Just spend less…

The real trick, where refitting an old boat is concerned, is simply to not spend a lot of money on it. Or just spend less.

While spending less is a very workable tactic, it butts up against the consumerist mainstream and viewed by a substantial proportion of people as being akin to heresy. I’ll point out that being heretical does not always make you Joe Popularity.

I’ve posted from time to time that pressure treated pine (AKA Miami Teak) is an excellent wood to use in various boat building projects. What’s not to like? It works easily, pairs well with epoxy, is more rot resistant than many boat lumber species, and it’s affordable.

Well, if any wood can be called affordable these days…

Most of the plywood in our 53-year-old CAL 34 is just plain painted exterior ply. Which might surprise some, as almost all of it is in good shape. The only issue being the bits that had teak veneer which peeled off because Jensen Marine used Weldwood back in the day. Which is actually pretty impressive when you consider Weldwood glue held up just fine for forty years.

Choosing more affordable wood or materials that do the same job as more expensive ones results in a more affordable boat. For instance, for the coach roof hand rails. Instead of using teak, I used pressure treated pine and the needful lumber cost all of twenty dollars. If I had used teak in the same scantling (I like beefy hand rails) the cost would have been close to $120 per handrail.

That’s a substantial difference and savings. Since I’m averse to varnished wood, no one actually knows what species the handrails are as they’re painted white.

It’s not just wood. All refits require you to make decisions and, at least in my experience, there’s always a less expensive option available that works. The only downside is you have to do some research to sort it all out.

Still, there’s the pressure to buy “Marine Quality” a misnomer if ever I’ve heard one. The truth about marine quality is all about high mark-ups and has little to do with the actual product. I know a chain of marine stores who stocks their shelves with stainless fasteners that are seconds or closeouts. Their selection of screws and bolts is so bad that you have to examine each one, as so many are defective. Whenever I shop there, I see people buying these fasteners at inflated prices in bulk when they could easily buy better for pennies on the dollar.

The same goes for goops and suchlike. I don’t use marine paint except for anti-fouling. For topside paint, I use single component paint that costs a fraction of what marine paint costs and works just as well. Since I use a lot of epoxy and glass, I buy bulk from folks like RAKA who have excellent products that work as well or better than the “name brands”. My experience with caulking compounds has led me to prefer cheap hardware store polyurethanes. It’s become almost impossible to find fresh 5200 or Sikaflex resulting in goop cured in the tube and expensive waste.

You can reduce pretty much everything you need to buy for a boat using the same formula by simply choosing what works well but costs less.

Let’s just call it educated frugality.

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