C2 The Project Boat Manual, Logistics


Like the UPS commercials have said it’s all about Logistics. This not only applies to moving packages around the globe, it applies equally to a project boat.  Logistics include everything from where are you going to keep and work on your project boat to how are you going to launch it and everything in between. Logistics will often make or break a project before it is even started.  There is much to consider before you can start. Where will you keep your project while working on it? What tools are available and where will you be able to keep those. Will you have to work inside or outside? If outside what effect will weather have? What special tools will be needed and will you have access to heavy lifting equipment if needed? Where will you store parts and supplies while doing the work? Then there are the legal issues such as insurance.

One of the very first things to think about is where are you going to keep your project boat while working on it?  There are several options and some of them make more sense than others. One of the first things to consider is whether you will keep your project boat on land or in the water while working on it? Selecting the right location can often make or break a project so should be considered this carefully.

As you consider options for where to work on your project boat it should be kept in mind that the closer you live to the boat the more likely the work will get done. It is by far easier to get a couple extra hours of boat work in after a day on the “real job” if the boat is close at hand. It is one of those unavoidable, unwritten rules that the further away from the boat you live the less work will get done. Many try to convince themselves otherwise but the reality is it is the further away the less work will be done and it helps to be realistic. Additionally, travel time to and from the boat is time better spent working on the boat.  The closer to home base the better.

Next it needs to be determined whether to keep the boat on land or in the water. There are several distinct advantages to working on a project boat on land rather than in the water. The most obvious is that you will be able to work on the bottom, underwater fittings, and the hull topsides.   There are however, other reasons for wanting to be on land. Being able to park your vehicle near or under the boat can be a big advantage as less time will be spent going back and forth to retrieve tools and parts. Storing parts, particularly large parts, under the boat can save time and money as well. If you are able to work on your boat in a shed or alongside a workshop this will help as you will have all your shop tools and bulk supplies close at hand.  Even if you cannot have the boat close to a shop it is often possible to have a small portable storage unit or enclosed trailer nearby to keep needed tools and supplies in. Additionally while on land you do not have to worry about the boat sinking. You do however have to keep rain water out or the boat can sink on land.


 If keeping the project on land and you own your own house or have property, keeping the boat there could make sense. The biggest advantage of using your own property is you will not have to pay rent for boat storage and it will be close at hand. There are however, some things to consider before planning on bringing that project home though. In many of today’s neighborhoods a project boat may not be a welcome sight. Many neighborhood communities have rules against boats and RVs in your yard or driveway, even small boats. So unless you have property a bit off the beaten path or know for sure that there are no restrictions, this may not be an option. If you live in a housing development it is best to check with the home owners association first. Those with small farms or rural property will likely be in good shape but you should still check local ordinances before getting in too deep. If you rent a home or have an apartment keeping the boat where you live may not be an option but it never hurts to ask.

If keeping the project boat where you live is not an option, there are several other locations to be considered. If you live close to a boat yard or marina this can be a good choice. Keep in mind not all boat yards allow do it yourself work on boats stored there. Those that do may charge an extra fee for the owner or outside helpers to work on the boat while on their property. It is important to find out all of a boat yard’s rules before signing up. Let the yard know in advance you have a project boat and find out if they have any additional fees associated with that. Do not wait until the project is in full swing to find out they have been charging you forty dollars a day for outside help. I have talked with many owners who have gotten into trouble with the boat yard because they did not fully understand the rules. If you think you will be doing any sandblasting or spray painting make sure you know about restrictions or requirements before starting this type of work. Most yards require tenting for this type of work while others simply do not allow it.


You should also make sure you can get along with the boat yard management.  It can be costly to have to move your project midway through the work simply because the manager is not cooperative. Boat yards are private property, the owners and managers set the rules and the boat owners have to follow them or leave. Not all managers are reasonable and some make the rules up as they go, so it is always a good idea to talk to other boat owners in the yard to see how easy it is to deal with the management and just how DIY friendly they really are. Going out of your way to be friendly to management can pay off in the long run. Occasionally getting doughnuts and coffee for the yard crew and office staff can gain you brownie points that can truly pay off later as well.

Some advantages to a boat yard are that many will have a small store for basic supplies such as paints, solvents, and fasteners. Although the prices might be higher it can be a time saver when you just need a couple of ¼” bolts to finish a task. Many yards will allow you to park small storage trailers or even a shipping container near the boat. Most will charge an additional fee for this so check first. This will give you a place to keep tools and supplies close at hand and may be well worth the additional cost. Many smaller boat yards are friendly enough that they will offer advice or even let you borrow some tools if you return them promptly.  Things like that can be a life saver and worth the extra money a boat yard may cost over other storage options. Additionally there may be others working on project boats nearby. These folks may lend a hand when you have a job that requires two or more people.  Most boat yards will also have basic facilities including bathrooms and showers. Never underestimate the value of a good shower after having spent all day in a Tyvex suit grinding fiberglass.

There may be other locations available to work on a project boat as well. Most communities now have an abundance of storage yards offering many options. Not all of these facilities will allow you to work on your boat while there so this should be your first question when checking into keeping your boat at one of these locations. These storage yards can be simple fenced in lots or more complete facilities offering covered or indoor storage. The drawback to these places is they often do not have electricity or running water available. They do usually offer good security and if closer to where you live can be a good option.  Many of these storage facilities will also have those little garage storage units that can come in handy for storing tools and supplies onsite.

In some cities you may be able to find an old warehouse that has been converted to storage and workshops. These spaces often have high ceilings and are rented by the square foot making this is an interesting option for an indoor work space. Most of these warehouses are not heated and may have restrictions on things like painting but they can be worth checking into as you never have to worry about rain.

Finally there is the option of keeping your project on a friend or relatives property. I am sure I do not have to explain some of problems that could be encountered with. You need to make sure you have a good long term relationship with the person you will be dealing with. If you go this route just make there is a clear understanding about expectations and any restrictions they may have. If close to a home use common sense and do not be operating loud tools at early or late hours or the day or night.

Keeping the boat in water can make sense if it is closer to where you live or you think the boat will need to be moved before the work is complete. I have found it is often harder to work on a boat while it is in the water for several reasons. The fist problem of course, is you cannot work on anything below the waterline. This can slow work down at times. The second problem is many marinas will not allow work on a boat while in the slip. Some older marina/boat yards may be a bit more tolerant of this but many do not allow it anymore. Neighbors may complain of any sanding or painting near their boats as well. The docks will need to be kept clear and you have to be careful of spilling paint or anything on the docks. You will spend more time walking back and forth to your vehicle for tools and parts and often storage is further away. Some marinas will supply or allow you to have a dock box which will help some for storing tools and parts. If you do stay in the water try to get a slip as close to the dock ramp and parking lot as possible. If you can find a bulkhead where you can drive up close to the boat it will really save time. It is amazing how much time and energy can be wasted walking up and down a dock.


Some marinas will allow you to keep a small enclosed trailer on the property but it is best to check with management ahead of time. Being in the water does make it easier to test equipment, run engines, pumps and the like.  If the scope of the work is not too involved it may be possible to use the boat while working on it as well. I have found it can be a big morale booster to be able to take the boat out every now and then. Spending a day relaxing on the boat rather than working on it will boost motivation and help you feel the work is worth the effort.  If you are not using the boat at all it is still important to maintain enough of the boats electrical system to keep the bilge pumps and other critical equipment running and batteries charged. This does not mean it is impossible to restore a boat while it is in the water, it just adds a few challenges that land storage does not have.

Whether keeping the boat on land or in the water make sure you will be able to get the boat to the location where you plan to work on it. For boats in the water this means checking depths in the marina as well as its entrance channel. Think about how you will get there, will it come under its own power or will it need to be towed? If a tow is needed unless you have a tow boat available, towing services can be expensive. Towing requires the boat at least be somewhat seaworthy and a good weather window will have to be considered. Moving a project boat over anything but a short distance by water can prove challenging.

If the boat is to be kept on land and you are moving it over land by truck there are several things to think about. For small projects that will be on a boat trailer things tend to be pretty simple. If you do not have a truck to tow the boat or it is simply too far away a transporter can be hired. Small boats on trailers can often be moved by a company that specializes in transporting cars. If only a local move is needed a tow truck company can often help. Just make sure the trailer the boat is on is up to the task. Check tires and wheel bearings as well as the brakes. Make sure the trailer is strong enough for the trip, it can be expensive to have to recover a boat and broken trailer from the highway and most highway patrolmen do not have a good sense of humor when traffic is being blocked.


 For larger boats and long distance moves a shipper who specializes in yacht transport will be needed. There are many of these companies large and small to help with this. Most are reputable but not are, so it is important to get references and check them. Make sure you understand all the fees involved and that there will be no surprises at the end of the move. Check insurance as well, will the shippers cover you or will you need to get some of your own prior the move. Try to keep the timing of things like travel lifts or cranes for loading and unloading flexible. Trucks deal with the same traffic we do and may not be able to show up at an exact time. It is up to the boat owner to arrange loading and unloading so think about this early. Some transporters will be able to do this with a hydraulic trailer but check first. If the boat is not starting at or going to a boat yard you may need to hire a crane to load or unload the boat. The shipper can give advice but in the end this will be up to you. The transport company will however, handle all the road permits and routing needed for large boats.

Finally make sure the truck and trailer will be able to get to where you want to locate the boat. The bigger the boat the more complicated this all becomes. Check for low power lines, bridges and other overhead obstacles. Trees can sometimes be trimmed but low bridges are not so easy to move. Sharp turns and humps in the path can become problems as well. Large trailers tend to be low to the ground and will not go over even small short hills or make very sharp turns for that matter.  If using a professional transporter and in doubt ask them to look at the chosen route. I have seen more than one plan fall apart when the boat would not fit down a driveway.

Once a good work location has been selected and you have figured out how to get your project boat there the next thing to think about is insurance. Although you may not think you would need insurance on a project boat you will at least want some sort of liability insurance. Many marinas and boat yards now require this and it makes sense for your own protection.  If working on the boat at your home this may not be a problem as it may be covered under your homeowner’s policy. Check with your agent though before assuming you are covered. If you are going to be renting a location you will likely be required to carry some form of liability insurance. Like it or not we live in a world where being sued is a real possibility so having liability insurance is a must. If someone gets injured on or around your boat you can be held liable even if it is not your fault. If moving the boat to your location you will also need insurance

Insurance for a project boat can be hard to get so it helps to start thinking about this early and find out what your options are available before you need it. Few insurance companies are interested in insuring a project boat. The problem is most insurance companies see project boats as high risk for low return. This is because they base their premiums on the overall value of the boat and let’s face it most project boats have a low value to start with.  If the value of the boat is low it might be easier to just get liability insurance and even this can be harder to get. It takes some shopping around but it can be done. If your project boat is more than 10 years old and bigger than around 20 feet you will likely need a survey before the insurance company will even talk to you. This is to establish value and condition.  Of course a survey will show the boat is not complete and may have many deficiencies. To get around this you can request port insurance which will ensure you while the vessel is being worked on in port. With port insurance the boat is still covered but has restrictions on going anywhere. This means you are only insured in port until you get a clean survey. Exceptions can be made to move the boat to another marina or within the same marina for haul out and such. This can be a good option if you need some more insurance beyond liability.  Insurance may also be easier to get with a boat stored on land as the insurance companies see this as a safer risk because the boat cannot sink.

With a location picked out and insurance considered it will be time to think about where you are going to store all the boat parts not needed right away. A place for all your tools and supplies and all the other stuff needed when working on a project boat will also be needed. Much of this will depend on the scope and extent of your project and how big your project boat is. The bigger the boat the more storage will be needed. Even smaller project boats can require a surprisingly large amount of storage space for parts, supplies and equipment. Having storage for all this close at hand will be helpful. Nothing is more frustrating than getting started on a job and finding you left a key part or tool at another location. The more you can keep everything close at hand the less time will be wasted going to get things.


One of the very first things needed  when you get ready to start will be a storage place for boat stuff that will not be needed until the project is near completion.  This would include interior cushions, fenders, lines, sails if the project is a sailboat, electronics, and so on. All this is stuff that will not be needed for months or possibly years so it needs to be stored in a safe place. As most packages say “store in a cool dry place,” this applies equally to boat parts. Bugs and rodents have been known to wreak havoc on stored cushions and sails as well as electronics. The last thing anybody wants to find when nearing completion of a boat is that the sails or cushions have become a nest for a family of rats and are now useless. Thinking about this ahead of time can save a lot of grief later.

House attics can work well for safe long term storage but be careful about the heat as attics can get very hot. This heat can be particularly harmful to plastics and electronics. Attached garages work well particularly if heated and dry.  Detached buildings are often not a good choice unless well sealed and climate controlled.  Your typical garden tool shed is a poor choice as these provide little protection from critters. Try to put things in labeled plastic boxes for protection as well. Taping the lids all the way around will add an additional level of protection but keep in mind rodents can and will crew through plastic boxes. Larger items such as cushions can be wrapped in plastic for some protection. Avoid storing things in cardboard boxes as these attract bugs and will often break open with age.  If storing any liquids or paints make sure they will not freeze in the winter. The further North you live the more important this becomes.  Be careful when storing flammables as well, these should be stored where they will be away from occupied buildings. For a large project, long term stored parts can add up to thousands of dollars worth of equipment so it is important to make sure they will be safe. Electronics alone can be worth hundreds of dollars.  Think about insurance for stored gear and equipment as well as the boat. If stored at home your homeowners insurance may cover this. If storing in a paid storage unit check if the building owners insurance covers you. Most does not and you may want to think about renters insurance. It can help to have an inventory and photos of what you have in storage as well.

For short term storage of tools and supplies you will want things more accessible. For the average sized project an enclosed cargo trailer can make sense. These can be found in many sizes to suit your needs and the ease with which they can be moved is helpful.  I have found by keeping my tools and basic supplies in a small cargo trailer I do not have to worry about forgetting a needed tool or part at home. Basic supplies such as glues and solvents are always nearby as well. These trailers are also useful should a large part such as an engine need transporting. Because they are covered and lockable they keep everything safe and dry as well.  Most boat yards will allow you to keep a small trailer on site but it is best to ask first and some will charge an additional fee for this. The convenience may be worth a little extra though.

For larger projects renting or purchasing a used shipping container can be a good option for storage.  These used containers are dry and seal well, keeping rodents and other critters out.  Some of these are large enough that the back of the container can be used for storage while the front is used as a small work shop with work bench. The drawback is they are harder to move and most yards will charge extra to have one on site if they allow it at all. These are particularly good if you own your property as you will not have to pay extra rent.  These do come in a few different sizes and most suppliers will deliver to your site as part of the deal. Although not cheap these do make for a great instant building.

Once you get your project in place where you can start work on it and you have storage worked out the next thing to think about is safe access to the boat while you are working on it. If the boat is on land you will want to be able to get on and off safely and easily. Ladders tend to be dangerous; it is hard to carry tools and supplies up and down a ladder while holding on at the same time. If you think you will be working on your project more than a month or two, steps or stairs may be worth considering. A set of steps placed alongside the boat will be much easier and safer allowing you the use of both hands for carrying stuff on and off the boat. Steps are also less fatiguing than climbing a ladder. After what seems like 1000 trips an hour up and down a ladder, steps start to look pretty good.  Steps can be purchased from most industrial supply sources or you can build your own. Most lumber yards sell pre cut risers making building a set fairly easy. For larger boats where hull topside work will be done scaffolding can be very helpful as well. Scaffolding is easier and safer than ladders to work from. Scaffolding can be store bought, homemade of even rented when only needed short term.

For most projects it helps to have a shop to work on all the little bits and pieces of the boat that can be removed. Even if the shop is small and only consists of a work bench and vise it will be helpful but of course the bigger the better. I used to have a small shop in my garage and would take home doors, drawers and trim for re-varnishing. Doing just a little every evening made a big difference in getting the project done. Quite a bit of work can be done off the boat so the more space available to work off the boat the better.  This becomes even more important the further the boat is from your home. If you can have a small workspace at home you can take many projects home with you. For larger projects having some shop tools such as a table saw and drill press can be invaluable. A shop can also provide a good place to store raw materials such as lumber and plywood.

Parts, big and small, as well as general supplies will affect every aspect of your project. It helps to develop good sources for parts and supplies early on. Most coastal towns will have marine wholesalers that service the boat yards. Although they generally only sell to businesses it never hurts to talk to them and let them know you are working on a project boat. They may set you up an account to give you a source of discount parts and supplies. These wholesalers can be a great source for expendable supplies and paints as well as standard marine parts. A catch to this is they may require you have a state sales tax account.  This can be more trouble than it is worth but never hurts to check into it. It may also pay to talk to your local marine supply and hardware stores as well. Once again let them know you have a project boat you are working on and see if they can give you a discount for your getting most of your supplies through them.  Another good source of parts is online suppliers. Even with shipping costs most online sources will save money over the traditional local brick and mortar stores. Shipping and tracking are not fool proof, but in general it is a reliable way of getting parts.

Used parts can be another great way to save money when sourcing parts. Many coastal towns will have a marine consignment shop or two which can not only be a good source of parts but they are just plain fun to browse around in. There are a few larger regional used part stores but I never had much luck with getting them to ship stuff and often their prices are not as good as one would hope. That said these stores may offer an alternative to other sources. Craig’s List can be a good source of used parts as well but you do need to use a bit more care when shopping there. That said I have gotten a few good deals from sellers on Craig’s list.  Ebay is a very good source of parts and supplies both new and used. Using their payment system it is very safe for a buyer. Ebay is the mother of all online yard sales and this is true for boat parts as well. You can find almost any part needed, big or small. It is not perfect and I sometimes see people getting caught up in the bidding and end up paying more than an item was worth. Some sellers have a high shipping cost so be sure to check that before bidding. It takes time and patients to get good deals on EBay. Plan ahead and take the time to watch regularly, sooner or later you will find the parts needed at a reasonable price.  I have purchased everything from electronics and toe rails to complete masts with rigging but it can take time to find just that right part. There are numerous new part sellers on EBay as well.  Many of these are new business just trying to get started while others may be established companies liquidating old stock.

Living aboard while restoring a boat is not something I personally recommend. Tools, dust and dirt get everywhere and the smells of fiberglass and other chemicals can make living aboard very difficult. I know many have done it, but it really makes getting the work done much harder. It is by no means impossible but will add to the difficulty. If you have to live aboard while restoring, it is best to work just one small area at a time. The bigger the boat the easier this becomes but it is always challenging. If living aboard you will also want to have the boat in the water as this makes life easier and most yards will not allow anyone to stay aboard while the boat is on land.

Finally do not forget about how you will handle waste. This is not always as easy as it may at first appear. Project boats tend to generate a fair amount of waste and some of it can be toxic. Most local trash services will not deal with things like used solvents and paints. Some boat yards will have disposal for this type of waste and will not charge if you are a customer. Used oil and batteries can be brought to many auto parts stores for disposal. Most solid waste can be disposed of at a local land fill for a small tipping fee. Many metals such as aluminum, copper, and lead can be recycled, often giving you a nice bit of cash in the process, so save scrap metals for recycling. Teak is becoming an ever harder commodity to come by so it is good to recycle as much of that as possible as well. Last I checked teak was selling for more than $40.00 per board foot so it pays not to waste any. Take care to think about the environment when disposing of anything harmful and try to recycle when possible.

As always comments and suggestions are welcome and  encouraged

Capt Wayne


Understanding Inverter Installations


Inverters are a great way to get AC power while we’re away from the dock and shorepower. Although inverters are not capable of running high-demand appliances (such as air conditioning or heating) like a generator can, they are great for low power uses (such as computers, televisions, and small appliances). The ability to chill out in a quiet anchorage and still use your computer and perhaps a blender without the rumbling of a generator is a nice thing indeed. Inverters operate by converting DC battery power to 120 VAC power. They do this by converting the straight positive and negative DC power to 120-volt alternating current. Once installed inverters are relatively maintenance-free and can provide years of reliable service. A good installation, however, is important to both good performance and onboard safety.

As a marine surveyor I get the opportunity to look over many inverter installations. Surprisingly very few are correctly installed even when the installation was done by professionals. I don’t think this is due to lack of care on the installer’s part, but rather to some common misunderstandings about how an inverter should be installed to be both safe and reliable. At first thought an inverter installation would seem pretty straight-forward: hook it up to the batteries, plug in an appliance, and it’s ready to go. Of course nothing is that easy on a boat and the more you get into the finer points of the installation, the more complicated things can be. For a simple single-supply inverter powering a single appliance or outlet, the installation can be pretty simple as long as a few basic safety considerations are followed. It’s when larger inverters are connected to the ship’s AC power panel that things get complicated.

P1010475smallOne of the first things most owners ask about using an inverter is “why do I need to use a marine inverter?”  After all they can get the same size inverter at the big box store for half the price, why spend the extra money?  The single biggest reason is safety. Marine inverters are built to UL and ABYC standards assuring that they meet basic safety standards. Inverter power can be every bit as dangerous as shore power.  A marine rated unit will have the required features and circuits built into it to unsure safe operation including isolation of the AC output from the DC supply circuit. Quality is another factor that separates the cheap inverters form the marine units. Quality is not just in the durability of the unit but in the power it produces. Marine inverters are required to meet UL standards for frequency and voltage regulation. Although they do cost more, marine inverters will operate safer and longer than the cheaper units.



The first part of any inverter installation is connecting the DC power supply to the inverter. When using small portable inverters, take care if you’re plugging into the round cigarette lighter type outlets now commonly referred to as power outlets. These outlets are generally designed for peak loads of up to 15 amps. This can be a bit deceiving because many of these outlets are not capable of carrying those loads for extended periods. To make matters worse, many boat builders and aftermarket installers do not run heavy enough wires for these plugs, creating the potential for overheating or the risk of fire. Even a small 100-watt inverter can draw as much as 8 amps or more, stressing this type of outlet. Even a small inverter load for an extended period of time can damage these types of plugs and outlets. For any inverter larger than 100 watts, it’s best to go with a permanent installation or at least have a dedicated 12-volt outlet capable of handling heavier loads for extended periods.


P1000935aFollow the manufacturer’s recommendation for wire size based on load and distance from the batteries. Additionally install a Class T fuse (faster acting) on the positive conductor at the power source (battery or panel) to protect both the inverter and the power conductors. This fuse should be located as close to the power source as practical. ABYC recommends 7 inches, but anything less than a foot should suffice. If the inverter is an inverter/charger, a fuse or circuit breaker should be installed at the inverter side as well. Most inverters/chargers will have this built in, but check your unit. You should also have a disconnect switch as close to the power source as practical after the fuse. There are two reasons for this. First, it’s important to be able to quickly disconnect power to the inverter in the event of a fault that does not blow the fuse. Second, it’s important to be able to fully disconnect power to the inverter when working on any AC circuits supplied by the inverter. This is to avoid a shock hazard since some inverters have a sleep mode that will give a false reading of no power on a meter. When in sleep mode many inverters will only produce power when a heavier load is applied. A volt meter may not be enough to turn it on but a person contacting the output wires would easily cause it to come on with shocking results.

You must also install a ground wire to the inverter case. This ground wire is needed to protect the unit and circuits from AC and DC faults. In most installations I see, this ground wire, if installed at all, is the same size as the AC ground wire. At first this would seem to make sense, however this ground wire needs to be capable of handling a DC fault as well. This means it needs to be the same size as the DC conductors connected to the inverter. This ground should ideally be run directly to the batteries or engine ground. In some cases it might be shorter to run it to a ground buss but make sure the ground buss is fed by a wire of at least the same size or larger.

Once the DC power supply is set up it is time to think about the AC side of things. This is where things can get a bit more complicated. All inverters, except small portable units with built-in outlets, will require AC output wiring. When using smaller portable inverters or any inverter with built-in 120-volt outlets, make sure the outlets are GFIC type to further protect you from shock hazards. This is also an ABYC requirement for marine inverters.


Some inverters have an automatic transfer switch or relay to transfer output power from shorepower or generator power to the inverter output should input power be lost. This feature allows the inverter to be reliable a backup power source as well as an offline power source. Inverter/chargers and inverters with an automatic transfer switch will require both an AC input power supply as well as AC output wiring. The input power supply should originate at the main AC panel and be a heavy enough gauge wire to handle the full inverter or charger load as well as any load that might pass through the inverter.

Some inverter/chargers can charge batteries at rates as high as 200 amps or more. This translates into 2400 watts or 20 amps AC. On a 30-amp shorepower supply this would amount to two thirds of the available power. This is more than most think so it’s important to use a wire size that will carry this load. Depending on length of run, this would likely be at least a #10 or #8 wire but calculate this based on length of run and potential loads. Additionally this power supply must have a double pole breaker at the power source. If this supply to the inverter is off the main panel after the main shorepower breaker, a single pole breaker on the hot lead will suffice. The green ground wire is run direct to the inverter and should never have a switch, fuse, or breaker in it. If a ground isolator is used, this would be on the shorepower side and should not affect the inverter or its ground.

Once the input supply is worked out, it is time to think about the inverter output. The first thought might be to simply connect the inverter output to the main 120-volt panel power input, but it’s not that simple. If the inverter does not have an automatic transfer switch, you’ll need to fit a manual transfer switch like those used with a generator. This is required to prevent back feeding of power to either the inverter or the shore cord.

IMG_2282cropYou should also consider the loads the inverter will carry. I see many installations where the entire panel load can be placed on the inverter. This could lead to problems such as overloading the inverter or rapidly discharging the batteries. Some owners claim they are careful to turn off the heavy loads prior to energizing the inverter. This sounds good in theory, but if you have an inverter with automatic transfer and lose shorepower while you’re away from the boat, you could have problems. Even without the auto transfer, mistakes can be made and overloading the inverter is a real possibility. It’s true that most inverters will shut down with low-battery voltage but these sudden heavy loads could damage sensitive electronics and place unnecessary loads on the DC system.

A better approach is to separate the heavier loads (such as air conditioning, water heaters, and battery chargers) from those that run only from the inverter. This will prevent the heavier loads from accidentally being placed on the inverter. Because most hard-wired inverters are primarily used to power 120-volt outlets, lights, and other light loads, it makes sense to separate these loads from the heavier loads. On most 120-volt panels, lighter loads such as outlets are often grouped together making this task easier. Often separating these groups can be as simple as cutting the power bus bar on the back of the breakers. In some cases this may require regrouping breakers but this is usually not a hard job.

Another option is to add a small branch circuit or sub panel that will allow the inverter to power a few 120-volt outlets. This is a simple approach but keep in mind that you still need to use breakers for each circuit. Any inverter-supplied outlets should also be GFIC type or on a GFIC-protected circuit. Take care when installing GFIC outlets as not all GFIC outlets will work with all inverters. Check with the inverter manufacturer regarding the use of GFIC outlets, use the type or brand recommend, and be sure to test that they work properly once installed.

IMG_2284aIt is also important to have the AC neutrals (white wires) for each power source separated from the other power source neutrals. This is a common error in many installations. As an example, if you have two shore cords, each cord or inlet will have a separate neutral bus bar and only circuits powered from that shore cord or inlet would be tied to its neutral bus. Adding an inverter would be like adding a third inlet in that it would also have a separate neutral buss just the inverter loads. This is done to prevent faults from back feeding through the neutral bus to other power supplies and equipment. The neutral wires are normally tied to their bus bars at or near the main AC panel. Any loads being powered by or through the inverter should likewise have their own neutral buss separated from the other power source neutral buses. It is important to do this for safety as well as to prevent problems with possible galvanic corrosion.

While installing all these wires and connections, follow basic ABYC and marine practices for electrical wiring. Secure all wires out of the way of damage from stowed equipment. Neatness counts when running wires. When making connections, use good-quality crimp-type connectors. Never use the screw-on wire nuts commonly found in houses. Use properly sized ring terminals for screw connections and make sure all connections are tight and protected from shorting. Use good quality marine wire. The solid-strand wire found in many home repair stores is not approved for marine use and should not be used. Additionally when installing any inverter it’s important to know when the inverter is on and whether it’s producing power or in standby mode. Most marine inverters will have remote control panels that have an indicator light showing their status. With smaller and particularly non-marine units indicator lights may not be available. It’s important to be able to know when 120 VAC may be available for safety, so some method of knowing the inverter is “online” is important and required.

IMG_3689cropFinally consider the physical location of the inverter before installing. You want your inverter installed close to the power source to reduce the length of the conductors and possible voltage drop. The inverter should also have good ventilation to cool the unit. Many inverters produce a fair amount of heat when operating. It is of course important to make sure no water gets into or on the inverter as well. This means installing in a dry location away from possible deck leaks or leaks from plumbing.

Although some of this may sound a bit complicated, it really is not if you take it one step at a time. Following these guidelines as well as the inverter manufacturer’s instructions will help ensure a safe and reliable installation. If you already have an inverter installed, it would be wise to review the installation to make sure it meets all the requirements outlined. Even if you’re only using a small portable inverter, make sure the power supply is properly fused and capable of maintaining the inverter load. A proper earth ground to the inverter case is required as well, even with small portable units. Without this you or your crew could become the path to ground, a hazard that is easily avoided.

Inverters can be a great source of quiet AC power while away from the dock but they pose the same hazards as shoreside AC power if they’re not set up properly. A little care and effort with the installation will keep you and your crew safe while enjoying the benefits of quiet AC power.

Capt. Wayne Canning


Exponential Difficulty as a Result of Simplicity


Exponential Difficulty as a result of Simplicity or EDS is a relatively new discovery in the field of Quantum Physics (Mainly because I just made it up!) but its effects are well known to most boat owners. Simply put it is the cause and effect situation wherein a simple task becomes increasingly difficult based on the perception of simplicity. Not so closely related to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the well known E=MC2. EDS can be defined as D=SP2, with D=Difficulty, S is a factor for simplicity based on a complex formula for the ratio of tools you do not own to the availability (or lack thereof) for parts and finally P is your perception of simplicity, as in “oh yeah I can knock that out in 5 minutes!”


As with Einstein’s theory all things are relative and likewise simplicity of a task is also relative to its perceived simplicity. However when Quantum physics are applied the simplicity of a given task and its potential difficultly can take on new and interesting dimensions.  One would think a task would become more difficult based on things like the size of the hole you must cram your body into just to be able to see the broken part, or the number of “special” tools needed to access the broken part, but this would not always prove correct.
More often than not the simpler you perceive a project the more difficult it will become.  This is one of those odd phenomenon often encountered with Quantum physics.  If you perceive a project to be horribly difficult it will often prove to be not as bad as you thought. But if you perceive a project to be simple it will become exponentially more difficult based on how simple you thought it would be.  This ratio is often compounded by the urgency factor IE the faster seawater is entering your boat or the amount of smoke or flames emanating from a piece of equipment! The interesting thing is the urgency factor often does not manifest itself until after you have started the project.

Take for example the case where a friend (when things go bad it is always a friend not me!) was going to remove a failed starter motor from his engine. Textbook case right?  Simply remove a few wires, three bolts, and you are good to go. Access was not too bad so what could go wrong my wayward friend thought? The first thing was of course to turn off the battery switch to de-energize power to the starter. The next step was to remove the wires. Once the wires were disconnected you simply take the three bolts out.  Unfortunately this was complicated by the smoke and flames now emanating from the back side of the starter. As panic grips our hapless repairman he grabs a fire extinguisher and ejects the contents at the starter. Now admiring the smoldering white powder coating the molten ruins of his engine wiring harness he discovers he had to turn off BOTH battery switches! Who would have guessed?

One can see that this “simple” task now involves replacing not only the starter motor but the entire engine wiring harness that has become a mass of melted plastic and copper. To add insult to injury, even though there are 8 million of this particular model motor out there, our repairman discovers that he has one with a “special” starter that is of course no longer available. Well truth be told, he can get one in exchange for an equal weight of solid gold and a promise to name his first born male child after the parts guy.
This one hour project has now turned into a 3 week odyssey that seemingly has no end. The first starter sent of course does not fit. And of course because it looked like it would fit our bedraggled repairmen installed it only to find out that it indeed did not work. Who knew there were 12 teeth on the new starter but the old one had 13 teeth! Of course because it was installed thinking it would work, it can no longer be returned for a refund. It is clear to see this “simple” task has quickly descended the slipper slop of boat repair hell!
This is a classic case of the perception of ease causing a project to become exponentially more difficult. Had our innocent repairmen planned for the worst case scenario he might have been able to avoid much frustration and a few flames. As any boat owner knows only too well this is a common occurrence when working on a boat. The question really is why should this be? Why is it every time we start that seemingly simple project does it turn into the repair equivalent of an Everest expedition.

After years of building and repairing boats I have come to the conclusion that this is a phenomenon that is a result of how simple a task may appear to be to the unwary. Having spent years studying Quantum physics (I watch a lot of PBS, it puts me to sleep at night) I have realized that boat repair and project difficulty are related to string theory in Quantum mechanics.  How else could you explain that no matter how small or easy a project may appear,  it always seems to expand and become much more difficult than we could have ever imagined.

According to string theory everything in the universe is connected by tiny strings of energy.  This makes perfect sense to me because every time I start a project it is like pulling that loose thread on a sweater, it just keeps unraveling!

I have figured out that if I assume even the simplest of tasks is going to explode into a 3 month project it does help ease the pain somewhat. And for some reason if I drag out every tool I own (Most importantly the really big hammer!) the project seems to be “intimidated” and does not get too far out of control. I am not sure if it is my mental attitude (often softened with rum) that makes a difference or the mere fact that by assuming the worst and preparing for it, those little strings of energy sense I am prepared for a fight and they go off in search of a weaker opponent. (Hopefully that guy 6 slips down the dock who thinks he knows everything!)
So the lesson learned is to never ever assume any project on your boat is going to be simple, just put those silly thoughts right out of your head. Always get out all your tools even if the task is only changing a light bulb. Trust me on this, that light bulb will sense your caviler attitude and before you know it you will be pulling the headliner down to get at a broken wire! And always get the big hammer first!

As always comments are welcome and encouraged.

Capt. Wayne


Guerilla Boat Repair 1


Guerilla boat repair is the art of making things work when you are 200 miles (up wind of course) from the nearest boat yard or marine supply store. Sometimes you just have to channel the MacGyver in yourself to get things done so that you can get your boat and crew back safely to port where real repairs can be made. It may not always be pretty but if it gets you home it’s all good.

                Back when I first started sailing, sailors were knarly old salts who lived for adventure. The likes of Sir Robin Knox Johnson, Bernard Moitessier, and Sir Alec Rose were sailing the oceans in low tech sometimes home built vessels. These men had to rely on their own wits and resources to secede with their legendary voyages. They knew once they left the comfort of the coastal waters they were truly out there on their own. They had to make do using only their own wits and skills along with whatever meager bits and parts they had aboard their craft. Failure was simply not an option and could very likely result in never being seen or heard from again. These were men who knew they were on their own and accepted that challenge. That is after all, part of the sailing adventure, being able to get yourself and your crew safely to the next destination knowing you used your own resources and skills to do just that.

Suhaili for web

                Most of us who cruise away from civilization have had, or will have, our own Apollo 13 moment. That moment when a rudder drops off mid ocean or an engine hose bursts just as you are approaching a tricky inlet. Even something as simple as loosing refrigeration or water pressure when anchored in a far off lagoon can require some creative repairs. Unlike the Apollo 13 crew, most boaters do not have a mission control with a team of engineers to guild them along. We are left to our own devices and resources to figure out how to get things working again. Like the Apollo 13 crew and the rugged explorers ahead of us, we do have what supplies and spares we carry to help us when needed.


                For anyone who has dropped their mooring lines and set off for parts unknown it is well understood that things can and do break, most often at the worst times. It is often said “cruising is just boat repair in exotic locations.” Modern boats are complicated pieces of equipment with many systems and working parts that can require repair at the most inopportune times. Knowing how to handle failures and breakdowns is as important as having a good strong boat. No matter what type of sailing you do, crossing oceans or coastal cruising, whether your boat is old or new, at some point it is likely that something will go wrong just when you least expect it.

                Guerilla boat repair is part preventative maintenance, part creative repair, and part grit and determination not to be left stranded by any piece of equipment. After all we do set sail to get away from it all and in doing so we inadvertently get away from any help when things do not always work the way they should. Lin and Larry Pardy claim they only once had a minor fitting break during a passage. I am not sure I fully buy this but they do make a point that simple can be better. The fewer gadgets and gizmos we have the fewer things we have that will break. That said, I personally like some of the convince items I carry aboard and plan to keep them even though I know at some point they will indeed cause me some grief.  I know I do not possess all the skills needed to fix everything onboard, however I do like to think I can work around most problems I may encounter. Often that is just what you have to do, work around a problem. This is a key concept in most emergency repairs. If you lose your rudder at sea it simply is not possible to fit a new one while under way. You can however find a ways to keep your boat moving in the right direction by working around the problem.  Most emergency and field repairs are a bit like sailing up wind, you just have to keep tacking until you get to where you want to be.


Self reliance is knowing how to work around problems to find a solution that will keep you moving or even just keep the beer cold in that isolated anchorage. That is a big part of the satisfaction of cruising, keeping things working using only your own resources and skills and just maybe some skills you did not know you had. It is also part teamwork as sailors have to rely on each other for help and advice. We may not have a mission control but we do have a community of fellow sailors that possess a surprisingly vast pool of knowledge. It seems this community is always willing to jump in and help with problems large and small. Sailors as a group love a challenge and helping others overcome a challenge is almost as satisfying than solving their own problems. It is a challenge most sailors seem to relish and dare I say it, enjoy.

                Guerilla boat repair is all about exploring ways to help you find the MacGyver within yourself. Knowing what bits and pieces you should carry with you and how to use those bits and pieces for both emergency and comfort repairs will give you the confidence needed to set off for parts unknown. No two boats are alike and no two people will do things the same way so there is no single right way to take on any given challenge. There simply is no way to tell anyone how to make every repair they may encounter. It is possible however to share some knowledge and experiences to help plant the seed that will allow you channel the MacGyver within when needed.  Most field repairs are a three part process, you need materials to work with, you need tools to work with, and you need the imagination and knowledge to find ways to use those materials and tools to fix problems when they arise.

                Having the right materials and supplies needed to make repairs is as important as having the right tools and knowledge. It is often a hot topic among sailors as to just what are the right spare parts to carry aboard your boat.  Although spare parts are needed very little, if any mention is made of raw materials to go along with those spares.  By raw materials I mean things like pieces of plywood, fiberglass materials, fasteners and other basic supplies that may help you create what you may not have. I consider this type of spares to be as important if not more so than having actual spares parts. After all you cannot possible carry spares for everything you have aboard but with the right materials you can often patch things together good enough to keep you going. The old chewing gum and bailing wire approach so to speak may be just what you need to get home. Like I say it does not have to be pretty, it just has to work.


                Tools are also a very important part of the self reliance puzzle. Like spares, this is also a subject of lively dockside discussions. Everyone has their favorite tools they feel they cannot live without or are “must haves.” Having spent a lifetime working on boats I know only too well that no matter how many tools you have it always seems you never have that one right tool for the task at hand. I also know that perhaps 10 percent of the tools I have are used at least 90 percent of the time. This can become a bit of a dilemma as we cannot possibly carry a bunch of tools that rarely if ever get used. Often tools can be used in creative ways so having tools that are more multipurpose is more useful than carrying a lot of specialty tools. There are of course a few specialty tools that will be needed and this is particularly true with engine repair tools. There is nothing more frustrating than having the correct spares but not having the tool required to install it. It also needs to be understood that the best tool in the world will be useless without the knowledge of how to use it. With every tool brought onboard you should at least have a basic understanding of its proper use.


                You do not necessarily have to be an engineer to be able to effect useful repairs. I have seen some pretty impressive repairs done by those who never thought of themselves as craftsman at all. In fact, some of the most creative repairs I have seen have come from those with little background fixing things. It has been my experience that engineers and those that have a lot of repair knowledge tend to over think things while those with less knowledge are more willing to just try something and hope for the best.  It does help to have some basic hands on skills as well as a reasonable understanding of how things work though. The further you plan to sail away from civilization the better understand of your systems you should have. If you are completely without hands on skills there are some very useful trade courses that could help bring these skills up to speed. It is not a matter of being a master at all crafts but rather having a basic understanding of the working of your vessel.

                As can been seen Guerilla boat repair is a multi part process where pieces of a puzzle are brought together to find a solution to a problem. Whether the problem is an emergency at sea of simply a matter of keeping the beer cold (many would classify that as a true emergency!) Creative thinking along with having the right tools and supplies can add safety and comfort to your cruising experience. Although seeking outside help is often the best solution, those of us who cruise know this may not always be an option. Being able to find your own solutions and effect even rough repairs is important to the safety of your vessel and its crew. Self reliance requires some creative thinking and the willingness to try whatever it takes to keep things working. It does not have to be pretty it just has to work!

Capt. Wayne

Let’s hear some of your ideas on this, have you your own  Guerilla boat repair repair experience? Leave your story in the comments.


C1, What is a Project Boat and is one right for you?


Before we get started it helps to understand just what a project boat is so that you can understand if one is right for you.  A project boat can be many types of boats from a small rowboat built from scratch to a mine sweeper converted to a world cruiser.  Almost any boat qualifies as a project boat because, let’s face it, they all need endless work no matter how new or old they are. We are always adding to or modifying our boats to make them unique so even a new boat can be considered a project boat of sorts.  For the purpose of this book, however, I will narrow it down a bit and look primarily at older midsized fiberglass boats. That’s not to say the information in this book will not be helpful to anyone working on any other type of project boat. Big or small, wood, steel or fiberglass, the principles are the same. However since the most common project boats are older fiberglass boats we will focus on those.

The heyday of boat building came in the early sixties and continued thru to the mid nineties. During this period many boat builders, big and small, opened up their doors and began producing hundreds and sometimes thousands of cost effective fiberglass boats. Because fiberglass molds were relatively easy and inexpensive to construct, builders could produce numerous identical vessels economically using just a few molds. The boats produced by these companies ranged in size from small dinghies to large semi-custom yachts. Companies such as Pearson, Catalina, Hatteras and Carver grew to large corporations producing quality vessels at affordable prices, bringing boating to the middle class. Hundreds of smaller shops also opened up producing limited runs of high quality semi custom boats.  All types of vessels were produced including powerboats, sailboats, trawlers, and commercial vessels. Because many of these early builders did not have the design and engineering experience of today’s builders they often chose to overbuild. Materials were cheap and the consumer demanded a heavy construction, so the tendency was to simply add more material to create a strong vessel. The result was thousands of solid heavily built boats produced, many still in service today.


Because fiberglass does not rot like wood or rust like steel, many of these boats, even though they may have been neglected or even abandoned, may still be worth saving. Nobody really knows for sure how long a fiberglass boat will last; I have heard times as short as 10-15 years to as long as 100 years. The fact is we know for sure there are many boats out there now 50+ years old yet still in very serviceable condition. Like many things, how well a boat was constructed and how well it has been cared for has an effect on its overall life span. Suffice to say the true lifespan of fiberglass has yet to be determined and age alone does not indicate if a boat is worth saving. Combine this with the ever increasing price of new boats and these older boats may not be such a bad deal after all. Often restoring an older boat can give you perfectly good vessel for a fraction of the cost of a new one.  Of course you also get the pride and satisfaction of taking something old and making it new again. The saying “they just do not build them like they used to” tends to be true for fiberglass boats. For the most part these older boats, being heavier built, may often be better than new when fully restored.

The long life of fiberglass coupled with the surplus of reasonably priced older fiberglass boats on the market make restoration a tempting prospect. Many a decent boat can be had for less than the price of a small used car and in some cases even for free. That said, not just any older boat is worth the effort and expense. Later in this book we will discuss what to look for and what to avoid when selecting a project boat. Picking the right boat will have much to do with the final success of your project. It is also important to understand that any used boat will have a limited resale value no matter how much time and money you put into it. A 1983 Hatteras motor yacht is only going to have a resale value close to what other 1983 Hatteras motor yachts are selling for. It does not matter if you have spent twice that amount on the restoration; it is still only going to be worth so much. This is key when planning your project and something you must keep in mind from the start.


Not all project boats are older boats. Many project boat candidates are newer vessels that have been damaged by weather or accidents. These boats are often sold by the insurance companies in an effort to recoup their losses. If the estimated cost of repairs comes to more than 80% of the insured value the insurance companies will often “total” the boat. Once the boat is considered a total loss the insurance company will pay the owner for the full insured value and take ownership. The insurance company will then sell the damaged boat. Sometimes the owner will buy the boat back from the insurance company and use the settlement funds to make repairs, but most often the boat is sold at auction. These damaged boats often make good candidates for repair but care needs to be taken. We will talk more about this in the chapter on purchasing a project boat.

A project boat is a dream waiting to happen and like every dream, every project boat is as unique as its owner. All it takes is vision, hard work, and a bit of money to get there.  Unfortunately many more have the dream than the time and resources to see it through to the end.  Most project boats will take a lot more time and money to complete than their owners ever expected. Purchasing a project boat thinking you will end up with a high end yacht for a fraction of the cost is a mistake many have made. Nothing comes without a price in life and this is especially true of most project boats. The odds of success will often depend on how realistic the owner is. I have seen many more failures with project boats than successes. By far the biggest reason for failure is unrealistic expectations of the time and money required to complete the project. I say this not to discourage anyone, but rather to help you understand this journey will not be as easy as some expect. That is not to say it will not be worth the effort but like most things, understanding what you are getting into before you start will help you succeed. That, after all, is the goal of this book; to help you succeed where others have failed and to help guide you through many of the pitfalls others have fallen into.  


Before starting on any project boat the first thing that must be determined is whether or not a project boat is right for you, or better yet whether YOU are right for a project boat. Not everyone is suited to the task of restoring an older or damaged boat. It takes many hours of your free time and more money than expected to bring a boat back to good condition. It can be a challenge, but part of the reason for taking on a project boat; the satisfaction of using your skills and abilities to finish something that you can be proud of. It can be very rewarding and satisfying to bring an old boat back from the scrap heap and turn her into something to be proud of.   In addition, it is possible to save money over the cost of buying a finished boat, but it takes careful planning and a lot of hard work to really come out ahead.  To start off let’s take look at the most common reasons for taking on a project boat.

By far the single biggest reason most people take on a project boat is to save money. This alone is a poor reason to undertake such a task. Yes you can save money but you can likewise lose money and the sad truth is many more lose money than save.  If you want to save money, you will undoubtedly have to put in many hours of your own time and labor. However long you think it may take to do something on a boat; it always seems to take three to four times as long.  After more than 35 years building and repairing boats I am always amazed at how long it can take to do even the simplest of tasks.  If you can spend the time and have the skills you can save money on labor. It is also possible to save money with careful sourcing of parts and materials. Keep in mind this also takes time and effort as well as careful planning. It is, by far, too easy to get carried away and spend more than you wanted when it comes to parts and supplies. Many seemingly good deals may not be so good in the long run. Careful planning and discipline will help you save. If your sole reason for thinking of a project boat is to save money you will likely be disappointed.

Others take on a project boat simply because they love the work. This is one of the better reasons for working on a project boat. Let’s face it most project boats will demand the best of your time and skills. If you love the work it helps keep you motivated.  Restoring a boat as a hobby can be very rewarding. It can challenge your skills as well as force you to learn new ones. If you enjoy getting your hands dirty and constantly being challenged then, a boat restoration might be just the thing for you. Large or small, completing a project boat is a very satisfying experience. Doing the work yourself also gives you finite control over the quality and direction of the work. You can have complete control over the level of fit and finish to your satisfaction. There is also the fact that you will be intimately familiar with your boat which can be very useful when it comes time for making repairs. For many restoring boats it is not about ever using the boat; it is more about having something to do a project to work on. I have known some who never take their boats off the dock, yet work on them all the time. Spending an afternoon varnishing fine woodwork can be very Zen-like offering a relaxing afternoon away from the rush and worry of everyday life, and sitting back at the end of the day with a cold beer admiring your labor can be very satisfying indeed.  


                Then there are the project boats that you just sort of end up with when you were not really looking. I think of this as more the boat finding you than you finding the boat, sort of like a lost puppy or kitten. It could be a boat that a buddy gave to you or maybe you put in that low bid at an auction thinking you would never win and then end up winning.  Perhaps you are just strolling the docks and you suddenly see the boat of your dreams, love at first sight, not unlike that cute blonde you once fell in love with! As with that pretty blonde, your heart has taken over your brain and before you know it your checkbook is out and there is no turning back. It is then that reality kicks in and you find yourself with more then you bargained for. (Not quite unlike that blonde!) Of course, by then it is simply too late and you have to see her through to the end. Some folks I have known ended up with their project when a family member or friend passed away. These folks felt they had to finish the project to honor that loved one. One person I knew, after inheriting a half finished boat from a friend, not only finished the boat, but then spent several years cruising in it to completely fulfill his lost friend’s dreams. Surprisingly these unplanned projects often are the most successful. Whether honoring a loved one or to save face, not wanting to admit they may have made a mistake, these owners stay motivated.

For some a project boat offers a way of controlling costs. It can make sense to purchase a cheaper boat and then put money into her when you can. Rather than taking out a large loan and its associated payments for a finished boat, with a project boat you can spend money when you have it. This is often a good option when looking at a fixer upper that is usable but in need of upgrades. This can be a good choice when thinking of doing long range cruising in a few years as well. You can still use the boat and get to know all the systems while deciding where best to spend your money and time. With today’s uncertain economy this can also offer some security knowing that if your financial situation changes you can put a brake on the boat spending until things improve.

                Whatever the reason for taking on a project boat, for it to be successful it is important to understand your abilities and limitations. Planning is key to the success of any project and the first step in planning is understanding your abilities and limitations.  If you have more time than money you will need to have the skills required to complete most of the work yourself. If you have more money than time you may want to plan on hiring help to get things done. It is important to look at things realistically. If you have never worked with your hands and have few hands-on skills it would be foolish to just assume you can do the work required. Likewise if you are short on funds do not assume you will be able to get all your parts on the cheap. There are ways around these obstacles but being realistic up front will help.


If you are good with your hands and enjoy the work then you will be able to save a lot of money by doing most of the work yourself. If you are not good with your hands or have never had much “hands on” type work it is important to be realistic about how much you really can do without paying for help. A rare few come by these skills naturally, but for most it can take years to fully become proficient at a needed skill. Boat restoration requires many skills including fiberglass work, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting, and mechanical skills, to name a few. As can be seen, there are many hats to be worn when working on a project boat.  If you have some skills but are lacking in others such as mechanical or electrical work, these can often be learned at local community colleges. Some coastal schools may even have boat building or repair programs. Often these classes can be taken in the evenings making it a practical way to obtain needed knowledge. If you have little hands-on experience it might be best to start small and test yourself. Get a small dinghy or outboard-type boat and see how it goes. See what your skill sets are before getting too deeply involved in a larger project. This is also a great way to learn if you have never done this type of work before. Better to make mistakes on a small scale before buying that 40 footer. Starting small will test most of the skills needed in a bigger project without getting you in over your head. If you have worked on boats before, either your own or friends, you might be able to jump right into a big project, but if you are completely new to boat work I strongly recommend you start small.

As with most things in life money is important to success. This applies to project boats as well.  Having the required skills will save you money in labor, but you still need to purchase parts and at times may need to hire outside labor. There can be additional costs as well, such as storage, insurance, launching fees and the list goes on. Before starting you need to have some understanding of the cash flow needed to keep your project moving forward. Many grossly under-estimate the expenses and end up stalling or worse never finishing at all, solely due to the lack of sufficient planning. Thinking about money and planning, a budget should be one of your first considerations before starting a project boat. This is one area where it is important to remain realistic and if anything, try to overestimate, rather than under-estimate .You should plan for the unexpected expenses, because you will surely get them.  I will talk more about finances and budgeting in the money chapter but it is an important consideration before you start. It will also be an important factor in selecting a suitable boat. Although that 60-footer may seem tempting, if you cannot afford the slip rent it makes little sense to attempt something that big. I know this would seem obvious but time and again I have seen people make just such a mistake. It is all too easy to convince yourself that you will figure it out as you go along. Setting up a monthly budget will help keep you on track and give you an idea of what you can and cannot afford before you start. Knowing what you can afford before you start will help you avoid getting in over your head.

“Time waits for no man” and when it comes to a project boat this is particularly true. Understanding your available free time is an important consideration before starting a project boat. This may not be a big issue with a small boat, say less than 20 feet, but for a larger project, free time becomes quite important. The bigger the project the more free time it will suck up, so understanding  just how much time you can and are willing to dedicate is important. If you are wealthy and hiring others to do the work, this may not be as big an issue, but few taking on a project boat have the money to pay for all of the labor. It may seem like you have plenty of free time on your hands, but I can assure you there never enough when it comes to working on a boat. Family, job and other hobbies will place demands on your free time. If you are retired or only have to work part time this may not be as much of a problem, but for those working full time with families and friends, your free time becomes precious indeed. As with your skills and money it is important to be realistic about just how much free time you will have to put into your project. Again this is a good reason to try a small project before tackling that 50-footer you have always dreamed of. Any project boat larger than 20 feet can easily take years to complete. The bigger the boat the more time it will take. As mentioned before everything takes longer than expected when working on boats, so planning for this from the start will save you a lot of frustration.  It is important to plan for the unexpected. Leaving windows of time for the unexpected will avoid frustration. If you are lucky and do not hit too many unexpected problems or as a former employer of mine used to call them “opportunities,’ you will finish ahead of schedule rather than behind. On the other hand, if you do not plan for “opportunities” you are likely to get behind and discouraged. Like they say “time is money” and this can be true with a project boat. The longer it takes, the more you will spend on dockage, storage, insurance and so on.  

Motivation and more importantly staying motivated is important as well.  It is easy to get psyched up when you first start a project but keeping that enthusiasm is a bit harder. Some people come by this naturally, but for others it takes a bit of work. Some project boats can take a long time to complete, often years. It can be hard to maintain a good positive attitude for that long a time. Setbacks and disappointments are to be an expected part of any large project. It is important to avoid getting frustrated or discouraged.  Be realistic; think about your personality and whether you feel you can hang in for the long term. Are you the type of person that will stay self motivated? Once again the reason for doing the project will have an effect on this. This is one reason I think those that inherit a project do so well. They have a strong motivation and desire to complete the project. Whether your desire is to sail around the world or simply to go fishing you need to make sure it is strong enough to see you through to the end.

                Depending on the length and scope of your project you also need to consider your professional and personal situation. Scanning the boats listed on EBay, I often see half-finished boats for sale with the seller stating they are selling due to job transfer, divorce or some other personal situation that prevents them from completing the project. It can often be hard to predict changes in your personal life, but knowing you are in a stable situation before starting a big project will help.  This is also often the result of simply taking longer than expected to complete your project. As has been said before, project boats, more often than not, take longer than expected. There are ways to help minimize the problems caused by a sudden life change. The most important of these is getting the boat to a condition where it can be moved if need be.  I will talk more about this in the chapter on planning your work but it is a good thing to keep in mind from the start. A failing marriage or poor health can be less easy to predict and no one wants to think the worst, but it is something to keep in mind if you are embarking on a large project that could take more than a few months to complete. I have heard of more than one project boat that has caused a serious rift in a marriage as well. As we talked about before, a project boat can consume a large amount of your free time, so before you start, you have to make sure this will not adversely affect others in your life. Of course, the best situation is if others in your life are helping and participating in your project. A project boat can be a great way to bring people together, working as a team for the end goal. It likewise can tear people apart if they cannot work together or are not working for the same goal. Once again I would recommend trying a small project first if you have never done anything like this as a team.  Taking care of your health is equally important. One of the saddest cases I know of was where a young man building a cold molded trimaran took his own life halfway through the project. It was thought that the constant exposure to the chemicals involved had an adverse effect on his mental health. Whether or not this is true it points out the need to take care of your health, both physically and mentally, as you proceed.

                As you can see, there is a lot to think about before taking on a project boat. My goal is not to discourage anyone; rather, I want to help those considering a project boat to determine whether or not it is right for them. Success depends on many factors: selecting the right boat and knowing your limitations are among the most important. In a later chapter we will talk about how to pick the right boat but before you get to that point you have to feel comfortable with your abilities and resources. It is important to understand that you will not likely save a ton of money and in some cases even end up spending more than if you had just purchased a good used boat. You will however get to know your boat inside and out while taking pride in the fruits of your efforts. If you work as a team with others you can share this rewarding experience as well. A project boat can be fun but it can equally be frustrating and expensive. No two project boats are alike and no two owners are alike. This is what makes restoring a project boat such an interesting and satisfying experience.  Tackling a project boat can be a bit like climbing a mountain, it is an uphill battle but the view from the top can be very satisfying indeed!

Comments and suggestion are welcome so no need to be shy.




If there ever was a key to the success of any project boat it surely is Persistence. There will be days and weeks where it feels like no progress is being made, or worse yet you feel like you are going backwards. The trick is not to get discouraged and give up at these times. If success is to be had you need to keep moving ahead one small step at a time even if it does not feel like you will ever reach the end.

One of the biggest mistakes I see with project boats is the owner who leaps in with untold enthusiasm only to quickly fade and give up. Most of time there is no thought to pack it in. The work just slows down, motivation begins to fade and other things take on a greater importance. A project boat is not a race or contest it is a journey and as a journey should move at a steady pace that will not exhaust or wear you down. I have always liked the analogy of eating the elephant. You cannot eat an elephant whole. You have to proceed slowly one bite at a time. If you take on too much all at once you will soon get sick of it. This is a trap many fall into.


“O snail
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!”
― Kobayashi Issa

The trick is to keep moving, keep momentum even if it is slow  momentum. Slow and steady is better than a fast crash. I know we all want to get things done and get out on the water but I have seen way too many jump in with great enthusiasm only to quickly burn out. There is nothing wrong with a full speed ahead approach as long as it does not lead to early burnout. A little progress is still progress.

Do not let the failures and surprise problems slow you down or discourage you. Part of the joy of a project boat is over coming the challenges, the things that would stop others in their tracks. It is the little victories that make a project boat worthwhile so make sure you do something every now and then that will allow you such a victory. If you find your self hanging from your prehensile tail in the bilge for too long take a break and go varnish a door or table. You can then sit back and enjoy at least one shining example of what your boat is soon to become.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
― Winston Churchill

Persistence will separate you from the ones who fail!

Capt. Wayne


Better Boating with Less


As we start the New Year many of us are making resolutions to lose weight. This is a good goal to set and while we’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to help our boats lose some extra weight as well.  We all feel and perform better when we are not carrying around extra pounds; this applies to your boat as well.
                As a surveyor I get to poke around in a lot of different boats. More often than not when opening lockers and hatches I find the spaces are so packed with equipment it makes me wonder if I will need a back hoe to reach bottom. Ideally you should have the right amount of equipment and gear to help make your boating safe and fun, but not so much that your boat gets over loaded and loses performance. Extra weight will cost the power boater extra fuel (and expense) and the sail boater loss of performance.  Yacht designers take into account average equipment and stores when doing their weight calculations. They base their calculations on a half load condition for optimal performance. Too much weight as well as weight in the wrong places can throw off how a boat sits on her lines, and ultimately how well she will perform.


                Extra weight will slow your boat down and require more energy in the form of fuel or wind to move through the water. The situation becomes worse when driving through waves as the boat may not be able to ride over the seas as well as a lighter boat would. Weight also needs to be distributed properly. It is easy to tell when your weights are off side to side as the boat will have a list. It is not as easy to spot if your fore and aft weights are properly distributed. A boat riding bow or stern down will not perform as well as one properly balanced. Trim tabs on a power boat can help but they too will rob energy if over trimmed. On sailboats the weight can throw off how she sits on her heeled waterline reducing performance.

                The trick is to find a balance in what you really need onboard and avoid ending up with more than you think you need. It is all too easy to end up with more equipment than is necessary, things get throw into lockers and are soon buried and forgotten about. Boats have lots of little cubby holes and deep lockers to lose stuff into. Some lockers are more like black holes that will swallow up anything that gets near them! Many times while doing a survey and pulling things out of lockers I will hear the owner remark “I did not know I had that in there” as I remove a 40 pound anchor or other such item.


                I always recommend that boaters take everything out of their boat once a year, clean the lockers and put back only what they really need. Of course this is easier said than done, but it can be worth the effort. As you put things back onboard ask yourself if you really need that piece of equipment or other item. One of the biggest mistakes I see many boaters make is to carry too many spares.  Yes spares are important and needed but for normal weekend cruising, ask yourself what you really need. If you are setting out for the Caribbean you might need that spare injector pump or the extra large anchor with 300 feet of chain, but for weekend coastal cruising this extra weight will cost you in fuel and performance. As you sort through things ask yourself if you really need 10 gallons of antifreeze onboard or could you get by with 5 gallons.

                Even if you choose not to empty your whole boat in one shot, it pays to attack one locker at a time and sort through what you really need.  As you place things back in the lockers stop and ask yourself if you really need it. Be honest and do not fool yourself into thinking you need something that you could get by without. Think about the type of boating you are doing not what you hope to do one day.  Yes that spare exhaust manifold or extra 300 feet of chain would be useful for that Caribbean cruise but do you really need now while just exploring the coast and bays on weekends. Look at the small things as well. Even food supplies can weigh your boat down.

                While you are at think about where the weight of your stores is placed. Power boats have the center of their water planes further aft while a sailboats the center of water plane is closer to amidships. This means that weight place further aft in a power boat will have less effect on performance than if placed forward. Weight forward will make it harder for a power boat to get up on a plane and will cause it to plow through the waves rather than riding over them.  With sailboats weights are better placed amidships and low. Weights in the ends both bow and stern will have a more pronounced effect while heeling that you may not notice. Extra weights in the ends also can make it harder for the boat to ride up as a wave passes underneath.

                With the New Year’s resolutions and thoughts of weight loss, think about losing some weight in your boat as well. Start the new boating season off with a lighter boat and more money in your pocket at the fuel dock, or more trophies for your club racing. It is a win, win for both you and your boat.

Capt. Wayne

Winterizing your Boat


Like it or not winter is coming. As much as I hate the thought of no more boating for several months the reality is we must soon get ready for the cold weather. Even those of us who are lucky enough to live in an area where we do not get much snow and little if any harbor ice, we must still take precautions for the coming winter months. In some ways we need to be more careful than our neighbors in the North because we are not always as well prepared for those sudden cold snaps. The following recommendations should help you in getting ready for the winter months.

Check all your hoses and underwater fittings. Close all seacocks that are not needed and check the operation of those that need to remain open. Don’t forget to check cockpit drains and stuffing boxes. Check your bilge pumps; inspect the hoses, connections, and wiring. If anything looks marginal fix it now. Test each float switch not only to make sure it comes on but also that it goes off when the water is pumped out. I recommend filling the bilge with water till the pump comes on then watch that it pumps out like it should and that it does not take too long. Check the high water alarm if you have one and if you don’t this might be a good time to install one. Most boats that sink at the dock do so as the result of failed underwater fittings.

Whether you store your boat on land or in the water keeping her warm inside is not a bad idea, it helps prevent mildew and condensation. But I do not recommend counting on a shore power heat source to prevent freezing. If a sudden winter storm hits it is likely to bring power outages as well as freezing temperatures. It’s simply not worth the risk. Better to play it safe and add antifreeze to your water system, and engine. Drain any water tanks and heaters and don’t forget the head. Use antifreeze in your engine even if it is raw water cooled as this will cut down on corrosion. And please let’s use bio degradable antifreeze. If you do use an electric heater I recommend the small dehumidifier type such as the GoldenRods. These do not have fans to fail and are in general safer. Whatever type you use remember to keep it high enough to remain out of any bilge water and away from any fabrics or flammable materials. The galley countertop or stove top is a good location.

Check your electrical system, make sure your batteries have proper fluid levels (You should check this at least once a month) Check the battery connections for corrosion. Verify your battery charger is functioning properly. Inspect the ends of your shore cord. Most on board fires start at the shore power inlet due to heating caused by loose or corroded plug ends. If you see any discoloration or worn boots replace the end or better yet the cord. Check both ends. A solar panel makes a good reliable charger for maintaining your batteries even if you loose shore power. Remember your bilge pump is useless if the batteries are dead or a connection fails.

I do not recommend leaving covers and canvas on unless they are designed as a storage cover. Most bimimi tops and dodgers are not designed for the heavy winds of a Nor’easter. It is better to take them down and not risk damage in strong winter winds. This would also be a good time to remove sails and canvas for service. Even if you do not need to service your sails and canvas leaving them on the boat all winter just exposes them to whether damage and wear. If you do install winter covers leave some ventilation and if your boat is on land never secure them to the stands used to support you boat.

If you have an outboard motor either as your main engine or for the dinghy now is a good time to have it serviced, or at the very least store it inside and out of the elements. You may find that the local service shop will give you a good deal if you let them service it in the dead of winter rather than waiting till spring and you’ll be ahead of the pack to the water come the first warm weather.

If you store your boat on land remember to remove drain plugs and check deck and cockpit drains at least once a month for leaves and other debris as they can quickly clog drains resulting in flooding. If you leave your boat on its trailer make sure it’s level and avoid parking it under any trees. You may want to block the trailer to take some of the load off the wheels. Even if your boat has a drain plug make sure the bilge pump is operational as drain plugs can get clogged with debris.

And last of all if you do leave your boat in the water check your lines and fenders every couple of weeks. If you do not live near your boat it would be a good idea to pay someone to do this for you, or at the very least tip the dock master well to be sure he pays special attention to your boat.

So to sum up:

1. Check all underwater hoses and fitting including drains and stuffing boxes. Shut off unneeded seacocks.

2. Whether on land or in the water check your bilge pumps and batteries.

3. Do not count on electric heaters to keep your systems from freezing. Drain water systems and tanks, fill fuel tanks. Use biodegradable antifreeze and sleep soundly on those really cold windy nights.

4. Remove covers not designed for long term storage. Make sure any winter covers are properly secured
(Not to any boat stands) and allow for ventilation.

5. Remove and store outboard motors. Winterize inboard motors with anti freeze.

6. If on land check all drains, check stands and supports, If on trailer make sure its level and not under any trees. If in the water check all the lines and fenders.

7. Check your boat often during the winter, just because you are not using her does not mean she still does not need your attention.

Take the time now to get ready now and avoid problems in the spring.

Capt. Wayne

Taking it apart


The first step in any restoration, or repair project is to remove the old part or parts requiring replacement. At first this would seem a simple task just get out the tools and have at it. But we all know nothing is that simple when it comes to boats and the truth of the matter is removal of the old parts can have allot to do the success or failure of a project. It can often be the hardest part of a project. Almost any project will require some removal of parts whether you’re changing the oil in your engine or doing a major hull repair. If you’re lucky the old parts will give up without a fight and life will be good, on the other hand sometimes even the simplest tasks can rapidly turn into an ordeal.
Obviously some tasks will be simpler than others but having a good plan and preparing for the worst can make life easier. Never assume that you can simply “remove the oil filter” or “remove that broken piece of wood. If you are lucky it will go your way but more often than not it will give you a fight. A few simple rules, lots of patience and the right tools will make the difference in a successful project.

The first thing to do is observe. Simply put, sit back and look at the situation carefully form different angles. Think about how you are going to take things apart and how they will go back together. Dismantle the parts in your head first, this will save you time and trouble. Ask yourself what tools you will need then think about what could go wrong and how you can handle it. What are you going to do when that screw head strips out? What if the last guy used 5200 to bed that cap rail down? Assume the worst and plan for it! If you are prepared for a battle and you get it you will at least be ready, if on the other hand things go well, then you can relax and enjoy a nice cool drink while putting your unused tools away. Think about the order in which things need to come apart. Sometimes this is not so apparent particularly in larger projects but take the time to try to get familiar with how you plan to proceed. You can always modify your plans as need be but take the time to at least get a good idea for how you will get started. See the big picture, will the parts fit out the door? Will you need help at any point? Will the new parts go back in the same way the old ones came out? Also as you look at your project think about what you do not need to do. It sort of like doing taxes, the big trick is knowing what you do not need to do, not what you do need to do! Never take apart more than you have to.

A good example of how careful planning and disassembly can make a project, is a Sportfish boat with bad deck core I once repaired. The core in the house top had gotten moisture in it due to poor bedding of fittings. A repair had been attempted by injecting resin but as the core was wet and this only made things worse when the resin mixed with the water in the core and would not harden. Taking my time I marked all areas of bad core and decided to remove a large section of the house top outer laminate in one piece. I cut around the break in the non-skid and carefully peeled the top laminate off in one piece, replaced the bad core and was able to glue the top laminate back in place leaving only the smooth edges to repair. Careful planning and removal made this project a success and reduced the time of the repair considerably. This is a prime example of how properly taking something apart can make all the difference in putting it back together.

Ok so now you have a plan you have gotten together all the tools you think you will need and then some. Now its time to get started. The first thing to do is protect the surrounding area from damage. Cover the floors or decks near the war zone. I like to use a blue heavy plastic sheeting to cover floors and any nearby woodwork. But lacking this cardboard works well if it will not get wet. Most home improvement stores sell carpet protector sheeting for covering your walk ways. Lay a path to your work area so you do not track dirt and debris into or out of the boat. Nothing worse than finally removing a part only to look back and see it dripped oil or worse battery acid down the carpet or teak deck on the way out. I have seen both happen. I always say “progress is messy” so cover as much as possible. This is also a good time to get the vacuum cleaner ready. It is important to keep your work area clean the whole time you are working. This will greatly reduce any collateral damage. Dirt spreads so keep it to a minimum and clean up often.
Now that you’re ready its time to get started, you have thought this through so start at the top and work your way in. As you take things apart use zip lock bags for the small bolts and screws and painters buckets or boxes for the larger parts. Be sure to label these containers as they will all look alike days or weeks later when you go to put things back together. I save even the screws and bolts I know I will not be using as they will help me figure out what size to replace them with. In big projects be sure to also note the location the parts came from, as in “floor hatch forward cabin.” Not just “floor hatch” Trust me this will save you a lot of frustration. Take your time to remove parts carefully. You may need them as samples or templates. It is always easier to find a replacement if you have something to take with you to the parts store, and those old wood parts even if badly rotted if carefully removed can be great patterns saving you time in fitting the new parts. So resist the temptations to just tear it apart! Taking your time now will payoff in the long run.

The “Right Way”


I often read in other repair forums and listen to other boaters on the dock talk about doing things “the right way” and using only the best materials and construction methods. They are often very insistent that there is only one way to do things, “the right way.” (Which of course is their way.)

                  I am not opposed to doing things the “right way” but one has to keep things in perspective.  It makes little sense to use only the finest marine plywood ordered in at $260 a sheet on a little 22 foot trailer sailor that is built using cheap plywood. As a friend once said “you have to honor the medium.” What he meant was there is little point in using materials and a level of quality that far exceeds the quality of the original build.  High end joinery in a cheaper production hull makes little sense unless your only goal is to show off your skills. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is good to want to do good work and be proud of your efforts. I just think it is silly how some people insist that everything has to be done to the highest standards. Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good. Sometimes good works just fine.

                 Of course there are always times you may want to improve on the original and there may be nothing wrong with this as long as you keep it in perspective. If you are working on a high end 50 footer you may want to stick to the best but if you are working on a small production coastal cruiser it makes more sense to scale the quality standard  back a bit. I never advocate cutting corners on safety items but here too you have to keep things in perspective. If you only sail on a lake why would you want to do work on your boat as if you were doing an Atlantic crossing? An example of this is those that say you must use epoxy to repair a 30 year old fiberglass boat because it is stronger. Why repair something with a material that is stronger than the original part you are repairing?

                Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting everyone lower their standards and do lower quality work. I take pride in what I do and like to do a good job. But I try to keep things in perspective. I do not want to fall into the trap of always trying to do the best and never leaving the dock. Sometimes I am willing to just get it done so I can go sailing. I do long range cruising in my boat and take it offshore well beyond basic help so I want things to work. I also live on my boat and I do not want have be always fixing things (well it is a boat after all.) I maintain a level of quality that does keep things working but I am not so OCD that I never get away from the dock. Like many this there is a balance to be had. So for all those that insist there is only one way to do things I suggest that perhaps there is more than one and that lowing the standards a bit is not always a bad thing.

Would love to hear others thoughts on this so please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Capt. Wayne