Sunday, May 20, 2018

$2.99 you need to spend...

A couple of days ago I saw there was a book on Kindle that looked like it might be interesting...

This one in fact.

At $2.99 it was something of a no-brainer so I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and read it in a couple of hours.

It's an easy enjoyable read and contains a lot of information that flies in the face of what a lot of people say. Stuff, as it happens, that actually needs to be said.

Whether you want to flip boats or not is unimportant as the real meat of the issue is simply how to approach boat work and get the boat up-and-sailing in a timely, affordable, and seaworthy manner.

In short a whole lotta good advice for just under $3.

That said, surveyors and boat brokers will really hate the book. Of course, from where I sit that's just the cherry on top.

Do I really have to say more?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Doing the VolksCruiser two-step...

I'm currently in the midst of a variety of projects which, if I were not a cheapseats VolksCruiserish sort of fellow, would cost an arm and a leg to sort out...

One project is pretty simple: replacing the hand rails on the coach roof to make space for our new nesting dinghy. The old ones are somewhat past their sell-by date. Off-the-shelf teak replacements would cost on the order of $50 a pop and of somewhat diminished scantlings that hardly inspire confidence, had me looking at stainless steel hand rails which were silly expensive.

Going to the local lumber yard I bought enough clear pressure-treated yellow pine 1" x 3" stock to build new hand rails for $10 and change. Add in some epoxy (maybe $5 worth at the price/volume level I'm in) and a couple of hours or so of sweat equity and I've got a new set of robust hand rails that will do the job far better than anything available retail for around $7.50 a pop.

So yeah, hand rails are just one item on the list of boat things one tends to throw money at but it is a pretty good example of the process of not spending more than needful on boat stuff otherwise known as the VolksCruiser two-step. Let's go back and look at the details...

First, we do a Need/Want. Do I really need to replace the hand rails?

Yes, they were always too light duty for the job and years of being in the tropics have taken their toll. They were teak which is a not very good wood for hand rails as it is neither as rot resistant as believed to be nor very strong.

Second, we do some research to see what's available as a replacement and costs only to find what's available is either too expensive, too light duty, or both for the intended purpose (namely keeping aboard the boat when all hell breaks loose). So, going the DIY route is actually the only thing that makes sense.

Building hand rails is as simple a project as you can find. My method of choice is to laminate two pieces of pre-cut one by stock together, clean up and round over the resulting hand rails with a router, and then lay on three coats of epoxy to prepare them for painting. Dead simple and fast.

Now I'm sure I'll get some questions about the pressure treated pine (often referred to as "Miami Teak") so to answer those questions I'll just say pressure-treated pine is much more resistant to rot than teak in general. It's stronger and coated with epoxy, it is even more rot resistant and strong. On the fact that we're painting the hand rails, it's because the paint will protect the epoxy coating from UV and exterior varnishing is more something you'd find on a "Y-A-C-H-T" and is the antithesis to the VolksCruiserish thought process.

Yeah, right... rules.

Rule #1: Don't replace it if you don't need to.

Rule #2: Don't replace it if you can fix it.

Rule #3: If you have to fix something or replace it, DIY it whenever possible but do your research first so you know what you're doing.

Rule #4: Keep in mind that a lot of common knowledge (teak being a good example) is just plain wrong. Do your own due diligence and be wary of your sources.

Yep, simplistic as all get out but, if you mostly follow those suggestions, you'll save a very large chunk of money and improve your boat in the process. More importantly it gets you out of the "Just throw money at it" mindset.

The fact of the matter is that the process is not so much to save money as it is about doing the right thing for your boat. Providing we've done our research correctly, we're actually saving a lot of money as a bonus.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What everyone seems to do...

Have you noticed how many YouTube channels there are about people downsizing, buying a boat, fixing it up, and sailing off into the paradise of Patreon fueled bliss?

If not, you really should check them out because they are very educational for the most part.

One of the things you'll notice is there seem to be certain rites of passage that everyone goes through and rules of sorts that, like it or not, apply to the whole "Buying a boat, fixing it up, and sailing off into the sunset" gig...

Rule #1

Whatever boat you buy or how much you spend will require lots of work and money to fix up.

Rule #2

Everyone underestimates the amount of work and money needed.

Rule #3

Nothing involved in the process is rocket science and can be accomplished by just about anyone.

Rule #4

Everyone makes mistakes (though some make more than others).

Rule #5

Most people on boat projects don't do enough research/homework of the right sort.

Sure, I know, rules are never concrete things in this life but they do exist even if it's just to give us a hint of what may lie in store for us. Forewarned is forearmed so to speak. 

That said, rules often send the wrong message as the big picture does not always reflect a specific projects specific details. Especially if you're embarking on a VolksCruiserish project.

Yeah, VolksCruiserish rules are going to be a little bit different.

More about that on Sunday.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Not for everyone...

In the last couple of weeks I've noticed a lot of hurricane related boats and gear coming on to the market down here and like Rod Stewart reminded us way back when...

In the case of the Westsail pictured it's beat up, forlorn, and a whole lot of work to make it right but there's life in the old girl yet. That said, it is not the sort of project that is suitable for most folk and for most folk it would be the project from hell.

Of course, most folks don't read VolksCruiser or, for that matter, have a clue.

As for my take on such a project it's doable for a lot less time and money than you might expect. Though, admittedly, just the sort of enterprise that would test one's mettle, sanity, and perseverance.

Like I said, not for everyone...

But, just maybe, a good discussion point.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

in the "Take a bit of care" department...


This week I read of two separate incidents where someone was killed in a boatyard while working on a boat. Not actually a rare occurrence as it happens.

Think about that for a moment.

Sadly, boatyards (especially DIY yards) are notorious for being unsafe as they are a mix of toxic materials, dangerous conditions, unsafe working practices, and too many people working without a clue to possible outcomes of their actions.

Over the years I've been in boatyards where people have been poisoned, had masts fall on them, been electrocuted, had a boat fall on them, sawed off various body appendages, fallen off masts, been blinded, screwed or nailed a hand to a bulkhead/hull, impaled by flying pieces of metal/wood, been concussed, caught on fire, and gotten into fights that left them in intensive care. In too many of those accidents the people wound up dead.

Which is something you really might want to factor in if you're contemplating building or fixing up a boat/VolksCruiser. There's generally a safe and sane way to accomplish your goals and the alternative may just ruin your day or, possibly, the rest of your life.

Just saying...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Regarding the word "CHEAP"...

Just this morning a reader of VolksCruiser wrote to tell me the problem with cheap boats is that they are more expensive in the long run and that,  just maybe, I should focus on boats of a higher quality more expensive caliber. Because, you know, you get what you pay for.

Oops, I just threw up in my mouth a bit.

First, lets look at what Merriam-Webster has to say in regard to the word "cheap"...

Definition of Cheap

a: charging or obtainable at a low price (a good cheap hotel - cheap tickets)
b: purchasable below the going price or the real value
c: depreciated in value (as by currency inflation)

a: of inferior quality or worth (tawdry, sleazy, cheap workmanship)
b: stingy (example: My uncle was too cheap to pay for dinner.)
c: contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities (feeling cheap: I felt cheap, full of shame and guilt)

gained or done with little effort (a cheap victory - talk is cheap)

of money (obtainable at a low rate of interest)

Like a lot of words "cheap" seems to have a variety of meanings attached to it but for me the primary meaning where boats are concerned I use cheap as being charging or obtainable at a low price.

Also in this mornings mailbag there was a friend pointing me to another CAL 34 for sale in San Francisco at what appears to be a very nice price of $12.5K.

I'll go on record and remind everyone that I think the CAL 34 is an excellent design which were built to a fairly high standard but not without their problematic issues. The fact that there are lots of fifty-year old CAL 34s still floating right side up and sailing speaks volumes in their favor.

Of course, it's pretty easy to say a 34-foot sailboat for $12.5K is cheap because it is and that's a goodly thing.

Right now, in my neck of the woods, there are a lot of "Hurricane" boats popping up for sale on a regular basis all of which proclaim to be cheap. Boats without rigs, boats with holes in them, boats that spent more than a little time underwater. Almost all of which are selling for a big chunk more than the CAL 34 in question and will cost lots of money and time to put right if possible.

So, there's "cheap" and then there's "cheap" which are not the same thing at all...

Choose wisely.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

well, of course, there are always going to be some exceptions...

Truth is, I never feel very comfortable with the concept of rules and there's a line from a book I read in high school that has stuck with me even though I no longer remember the name of the book or author who wrote it...

"Rules and regulations are just stop signs on the roads I like to travel"

Words to live by or, at least, an apt line for a t-shirt. Maybe not an exact quote but I'm pretty sure it's close.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to the whole concept of VolksCruiserish mayhem has more than a lot to do with the fact that by its very nature flies in the face of what people say you can't do. Maybe it's just me but nothing whets my interest in doing something like someone telling me it can't be done.

Over on that hive of negativity, idiotic one-upmanship, and consumerist blather, there is a current thread about cheap boats which just makes me want to go out find a funky, free, derelict fixer upper to rehab just to prove it is doable and that the nay-sayers have their heads up their asses.

That said, the fact is that lots and lots of people have spent small fortunes trying to rehab old boats and wound up with nothing to show for it but heartbreak, tears, and an empty bank account. So, though I hate to admit that the nay-sayers have a point, I have to say that some of their arguments are valid.

It's just their conclusions that are wonky.

Which, sorta/kinda, brings us around to my saying the word... RULES.

In my mind I see rules as being somewhat flexible. Yield signs rather than Stop signs if you will. Yield and stop signs are not so much rules but warnings. My last post was/is really about warnings that in rehabbing an old, cheap boat you're on a road that is part and parcel going to take you deep into Robby the Robot territory...

Which is a place you need to consider your options seriously and look both ways before jumping in.

You can do just about anything you want to and, where boats are concerned, I've seen so many impossible projects happen successfully against staggering odds that I never ever say something can't be done.

Of course, I've also seen an equal or greater number of total disasters and failures. Almost always not  because the projects were impossible but simply that there was a general lack of critical thinking and an excess of rose-colored vision in the situational awareness zone.

Just because some folks have been successful is not a reason you will be too...

The fact that others have failed does not mean you will as well...

Every project is going to be unique and it's up to you to sort out your path to making it happen in a positive or negative outcome.

I'll repeat that...

It's up to you.

That's all you need to know.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

a few rules...

Three quick rules that I've found to be true regarding boats and boat restoration/rehabs.
  1. Any money you spend on improving your boat will not add resale value in terms of return down the line when you want to sell it.
  2. All boats have a reality value which seldom conforms to their asking price.
  3. Your personal labor on your boat (aka sweat equity) can increase the value of your boat but only up to but not more than its reality value.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that these rules tend to fly in the face of perceived wisdom but they all are based on simple math of the 1+1=2 sort and in 99% of the time seem to stand up.

More on the subject soonish...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A little more on that CAL 34...

The initial emails on the last post tended to fall into to two categories. The first being  the "You're an idiot" sort and the second is "It just can't be done because you need to buy lots and lots of stuff!" zone.

For the moment, lets just address the "lots and lots of stuff" argument...

How much stuff do you really need?

The fact of the matter is that most boats for sale these days already have an impressive amount of gear aboard and the CAL 34 example appears to come with everything needful in terms of safety requirements, navigation instruments, and other needful gear. Granted, I'm sure something or other might require replacement or upgrading but there is a big difference of fixing what needs fixing and just going on a consumerist joyride because buying stuff is fun or you need to impress the neighbors.

The thing is we're talking volkscruiser here. What we are not talking about is taking an older classic plastic boat and turning it into a work of art, morphing it into something it is not, or turning folks green with envy. What we're doing is just making a good boat good a bit better and a workable platform for going to sea in an acceptable level of comfort and safety.

So, mostly, we only fix stuff that needs fixing and we only replace stuff when it can't be fixed. Which, from where I sit, seems to make all kinds of sense. It makes sense in terms of budget and it makes sense in the overall scheme of things because we live in a finite world and throwing away perfectly good stuff is all kinds of bad for the planet.

I'll be the first person to admit this is not a path for everyone and I certainly don't believe that for a second everyone should do the volkscruiser thing I'm simply saying it is doable if you want to do it. But... and there is always a but isn't there, if your path to happiness involves buying stuff the whole volkscruiser gig just ain't for you.

Worth thinking about...

Next up a couple of really simple things.

Friday, February 2, 2018

On the comparitive cost of yams...

Going shopping yesterday I could not help but notice that the cost of nearly everything continues to go up...

Onions a couple of months ago I was paying $.39 a pound were $.99 a pound...

Yams which I'm used to paying $0.69 a pound are now $1.79...

Scrag end stewing beef I would never ever even consider at $3.95 a pound is now selling for $6.95...

I think I can detect a trend.

On the other hand, boats still seem to be a whole lot more affordable than they used to be. take this 1969 CAL 34 for instance...

...with an asking price of $7K that works out to about $0.74 a pound.

Sure it is an old used boat but, judging from the photos and description, it appears to be floating right side up and is a very doable project that would take you wherever you care to go.

Of course, being that I own a 1969 CAL 34, I am somewhat partial to Bill Lapworth's excellent design but not unaware of its foibles so have a fairly good idea what would go into fixing it up for long term cruising and the hassle factor and costs involved.

Offhand, I'd expect that at a bare minimum, you'd want to replace the chain plates, rigging, deal with the mast support beam (if it has not already been replaced before), maybe replace the bulkhead associated with the mast, get a new (or newer) sail or two, add a self-steering gear, replace some things that don't work and fix a deck issue or three. You might also want to thrown on a coat of paint and antifoul as well. Which does sound like a lot but only really works out to a couple months of work and maybe $3-5K in outlay. Which adds up to a worst case scenario of $12K and about $1.27 a pound.

Which, I should point out, is a big chunk cheaper than the going rate of yams where I live.

All the fixes and improvements needful to put a CAL 34 back into cruising trim are fairly easy with no overly heavy lifting or rocket science involved. No need to pay people silly money to fix or change things and, as such, would be an accessible project for just about anyone with the right inclination.

More on the costs of fixing up such a beast next...