The Basics of Restoring a Yacht


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A news story about a woman in New Zealand who recently listed her luxury yacht for sale at a starting price of $1 recently caught my eye. Despite the low price tag, the vessel was insured for $800,000. For those with time, money and a touch of nostalgia, opportunities like this provide the chance to own a special kind of luxury vessel that money alone cannot buy. But when restoring a boat to its former glory, it is important to take steps to ensure the refit is a success.


Owning a yacht is an almost obligatory component to a luxury lifestyle. Unlike other pursuits of pleasure however, the upkeep of a large boat can prove too much for some. Fiona Campbell, the seller of Ruah, is a prime example, having put the ‘elegant long-distance cruise ship designed and built for the Australian navy in 1944 as a survey ship’ up for auction because she did not possess the passion for sailing required to keep Ruah seaworthy.

Many other yacht owners also choose to sell vessels that are in relatively good shape, creating excellent opportunities for those who have the resources and desire for a refit. As connoisseurs will tell you, yachts with history have a certain charm about them that newer models lack. Like vintage cars, their appeal dwells in the fond memories that their design evokes. In addition to being a more glamourous ship, classics, when restored properly, can increase greatly in value. 


It is easy to become intoxicated by the dream of sailing a restored masterpiece and forget the practicalities required to get from wreck to rapture. For this reason, it is best to take a pragmatic approach and take the time to carefully plan and assess before buying your vessel. The following are essential things to consider buying a restoration project luxury yacht:

Establish a budget

This kind of venture requires a sizeable amount of equity and without a big commitment will never get off the ground. Decide on how much you want to spend and make a generous allowance for repairs. As with any large project there will be unforeseen challenges and costs, if you can budget for these you will be in a much better place when they occur.

Choose the right style

To retain value, select a style that currently is and will continue to be desirable on the market. Make sure that whilst it is to your taste, it also has that certain Je ne sais quoi that other boaters look for. Remember that you can add your own personality to the interior as well.


Decide on size

It is generally best to choose a size smaller than you were fantasizing about. A larger boat will mean a greater level of maintenance whereas a smaller restoration boat will be finished sooner, be cheaper to run and require less staff to maintain. Don’t forget that a bigger boat also requires a bigger mooring, and if you plan on taking worldwide trips, this can limit your options when it comes to exploring the world.   

Get a professional survey

Before completing the purchase, employ a professional to survey your selection. This will not be a red or green light survey, instead you will be given a list of problems which will aid you in deciding whether you still want to go ahead. If there are significant complications and you wish to continue then you can use this information to get a better price.


Continue regular maintenance

Once you have purchased your dream boat you will be keen to get started with the refit. Whilst this is important, it is vital to protect your investment. Remember to continue with routine servicing such as: engine inspections, applying slip and antifoul paint, and checking rigging. This will keep the boat from declining and prevent small issues from becoming significant problems.

Sail and restore

Although it is normal to want to work all year round to get your project finished as quickly as possible, there is a lot to be said for just undertaking work during winter months and enjoying your boat during the summer. This way, regular maintenance will be completed as they will be required to take your boat on the water. Additionally, and most importantly, yourself and those around you will remain enamoured with sailing and the process of renovating.

A new yacht though tempting, will never have the class or sentimental value as a vessel such as Ruah. If you have the necessary resources and have properly assessed the effort required, this is a satisfying project with a superb outcome. Though not a task to be undertaken lightly, if you follow these steps you will soon be on your way to becoming the proud owner of a luxury vessel with added glamour and style.

Jeff Nevil

I’ve been around for half a century, or so and picked up a few things on the way, that you might find interesting or useful. I've also worked hard to enjoy some of the finer things in life and occasionally treat myself to little luxuries.. ...(Read More)

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