The boat owner’s guide

Dear friends, I found an old boat, a real beauty, and I’ve fallen in love with it. But can you give me some advice on how to proceed with this great new love of mine? I need some suggestions.

We at ASDEC asked ourselves: what could be more useful to boat builders, owners, restorers and vintage boats themselves, than to make available a list of guidelines to keep in mind in the course of dealings between boatyards and their clients?

This is why we got together with the founders of our group of “ASDEC Recommended Refit Boatyards” and drew up a guide which does not contain rules to follow, just simple tips which can serve above all to make sure that our adventure in the world of vintage and classic boats is a fantastic experience without any unpleasant surprises or disappointments. We hope that the guidelines below, based on the experience of our members with boats over the years will help reduce or even eliminate, at least the most common errors.

So here are some tips from one friend to another on how to restore your vintage boat:

1 - Trusted boatyard

Find a boatyard with proven experience and expertise by talking with friends, going to vintage boat meetings, and reading specialist magazines.

2 - Suggestions from the boatyard

If possible, get the boatyard involved right from the start, in the choice of boat, checking the quality, price, dating, construction type, uniqueness and historical value of the boat chosen.

3 - Estimate of refit costs

It is far from easy to come up with a precise estimate for the cost of refit of a vintage boat as the extent of the work required is only evident once the boat has been taken apart and work is already under way.

Therefore, if you request an exact fixed price quotation, the boatyard owner, who has to come up with it will add a fair amount to the price he has in mind to cover possible, or rather, pratically inevitable additional expenses. So, if you really care about your vintage boat, we advise against insisting on a fixed price at all costs.

If you manage to beat the boatyard down to a low price, that is the amount the boatyard will invest in the refit and there is no guarantee that it will be enough to do the job properly. The only thing you can do is confidentially ask the boatyard owner, on the basis on their experience, to give you a rough calculation of the hours and materials that will be required for the job and ask if they can consult you first before going ahead with if costs exceed the estimate.


4 - Appearance and substance

It is obvious that in the interests of the boat and its users you need more than a good coat of glossy paint. The soundness of the structure is of the utmost priority.

5 - Photographic documentation               

It is important to taken plenty of photos both before and during the refit. First of all, these photos are a happy memory of the refit as well as documentation of the work, often essential in order to quantify how much has actually been done, and they will also prove useful for assessment of the value of the boat in case of resale.

6 - Documentation and presence

Make regular ongoing visits to the boatyard: following the work in progress is enjoyable and, above all, you learn a lot.

7 - Work not included in the estimate

And in fact, it is during these visits that you will be able to decide together with the boatyard owner how to go about any work that needs doing but only became apparent after the initial survey. If you agree on the cost of any unforeseen work you can avoid later disputes.

8 - Conservation or replica

These periodic visits and exchange of opinions are also useful because no matter how conscientious, the boatyard owner wants to finish the refit as quickly as possible and will therefore prefer to change a part rather than invest time and energy in rebuilding it. However, if the boatyard realises that the boat owner has made a choice and at times prefers to forego aesthetic perfection in favour of originality, they will be happier to go down the road of conservative restoration rather than rebuilding, confident that they will not have any complaints at the end of the work as long as the part refitted is sound.

9 - Integrity of the boatyard

The integrity of a boatyard is also measured by the absence of any disputes.

10 – Value of the refitted boat

It is a mistake to consider a boat refit solely in the light of the market value it will have when the job is finished. Bear in mind that during the oil crisis of 1973 even Ferraris were scrapped. And a majestic Bugatti Royale was swapped by one of the daughters of Ettore Bugatti for a fabulous new invention from America: a fridge. Today’s values are not tomorrow’s values, and wooden boats are increasingly rare.

The decision to refit a vintage boat is a labour of love which can, and indeed must be, independent of the current commercial value which is almost certain to change in the short or long term.

ASDEC is always at the disposal of friends old and new for advice and further information about issues regarding boat refits.