Fitting-Out Your New Cruiser
OK, so you’ve bought your cruiser and it’s now time to prepare for your new life aboard the yacht. This can be a difficult time as you will want to set off right away and use the new vessel. There are 2 ways forward:
- Just set off and put up with what you have, making any modifications along the way
- Hang about for years trying to get the whole thing just “perfect” before you set off.
Neither of the above is ideal so consider this:
Get a local berth somewhere and take the time to sail your boat for at least a season before hacking it about to suit your intentions. Get used to how she handles and where your kit and equipment might be best stowed, where new lighting may be needed etc. Decide if you need to renew any sails or extend any plumbing or wiring.
During this period cruise for a few weeks at a time testing all the yacht’s features & equipment for durability and suitability while also introducing the "crew" to the yacht slowly and carefully. It’s amazing how many dreams are shattered at this point when the reality of living on a yacht "full-time" finally hits home.
Keep a list of the things you might like to have along on a longer cruise. Check out my list of essential and nice to have Equipment.
It takes about a year to develop a good understanding of a new boat and it can be a lot of fun experimenting to see how she performs under various conditions and circumstances as you build confidence in her abilities.
Practice handling the boat single-handed, to simulate a MOB or crew illness. What else do you need on board to make that possible and safe? Get your crew to practice this too as it may well be you that is incapacitated.
Once you have a good idea of what needs to be done, design & cost all the changes before you start any of them! Make sure all the changes will fit and work together. Ensure there are no pinch points where every service needs to pass thru the same place. A 3-D jigsaw has nothing on this.
Remember if you modify a production boat too much you may reduce its resale value. Changing a one-off yacht is much more forgiving.
- Fit any additional storage but stay within the designed weight guidelines. Heavy displacement yachts are more forgiving but lightweight cruisers will punish overloading and can become dangerous.
- Have the engine & transmission expertly serviced.
- Have the rigging expertly checked and replace old wire especially if contemplating open ocean sailing.
- If adding powered items ensure that both battery and charging capacity is adequate with some leeway in hand.
- Keep a map of all plumbing and wiring runs. Mark wiring and log each wire so you can easily fault them in the future.
- As you fit new equipment, record it's type, model, serial number, where and when purchased and how it is powered. Store the receipt and any warranties carefully. I often laminate the most important ones so any damp doesn’t destroy them.
- If you don't have black water holding tanks fit them now. Consider running showers and basins there too or at least install valving to allow that. Increasingly a requirement in Turkey and likely to be adopted in the EU eventually.
- Read my post on Preparing to do your Own Maintenance
As much as I want you to get out there and sail, I do advise you to DO AS MUCH WORK AS YOU CAN BEFORE LEAVING YOUR HOME MARINA.
It is much more difficult to do work on the move, sourcing equipment is more difficult, costly and time consuming. Finding local experts is a lottery with very bad odds. If you can't converse technically in the chosen language why would you expect the locals to be able to do that in English. You will need to draw lots of pictures, make physical models, talk very loudly and wave your hands about a lot. :-)
On their side will be lots of smiles and agreeing nods, because they want your business, (well mainly just your money) but they will rarely understand the finer points of what you want done.
Remember, there is absolutely no substitute for being there personally, on-site, monitoring the work as it progresses and making decisions and corrections as needed. That is also true of any work done in the UK too but more-so when abroad.
Always agree the price before work commences. For anything major, get them to write a short contract detailing the stages of the work. Do NOT pay anything up-front but do be prepared to pay for parts and equipment once they have been delivered to the boat. Make sure that new kit stays at the boat, even paint has been known to be swapped out for an inferior brand once you’ve paid for it.
For very large jobs the contractor may insist on interim payments. If it is blocking the work, write the interim payments into the contract and clearly list the work that must be completed to your satisfaction to trigger the payment. Ensure the interim payments do not add up to the total balance. Always retain 10-20% as a final payment once you are fully happy with the work. Always, always take a day to check it all through properly before paying!
If your contractor is reluctant to document his work in a contract then you should be hearing alarm bells sounding very loudly. Move-on, find another more reputable contractor.
If you can't be on-site for the duration of the work, hire a qualified project manager to be there. Most surveyors will do this and are insured to cover you. It will be cheaper overall.
Leaving contractors to do work alone is a recipe for disaster.