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Wisdom of buying an older boat (23 years)


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We have been looking at boats now for about a year but with the sale of a property now looking much more definite we are getting a bit more serious. We have been looking at ten to fifteen year old boats in the 40 - 50k range. Ideally 50 to 58 foot. Today we viewed a 50 foot cruiser stern boat built in 1993 and we were perfectly happy with the amount of living space. The builder was Jim Prescott who I can't find any reference to on here and the fit out was by the owner. It has never changed hands from new. 

Our concern is the amount of work that we might be getting into. There is no central heating and hot water is from a morco gas boiler. There is a solid fuel stove at the front end of the boat. The quality of the fitout seems OK and obviously we would have a survey before proceeding to check out the hull in particular. The boat was repainted and blacked with 2 pack epoxy five years ago. It also has a feeble 350w inverter. The boat is modestly priced so we would be able to afford to spend money on it but I'm just wondering about the practicalities and cost of retro fitting central heating (we will be living on board all year round), upgrading the electrics and inverter and updating the interior with new flooring and maybe ripping out the old fashioned dinette. I should add that whilst my basic DIY skills are OK I'm not a plumber or electrician so we would need a fair bit of professional help. We wouldn't need to live on board while the work was being done. 

Piece of string question I know but any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks.

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32 minutes ago, toekneep said:

Our concern is the amount of work that we might be getting into. There is no central heating and hot water is from a morco gas boiler

 

Things to consider :

1) Why pay for something that you are going to 'rip-out' (new flooring dinette etc)

2) Why not buy a brand new shell, with new engine and fit (pay someone to fit) the inside out how you want it. You can get a 55 foot , ''lined out sailaway for £40,00

3) You can get a brand new completed 55 foot NB for under £60,000.

If you are going to buy a boat and have to do 'a lot of work' to get it how you want it, why not make it easier on yourself and start with a 'clean sheet' with no rubbish to get rid of - and a good (new) solid structure to build on.

 

Just one example of prices, and what you get for each price.

http://www.sherwoodboats.co.uk/prices.php

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Thanks for the suggestion Alan but unfortunately we can't stretch to £60k. Our interest in the property that is for sale is only a part share. Our target price was always 45k but the boat we have viewed is a great deal cheaper and would give us the funds to do the work but as you have hinted at, I'm wondering if we are just making a rod for our own back. 

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With a £45k budget it's surprising you haven't found one a bit newer (up to 10 years old) that's laid out pretty much how you want it already.

What issues are you finding with the ones you're viewing?

Edit to add - if you put your "wishlist" on here I'm sure you'll get plenty of suitable links from folk!

Edited by She25
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She25, we have found ideal boats but up until now haven't been in a position to buy. (didn't have the money available). Today just opened up a new approach which the topic is hopefully going to help me to explore. In fact it already is, thank you. We have been looking for something that we can just move onto and enjoy and maybe make alterations to over time if we feel we need to. Today's boat doesn't fit that description as we couldn't live with it as it is but it also frees up enough money (we hope) to do major work on it. I'm already sensing that it isn't going to be a popular idea but would welcome more opinions. 

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45k gets you a nice well specced boat under ten years old especialy only that length. If you like the boat you have seen though and the shell is good the items you mention are all doable. One thing I noticed you say 50 to 58 feet and a boat that length with a decent multi fuel stove has no real need of central heating though it is usual on occasion. The small inverter is easily and at todays prices quite cheaply replaced along with the possibly heavier cabling needed. I wouldnt discount the older boat.

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It's just a matter of doing the sums.  So long as you are realistic about the expense of bringing an old boat up to spec and factor that into the price there's nothing inherently wrong provided the hull and engine are in good condition.  

Unfortunately a lot of old boat owners do not adopt the same approach when working out the asking price and are usually wildly optimistic.

It's easy to underestimate the potential cost of doing up an old boat that the owner thinks just needs "a bit of TLC".  I would double what you think it will cost you.

I agree you might be surprised how little you need central heating, there's a guy with a 50 footer near us, lives on board all year and he say he never uses the CH, just has a  Morco.  We have a 45 footer with just a multi fuel stove and even in sub zero temperatures it's often too hot.  The key is to keep it running constantly. Don't forget any central heating system is another drain on the batteries.  

But a basic 25 year old 50 footer has to be well under £30k before it makes sense.  I bet your boat isn't. 

Edited to add - I've never heard of Jim Prescott, my guess is he fitted out the boat and shell is probably from a mass market builder.

Edited by Neil2
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Thanks mrsmelly and Neil2, these are just the kind of balancing thoughts that I was hoping for so that we can make an informed decision. Particularly interesting about the central heating which would be a big part of any refurb cost. I don't want to go into too much detail about the boat just now as we are about five weeks away from having the cash in the bank and we are hoping it won't sell in the mean time. Lots to think about, especially estimating costs of course. 

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My two pennies re heating - I have only a 4kw multifuel stove, and live aboard full time. Heats my 57' boat nicely, and because it's well insulated I don't need to keep the fire in 24/7. 

But I am out at a full time job during the day.

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I agree you don't actually need central heating if you have a multifuel stove, BUT the stove is a pain to quickly get going for a short time on cold Autumn/Spring mornings & evenings and central heating provides a secondary source of heating when the stove fails (broken door glass, cracked casting, etc).

Edited by cuthound
To unmangle the effects of autocorrect.
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As a house property developer (retired) who started life renovating properties and whose hobby for years has been classic cars and their renovation believe me the cost of bring things up to a good standard is NEVER as inexpensive as you hope. That`s on the negative side. The positives are you can do things over time which allows a change of mind regarding design etc to be accommodated. You can spread the cost and search out materials that others are selling cheaply (EBay perhaps). You get a great deal of satisfaction no matter how limited your experience to participate "hands on". My motto there is no such thing as can`t- just don`t know how or physically unable to". You will find this forum a wealth of "quality knowledge" although sometimes a bit flippant. Life on a narrow boat I`m sure doesn`t mean you have to crawl into a corner and become a couch potato. Life`s a challenge and my other motto is " todays dreams are tomorrows reality if you are prepared to work for it".

  • Greenie 1
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23 years old is a spring chicken, mine is 82 years old, and there's boats on the system still going that are more than 123!

 

The trick is to find an older boat that someone else has paid to have any expensive work done (rebottoming, refooting, or overplating) fairly recently, so you can enjoy the benefit.

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11 hours ago, FadeToScarlet said:

23 years old is a spring chicken, mine is 82 years old, and there's boats on the system still going that are more than 123!

 

The trick is to find an older boat that someone else has paid to have any expensive work done (rebottoming, refooting, or overplating) fairly recently, so you can enjoy the benefit.

Yes, and in a way that's the problem with buying a boat at that stage in its life, if it was ten years older it might well have had a lot of the hard work done.  (The folks who buy old cars use the same justification, ie it's likely a lot of the expensive bits will have been replaced though I'm not sure I agree.) 

As it is whoever buys the boat in question could be in for some serious expense and will never recoup it on resale.  You have to be very hard hearted when looking at boats of this vintage especially as the owners usually have a totally unrealistic opinion of the boats value.

 

 

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Our 48 footer is now 22 years old - Morso squirrel and a single radiator (in the bedroom). No other heating is ever needed.

I think many newcomers to boats forget that there is a huge volume of air in a house that has to be heated: compare the ceiling/deckhead heights. At least 2.5m in a modern house, 3m+ in an old house, well under 2m in a boat, the space is well under 2m wide, and don't forget the tumblehome. That's an awful lot smaller volume to heat, before we even consider the insulation.   

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Thanks for all the responses. Despite what jddevel said I think I am leaning towards a younger boat with less to do. Being a complete novice I would prefer to learn bit by bit rather than diving into a major project. The comments on central heating have been invaluable though, it is so easy to set criteria of what features are required and end up tied down by them. Another lesson learned. 

On a different note I am also learning that the closer you get to your dream the harder it is to live in the present whilst waiting. :-)

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2 hours ago, toekneep said:

Thanks for all the responses. Despite what jddevel said I think I am leaning towards a younger boat with less to do. Being a complete novice I would prefer to learn bit by bit rather than diving into a major project. The comments on central heating have been invaluable though, it is so easy to set criteria of what features are required and end up tied down by them. Another lesson learned. 

On a different note I am also learning that the closer you get to your dream the harder it is to live in the present whilst waiting. :-)

Yes, and there's an argument that if you are new to the game you have very little idea of what you want/need - that will only come with experience.  So any old boat will do just get on with it and start learning.

But boats can be heartbreaking things and it's usually stuff that breaks or wears out that causes this rather than unsuitability of design.  You can therefore minimise the chances of being disillusioned by going for something with fewer miles on the clock.  I think you're making the right decision. 

   

 

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Thanks Neil2. You are spot on. I'm a keen cyclist (ducks for cover) and friends have often asked me for advice on buying their first bike. I always tell them to buy anything that isn't too expensive because in six months it will either be at the back of the garage never to see the light of day again or they will be hooked and want something better. 

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