Monday, January 24, 2011

"Time is Money well spent tinkering with boats" reprinted first post of, 9/12/2006!

Sometimes it is correct to be blunt/ I will.  Understand what I say, or accept you will loose or gain much.  Your choice.

Today, riding up the elevator to our 2nd floor abode, after working on project #1342 +/-, I jokingly asked Dorothy, my honey, partner in life and assistant on boat projects, how many hours did she think we already had into it? The elevator opened before she answered and as we emerged back into sunlight she gave me a funny look that said, "LOT'S of time"!

My desire to add a few antiques to our interior, in particular a Victorian mirror in our aft head, instead of the CSY rectangular teak framed one that had served perfectly for 25 years, had led us into this project. Searching for the right mirror alone, took several years of poking around antique shops and thrift stores and many long drives. After removing the original mirror, old holes showed next to the new Victorian mirror, so of course this had to be remedied. An adjacent Formica panel had holes in it too from prior owners additions and deletions as well as removal of the old shower assembly, so heck, I'll Formica all of it. Might just as well redo the small 2 panels above the mirror too! Locating the 'right' color of Formica from a distributor took more time, then picking up the sheets, glue, a few extra brushes, removing trim teak, faucet, making patterns, cutting and fitting Formica to perfection, taping everything we did not want glue on and cleaning up, gluing and installing the new Formica. Count also the hours of sanding, re varnishing and reinstalling teak trim, faucet etc..

What brought on my question of 'Time', was a conversation I had 21 years ago aboard my first sailboat. A gent I had hired to help me get her commissioned was enlightening me. I knew zip about sailboats then and had been 15 years out of ownership of a power boat. So having him around for a day or 2 was comforting, usually. He made a comment though that I will never forget, apparently, and that is what precipitated the question to my gal. He told me he often has customers that want him to do this or that yet have no idea how much time is involved to accomplish the task. He has learned to estimate fairly well, but the customer rarely understood his labor estimate or at least grimaced when hearing it. He pointed up to one of my hatches and said, "For instance, if that hatch was leaking and I were to do it properly, I could possibly spend 20 hours before finished." I laughed and said OK, looking at the hatch and the conversation went on. A few years later, I would still occasionally look up at that hatch and think of what he said, and understanding his estimate better, now that I have had a few years under my belt in boat maintenance again. The old boat now belongs to another and for 15 years I have been owner and loving slave to my second; "Memory Rose" a CSY 44' Pilothouse Ketch. Now, my ability to estimate is quite good; so much so, I make sure I do not!
Why? Well because if I make my best estimate and then double it, I am usually close, but probably still on the shy side. If I knew that estimate going into each project I probably would talk myself out of it, or Dorothy would suggest that maybe I had other things to do as well. She would be right, but I seem to gravitate to boat work, so I continue to do it.

The point of this is that whether one is a prospective first time buyer or an old salt, the estimate of time necessary to properly do a job aboard is not usually considered accurately. That hatch resealing task that my hired hand suggested would have cost me 20 hours times @ whatever the labor rate would be. Then, in 1985, his rate was $25/hr. so to reseal that one hatch would have cost me $500 + some materials. Ouch! And what if a few hatches were leaking and a few port lights? Or, if the project didn't go perfectly and other things had to be done. How much would that job cost today? I recently had to get estimates for electronic work and the rate was $90/hr.. Double Ouch! Costs can run up quickly even for a job like a reseal that is totally invisible when completed and done well. You don't even get the pleasure of looking at some new item aboard, but you still have to pay for progress with your time, or your dollars for someone else's time.

So, when looking at your boat, your next boat, or another sailors vessel, take time to really look. Study what has been done. Think of the effort put forward to accomplish projects done, to truly appreciate what you are seeing. Also, digest what it might cost you to do the same thing. Doing so will help all of us better appreciate the work that has come from builders originally, or from someone along the way to repair or modify a vessel. It will surely help when trying to understand why one boat sells for $45,000. and another for $145,000. In truth, there might be $200,000 in time or dollars put into the better one, or needed to bring the lesser one up to comfortable, seaworthy condition. Asking or sales prices often do not parallel real costs or efforts. Important too, is noticing the things that are 'not' done. Adding the hours and dollars necessary to tackle that which has not yet been done, can be sobering. Doing so however, can save you from spending a fortune in time or effort, yet ending up selling your boat years later, half finished and no longer enjoyed. Properly executed work, be it maintenance, rebuilds, refinements or engineering, can bring many rewards for those with ambition, time, patience and a reasonable output of cash. Call it sweat equity, call it a hobby; the payoff is daily pleasure and pride of work well done, a safer, trusted vessel and rewards when swallowing the anchor.

In our case, the mirror job will cost us a few hundred bucks and many hours of input, the vast majority of which was fun. The money spent is gone, but the finished product will bring a smile to us for years to come. Wishing you the same outcome on your next project and I hope you understand ALL the little aspects I have brought up.

Stay well and keep smiling.

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