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