|Fit or Refit?|
Before you extend that cockpit or redo the saloon, make sure you know what’s involved.
By Capt. Patrick Sciacca — February 2003
In 1965 my father bought a 1956 Thunderbird for my mom as a wedding gift. The car cost about $900, and it was a sporty-looking two-seater convertible. A couple of kids later those two seats weren't enough, so into the garage the car went because my father just could not bring himself to sell it.
Flash forward to the mid-1970's. My dad moved his business to Long Island from New York City and found he had some time at night for a project. Well, the project involved peeling the tarp off that T-bird and rebuilding it one piece at a time---first the engine, then the electric seats, then upholstery, windshield, trim, and tires. He even stripped the body down to metal, faired it, and painted the car in the original black. This was not a project for the faint of heart (it took nearly a decade to finish), and there was a lot of consulting with experts along the way, like when it was time to bore out the block. In the end, my father's beloved T-bird returned to her former glory, and when that four-barrel carburetor opened up, she took off like a rocket ship.
The same way my father felt about that car, yacht owners feel about their vessels. Sometimes the option to sell old and buy new doesn't have the same appeal as fixing up something you already have. And when the time comes for more accommodations, a larger cockpit, and the like, the preferred option is a refit. But before you sign a contract for any project, make sure you go in with eyes wide open. To aid in your decision, I talked to two refit experts who offered some invaluable pointers on what to look for and what to avoid for your next project.
When does a repair become a refit? The term has mixed definitions, according to Skip Robinson, vice president and general manager for refit shipyard Palmer Johnson Savannah. Robinson says that a refit can vary from "exterior paint refinishing to a total rebuild/remodel, often including hull and/or deck molds." He adds that at Palmer Johnson, refit "with a capital R" refers to the more intense rebuild projects, which "most often have a duration of greater than six months, frequently 12 to 18 months, with the costs in the millions of dollars." That's some serious cash to fix what you already have, but when you're looking at total replacement cost, it often runs less than buying new.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.