along with it if you leave the boat for a while without solar, wind or shore power.

$600 – Life raft custom bracket. Leopards of this vintage have the life raft in a storage space under the rear most seat in the aft cockpit. This creates a couple issues. You lose a very large storage space in a convenient location and it takes 2 fairly strong men to pull it out from an awkward location, with difficulty. We still had one year remaining on our raft so we had a custom mount made for it under the boom towards the back of the hardtop. Verdict – Great idea to access the storage space for our snorkel and water gear, and where we placed it aft under the boom gave us a perfect spot to stand while working with the sail. We have seen simpler (and likely less expensive) mounts now being installed by Just Catamarans in a similar fashion.

$13,000 – Solar power. We had 6 X 140W (840W) Solara flexible solar cells installed with a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controller from OutbackVerdict – The first thing to note is that the solar set up was one of the very few electrical systems that was not affected by the lightning. Whether that was just by chance or because it’s well made, we don’t know. Our setup was for flex panels that you can walk on, installed on the hardtop. For about the same money, we could have used rigid panels (you can’t walk on) mounted aft on a custom solar arch. Next time I think we would go with the rigid panels and arch. Easier to change/upgrade, less drilling of holes in your boat, creates more shade aft including covering your dinghy, and gives you more room to mount extra items like a wind generator, antennas, etc. We would also go with lithium next time with around 1200W solar.

$1500 – Underwater lights. 2 basic blue/white LED lights just below waterline on the inside aft of each hull. Verdict – Yes, this is a frivolous luxury, but we enjoyed endless hours of sitting on the sugar scoop watching the fish so definitely got our money’s worth. There may have also been a ladies-only skinny dip while the men talked about big things on another boat, but no one is confirming. Also, note that just two lights on the stern gave enough light to envelop the entire boat around to the bows.

$250 – Shower sump on/off switch. Leopards of this vintage retain the water while you shower until you push the press-and-hold switch to pump the water out. We left the guest showers alone, but installed an on/off switch in the master that we used. Verdict – This was a great addition as it kept us from holding the switch while the water drained. This allowed us to squeegee the shower while we waited.

$350 – Red Light at the helm. I was surprised to find there was no red light at the helm. You want to use red light at night so you don’t loose your night vision. Very important in the maritime (and aviation) environment. We were able to select red or white under the helm cover. Verdict – Good decision. Also, you may enjoy the red light when you’re just hanging out in the aft cockpit at night.

$2000 – Flaws and cosmetic fixes. We had Just Catamarans look after a number of small items that varied from dock dings to the odd way the master shower sump cover wouldn’t sit flush over the drain. Verdict – Various small things we took the opportunity to get done while we were in the boat yard.

$700 – Haul Out. This was required for the holes in the hull associated with the work we were getting done.

$2000 – Dockage. 31 days of slip rental in the marina associated with the work we had done.

$45,000 – Total. This total did not include the radar, cockpit fridge, mast steps, rigging and most notably the scuba compressor or dive gear. We didn’t need to service the engines nor generator as the previous owner had this done before our survey/sea-trial. Not far off from our budget, but with some notable differences from our plan.

We decided to skip the radar this first season since we were staying in The Bahamas and so not planning to do any deliberate night travel. The cockpit fridge was going to be nearly $2700 installed so instead we went with a Dometic CFX 40W ac/dc portable fridge/freezer that we left plugged in under the aft cockpit table with our newly added electrical outlet. The rigging was in good shape, so these funds went towards extras and spares covered in our purchases beyond boat yard work, and we only installed 3 mast steps to give us better access to the sail at the mast.

While we weren’t running short on funds, the bills were still adding up and there were a few things we wanted to buy on our own so we decided to skip the dive compressor and dive gear until next season. We helped justify this move by deciding we would be too busy trying to figure out our new boat and what we were doing in a general sense to worry about another piece of gear and going scuba diving. Christa will say she is agnostic to this decision, but in my case I wished we had set ourselves up for diving. There was ample time to go diving that would not have taken time away from meaningful work on the boat. In other words, there were times when I was bored. It also would have made cleaning the hull much easier, as well as removing the fender line from the prop we fouled.

Unlike some others’ experience getting work done, none of our decisions were really based on time. While we were sometimes frustrated with the rate of progress, we had no real deadline other than needing to be out of Florida by early January for tax reasons. We were both retired and got into this lifestyle to specifically avoid being constrained by stressful timelines, so we tried our best to avoid creating them ourselves. We didn’t want to rush ourselves while we were learning, and mostly enjoying the process, and we didn’t want to rush the workers lest they skip corners or make mistakes while trying to please us.

In the end we developed a very good relationship with Laurent, our project manager from Just Catamarans during our first real experience at getting major boat work done. He was therefore the second guy we called following our lightning strike, right after the insurance company. With all the horror stories out there associated with boat yard work, we were lucky to find someone that contributed to an overall positive experience, and thoroughly enjoyed working with the Just Catamarans team.

From the previous post, we were at 477,500 + 45,000 from this work for a total of $522,500. That puts us up to about 14% beyond the purchase price of the boat.

On the next post we’ll look at the items we purchase beyond the big systems from boat yard work.

Purchase Price and Admin Costs for Buying our Boat
Purchases Beyond Boat Yard Work

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