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Friendly Advice

There are all kinds of sage recommendations about when and how you should make decisions. You’ll find some of this advice on the kind of motivational posters that are framed on office walls across America. They usually feature completely irrelevant and disconnected imagery—mountains, babbling brooks, soaring eagles—that frankly have nothing to do with actually making a decision. 

In any case, chances are you’re familiar with suggestions such as Avoid making important decisions when you’re angry. Or don’t make a promise when you’re happy. Never make permanent decisions on temporary feelings. Personally, I fully embrace Leonard Cohen’s advice to Never make a decision when you need to pee. 

Yet I think I can top the prolific songwriter’s tidbit. Gather around, my friends, and bring it in closer for my piece of earth-shattering advice. If you take it, you’ll have a richer, more fulfilled life. Are you ready? Drumroll please. Never decide to enter into a boat restoration project while in a bar and without first seeing the boat. Trust me.

Regular Power & Motoryacht readers may be familiar with the restoration of Arawak chronicled on At this writing, she’s receiving fresh Awlcraft from the artists at Yacht Service Ltd. in Amityville, New York. 

Although the challenges of the last 18 months are starting to fade the shinier the old girl becomes, I can say without the slightest particle of hesitation that it would have been easier to actually build a new boat. Why? Well for one thing, from a bar 10 miles away from the boat, it was difficult to determine that everything except the fiberglass mat in the hull, the toilet-paper holders, interior teak, and a few doorknobs needed to be replaced or repaired. 

Arawak began her restoration in the Virgin Islands and then moved to Rybovich in West Palm Beach, Florida, then up the coast to American Custom Yachts in Stuart for major mechanical repairs and the electronics installation, and then farther north to Long Island for cosmetics. (See “The Journey”) It’s ironic that a boat that has scared the daylights out of yard workers is now resting within a few hundred feet of the house that inspired The Amityville Horror

During her journey we noticed that when yard managers first meet Arawak, the reaction is nearly identical. What the hell? I had no idea. What have I gotten myself into? Then they fix their eyes on me with contempt. Thankfully, I’ve now developed a dopey expression that looks as if, yes, I just ran over their family cat, and yes, I feel bad, but hey, come on, it’s a 20-year old cat. Can’t we just move on?

We’ve learned a lot during this project. We were lucky to have hands-on project manager Tommy McCoy on board. We learned that there is no better path to ensure a successful refit than to secure a good, full-service yard. We found three with American Custom Yachts, Yacht Service Ltd., and Rybovich. As good as each was, in hindsight we should have shipped the boat to just one yard, and completed all the work in one place. However, we were staring at a five-figure expense to have the boat shipped on a yacht transport and, at the time, balked. Silly mistake.

Another lesson was the schedule. Take my advice. Determine it—then multiply it by two. We fell behind at the beginning of the project and we never really got back on the rails until we got into American Custom Yachts, decided to stop moving, and get the rest of the mechanical work done there. Finally, we also learned that our premise of keeping the project simple was actually a good decision. Sometimes our excitement would quell logical thought. We were looking at drop-down televisions, cutting up the bridge seating for pedestal chairs, replacing Formica countertops with granite, adding a wine chiller (okay, I still endorse that one), and changing the nature of the boat from a “dependable diesel cruiser” to a present-day motoryacht. Arawak certainly has all the bells and whistles with state-of-the-art electronics—even joystick control—but instead of making the boat something she was not meant to be, we made a better cruiser. In fact, Tommy cruised from the Turks and Caicos to Florida, then up to Charleston, South Carolina, without filling up the tanks. 

Now we’re left with the last 10 percent of the work, which is mainly cosmetics and soft goods. (I’m fairly sure the rash I developed across my left cheek came from sleeping on the 20-year-old cushions.) I promise this stuff will be handled by the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. So come on over and take a look. I’d love to show you around and share the joys and challenges of our refit. See you on the docks.