Maintenance involves keeping something in good condition, as close to its manufactured state as possible. The maintenance of a boat involves things like cleaning, varnishing, painting, polishing, antifouling, servicing the engine, servicing the seacocks, and maintaining the gas and plumbing systems. It all amounts to a fairly considerable amount of work that can’t be ignored if you are to keep your boat in a safe and good condition.
Many boat maintenance jobs can be done by someone with basic skills, but even so there are inevitably right and wrong ways to do all these tasks. When maintenance work is done by a yard, you can expect to pay a significant hourly rate for their time. However, if you are prepared to do some or all of this comparatively low skilled work yourself and can do so to a high standard, then you can save yourself a good chunk of money, provided you have the time and inclination to do so.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to do the work yourself then you will need to arrange to pay for the routine maintenance to be done by others. Most yards will have people on site who are able to do this work for you. It is always best to check with a yard before lifting out what maintenance work they are able to arrange for you and what their rates are going to be. There is no harm in asking other boat owners about their experiences with the standards of workmanship of local yards.
Repairing and refurbishing
In the end, almost every part or piece of equipment on a boat either wears out or breaks and at some time will need to be replaced. Certain items, for example running rigging, engine hoses and interior fittings, are easy enough to replace while others, such as the standing rigging, cutless bearings or through hull fittings are not so straight forward, even when replacing like for like. While it may be tempting to carry out these more complex tasks yourself, for peace of mind most boat owners tend to have these more demanding types of job done by professionals.
Much will depend on your experience and DIY skills, plus whether you have the time available and in some cases access to specialist tools. Another issue that creeps in here is the matter of sourcing spares, especially those which are no longer manufactured. This can take a prohibitive amount of time, depending on the age and class of your boat.
A complete refit is usually a complex and lengthy process that requires a carefully planned project timeline, the drawing up of a realistic budget and experienced project management. Whether the project manager is the owner or a professional, their job is to ensure that both the project timeline and budget are kept on track. Some owners like to take on this role themselves, but in order to do this they need to have the time, resources and expertise to see the project through.
Some prospective boat owners go in search of old and neglected boats in need of complete refits in the hope that they will pick up a bargain. The boat market is swamped with such boats that can take years to sell. Many of these are virtually worthless as the costs of refitting them and making them seaworthy again will be likely to exceed the market value of the repaired boat. That said there are bargains out there for those who have the experience, resources and desire to renovate an old boat. This is good news for boatyards, as these boats often remain ashore indefinitely as they are painstakingly renovated.
Advice on refitting
There are plenty of trained shipwrights who have the experience to advise on whether a neglected boat is worth refitting or not. Some offer a service to help prospective buyers investigate a boat’s condition and to estimate what a refit would cost. While these services are not free, they are a safeguard against buying a boat that could turn into too big a project.
The rewards of boat ownership
It is no secret that the costs of running a boat soon mount up and these need to be factored in from the outset.
Not wanting to end this post on a downer (hard work, costs, more hard work, more costs) caring for your own boat brings a great deal of satisfaction. While being able to stand back and admire a well looked after boat in all its sparkling glory in the boatyard is one thing, I hope you will agree that the real rewards are to be enjoyed out on the water.