Refits traditionally fall into two categories.
The first features owners who love their yachts and just want to refresh the interiors and/or upgrade the systems to modern standards. The second consists of those buyers who find they can acquire a used boat and refurbish it for considerably less than buying a new boat.
No matter your category, refitting a yacht can prove to be a minefield for the unwary. Proceed with all due caution.
“I’ll tell you the one thing that can be the absolute downfall of any refit project,” says Jeff Montz of SeaBrook Marine in New Orleans (www.seabrookmarine.com). “It’s what I call the ‘Might-As-Wells.’ The as-long-as-we’re-doing-this-we-might-as-well-do-that.”
Montz cringes at the thought of an owner saying those words and, with a well-deserved reputation for 100-plus refits of vessels built by Bertram, Hatteras, Viking, and others (not to mention reviving more than 300 yachts seriously damaged when Katrina whacked Louisiana), SeaBrook Marine has built a reputation for clean and cost-effective refits.
“I’ll give you the perfect example,” he says, speaking of an owner who just wanted a new headliner in the saloon. “While looking at the project, though, he said those dreaded words, “We might as well change out the lighting, too.”
But many older boats, like this Bertram, have 32-volt wiring, which not only meant all new lights but all new wiring had to be pulled, other systems were affected, new electrical panels added, and the cost skyrocketed. For just that one “Might As Well,” there was a cascading effect on time, money, and effort.
“Every refit client has two lists,” says Tom Slane, son of Hatteras Yachts founder Willis Slane and president of Slane Marine (www.slanemarine.com), a North Carolina company that specializes in Hatteras refits. “One is what he can afford, and the other is what he secretly wants. It doesn’t take much for him to move onto the second list. But it’s something we have to continually warn owners against!”
Karen Lynn Poulos, of Karen Lynn Interiors in Ft. Lauderdale (www.karenlynninteriors.com), has done a number of refits on Ferretti, Sunseeker, Hatteras, and other production yachts, and she has developed five essentials of a successful refit.
“First is planning and second is setting a realistic budget,” she says, adding, “third is assembling an experienced and quality team, fourth is having regular meetings and updates to keep everyone current, and last is carefully controlling all changes that affect the budget or the schedule.”
“One of the most important things in a refit,” according to Tom Slane, “is to have a well-defined handle on the scope of the project beforehand. There can’t be any ambiguity about what is being done, and the little details are very important. If you’re installing new engines, the owner might assume that he is getting new batteries, but the yard might not have included that, thinking the existing ones are fine.”
So there you have the essence of good refits, as seen by the experts. Plan it carefully, establish a realistic budget, and don’t be lured by all the opportunities that present themselves along the way. As one expert noted, you’ll fall in love with your boat all over again!
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